RSL: A reason, a season, or a lifetime

I don’t make a habit of talking about things before they are complete but I have spent the last year preparing a funny memoir on my upbringing and weight loss journey. I am so proud of it, and what it means, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

Interestingly, many of the short stories are not solely focused on shedding pounds. Many stories center on removing certain characters or influences from my orbit.

There were also times that someone needed to release me from their life. We will all have to make that decision at various times of our life, and with age, I have come to understand why and when it is necessary.

Several years ago, my father took ill. There was a practical stranger who I had met just days prior who comforted me long distance. Each night when I would leave the hospital, I’d await his phone call, a ray of light in a bad situation.

I was always grateful for his disembodied care and affection during that time, and as we met and later became a couple, I gave him lots of allowances because of how good he was to me at that time I was desperately in need. It didn’t matter that he was terrible for me in the long term. I swore he would be in my life forever.

Because he was so steady during one key moment, I couldn’t see that he was only meant to be in my life for that instant. It took me several years to walk away, always wishing that he would become THAT person again.

Every time he re-entered my life, claiming this time would be “different,” he was unable to meet the expectation set. He was helping me because it helped him to not have to deal with issues in his life. He was not the hero that I built him up to be, or even the hero he believed that he was.

I had a conversation with my dearest cousin, who wisely told me that people enter your life for “a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” or RSL as I call it. The thought stayed with me, and shaped how I process the lifespan of the interactions I have had since.

After the traumatic breakup, I had a conversation with my dearest cousin, who wisely told me that people enter your life for “a reason, a season, or a lifetime,” or RSL as I call it. The thought stayed with me, and shaped how I process the lifespan of the interactions I have had since.

I have been fortunate to meet some amazing people who have helped to uplift me, believing in me during times that I did not believe in myself and encouraging me to be better than I was before.

At times, the individuals who have had the most impact in my life were only present for a moment, but left lasting memories, lending me a helping hand at critical moments.

I have had to walk from family members that I imagined would always be in my life, either because the world took them away or for self-preservation. In spite of blood shared, they were not healthy and safe relationships.

There are peers whose early passing (at 16, 19, 25 and 28) taught me to cherish each day. Their lost lives helped me to get my house in order and served as an example not take my life for granted as I walked around like a purposeless corpse.

When I was in high school, I had an amazing teacher who helped me get my professional start in graphic design, leading me to a job at a time when I had no college prospects. He introduced me to another man who would become my mentor, professor and later, my boss. Both men helped me to find my footing in a career, helping to introduce me to people who in a snowball effect led me to make giant leaps in my life, leading me from the suburbs of Delaware to the streets of Washington DC.

When I was able to begin to pay those educators back, from mentoring their students to beginning my own work as a Big Brother, I realized the beautiful circle that existed. In my life, they became one of several “reasons.”

As you age, your list of “reasons” seem to add up. For me, they include my parents, who worked tirelessly to remove my family from a crumbling inner city and provided us with better opportunities.

I try to never forget a kindness done. I spend many Sundays as a 40 year-old divorcee, writing “thank you” cards to people who have done something good for me. We don’t always get the flowers while we are still here. It’s important to acknowledge people who have been good to you.

I’ve found that it’s harder to identify “seasons.” It could be due to how fleeting they are, or possibly how they consist of people who come into your life for a moment, stretching you in positive or negative ways.

One of my most notable “seasons” occurred just days before I moved from Delaware to DC. A colleague named Lynette (a lovely woman who had to beg me to stop calling her “Miss” because I was being too proper) presented me with a purple lunch box, filled with snacks and a note that told me that I was going to flourish after my move. She said that she hoped that I would continue to be “my sweet, kind self,” and hoped that I could remain so no matter what the world would throw at me. She told me that she would “pray for me.” Unless you are from the South (where that term can refer to subtle shade) or you are nuttier than a pet raccoon is one of the nicest things you can say to someone.

Unknowingly, she gave me that gift on a day when I doubted that I had the strength to make my move and begin the next stage of my life. I have always kept that moment in mind, and every day when I pack my lunch in that purple tote, I think of her words.

