Last Wednesday, I met a cool older Latino gentleman named Hector at a Starbucks near Grand Central Station in Midtown. I joined a Business Networking International (BNI) group about five months ago and part of my reward for waking up every Wednesday morning at 4:45 am in Brooklyn and making it into the city by 6:40 am is my Starbucks drink of choice. I was standing behind Hector last week when I heard him order a Trenti Lemonade. As a Starbucks addict, I had never heard of a Trenti size drink, so I had to ask him more about it. Hector joyfully replied, “This is one of the treats I’ve allowed myself to have after losing 150 pounds.”
Now having a renewed focus on my health and well-being, my ears perked up and I flooded him with questions about his journey and what he was doing to keep himself healthy. He simply said, “This has been a five-year journey. I wanted to be as healthy as I could be before I turned 50 and I’m glad to say that I made that dream come true for myself.” Hector went on to show me a very impressive set of before and after pictures and a picture of his scale boasting his current weight. He left me with the most buoyant smile and he just lit my heart up for the day.
The week that followed my meeting with Hector was this whirling rollercoaster of fear, self-doubt, and unmercilessly beating myself up. It was NOT my best New York week on record, but I own every part of my journey. I was still in quite a cerebral swirl on yesterday. But instead of rushing back to Brooklyn like I normally do after my meeting, I stayed around the area for a little bit and I stumbled upon a Veterans’ Day Parade on 5th Avenue filled with veteran bikers and NYPD patrolmen on motorcycles. I enjoyed the parade for about 15 minutes and I began scanning the nearby streets to make my way toward the Subway. Just as I turned to break away from the crowd, a gentleman smiles and stands deliberately in front of me and says, “Hello.” It took me about 10 seconds to register his face—it was Hector from Starbucks. We caught up with friendly banter for about two minutes and he left me again with another beautiful smile.
It is RARE for me to see the same random stranger TWICE in less than 7 DAYS in NEW YORK. So if God was deliberately placing Hector in my universe, I definitely needed to pay attention. Much of my cerebral swirl over the past week was focused on re-prioritizing some of my responsibilities. I was really struggling with what to take on and what to let go. One of the big things I uncovered in the past few months is that I want to unzip this fat suit and let myself LIVE.
You know how people joke about their inner fat girl or fat boy? I’m convinced that I have this inner athlete in me that just wants to be unleashed. Last week, that ferocious inner warrior made me push the treadmill two miles faster than my normal pace and RUN. After I caught my breath, I was like, “Girl, that was fun, but we ain’t there just yet.” But I can’t wait to be that woman who leaps out of planes, who climbs mountains, goes on safaris, or snorkels a reef in the Caribbean without allowing my body to be a consideration in my choices.
I believe that Hector came in and out of my life in the last two weeks to let me know that having a healthy body that can SERVE ME is POSSIBLE. It won’t happen overnight and it won’t happen without struggle, setbacks, and mistakes, but it is POSSIBLE.
I’m realizing absolutely nothing in my life will ever get done well if I don’t take care of ME FIRST. And honestly I haven’t been doing a good job of making my spiritual, mental, emotional, AND physical well-being a PRIORITY. So every now and then I need a friendly little Latino man like Hector to remind me that its OK to take care of myself with more physical exercise and smarter food choices. That it’s OK to make this period of my life unabashedly and unashamedly about ME. That it’s OK to remind myself and say, “Leah, you now have permission to love yourself.”