I Can’t Go Back

Do you ever find yourself thinking about simpler times? Perhaps when you were younger and the responsibilities of life hadn’t quite kicked in yet? When the daily stress of our life overwhelms us it is perfectly normal to become a bit nostalgic. To remember these memories acts as a kind of mental refuge; it offers us a temporary break from the issues right in front of us.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about some of my greatest motivations for eating better and getting my health back. I want to be more active with my kids. I want to feel better. I want to be a better, healthier version of myself. To a certain degree, and to the extent that I’ve let my health slip away from me with unhealthy habits, I feel as though I have lost myself or that I have morphed into someone else entirely. I remember when I was younger and in far better physical condition. I remember having more confidence in myself and my abilities. I remember some of the friendships I used to cherish then, when times were simpler. Sometimes I think to myself “I want the old me back!”

Getting back to an old weight is a worthy endeavor. Trying to get back into a former version of oneself, however, is not. No matter how much weight I lose, and no matter how much improvement I seem to aspire towards in other areas of my life; I will never be the old me.

Things have changed.

In the past seven years I graduated college, got married, became a father (three times over), became Catholic, failed at launching a business, parted ways with toxic friendships, and formed new, meaningful ones. Times are not simpler. They will likely never be ‘simple’ again. Through this realization, I’ve come to learn that nostalgia can become idolatrous; the drive to restore what has been lost can quickly become an unhealthy obsession.

We have to move forward.

I am where I am, and I am who I am, right now, for a reason. When I meet the goals I’ve set for my health it won’t be the bringing back of the “Old Bobby” but the next chapter. What’s important to remember is that everywhere I’ve come up short, made a mistake, or disappointed someone I deeply care about, these are pages in previous chapters. Fallen human nature tells me they’ll probably be pages in future chapters as well, but for now all that can be affected is the next page, the next line, the next word.

A big part of my journey thus far has been not just learning from my mistakes, but seeing how God has worked in hindsight. My family and I have gone through some pretty disparaging times, and through it all God has been there. We might not have seen his hand in the storms, but we know he was there in how we made it through. This is as cliché as it gets, but: Everything in my life has led me to this point.

The past is what made me, but what God is doing affects right now. My obedience affects the future. If I want to have even a shred of hope of living out my vocation as a faithful husband, father, and son, I can’t go back.

Progress Report: As of 2/5/2017, I have lost 20.5 lbs.

Lesson Learned

Leading into week two, and coinciding with my last update post, I decided to give myself a cheat day. The thought process was simple; I had lost a good amount of weight for the first week and I deserved a reward.

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My body had essentially gone through somewhat of a detox. I had come off of sugar, and was just starting to feel normal again. Better actually. Life without sugar and carbs has allowed me to think clearer, focus better, feel happier, and have more energy throughout the day. And then I decided to cheat. It wasn’t much, a trip to Subway for one meal and a pop-tart (two actually) later that day was enough to make me regret it.

I was doing so well, but when I cheated I ran back to the very thing I had been seeking to avoid. The problem with a “cheat day” mentality is that it holds up our vice, temptation, or near occasion of sin as the prize to be enjoyed. I’m not saying that sweets, or carb-laden food is a sin; it’s not. It is the unhealthy attachment to anything that causes that very thing to lead us away from God. Even an obsession with something very good such as exercise, to the extent that we use it to satisfy some longing beyond our basic health, wellness, and athletic needs, can come between us and God; it can become our idol.

After feeling the effects of my near-sighted decision, I was eager to get back on track and keep moving forward. The downside is that my weight loss kind of stalled for a day or two because I had knocked my body out of ketosis. Ketosis is the state when your body no longer looks to sugar, but to its own fat reserves for energy. Ketosis is brought on by the release of ketones in the bloodstream which help to break down the fat. This meant I had the painstaking process of getting back into that state so I could resume my journey.

In those moments when I weighed myself and found no weight had been lost, it would have been easy to become discouraged. It was really only a minor setback, but even the minor mistakes can lead us into discouragement and despair. One of the hardest things to do after a setback, whether it be in our health, our marriage, our career, or wherever is to keep working towards the goal. The highest goal toward which man could aim is that of personal holiness. Holiness comes in the letting go of what is temporary in exchange for what is eternal. For me, it is in the slow shaking off of various addictive tendencies. This process, for me, is more than just weight loss; it is an act of great surrender. I don’t want look for satisfaction in what is passing; I want to find it in God alone.

I’m getting back on track now, and the journey is becoming easier. I don’t say this as a boast of my own strength, but as a testament to God’s providence. As I carve out time for prayer, spiritual reading, and meal planning, I do it all as an offering of myself, and my time, back to God. I know that unless I completely give myself over to this period of growth and self-improvement, I will never be the husband/father/son/brother/friend/ catechist/student that I need to be. So I ask you to pray for me as I continue this journey. I’ll return the favor.

Jesus, I trust in you.

Progress Report: As of 1/16/2017, I have lost 13 lbs.

The Time is Now

All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted. A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to destroy, and a time to build. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

This post is likely one of a million (or more) being churned out at the beginning of this year detailing how the respective blogger plans to change their lives in the spirit of “new year, new me.” This post is different.

