Fat Guys in the Woods

A few days ago, I was flipping through the channels and stumbled on a reality show called “Fat Guys in the Woods.” I expected it to be ridiculous. I expected it to be filled with bleeped dialogue of lazy men bickering with each other while the overblown guide yelled at them like a bearded Jillian Michaels. But I was wrong.

The show was much gentler and more respectful than I’d imagined. There were three men from different backgrounds, all having lost their way somehow–gaining weight, losing touch, losing hope–and one Survivorman-type expert guiding them through a week in the wilderness. They learned to use a knife, make a shelter, and find food and water. And along the way, they worked as a team. Don’t get me wrong, these guys were no Grizzly Adams when they walked out a week later. But the thing that touched me about the show was that these three men were led out into the wilderness to engage…with each other, with the plant and animals we use as food sources (from which all of us are so far removed), and with the numbness and fear that was holding them back.

The truth is, in this life, most of us are just fat guys in the woods.

We’ve all woken up one morning after drinking too much, eating too much, worrying too much, or being so lonely or so angry or so tired, that we’ve done something we regret. And as we’re shaking off sleep, there is usually a crystal clear moment, just an instant, in which we know in our hearts that this is not what we want for ourselves. We say this will not happen again, we will be better, we will be freer. We will take a chance and make a change.

And then we fully wake up, and we go back to our patterns and the expectations and fears that we have built around ourselves and our lives.

But maybe, if we’re being honest, that little moment of half sleep is the only time most of us are fully awake. That is the moment in which we yearn to engage with life in a deeper and overwhelming fashion. Maybe that is the little window into our deeper selves and hearts, as Duncan Sheik wrote, “before the truth goes back into hiding.” (Yes, I’m quoting a 90s pop singer, but this is serious business and to hell with being cool).

So my question for you on this Monday morning, with the holidays bearing down on us like a giant gift basket of numbing overindulgence and detachment, comes from the poet Mary Oliver:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

You don’t have to have it all figured out. I certainly don’t. But keep reaching. And let’s get our fat asses out into the woods.


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