No matter how high the hill Jan. 1, no matter how deep the hole, no matter how long the resolution list, no matter how short your fuse, your problems pale compared to Steve Vaught’s.

The ex-Marine set out last April to walk from the west coast to the east in hopes of saving his life. Nearly 40 years old and weighing more than 400 pounds, he knew he was nearing his last step on the ledge. He also understood that his weight was a symptom as much as the cause of his problems.

Wife April summed up Steve’s journey: “Something had to happen for a lot of reasons. Movement in any direction was positive movement.”

Steve exorcises demons as he exercises muscles. He is building spirit as he builds wind. Conceived by a rape, the high school dropout had one failed marriage already. He was even jailed briefly for vehicular manslaughter when, blinded by the late-day California sun, he accidentally killed an elderly couple at a bus stop.

Echoing Thoreau’s famous dictum, Steve says he was “living life in silent desperation.”

He is quietly finding his way now along Route 66, one step at a time. Healing inside and out grows mile by mile. Transformation requires honesty and persistence day-by-day. You have to want a different life more than you want to avoid the pain of change.

The late Catholic bishop Joseph Gallagher put it pithily: “The choice in life is not between pain and no pain. The choice in life is between the pain of loving or the pain of not loving.” And that includes loving yourself.

Love takes courage and always involves risk. It means letting go of the comfort of what is and reaching instead for what might be.

Steve Vaught is trying to believe that a life that began in violence and has been plagued by it can be altered for good by a love powerful enough to bring inner peace. His extra flesh embodies the heaviness of his soul. Lighten the spiritual load within, and there will be no need to carry the physical baggage without.

Steve is unloading his burdens, and so can you. Begin by assuming that if you are here, you are both lovable and meant to love. Then step into that truth one day at a time until it sets you free.