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It’s Time to Make a Change: If Not Now, When?

“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.”  ~Buddha

These words resonate for me in a deeply personal way. The importance of being in the here and now, of recognizing that every moment is an opportunity to wake up to what is happening and what is possible, saved my life.

I was a compulsive eater out of my mother’s womb. The youngest of eight children in an abusive home, and I used food to feel safe. I overate every day, hated myself for it, and yet could not stop.

I started addicted to food, and by my teenage years I was addicted to alcohol and drugs, as well. By age 24, I was designing my ending and talked regularly about taking my life. I was a fat, depressed drunk who hated herself, until a major shift happened.

I had recognized my self-harming behavior and had been in Overeaters Anonymous (OA) for months, but my patterns were the same. After meetings, I would go straight to the grocery store and then binge my brains out in the car, thinking, “Well, I’m not ready yet, and I am doing the best I can right now.”

Part of me was seeking something better, and the other part was desperate; one part wanted to live, and the other did not, but still I hung on to the belief that something might change.

Then came the day when I heard four words that rocked my world forever.

It was February, 1988. My latest New Year’s resolution to heal had died, and I was using food like crazy and drinking like a fish. There was a daylong OA conference, and as disappointed as I was in myself yet again, I knew I needed to go.

The very first speaker, a normal-sized woman, had a story similar to mine—a lifetime of yo-yo diets and self-hate. She talked about feeling desperate and determined at the same time, of living her life in two parts: the one who knew there was more, and the one who felt defeated.

She talked about all of her excuses and stories and lies and self-betrayals, and how they were digging her grave deeper.

She, like me, had wanted out of the quicksand, and could never find a hand or a rod or anything to pull her out. Then, one day in a meeting, she had heard a woman share a similar story of attempts to save herself until her life was changed by four words. Those words would forever change the life of this woman and, as soon as she shared them, they changed mine too.

“If not now, when?”

When she shared those words, I burst into tears and experienced an actual physical release in my body, an earthquake in my cells. My world was literally rocked and my life forever changed. Just then, I got it.

If not now, when?

What was I waiting for?

As I cried, I thought, “How long am I going to play this game of dieting and cheating, dieting and lying to myself? How long will I walk this earth feeling so ashamed of myself? How much longer will I allow myself to hope for death, and fantasize about taking my life?”

If not now, when?

Until I heard this, I’d been sitting alone in a conference room full of people, feeling fat, isolated, stupid, useless, and helpless. The words took me home, home to who I was. Home to the person who was not defective, who was capable of healing and changing her story.

It all flooded in like a tidal wave as I sat there, weeping in pain and joy. I knew then that the part of me that wanted to die was right in a way: some things would have to die in order for me to live. This was my life, and I was taking my power back.

I danced my way through the rest of the day’s conference, feeling myself slowly crossing over from shame into glory. After this angel’s talk shifted the tectonic plates of my soul, I was home.

My most valuable, practical tool for being awake to the opportunities of the present is meditation. My daily meditation practice grounds me in the reality of the here and now, opening my eyes to how every moment is different and new.

We all know the power of procrastination, that horribly persuasive voice that sits on our shoulder and says, “You can give up that cookie tomorrow,” “You can love yourself next week,” “You can go to the gym next year.” “Meditation will be good for you when you are in your 60’s.”

And we also know what happens when we listen: we put off our goals for so long that we finally give up.

There are literally millions of communities out there in the world, spiritual communities as well as meet up groups that were designed to help you kick that little voice to the curb. They are there to help you jump-start all those changes you’ve been promising yourself for years. And while meditating is a solitary act, being in a group setting (even if only to get you started) works just as well. That was how I got started.

One thing I know for sure is that when I face resistance head on, acknowledge it, stroke it, coddle it, and then ask for help, things shift. The procrastination monster subsides and things begin to lighten up and happen. I know the same will happen for you. There is a helping hand out there to guide you through what often feels like a stopped stuck place.

The following years have not been without their setbacks; the road to self-love and acceptance is not a purely easy one, but the gift of words this woman gave me has sustained me through all the ups and downs.

I learned from her that there is always another chance, there is always the now in which anything can happen, anything can change, anything is possible.

Every day, the first thing I do is meditate. I then go into my life knowing that today can be different, and that by living in the moment I can be my most honest, loving, healthy self.

If not now, when?

Photo by spisharam

Profile photo of Laura Fenamore

About Laura Fenamore

Laura's Body Image Mastery programs are celebrated by thousands of women who have released their excess weight and reclaimed their self-esteem. She's chronicled her own weight loss journey in her book, Weightless: The Be Good To Yourself Diet. Laura is a frequent contributor to First for Women, Ladies Home Journal, and the Dr. Pat Show. Learn more at OnePinky.com.

