On Falling

I hate running on treadmills, roads, and tracks. On treadmills, I get bored much too quickly. Roads stretch too far ahead of me, taunting me with their length, and tracks are monotonous circles. I love running on trails, however—windy, twisty, trails that constantly change direction and incline to keep me on my toes. Yesterday on my beloved, wooded trails a large root sent me sprawling to my hands and knees. I popped up immediately, looked at the dirt now staining my person, and took off running again. If I paused too long, the pain would have set in and I would have been distracted away from my run.

These are, in fact, my knees after my run yesterday.

It’s easy to pop back up from a stumble on a run, harder to get back up when you fall in life.

I know all to well from personal experience. After restricting my food intake and upping my exercise level to shrink myself to industry standards, my body rebelled. Crying out for nourishment, I began to experience episodes of bingeing several months after I became underweight. I was able to control it for a while—my binges were infrequent, only occurring on weekends when no one from my family was around. When I began to distance myself from the industry and when I finally separated myself completely, my bingeing got much worse.

It was scary. In the middle of a binge, I felt completely out of control, like some foreign invader had taken over my body and was desperate to take me captive. Since I was allowing my body to experience foods (and amounts of food) it had not had in a long time, it desperately tried to grab as many nutrients as it could. After being conditioned to less than enough food, my own body didn’t trust me to feed it well.

It took me awhile to get back up whenever I fell down. Even after experiencing healing from my disordered eating patterns, certain triggers could still send me sprawling, much like that tree root did. I was mad and frustrated—I didn’t understand how my body still didn’t trust me, now that I was treating it well and feeding it abundantly.

While in the healing process, I saw a sign at a farmer’s market that said, “If you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.” So simple, but sometimes so hard.

When you fall, get back up as quickly as you can. Whether your struggle is food, or drugs, or anger, or depression—get back up. And if you don’t have the strength to stand on your own, reach out to someone. Someone that first sits with you where you’ve fallen on the ground, then tenderly but assuredly wraps their arms around you and pulls you back to your feet. It’s hard, I know. It’s hard to be vulnerable and open up to others, to drop the façade that you are perfect, competent, autonomous. I believed I was, for awhile, until I realized I was just sitting, broken and bleeding, in the dirt by myself.

The world will benefit when you stand. Stand, whether you are wobbling, unsteady, or afraid. It gets easier (and you get stronger) each and every time.

Nourishing our Happiness

There are many facets of health. Some are internal, such as spiritual or mental health, while others, like physical or social health, are external.  Because of the liberal arts nature of the school I attend, students are required to fulfill general education core requirements. One such requirement is “Wellness Concepts,” a course I’m currently enrolled in. It stresses the use of “wellness” over health, because the definition of health is “the state of being free of illness or injury.” Wellness, so says the argument, goes beyond simply not having health impediments but attaining an optimum level of well-being.

Health connotes well-being to me, and I don’t wish to nitpick over the differences. There have been times in my life when I have tried to separate the different aspects of health, such as when I only focused on eating well and exercising. I was nourishing my physical body, but I neglected my emotions and social connections. Health is all about balance, and can’t be broken up into little, isolated pieces. Treating our physical selves well is definitely a huge part of being healthy individuals, but we can’t focus on our bodies and neglect what feeds our minds, spirits, and souls.

Do you think I’ve used the word health enough yet? Yeah, me too!

 To shift gears just a bit, today I fed my happy self. Since I was a child, I’ve had a tender affinity for plants. Plants fascinate me—the way they emerge, timidly at first from the soil, slowly gain confidence from the sun and then stand proudly as if they’ve conquered the world. Which in a way, they have. Growing up in the country with a mother who let us have patches in the garden (but also held us accountable to weeding them!) fostered my love affair that continues to this day. What can I say, I’m a biophiliac. Indeed, when “I grow up,” I want to be a farmer. I participated in 4H, as many Midwesterners do that live in the country, and aside from the family history of dominating in the rabbit department my niche was plants. One year, I proudly took home best in show in three different categories: tallest sunflower, best flower arrangement, and best gladiolas. My thumb’s been stained green ever since. 

