Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

The Conversation

Published in Blog.

I’m not sure when I wrote this, but when I did, I did so as one side of an imaginary conversation between a frustrated personal trainer (something I was at the time) and a disillusioned client (something else I was at the time). The premise embarrasses me now. I packed all the emotional-boosting know-how I had into the dialog, but in the end I realized what I was actually left with. It was a conversation between a “stronger” future version of myself and a future defeated version of who I could still allow myself to become. That draft’s construct felt so disingenuous, positioning it as though I was talking to anyone but myself. And it felt mean. So it lived only as a draft.

In his memoir On Writing, Stephen King writes, “It behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then, instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.” Exposing these words to daylight today comes with a feeling of empowerment because some of these tools now travel with me, some even being put to work on a practical basis. What’s more encouraging, however, is that this place is becoming less a space to lose myself in self-contemplation, and the world is slowly becoming a space where tools can actually be put to work. What’s here now leaves the formatting strictly in a stream of consciousness form. Ongoing broad struggles notwithstanding, it feels right to set this free…

OK, I mean, it’s been clear right from the moment you got here you’ve not had any interest in listening to what I have to say. You came here because you needed help, but no matter what level of help you think I can or can’t give you now, I feel like you’re not even listening to what I have to say… For one thing, put your phone down… Sure, of course that can be motivation, but it doesn’t seem like that’s really doing you much good. You’re not those people, and I don’t believe for one minute that you think those images are realistic goals to set for yourself in the immediate future. However vital you think all this is to your quote-unquote Weight Loss Journey, a well-groomed Instagram page isn’t the thing standing between you and a healthier lifestyle… Stop acting like I’m not human, too. You’ve got to be a loophole-exploiting legal expert when it comes to self control or you wouldn’t be here in the first place, and I’m no different in that regard. You’re not the only one who knows how to bury themselves alive. I know that headspace. I know what it’s like to be kidnapped by the most boring person on earth, being forced to have the same conversation over and over again in your head about slip-ups you’ve made. Scolding yourself for the same mistake 15 times in a row seems normal to people like you and me. Imagine if that conversation was broadcast on a monitor to others though – it’d seem crazy to anyone with an ounce of self-compassion. You’ve already told me what you want life to look like, so let’s just sit with that for a minute. Let’s talk as if that’s the destination where we’re trying to get you, together, as a team… If this were your job and you were approaching it as a truly collaborative task, you’d strategize super-prescriptive goals. Further, you’d work on it and not paint yourself victim of misunderstood cause and effect. Would you not hold me to a higher level of accountability if you were me in this scenario? Take this example: You argue with me that you don’t have the ability to change how you eat. You don’t need to change your eating behavior. What you need to change is your purchasing behavior because you’ll eat whatever you have around the house. You didn’t reach out to me so I’d provide some esoteric guidance. I’m here to be straightforward and direct habit change by helping you adopt new actions into your daily life. That, right there, is straightforward and direct guidance. “Some” is not a number. “Soon” is not a time. I’m talking firm here… You force yourself into a place of victimhood again and again, and we both know that’s not healthy or supportive of what you’re trying to accomplish. As long as you continue to back yourself into that corner you’ll feel you don’t have the ability to change. But as helpless a place that is, that’s also a safe place. That’s where you’re comfortable, because in that place you don’t have to try. As long as you think you can’t step outside that level of thinking, you’re transferring the responsibility of becoming the person you really want to become onto someone else, which is about the least helpful thing you can do for yourself because no one is ever going to be able to do this for you… Anything other than that is just a story you’re telling yourself. And that anxiety you’re feeling comes from the story you’ve created in your own mind. Have you considered disobeying that voice? The more time you spend thinking about that one thing, the less likely it is you’re going to take action, right? OK, let’s start here: How many days a week can you realistically dedicate to going to the gym? One of the first things we did was place the tasks at hand on a scale from 1-10, remember? And I asked you how confident you were that you could tackle each of these tasks we set up for the next 30 days. We cut each back until you were telling me that you were at a 9 or 10 out of 10, saying you could do each of these things. Now you’re not doing any of them, and instead you’re telling me that you’re going to do so much more. Even if this is you starting over for the thousandth time, you’re at an advanced starting line. You’re becoming conscious of your personal health, your relationship to how you live with yourself, your surroundings, and how you interact with the world around you. I’m frustrated because you’re frustrated, but I’m also hopeful because even in this moment, even given how tired you are of yourself, of trying, I see a spark. You’re not giving up. You’re arguing with me like a mother fucker, but you’re not giving up… Take that to heart then. You just said it, you’ll be 40 soon. How satisfying would it be to be fit and wise when you reach that milestone? Well, wisdom is nothing more than the ability to take your own advice. That’s about all that’s standing between you and your goals, isn’t it?