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  • Estee

    So very true! Thank you for sharing your courageous moment which melted all of your resistance to taking a turn on the road toward self-awareness, so that you could blossom as the person you have always were meant to be..beautifully written and very inspirational in helping others as the woman at the conference was able to awaken you!

  • Nick

    This is an absolutely incredible story and one that really strikes a chord deep within me.  If not now, when?  Such a simple question, but one that holds such magnitude.  When do I stop taking care of others and start taking care of myself?  When do I start loving myself?  When do I start cutting myself that same slack I always seem so willing to cut other people?

    The answer is now.

  • Alex

    Laura Fenamore, I’m printing out this article and framing it. I just recently (i.e., last week) crawled out from my rock bottom that I thought could have only led to one of two places: a psychiatric ward or the grave. And just like you, it was in one swift moment of clarity after hearing some very simple words. I found myself saying “YES!” to so many of the things you touched on that I was lauhing out loud by the time I finished reading. As dramatic as it sounds, I want to sincerely thank you for sharing the wisdom that almost cost me my life had I not attained it. Be well! 

  • Jennifer

    Thank you for sharing your story.  You are very brave to be that honest.  I can definately relate to a lot of the things you wrote about.  I’ve struggled with body image and addiction most of my life, however some types of addiction are a little easier to hide than others (although still addiction just the same).

  • Yes!!

    “If not now, when?” is such a powerful statement. If we don’t do something to enact change right now, we never will. We need to remember this.

    Meditation is also absolutely essential for not only changing those foolish habits we all have, but seeing outside reminds and being happy as well.

    I’ve meditated twice a day for a few months now and it’s absolutely amazing.

  • Laura

    thank you Nick for your reply, really appreciate it alot.

    let me know if there is anything I can do to support your taking care of you.

    easy to reach me laura@onepinky.com

  • Laura

    thank you for acknowledging how far you have come and your willingness to say YES will move mountains for sure!

    love it Alex.

    bless you, laura

  • Laura

    thank you Estee for taking the time to read and sharing your truth here. :):):)

  • Laura

    here here to daily meditating Fred, Love it….and love that you are getting so much out of it. thank you for sharing…laura

  • Laura

    i do not feel brave. and I appreciate your saying that. I feel like my healing process is a gift and I do not take that for granted… If I can help someone else than that is why I am here.

    no need for any of us to hide, especially when we are in our addictions…we need to ask for help to reach out..and receive the love that is our birthright…sending you big hugs and love, XO, Laura

  • Kimberly

    wow! great article! it really got to me bc there are several things that I have been putting off. I’m going to print this out and hang it on my mirror, my refrigerator and put one in my car. thank you for writing this and jarring me into forward motion.

  • Laura

    oh i am so glad that this will support your growth and well being. :):) we all need support. and thank you for printing it out.

    xo, laura
    laura@onepinky.com

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  • Marquita

    Laura, thank you. YOu have touched my heart and soul. I have struggled with food addiction most of my life, as well as alcohol and relationship addictions. I somehow don’t seem to have an “off” switch with my addictions. I have realized I am a slave to them and that THEY will never give me the love I have longed for. Only I can do that. NOW is the time to give myself love, understanding, patience, acknowledgment. Nick’s comment rang true for me, as well. The gift from my struggles is that I want to help others heal from addiction and trauma. Thank you so much for your beautiful words and for sharing your story.

  • Nalicia

    Laura, Thank you for sharing your story, reading this yesterday challenged me to open my eyes to the internal world of wonderful me. Loving me in the ebb & flow, in the up time & down time, loving me – all of me now. Walking alive on a beautiful journey of knowing. I put it to the test too! Yesterday I decided to take the day to myself – even though I had planned it to the T of all the things that “couldn’t wait” – and I followed my inner voice and allowed myself to rest taking time for me. Let me tell you the Universe unfolded in my heart a spring love and light began to flow within my bones. There is much to learn, but I will love me every step of my education. Thank you so much for allowing yourself to be a channel for the Universe. 🙂

  • Kecuevas

    This is something I needed to hear so much! For the last seven months I have been hating myself for allowing people to hurt me. I have been hating my ex-new gf who happened to be an ex-friend for being so happy with him, knowing all the time the inmense hurt he caused me even leading to the psych ward. And just last night a good friend of mine asked me when I was going to start living for me? Sitting here at work and reading this has brought tears to my eyes, because if not now, when? and why not? I deserve to be happy and move on. Not to think that jumping off a bridge will solve anything!

    Thank you so much for this Laura! And good luck to you on your journey to healing as well.

  • Laura

    thank you Nick! you are so kind. please spread the love out there…the world needs lightkeepers like yourself. I should say, keep asking the deeper questions and encouraging others as well. my best, laura

  • very inspiring. i’m sometimes so worried about decisions to change my life. but you’re right, if not now, when?

