I really thought I was going to drown.
I don’t know how old I was, 11 or 12 maybe. My little league baseball team was celebrating the end of the season with a boating trip out on the lake with the coaches. The boat was anchored in a quiet spot and the kids were all shooed off the deck to swim.
One of the kids pointed out a rocky island off in the distance and everyone decided that it would be a super-smart idea to swim for it. I don’t know how far it was from the boat, but I would conservatively estimate that it was fifty miles. At least that’s what it felt like as I was furiously splashing towards it. I was a pretty good athlete, but swimming wasn’t my strong suit. My arms and legs were longer than almost all my teammates, but my swimming stroke seemed to have a hole in it. I was going nowhere fast.
While I was struggling to make my way, some of the kids had already made it to the rocks and were jumping around on them, egging on the others to hurry. It wasn’t a huge surprise that Mark Sh*tz was bringing up the rear, even slower than the special-needs kid that played right field.
About the time I got fifty yards or so from the rocks, I started feeling a little better since it looked like I was finally going to make it. However, I guess the coaches ran out of beer at that point and noticed that the tadpoles had gotten out of the bucket. They started hollering like crazy, and let me tell you something: our crazy coaches could holler. Our team won first place in the league for two basic reasons (1) our coaches were especially proficient at hollering and (2) our pitcher was already shaving at 13 years old.
So all the guys jumped back in the water and started swimming, porpoise-like as I recall, back to the boat. They all shot past me and I looked longingly at the rocks; I wanted to go grab a quick rest, but I was conditioned to move when coaches holler. So I turned and started… well, I can’t technically call what I was doing “swimming”… but I continued doing whatever it was I was doing, except now I was doing it a little slower and a little more panicky than before.
It seemed endless, and I remember the hot sun beating down on me and the ill-fitting vest slipping around on me with virtually every stroke. I tried to swim on my back, but wound up going in tiny circles. A couple of my teammates finally swam back to help and the coaches continued with their enthusiastic hollering. To this day, I don’t really like it when people yell at me.
I have a greater appreciation for waterways these days, as well as a better sense of my own limitations. I guess what got me reminiscing about this story was that I was thinking about how I’ve always had some kind of internal clockwork that triggers a panicked burst of weight-loss energy if I get within spitting distance of 300 pounds.
For me, that mark has some kind of deep voodoo power, and going over it would mean perhaps swimming too far from the shore to ever safely make it back. I know in the rational part of my brain that that's simply not true, but it's probably a good thing that I believe it.
I follow a lot of weight loss bloggers who have crossed that border and several more beyond. They've drifted almost beyond sight, and I know that for some of them, the situation seems beyond hopeless, like a child adrift in a lonely lake. Some of these folks are treading water still, some seem to be lost at sea and some are busy swimming back for all they’re worth.
I feel for anyone who finds him or herself in that situation… dazed, disoriented and not quite sure they have the strength to make that long, long swim to safety.
I’ll tell you this though: blogging about your situation–being honest about what you’re doing and where you’re headed–that’s your safety vest, my friend. The lifeline that can sustain you when your limbs are weary and your will is weak.
And we’ll help you, those folks who have moved into more manageable waters. After all, I can tell you from personal experience that a helping hand is more welcome in this situation than any amount of hollering will ever be.