Follow my travels through Ecuador and Spain over at michaelawanders.wordpress.com !
Guess what, folks. I’m about to blow your mind with what you already may know or at the very least suspect somewhere down deep, but what I think is important to talk about. Especiallllyyy in the blog world, especiallllyyy in college, especiallllyyy in today’s culture.
We, as people, are masters of self deception. MASTERS, I say. At least up to a point. (At which point you say, get to the point Michaela. Patience, dear grasshopper.)
I want to talk to you about dieting. About exercise. About “lifestyle changes,” because we all know that dieting and exercise are out of vogue. Diets don’t work, the experts say, and rather than force ourselves to exercise we are encouraged to find fun physical activity and delicious healthy food so we don’t have to diet. And around this new trend, dozens and hundreds of blogs (and a whole web and non-web based health culture) have popped up, including my own. It’s called Pilgrimage of Health, for goodness sake. Health. With Healthy recipes and Healthy lifestyle tips and Healthy thought processes and Healthy healthy healthy.
And I’m not out to bash any of that. We do need lifestyle changes. We do need to forego dieting, and find activities that we enjoy doing that make us feel good, because we’re facing a crisis situation. In my country of the United States and increasingly around the world, we’re facing an epidemic of unhealth in mind, body, and soul. We’re spending more and more time and money and energy on health, and yet collectively we’re still pretty sick. In response, we’re inundated with lifestyles and ideas and tips intended to transform us into healthy, happy, carefree health goddesses (and gods).
But I think, underneath a lot of the healthy language and healthy blog culture, we sometimes use health as a cover-up. As an excuse, to try and change ourselves into what we think we should be rather than accepting ourselves for who we are. Now, rather than esteeming thinness for thinness sake and dieting and weight loss, we’re instead consumed by this image of health that can lead us into unhealthy behaviors.
You following me here?
An obsession with health can be unhealthy. Part of the problem lies within the motivation behind strict workout plans and eating regimes, but part of the problem can come after. After we’re following the cleanest diet, practicing yoga six times a week, training for a marathon. We become dependent on these as something to define us. We become human doers instead of human beings, fixated on the high of pushing ourselves further and defined by what we don’t do, that is, consume ‘bad’ foods (which in our society can mean a million different foods). And if we’re embracing a “healthier lifestyle” out of a deep dissatisfaction with who we are, I think that’s problematic.
Because our bodies know, right? Our self knows. It knows when we act out of insecurity instead of satisfaction. We know, deep down, what actions come from abundance and deprivation. And that doesn’t come without consequences. Lying to ourselves and saying that we’re “just following this eating plan because I feel tired (or want to be healthier or save the planet or I think I’m allergic to . . .)” when we really are trying to follow a diet without calling it so because we are deeply dissatisfied with ourselves and desperately want change, our bodies and souls know. Don’t try to trick them.
I know this to be true, because I do it. Have done it. Mastered it, for the past five years. I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free. I’ve followed strict running plans and done juice cleansing. I’ve committed to abstaining from this or that because of that and this. And every time I eat a certain way or exercise out of a dissatisfaction, it backfires. Badly.
This is not to say that running or vegetarianism or veganism (or yoga or paleo or grain free or . . . you get the idea) are inherently bad within themselves. Nope, because those things can come from a place of true health. They can come from a place of wholeness, a clarity in communication with our deeper selves that says that running makes our bodies feel good or a certain type of food makes our bodies feel bad.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you’re eagerly about to jump into another trend in the name of health, step back. Why are you about to embark upon this plan? Is it from abundance, or deprivation? Joy, or insecurity?
“You are not your mind, your emotions or the circumstances of your life. You are the peaceful observer of your mind and emotions that allows life circumstances to pass through and around you for your evolution to finally come to a place of total acceptance of all that is. Only the peaceful observer remains after all else fades away. Only the peaceful observer in total acceptance of what is can take action towards effectively changing anything. You are only this peaceful observer – everything else is as fleeting as the blink of an eye, choose happiness and don’t buy into it.”
My dear friend, mentor, and older sister sent me this quote yesterday based upon a conversation we’d had earlier this weekend. She called to “check in,” on the pretense to make sure I was feeling better after she got me sick two weekends past. After a few minutes of talking, she revealed that, while she was concerned about my physical health, she was concerned more about me. Now, let me give a bit of background to her older-sisterly consideration.
Two weeks ago, my sisters and I went out to see the baby. THE BABY, folks! It was the first time I had met my precious, precious nephew, and the first time the four sisters had been together since THANKSGIVING.
To use Glennon Melton’s (bloggee over at Momastery), my sisters are my lobsters. According to Glennon (via Phoebe from Friends), soon after lobsters are born they find a partner, lock claws, and walk together for the rest of their lives. My big sisters are mentors, best friends, wise, loving, talented super-awesome women. I love them, and can’t imagine life without them (which we have to do creatively, considering that the four of us live in four different states. More on that later.)