  • Like other commenters, I was humbled and inspired by your story.  How brave you are to tell it and to live it.  Thank you so much. 

  • I think I finally understand the importance of mindfulness in a way I hadn’t realized before. Living in the moment, living in the now, really means NOW. it means not worrying about yesterday, or giving into procrastinating to the future. It’s making every now count at that moment, every single time. When you don’t hang onto the past or give yourself false promises to the future, you can truly live now.

  • thanks Laura for spreading such a wonderful story around so that many can read and absord within…You have ttruelly blessed me …therfore Blessed You are….:)…continued Love

  • Eueadan

    This is mine, after the life change story.. I ended up figuring out religion. Of course everyone has there own views, but for a moment. try and look what I have to say, religion i see as a reason to be happy. your reason to die with a smile on your face, knowing you did as much as you could with your life. Past events have helped piece this all together.. But it just sounds.. correct to me. 

    This is my view of religion. Please take it all in as possibility. its why chess was made, to have all options to use in your life. it helps people, along as the bible. But the Bible is a guideline, not a rule book. This started off as a message to my bestfriend of my view on religion.. it all fits. True happyness isnt about putting a mask on to talk to others. However some people are naturally ill natured due to todays corruption. ‘I just thought the whole night while thinking about your text reading ‘damn, shitty friend I am not being able to get my bestfriend a gift’. Then it all came to me, the answer to life isnt to move out of America. All land is is land. for us to inhabit made daily by our volcanoes for future population. However it is to explore what it is. This is a lot of thinking I’ve been doing Cody, but think spiritually for a moment. ( my way of simplifying religion. ) Think life as a game. It runs out of time unfortunatley. Religion is the orgional gaming manual. Of course we only read the manual to understand what we need to, to go deeper. However Ive read NONE of the bible. I just understand bits and pieces. We all come from one thing, accept weve all felt like that correct? Yes. Spirits get bored. Why? Because theres never anything to do. Im not saying who created this earth, ( god, upper being, energy maybe? explains dogs and being able to feel vibes. ) I can literally almost control a dog with just my vibual energy. People and spirits get bored because spirits are viewing things like a game. What new experiences pleases them? reading a humans energy spirit, always seeing there new experiences, makes them jealous almost. However God doesnt mind, he likes it. Religion is truthfully just a big secret. like santa claus, a maturity step in your life. A guideline how to be happy pretty much. ( catholic just ruthlessy controlled them, masterbation is a sin? way uptight, people these days are Indulging, and not learning. America proves it. America, heres your simplified version of Religion. Religion is to be happy, the 7 sins. each grant a happyness, people. Think 2000 years ago, a ******* UFO would scare you. Get real. Video games you cant indulge on forever. Just like learning the truth behind religion, you get bored with 1. you want new experiences, why 1 video game gets boring. Just like God gets bored. God created us with a limit in our brain, but with the ability to learn. So we’d have to find this happyness the hard way. Thats why Roman Mythology fits perfectly together. The bible has several scripts of astral projection. All hints to give you a reason to keep learning. Jesus was a smart man, just able to learn past basic humans and absorb. Yes that is a bit hard to take in, but someone has to learn. you cant just stop religion for that long, although the human race i admit takes awhile to play catchup. What I say isnt crazy, look at it all into consideration. ( the chess board ). Why old people and people over 21 generally like camping. Its all new experiences usually, getting in touch with mother nature. Exploring. I’m Generation X. When i was 16, Generation Z = 18. 2012 isnt the time that everyone dies, its a time the whole world finally understands what happyness really is. Like the media feeding us YOLO. ( you only live once ) so make the most fun you can out of it am i right? Look at all your options to living more people. If I’m generation X and Z is comming this close and im this far into religion without reading a bible once? Curious to what will happen with that. Remember, all the bible does is help. its a stepping stone into the spiritual word. a 2000 year old book that people are becomming smarter than when they believed it back then. Now its showing its true colors Religion, all it was made was to control. Whatever happened to will power? or discipline. But if you look at religion without having the spiritual sense, youll end up having problems how to read the bible because it ends up giving you reality checks. Obviously problems are in your life and NOT happyness, right? Grow up people, learn what true happyness is for once. Todays happyness, not 2000 years agos euphoria.All jesus was killed for was for learning to much. Todays society the middle class is to stay happy, but what will do that unless you understand religion and learn a bit more something about your own religion for once? We’re all seperate human beings. With our own thoughts, and guide to what makes us happy. The worlds about to change people. Hell truely is in the North America as we speak with all the corruption in this world that needs to be eradicated, to let people learn. a time to sprout, like the roman times when all they did was learn. Until the crusades..

    go past your simple head ache of trying to understand this, reach deeper. 

  • ash

    🙂