When I was 3 years old 45 years ago, my mother bought a tin of biscuits for Christmas. It was turquoise blue with gold trim and white inlay, topped with a noble-looking knob. It looked European, but the tin was made in the U.S. and the biscuits were made in Hopkins, Minnesota. Didn’t matter. It was still fancy.
Mom used the biscuit tin to store buttons she snipped off discarded items of clothing (worn out shirts and coats mostly), and my brother, sister and I used to sort through them on rainy or snowy days. We’d examine each of them like they were works of art, which some of them were, and we’d play tiddlywinks with the flat ones. Need a green plastic shamrock button? It’s in there somewhere.
I don’t remember how (there was probably begging involved), but I inherited the tin years ago and it’s now under an end table in my living room, filled with additional buttons I kept that were sewn or attached in little plastic bags to the inside hem of the shirts, skirts and jackets I’ve worn over the years. Claire recently discovered the tin under the table, and since she’s no longer putting anything and everything in her mouth (I still don’t trust 2-year-old Luca duke), I opened it for her. Claire’s eyes got as wide as the biggest jacket button in there, and she proceeded to sort through them the same way I did when I was little – by size, color and texture.
Last week I went hiking alone for the first time. A real hike at a place I’d never been before – Todd Nature Reserve. With a scant reading of its trails, I decided to hike Loop Trail, a 2-mile hike that, according to the website, goes “through various forest habitats, including upland deciduous forest and the edges of hemlock ravines. The trail has rocky portions, one stream-crossing, occasional wet spots and moderate grades. Walking time: 60 minutes.”
I’ve been hiking many times, but always with a companion, usually my ex-husband. I was a little nervous to hike alone, and it didn’t help that: 1) when I got out of my car at the trailhead, there was a sign posted that read, in part, “If you encounter a bear…” and 2) I was also the only person there as the only other hiker was leaving the lot while I was pulling in.
I walked toward and into this very Thoreau-esque entrance to the woods:
And it wasn’t long before I met up with the mud:
And the stream crossing:
Each step was like adding a button to the biscuit tin that is my life. Some were ordinary, some felt like they were shaped like shamrocks. If I fell, too bad. I was the only one there to lift me up. If I slipped, I was the only one to catch me. If I was afraid, I was the only one who could comfort me.
Last year, I left the life I’d known for 14 years; not happily, but for the greater good of not only me, but my husband. After three rough years, one of us had to flinch.
Leaving that comfort zone – which enveloped not only a marriage, but my home of 20 years – was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My first instinct was to find new comforts, but I slowly learned that’s not how life works. You don’t replace what you’ve known forever with things you’ve only test driven. A few months ago I stepped back, reevaluated, and started listening to my heart and gut and not so much my head and its ceaseless thinking and planning, convinced it’s always right.
One. Thing. At. A. Time.
Every one thing we do adds up, like adding buttons to a biscuit tin. Pretty soon you have an eclectic collection of experiences.
For instance, while I love the healthcare professionals who took care of me in my former life, for practical and financial reasons I had to replace them with folks locally. I now have a new primary care physician, chiropractor, dentist, eye doctor, and physical therapist. I shop at a different grocery store, drink coffee from a different coffee shop and a different Sheetz, buy wine at a different liquor store, bank at a different branch, hike different trails and bike different paths.
And it’s OK.
The only way we grow (or lose…as in weight) is through change. And change demands we step outside our comfort zones. But the anchors that tether us to who we are, those things that remind us what our lives are about (like those buttons in the biscuit tin), help us move more confidently outside our comfort zones.
In fact, stepping away from my comfort zones made the anchors that tie me to who I am that much stronger. As I’ve moved and changed these last several months, I’ve relied on my anchors more readily – those anchors being my children, grandchildren, friends, books, and silence. They have been with me willingly all the while. I just needed to remember I needed them.
Today I went hiking at Todd with BFF Shari. I took her on the Loop Trail. She said, “I can’t believe you did this by yourself.” Man…what a compliment.
Like buttons, I continue to add experiences, friends, and realizations to my biscuit tin that is my life. And when I have a bad day, I take out the buttons and sort them, flip them over, look at their beauty, and appreciate them for the anchors that they are.
As you move through your life – particularly as it pertains to weight loss – what are the anchors you rely on and what are some of the buttons you’re adding to your own tin? I know that this weight-loss journey I’ve been on keeps teaching me more than probably anything else has in my life.