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Dave Cook column: The journey unfolds

By Dave Cook

For The Salisbury Post

I just finished a cup of chocolate hazelnut cream coffee and a buttered, toasted biscuit with apple butter (yes, I really can eat that). “The Joy of Life,” featuring Kenny G, is playing on the CD player. I sit on the couch with my eyes closed, head leaning on my left hand, relaxing and thinking how different life is today compared to last January. I feel absolutely wonderful. Peaceful. Happy. Content. Grateful.

The beginning of last year was tough. In my journal last January, I wrote:

“I can hardly walk. I get up in the morning and sit on the couch and beat my head on the wall because I keep falling asleep. Or trying to sleep. I am a walking zombie. No energy. No motivation to get things done that need to be done. I can fall asleep in a chair or on the couch in a moment. I can literally get out of bed and go sit on the couch for the entire day. Especially if it is rainy and cold. Just trying to get some kind of rest. Have got to feel better somehow. My heart is ‘nervous.’ I ache all over…

“I woke up with a jolt last month (November 2005). Suddenly sat straight up in bed. I realized I was face down in my pillow — suffocating. It scared me. I know I almost died. Then in December, my wife Beth said something like, ‘I can’t lie here and wait for you to breathe. I have to go to work tomorrow.’ She was afraid for me. I jokingly said, ‘Just go on, go on to work then!’ But I finally heard it. I had to go for help.”

I realized last year that, at 50 years old, time was running out. It was now — or perhaps never — to make changes to make my life better. To literally save my life.

I kept asking myself, “If not now, then when?”

I really needed help.

With the help of Dr. Ronnie Barrier, the Salisbury Sleep Center and the inspiration I felt when talking with Jayne Petrea in April, ever so slowly, things began to change.

Last January, my weight had reached 426. Today, my weight is 282. I’ve lost 144 pounds so far. I still have a ways to go to reach my goal weight of 213, but my journey is so much more than losing weight. It is about making as many choices as I can — in health, in relationships, in finances, in work, in love, in spiritual life — to make life better.

How different my life is already. I walk 2 miles (more if I wish) at a time. One goal was to be able to go hiking again by April this year. Beth and I hiked the Persimmon Branch Trail (21/2 miles through the woods) at Dan Nicholas Park on Jan. 14 — three months ahead of my “planned” hike. And this, after hiking up a mountain a mile — and back down again — during my birthday trip to Asheville and Tennessee in December. My wife and I even went contra dancing several times this past fall — something we never did before!

The last time I was this excited about life was during my teenage and college years. At times, it is difficult to hold the excitement inside. Just ask anyone who has talked with me lately!

Now I look so forward to each new day, and to how that day’s journey will unfold.

Our journeys always have bumps in the road along the way. I’ve had some tough times of food cravings, hard bumps in the road, this past year. But I’ve learned the trick — the work — is to stay on the road as best as I know how. It does no good to punish myself if today’s journey needs to be improved. I can work on that, too.

I believe with all my heart it is “time for life to be better” for me, for you. I certainly do not have all the answers to weight loss, or of making things better in all areas of life. No one does. If I don’t lose another pound, I’ve already attained the main goal I had. Yet there is still work that can be done and a journey I want to travel.

And I’m on the road — on the road to Carolina Beach. I have 69 miles (69 pounds) to go. And when I do, I’m going to build sandcastles on the beach with my family. I’ve never done that before. That’s another goal.

I’m on my way — on U.S. 74, almost to Whiteville. Wilmington is not far away. And then, the beach. And sandcastles. I can hardly wait.

It is, finally, “Time for Life to Be Better.”

Dave Cook lives in Granite Quarry. His column will run the first Friday of each month. Contact him at TimeToLiveBetter@CS.com.

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