As excited as I was (which, believe me, was a dramatically squealing level of anticipation) I approached this weekend with some consternation. As much as my big sisters are all the above and more, I’ve had a history of comparing myself to these wonderful ladies. Throughout a bit of my life, I’ve looked at myself in terms of my sisters. Am I as pretty? Creative? Smart? Driven? Am I as exotic or sweet or loved or kind or sought after?
Part of which is natural, part of which is just plain toxic. So I approached that weekend away with my sisters mindfully, carefully. This summer, I’ve made it a practice of letting my emotions be. I don’t try to reason them away or invalidate them. Neither do I let them control me with undue power, swaying me to their whims. My emotions are allowed to be: I look at them, examine them, and pause to wonder at what is flooding through my mind and body. Then, I evaluate them: why do I feel this way?
By allowing my emotions to be, I’m not forced to try and deal with them. I’m not trying to force them away, cover them up, replace them with happier feelings. In the past, when I encountered bad feelings, the methods I used to try and make them go away usually just intensified whatever darkness I was feeling.
I am not the sadness that sometimes pervades me. Nor am I the ecstasy, the desire to withdraw, the overwhelmed, the happy, the gleeful, the enthusiastic, the stressed. I am the peaceful observer. I accept what is, looking forward to the future while living into the present.
I think part of what my sister picked up on was that quiet introspection of what is. There is a quietness and seriousness that accompanies me when I tenderly look within at my emotions, feelings, desires and foibles.
Do not be overwhelmed by what is, friends. Remember that you are the observer. You are the peaceful one, able to choose what you will allow in and what will flow out.
You’re perfect, and I love you.
This apology is long over due. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to say; I’m even more sorry that it’s taken me so long to realize.
We’ve been through it all together, haven’t we? For the past few years, our relationship has been tenuous. Strained. Most of that is my fault, I know that. You stuck with me through thick and thin, quite literally. And I’ve felt stuck with you.
I’ve been an awful friend. The truth of it is, I wasn’t very kind for awhile. Not just unkind, mean. Spiteful. Hateful. I hated you for a long time, because you weren’t what I thought you should be. I placed expectations on you that couldn’t be met. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that I abused you. I’m sorry that I listened to lies about you, even more sorry that most of the lies came from someone that should have defended you: me.
I’m sorry that every time you tried to speak to me, I drowned you out. Yelled at you. Hated you more, for trying to defend yourself and heal our relationship. I didn’t want to like you, because if I liked you, then I couldn’t mistreat you. If I listened to you, I’d have to treat you well.
I’m sorry that I didn’t respect you. I’m sorry that I didn’t love you, appreciate you, listen to you. I am so deeply sorry.
And in spite of it all, you stayed with me. Certainly, you fought for yourself. You quietly, then loudly, protested. You tried so hard to do what I wanted, you never failed me. Even when I hadn’t fed you, loved you, cared for you, you still were there. You let me walk outside, garden, cook. Instead of leaving me, you waited. Waited for me to be healed, so I could love you as I ought.
You knew all along, didn’t you? You knew that I was broken and hurting, and that I took that brokenness out on you. You were patient with me when I was not patient with you. You gave me grace, loving me, waiting for when I’d love you in return.
And then, when I began to heal, I’m sorry that I didn’t extend the same grace to you. I expected you to get all better, right away, after two years of damage. And when you didn’t, I was frustrated. I didn’t realize that our relationship would take time to heal. I’m sorry.
I want you to know that I love you. I really do. I accept you, as you are. Not in spite of your lumps, your bumps, your blemishes. I love you. All of you, because you are a part of me. You deserve love.
And now, I promise to listen. I promise to respect you, to honor you, to hold you and love you. I promise that no matter how you change, I will be the first person to accept you. I will continue to make it a habit to extend grace.
I’m excited for the future. For what we’ll do together, what we’ll experience with unity and joy instead of anger and division.
What does your letter look like?
For those of you keeping up with the blog, it won’t be any news to you that I’ve been quite sporadic in the amount of posts. I’ve been very busy with my internship and house responsibilities, but more than anything I’m tired, and weary and growing. God has been teaching me quite a bit, and the amount of internal retrospection and processing leaves me without much to share on the blog.
I hope to be able to return with vigor, but for now I have a few other projects I need to pour myself into. With that, I’ll leave you with a few images from the past week, and the promise to come back soon.
In Nashville at Centennial Park with my sister, Megan.
About to go ‘funyaking’ at North Saluda!