Who knows who may be my “lifetime” individual? I know there are several candidates and hopefully a long life filled with experiences and opportunities. It could be a long time before that person presents themselves.

Today, I seek to be that “reason, season or lifetime” for others. I believe that it shows in everything I do. It is my hope that we all could hope to be. Aiding others doesn’t have to be for show or praise. It can and should be done quietly and humbly.

We all have an opportunity to help, inspire and encourage one another to become our best selves. We have the chance to impact each other in ways, big and small.

I remember days when it was difficult to leave my bed, through depression or due to pain of my weight. It’s why I love my Routines Not Resolutions series, if nothing else than the idea that I could help someone start their day with an inspiring thought, like Lynette continues to do for me.

I would love to hear about the person who helped you along your way.

Were they present for a critical moment in your development?

Were they there when you were at your lowest?

Who have you helped? Did you find it helped you just as much?

If you have the chance, let that special person know that they had an impact on your life and that they served a purpose. You’ll make someone’s day.

Be well!

  • First of all, I am letting you know now that I will be using the phrase “nuttier than a pet raccoon” from here on out probably daily in my life.

    There are a plethora of people who have inspired me in life of course my Mom, my Grandma are two constants. But it is my son who has shown me that even the tiniest pebble can cause the biggest changes. He’s only 11 years old but he’s wise beyond his years. Thanks to his compassion I am not more involved in service ad community.

    There is also a professor at UD, Dr. Norma Gaines – Hanks who has inspired me more than she knows. First of all she is the most honest and real woman I’ve met in my student/professional life. She teaches about human service and policy. She advises young people in the Human Service major and she is tough. Her class was tough, 5 to 8 at night on a Wednesday. She opens my eyes to many injustices I simply had been ignorant to prior to meeting her and I will forever be grateful for her knowledge and wit.

  • I think there’s truth to the phrase “You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.” For me, part of wanting to help myself was to know that I had someone to support and love me, even if I failed. When I got sick and was gaining a crazy amount of weight – I remember crying to Lew every night and being so afraid that he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore. One night during a “Nothing fits me” melt down – he looked at me and said “Listen – it’s unconditional at this point – I’m not going anywhere.” THAT changed everything. As soon as my biggest fear had been overcome – I was able to WANT to help myself and figure it all out. There’s no inspiration like unconditional love.

  • You fit a lot into your post! It sounds like you have a really healthy perspective on relationships. I know from personal experience that it can take a while to get there and I can so relate to being with someone for a long time who is not necessarily good in a long term way mostly because they helped to get you through a rough time. I saw a little article about you on Fit Bit’s blog and I think you are a really awesome person. I have been very down on myself lately about losing weight or really my inability to lose it. Exercise has definitely been becoming a habit for me and I made a lot of new friends at a little local gym that has awesome classes. Food however is a problem for me. I really need to find better ways to cope with bad feelings other than eating. But that is easier said than done. At least that’s how I feel right now. Thank you for being positive!

  • I meant to say my hubby has been very inspirational to me. He knows how to give me a good pep talk when I fall off the wagon and I know that he really loves me. He uses a wheelchair and most likely unless a miracle happens he won’t walk but we still have hope. Since I’ve started taking better care of my body, I’ve been able to take better care of him. He also used to be very athletic and he has often said to me…if only I could run with you, bike with you, etc. He does exercise too but he can only really exercise his arms by himself (I help him with his legs). When he talks about how he wishes he could exercise with me, it reminds me that my own ability simply to move my arms and legs is such an amazing gift.

  • Though I’ve a lot of truly wonderful people in my life – my mom being a constant example – who inspire me in little ways all the time, it’s my daughter who is the most inspiring and motivating to me. I want her to be proud of me more than anything else, which has inspired me to start taking control of my weight (with which I’ve always struggled) and has also inspired me to return to school (at nearly 40) to obtain my first bachelor’s degree. It’s amazing to me how one little person (she’s only 5 now) can do so much without even trying!

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