The Stomach Flu

Is being out of shape all that bad afterall?

I don’t endorse the methodology but if you’ve been selected – through a small security gap in your immune system – to come down with the stomach flu, the results really speak for themselves.

As I neared recovery from the back spasm that set me on the couch for 5 days, one of my kids was kind enough to bring a nose full of snot and germs home from school. We emphasize sharing in my house and so I had mixed emotions when my son, nose dripping with yellow goop, demonstrated comprehension of our lessons by sharing with me his afflictions.

So, I went from being glued to the couch to glued to the toilet. Good times for sure. But the unanticipated result was the loss of 9 pounds, mostly water that I’d been retaining like parched camel in the Sahara.

This got me thinking, as I’m inclined to do when faced with extended time in the bathroom. What are the unintended benefits of our circumstances or actions – or more importantly, our inactions? Do I receive a benefit from my current state? Traver, my coach and trainer, posed this question as part of my workout program, insisting that I was receiving some benefit from being overweight and to look honestly for what that was.

Traver pointed out that some people get more attention or sympathy when they’re overweight, others might get out of household work. Others still might become less attractive to their spouse if they lost weight, or they’re allowed to avoid laborious work that a fitter self would have few excuses for dodging. At first, I couldn’t think of what my benefits might be. I didn’t see any upside to carrying extra weight.

But, as I mulled the question while white-knuckling the toilet seat, I realized an uncomfortable “benefit” to my current state. During my back spasm only a few days ago (see previous post), I was laid up on the couch. My kids wanted to play and I made the honest claim that I was too twisted up to play the physical rough-housing games they rely on me for. But truth was too, that I just didn’t want to. I was tired, grumpy, and wanted to sulk and I had no desire to get off the couch and engage with them in a meaningful way.

In my informal and completely unprofessional survey of parents, we all have moments where the demands are overwhelming and we need a break. But typically, if we allow ourselves the respite it seems to be accompanied by extreme guilt at letting down your own children. However, this time, feeling justified for my need to remain on the couch, I didn’t have the same guilt. In fact my wife reinforced this by taking the kids and being the center of their attention.

So, I was receiving a benefit from being hurt, which was a natural extension of being out of shape. The benefit I was receiving from my current condition was an uncomfortable one – that I didn’t have to play with my kids. That realization hurt and was a nut kick to my quickly dehydrating ego that seems to insist I’m a great father. Maybe I’m not.

This benefit of attention and lack of obligation was mirrored back to me a few days later when my daughter, at the elderly age of 6, came into the living room hunched over and clutching her back looking like a 40 year veteran of patrol. “Ouch. My back hurts,” she said through a falsified look of pain as she enumerated all the reasons why she shouldn’t go to school. Nice try, kid.

As I dug deeper into this reasoning, it of course is not actually a benefit that coincides with my long term goals. Brief respite from dad duties is nice, but I don’t want my kids as adults to recall their dad as a broken and pained man. That’s not who I am…at least that’s not how I see me. But, it will be how they see and remember me if I don’t make that change.

So, what benefit are you getting from your current state? Are accommodations being made for you at home or work that would change if you got healthier? Are those really benefits after all? Or are they just excuses that allow you not to see yourself for who you currently are?

I hope that this post gets your mind moving, and that you don’t need the same explosive intestinal distress that I endured to find yours.

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