Here’s something to read while I’m ‘away’: http://bravegirlsclub.com/archives/2151
This post could also be entitled “symptoms of being a youngest sibling.” Remember about a week ago when I introduced you to my family? Well, as you may have inferred from the introductions and photos, I’m the youngest of four girls!
From left to right: my sister Kelsey, myself, my sister Megan, and my sister Lindy. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be just like my older sisters, especially when I was younger. While I’m sure they were just as nerdy and homeschooled as I was, in my eyes they were the most beautiful, smartest, and coolest girls I could conceive of. If they cut their hair, mine was immediately too long. Their current pastime was the only thing I wanted to do, and whatever room they were in immediately became a desirable fortress.
I’m sure having a mini-me that constantly imitated them and followed them around was irritating, but for the most part they included their annoying lil’ sis.
Why do I tell you this? Well, because my sister Kelsey is the original reason I stopped eating meat. She went vegetarian, and shortly thereafter I swore off meat as well. February 2008, I decided to go vegetarian for a year, whatever that meant. I’d abstain to see what it was like, and I completely expected to be eating meat once the year was up.
This from the girl whose favorite foods were Wendy’s hamburgers and beef-laden tater tot casserole. From the ages of 8 until 13, when we got fast food (a somewhat rare occasion) I would knock back two junior hamburgers, ketchup, mustard, and extra pickles, an order of chicken nuggets, french fries, and a root beer or frostie if my mom would let me. I cringe to think of the type of food I ate, but I was growing up on a farm and growing fast! I needed a lot of fuel, with my mom’s home cooked meals supplemented by . . . “food” that I thought was delicious.
Since I did grow up on a farm of sorts, I grew up eating lots of fresh vegetables and good food, and knew my way around a kitchen. I could cook and follow a recipe and I enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t always a priority. Once I stopped eating meat, I started to increase my time in the kitchen, cooking and experimenting with different combinations.
It was after, and not before, I became a vegetarian that I started reading books like Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I began to discover a whole wealth of literature about our food system and its flaws, and the health, environmental, and social benefits of ascribing to a vegetarian diet. Once the year was up, I never looked back–I knew I wasn’t going to eat main stream meat ever again. Now, sustainable food is my passion and what I’m studying in school.
I guess it’s good that I’m a copycat who wants to emulate her big sisters so much. Even better that I have strong female role models that I can emulate and know that I’m aspiring to something wonderful. Without my big sis Kelsey’s influence, I probably never would have discovered my interests in what I am now pursuing as a vocation. So there it is: no breaking, philosophical moment that made me decide to stop, only a little sister wanting to be like the person she’d always looked up to.
She just graduated with a degree in Nutrition, and secretly (or not so secretly) I still want to be like my big sis. She’s my go to source now for nutritional wisdom, and a continuing inspiration to find out about the effect food has on my body.
Who has had the biggest influence on you?
I tend to think I’m the only one with inner battles, the only person who struggles and wages war. I’m the only one that puts up walls and façades, the only one that hides my weakness and hurts and problems. I must be the solitary screw up that looks like she has it all together, and that makes me very special. That makes my problems valid, and excusable, and exceptional. If I’m the only one with problems, one that can be clinically diagnosed at that, I can claim an angst limited to a select number of a special, troubled elite. In a sense, it’s all quite romantic, really.
Of course, that deceptive mentality isn’t constant. Most of the time I’m bemoaning the fact that I don’t have the usual problems that I perceive others having, anxious over the fact that I’m not healed, not whole, not normal with normal problems.
There’s only one wrench to throw into this mentality. What in this far, wide world constitutes a ‘normal’ problem? Would it be more normal, perhaps, if I had to worry about where I was sleeping tonight? Or if I worked my hardest in all my classes, only to have anxiety about passing? Or if no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t connect to others in a way that felt real and meaningful. Maybe it’d be better if I had a pattern of co-dependency, or felt so inadequate in my own skin I felt forced to joke about who I was. Why do I think that I am unique in floundering because I struggle with the remnants of an eating disorder? Because the problem isn’t an eating disorder. The problem isn’t eating too little, or eating too much, or feeling a lack of control, or feeling pleasure from too much control.
It all goes much deeper than that, and to think that fixing the surface problem will make me better, happy, or whole is a lie. And to think that I am unique in having problems is also a falsehood, a fabrication from a dark place. Recognizing the pain that my problems causes me should prompt me outward in compassion to others, not push me further within myself. Being involved in intentional community at the Vista House, and reading literature about growing together purposefully and deliberately has helped me realize the great similarities within our differences.
Take hope, then, that you are not alone. And give hope, because you are not alone.
We have an abundance of zucchini and summer squash in the VH garden right now. I wanted to make Zucchini bread, but . . . I couldn’t find any bread pans. I now know where they are for future endeavors (I actually made whole wheat bread yesterday!), but ended up making muffins instead. Cooking and baking with foods grown in our backyard=healthy, cheap, and seemingly part of a movement that makes us alternative and awesome.
