When I was quitting smoking, I gave myself a sticker on my Hello, Kitty calendar every day. Bear with me. Well actually no, that pretty much sets the tone for the remainder. But it was very nice positive reinforcement. I have loved stickers with a deep passion since I was six, and it’s never gone away. Back when I had some semblance of a career and disposable income(!), I discovered eBay and spent like half my paychecks buying nostalgic items from my childhood. Stickers were heavily featured.
So what a wonderful thing, to have an excuse to buy stickers! They have never escaped my longing gaze when I see them in the store. But buying them as positive reinforcement feels slightly less preposterous. Which is ironic* because of what I’m about to tell you.
It all began in an unlikely manner. You see, I had ordered a Goldilocks costume, one of those costumes that I used to make fun of and now wear, but seriously, this was just the cutest dress. And plus, an excuse to carry around some teddy bears! (I know.)
So since I had lost weight after wearing my last costume of this nature, surely it would stand to reason that if I got the very same size costume, it would fit, maybe even be a little loose?
NOPE! It was a different kind of material, and just was not flattering whatsoever, which is weird because those costumes make everyone look better than they really do. But not this one, not this time, not on me! It was atrocious. And just like that, all the climbing up the treadmill, and eating stupid healthy grains, and dancing to Rob Zombie, and putting lemon in my freaking water – none of it mattered at all! For I was hideous!
Thus went my proceeding pity party. But then I was sticker shopping and I like to stick with themes when at all possible, unless there are puffy Care Bear stickers and then all bets are off. So I grabbed some Peanuts Halloween stickers. At this point, I’d begun giving myself stickers if I worked out, but when I opened up the Peanuts stickers, little did I know that my entire life was about to change 😮
You see, these were not just any Peanuts Halloween stickers. These came with a background scene. Dynamite! It was a fold-out card that had a dark cemetery, and then there were all the usual suspects dressed up in costumes, and a bunch of bat Woodstocks!
I realized that I had a month until Halloween, and though I was not crazy about the costume on me, it technically fit, so I had nowhere to go but up. Or down, as the case may be. Is that ironic? Either way. If I gave myself a sticker for every day that I exercised, Snoopy and the gang could be having a festive Halloween time! I mean, what was I going to do, not let them have a good time? Both my OCD and psychotic anthropomorphization work in my favor sometimes.
With resolve in my heart to not mail the costume back to Amazon (procrastination also good here), I set out instead on helping the Peanuts gang socialize, and not letting Charlie Brown feel so alone.
Before you knew it, judgment day had arrived. For now I was to try on the costume once more, but this time every single last Peanut was partying, and every last Woodstock was flying through the purple night sky. It helped give me confidence, because if nothing else, I had a scene before me that was not there a month ago, and that was a lot of exercising.
The costume? Not my best, but definitely an improvement from a month ago. And that was good enough for me. Rather than focus on flaws, I noted my progress and strength, and thought if I could do that in a month, what could I do in a year!
So I kept it going. In November, I bought leaves, and in December, the usual Christmas fare – plus penguins! Penguins make everything better. Why do I need so many, you may ask? And I will tell you! Because I’ve gone sticker CRAZY!!! I now have a system, one of the many things in life that exemplify my ability to commit and work at something, when it comes to the important stuff. I have the Hello Kitty stickers of exercise, shiny rainbow stickers of vegan eating, owls of wisdom for no cigarettes (still stickers, not real owls, though that would be awesome). And of course, the now-traditional season-themed stickers that I give myself according to the length of the workout.
For awhile, I gave myself stickers for daily reading, to encourage better habits. That didn’t stick, literally or figuratively!, and yet I finally finished my book AND read almost all of Alicia Silverstone’s book (SHAWN YOU ARE NEXT). Is that ironic?
Another way the sticker system uses my neuroses for good, is in that now if I don’t have stickers, it makes me sad, not only because it means I wasn’t treating myself well that day, but also on an aesthetic level. Who could want a blank calendar of unhealthiness, when you can have this!
The thing is, the sticker system is silly, obviously, but it really works for me. More than anything, it’s taking time out of my day to be acknowledge that I’ve been good to myself. And when I see the above staring back at me, even on my darkest of days, it’s hard to not laugh, and also feel a little proud.
Stay tuned for Part Two: Jean Jackets and Overalls!
* Irony disclaimer: Christian Lander is right. I do make jokes about not knowing if they I’m using the word “irony” correctly. I thought it meant the Alanis ironic, but Lord do we now know that’s not correct, but the song still RULES, and then I thought I had it figured out, but no. I still am always wrong. But sometimes it just feels like the right word, and I want to use it. Plus, I was an English major, so one of these days I really should figure it out.