When I moved to Texas and was desperately yearning again to commune with nature and the outdoors, I started a garden. Unfortunately, the wiles of school and the heat of Houston summers often seduced me away, but I would seek refuge there on occasion. I found purpose in plants, in tending to the earth, in weeding and nourishing the life I’d placed in the soil. When I began my tiny oasis in the desert backyard (our property has a fair amount of sand and iron ore), we placed a pear tree in the back. I’m not ashamed to say that I would go out and not only chat with my little tree, but give it massages. With nutrient rich, compost-tea esque concoctions. It was loved. And, it’s now producing pears without another tree nearby. . . spontaneous reproduction, brought on by a babyhood of nourishment? I’ll take the credit!

You can see the dry soil, my pear tree, marigolds, tomatoes, and eggplants!

Now, I work on the organic garden at my school. Our farm manager noticed my affinity for excessive connection with the plants in our garden, and has thus put me in charge of growing the seedlings for spring and summer. Or maybe I was just a terrible ditch digger, and he wanted me somewhere my talents wouldn’t go to waste 🙂 . I’ve spent four hours this week in the biology department’s greenhouse, tending to this creation of life.

All the soon to be seedlings!

I already have some sprouting that I planted last week!

Health. It isn’t just about exercise and eating well.

Greetings!

Somehow, though I love to write and this should feel more like an introduction than a chore, I feel like I’m about to begin one of the college application essays that plagued me last year around this time. Wouldn’t it be nice if my blog were already established, if you knew me already and I could just muse about the day or share some tasty tidbits.

But you don’t, so here goes! A sampling of sorts with more substance to come in later posts. 

My name is Michaela. It’s nice to meet you. As a college freshman meeting new people every day, I’ve pretty much gotten brief introductions with strangers down. This, however, will take a little bit more time. I’ll try to keep it from getting too wordy, but please forgive me if I do!

I go to school in South Carolina at a small liberal arts university that I love. I have not yet declared a major, but I am passionate about sustainability (particularly in relation to food and agriculture) and nutrition, but I am also enamored with the Spanish language. It was a twisty road that brought me to where I am (not only geographically—also spiritually, mentally, and physically!), but one I’m glad I ventured upon and emerged from whole. I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Growing up, I had a less than notable yet perfectly idyllic childhood placed in central Ohio. My family owned a little over 13 acres in the country, and I since I was homeschooled until sixth grade I had ample opportunity to roam the woods, play in the creek, catch tadpoles from the pond, and perform my allotted chores associated with our hobby farm. The youngest of four girls, my older sisters flip flopped between doting on me and teasing me mercilessly, but I even when I whined I loved the attention and affection. 

I’m the cute, slightly odd-looking baby with what appears to be a Mohawk.

When I was fourteen, the father changed jobs and up and moved us from the farm to the dismal, dreary place of his birth . . . Houston, Texas. I’m not going to dwell too long on Houston, except to say that I was not initially a very happy camper. Moving was good for me. It helped me to mature, but after the move I found that I missed the community that had been established for me in the Midwest. I missed my childhood friends, the church I’d grown up with, and the land that was my home. Friendships took effort, and as a slightly embittered teenager I wasn’t eager to reach out and abandon my claim to my home, to Ohio. This left a hole. I was no longer sure who I was, where I fit, and what gave me value.

My, this is turning out to be a bit longer than I expected! Hold on for just a bit longer, I’ll wrap it up soon!

 I’m pretty tall and somewhat slim, so I’d always experienced a litany of folks either telling me to model or asking if I did. When I saw an ad online for a casting call at my local mall, I tentatively approached my mother and father. Though rather ambivalent, my mother accompanied me on the excursion that was to send me sliding down an oily and perilous path. Naively, (or dumbly) I thought that modeling would somehow give me value and make me special. Instead, it led to a long battle with my body, isolation from my family and friends, a vacancy in my relationship with God, and a distorted relationship with food. Somehow, I forgot that I was already valuable, and already very unique. 

Whew. It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at any of these photos. Well, that’s me—skinny, trying desperately to convince myself I wasn’t miserable. I’ll probably end up telling the whole story one post (or two or three or four, trying to contain it to one . . . that would be a challenge). I stopped modeling, I regained myself and my values, and now I’m on a journey, a pilgrimage if you will, to health. I desire health overflowing—mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

And I welcome you to come along with me.