2 cups grated zucchini (two small zucchini or one large)
1 medium sized banana
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons chia seeds (flax seed meal should work as well)
1 cup organic whole can sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp iodized sea salt
1 tsp allspice
1. Process zucchini in food processor, using grater attachment.
2. Preheat oven to 325; mash banana and combine with zucchini.
3. Make chia “egg” by combining the water and chia seeds. By the time you add them to the mixture, they’ll look like this:
4. To zucchini mixture add honey, sugar, and vanilla extract. Add chia egg.
5. Mix together dry ingredients. Fold wet into dry.
6. Spoon into muffin cups; bake for 26 minutes at 325.
You know what would be absolutely delicious mixed into this baby? Walnuts. Unfortunately . . .
And apparently there is a sale on Zyrtec for those of you who have allergies!
Have you made anything from your garden?
This post is shared on Fight Back Friday over at Food Renegade!
Last week, Chad and I spent a few hours composting hundreds upon hundreds of seedlings. Now, I understand from a business perspective that, as a farmer, you have to overplant in case something happens. I also understand that it takes a scarce commodity, time, to find appropriate homes for them. Composting it is . . . unless you have an intern that feels almost more tenderly for abandoned plants than for abandoned puppies.
Here are just a few of the plants I filled my car with to bring home, and I barely rescued any:
There’s a nearby church that has garden plots for the community, and after planting some around the Vista House, I called up the pastor and procured a space!
I had to lay down newspaper and cardboard to kill the weeds . . .
. . . before I ran out. Then I poached some from a dumpster behind a shopping center😉
Filled completely, sprinkled with fertilizer (and one happy gardener):
I then had to let it rest a week. According to the people in charge of the garden at the church, the soil they got needed added nitrogen. After talking to Roddy and Chad, however, I was skeptical about this addition and am hopeful that my plants don’t get burned by too much.
My little rescues went back in the car after a week of rest and water at the VH (ignore the dirty socks. Comes from working on a farm . . . at least, that’s what I tell myself)
And over to the church to be planted!
Isn’t it beautiful? I planted peppers (sweet and hot), tomatoes, okra, oregano, and watermelon. I’m so excited for my plants to start producing fruit, and to not be dependent on the dining hall this fall for all of my goodies. Speaking of school food, check this out over at Food Renegade (and watch the TED talk at the end!)
Do you have a garden?
What is in season in your region?
To understand me a bit, and some of the stories that I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks, I’d like to introduce you to my family!
Let me apologize for the week without posts–I am currently transitioning from one internship to the next, and this week has been a challenging one. It’s been filled with revelation, self-discovery, and some emotions and realizations that I’m sorting out. I’ll touch on that soon, and how this blog will begin focusing on the relationship between our spirituality and our physical health (while still featuring plenty of recipes)! I have a few of those to share with you that I’ve made, photographed, and devoured . . . YUM!
The entire family jokes that I am a miniature version of my father–we finish each other’s sentences, think the same way, have inside jokes, the same foot shape, and have a running competition (and have since I was about twelve years old) about who is “right” more often. I’m currently winning My momma is a wonderful, dynamic woman that inculcated a deep appreciation of nature, plants, and gardening within me. She is a great lover of people–growing up, I’d often go into our basement to find someone sleeping on a bed that needed “some time to get back on their feet.”
My sister Megan and her husband Tim.
My oldest sister is my mentor, role model, and friend. She has been an incredible source of wisdom and joy in my life, and she currently has her own company, The Binding Bee, that I interned with last summer. Her husband Tim is witty, thoughtful, creative, and contemplative. I wish I could live with them always, and experience the warmth, joy, and happiness that emanates from within them. I love them both so dearly, and they have both shaped and fostered a good portion of my personal growth!
My second sister, Lindy, and her husband Blain.
If I am a copy of my father, my sister Lindy could be a miniature version of my mother! She is about to have the first baby in our family (SO EXCITED!) and is incredibly intelligent, advice-giving, beautiful, and innovative. I appreciate her constancy, calmness, and laughter. Blain is the older brother I didn’t have growing up–playful, protective, sweet, and very diligent and hard-working. He’s also the only person I’ve ever met to be able to toss me over a shoulder and run around like I’m a child!
My sister Kelsey and myself.
Kelsey! Growing up, Kelsey was my constant companion. She is incredibly selfless and a wonderful sister, as well as being adventurous, spontaneous, diligent, creative, and having the appearance of a goddess. Growing up (and still) I undulate between desiring to emulate her as my kick-ass older sister and being jealous of her beauty, courage, and general being.
Who has impacted you most in your life?