Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The human touch

Since I was a boy, I have been fascinated by whiz-bang, LED-illuminated, state-of-the-art technology.

To mollify my inner child, I installed a home computer network and theater. My wife and I could actually talk about the groceries or pet care, but it's way cooler via email. Of course, I own a "smart-phone," one of those cellular devices that does everything (when it actually works). But, the pièce de résistance of my electronic empire is an all-encompassing, entirely programmable, tip-to-toe customizable, universal remote control - the Supreme Sultan of all apparatus electronic. Settled in the couch-throne, one can power up the television, adjust the surround sound, and commence the evening's entertainment with a twiddle of the thumb. All hail "Technology King!"

The irony is when all the electronic bloops and beeps cease, I resort to an extremely low-tech pastime to soothe me: I wander to a coffee house, order a cup of Joe, and peruse a newspaper. The tactile sensation of newsprint, coupled with the reverberation of others exchanging conversations at nearby tables, and the sensation of a warm mug in my hands, comforts me.

It's reassuring that still nothing replaces for me human closeness.

Recognizing me at the window table, the slightly overweight gentleman approached to introduce himself, "I read your column. I admire how you've maintained your weight. I wish I could be more like you."

Gratitude from people one does not know is exceptionally humbling, and I am always caught off guard. Yet, on that date, that particular morning, that moment in time, he was a gift.

Despite my apparent "victory" over obesity, the siren tug of late-night eating, super sized portions, and sugary treats does not fall deaf upon my ears. It is - even now, decades later - an unending battle. Neither smarter nor better than anyone else facing these demons, I am simply fortunate enough to have this platform to express what so many feel.

Stress still triggers me to eat (as does so much else) and the previous day had more than its share, so I camped in front of the refrigerator, until finally, at day's end, I forced myself to bed, angry and disgusted for having succumbed yet again. I berated myself, doubting my successes, ashamed of my weakness.

As an experienced veteran of these wars, I have learned to - despite sadness and resentment - quickly regain my footing and force myself into healthier behaviors as soon as possible.

That is the back-story that led me to this place; I was seeking to reclaim a sense of normalcy, something I felt I had destroyed the night previous.

He could not have known that, nor how encouraging were his comments. His alternate view of me helped more than he will ever know. If he is reading this, thank you. If my words inspired you half as much as you helped me, I am truly honored.

Sometimes, when one least expects it - but most requires it - you get what you need. Hang in there; we're in this together.

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