Are you convinced? Neither am I.

I, like many of you reading this, have vowed year after year to get in shape, achieve any and all immediate professional goals, and to finally get cracking on that book, screenplay, and/or “other big project” that we’ve repeatedly put off until later. I, like many of you reading this, have failed time and time again.

The problem is our motivation. Vain ambition is a flame that burns out quick; disappointing ourselves is easy. We’ll have that slice of greasy pizza, forgive ourselves, and try to forget we ever made that ‘unreasonable’ resolution to begin with… If we are our own motivation, meaning we are working towards these things with ourselves in mind, our accountability is lessened and we are more likely to fall off the wagon.

In many ways, these types of resolutions only serve to perpetuate a disordered self-love. This is not to say that having a healthy desire to take care of our overall wellbeing is bad, because it isn’t. Just that having big goals that are self-serving, to the extent that we are dedicated to these goals, keep us at the forefront of our minds. And no one else.

St Paul exhorts Christians to ‘die to themselves’ and to take up a more noble cause; the cause of Christ. If I were to take an inventory of my own life, I immediately see my family as my first priority. God has blessed me with the vocation of husband and father. These roles supersede all other roles in my life. Who I am to my family is more important than who I am to anyone else, by far. They are my primary ministry. And I am finding when I forsake prayer and regular observance of the sacraments, I am forsaking them. The grace and intimacy I am able to extend towards them proceeds from the grace and intimacy I’ve experienced in my walk with God. When I fall into sin, I close myself off to God and to others. Sin, for me, has become habitual. It’s second nature. It’s easy, and it feels as though sin has become deeply engrained into who I am.

Change brings stress and uncertainty. While in college I converted from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism, got married, and gained roughly sixty pounds. As the stress of life piled up, I panicked. I stopped thinking of God as my ever-present help, and turned to indulging my flesh as a means of coping. I became physically and spiritually marred by lust, gluttony, and sloth. In some of life’s most momentous occasions, I was fighting a quiet fight of self-loathing and depression. I would lash out, and would go on to destroy friendships, damage familial relationships, and become a sad excuse for a husband and father. As my world slowly became about me it began to fall apart.

In mid-late 2016, things began to shift.

I grew tired of who I was. Each day, the desire to change grew in its intensity. Like an act of God, I stumbled upon the Nazarite Challenge. Sponsored by Catholic Balm Co. and uCatholic, this challenge was set up for Catholic men to build community with one another, to be vulnerable together, and to engage in fasting and prayer. It wasn’t lent, but I couldn’t wait any longer so I jumped in head-first. I am so grateful for the brotherhood that has been birthed from that challenge; they continue to be a solid support system for me.

This 30-day alternative to “No Shave November” set me on an imperfect path towards total transformation. The fasting I took on was not geared towards me. It was about my family. It was the kick in the butt that I needed to stop being so damn selfish. Since completing this challenge I have been praying more, thinking of myself less (which has been a challenge), and taking up, once again, the mantle I took on when I said “I do” to my beautiful wife nearly six years ago.

The biggest transformation, however, will not be in what I do, but in who I am. This year will be a time for rediscovery of purpose. Through constant surrender, my hope is to shirk all self-centeredness, and to take on holiness. To live for others, and not for myself. To understand my good mental, physical and spiritual heath is not for me, but for my family and others to enjoy.

The time for change has come. It will be painful, but it is more than necessary.

For the next year, I invite you to read along and follow me on this journey. I will be blogging about it regularly, including picture updates, tips I pick up along the way, and sharing what God is doing in and through me. This will not be a catechizing blog, as it has been in the past, but a look into my struggles, victories, thoughts, and prayers as I endeavor to die to self and follow Christ with all that I am.

The time is now, are you with me?

 

 

Image Credit: ThoseCatholicMen.com 

Coming Soon! to RobertBarbry.com

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This post is a bit different than what you might be used to finding on here. For starters, this will be my final post for 2014. Ever since I started this site back in April of this year, I have toyed with several possible directions to take my writing. I’ve experimented with different angles and perspectives in an attempt to develop my ‘voice’ as a blogger. Looking forward into 2015, I think you will find more posts related to what I have written recently.

As a Christian, my faith plays a significant role in my life. Faith affects the decisions I make for myself and with my wife concerning our family, how I approach friendships and other acquaintances, even in how I exist as a productive member of society. I think that everyone who writes with strong religious convictions determines at a certain point whether their work will take on a more theological/philosophical approach or perhaps a more pastoral/popular audience direction. Composing pieces that serve primarily catechetical purposes is when my writing feels most natural. Tackling everyday issues and current events through the lens of Church teaching will find itself as the focal point of my blogging from this point onward. I am not a blogging expert, in many ways I am still new to all of this.

With that said, here’s what you can expect from RobertBarbry.com in 2015:

  • 2-3 posts per week
  • an active/updated speaking schedule (as dates become available)
  • weekly podcasts (aiming to begin by Summer 2015)
  • chapter excerpts from my first book (currently in-progress)