Dissatisfied Health

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?

 

Peaceful Observer

“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.”

Jackson Kiddard

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.  Image

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.

Dear Body

Dear Body,

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.

Love,

Michaela

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