Forgiving the Forgetful

. . . in myself. Really, it isn’t just the forgetful: it’s learning to forgive the imperfections within myself. That, my friends, is something that I thought I had grasped only because I was able to give myself grace in one area of life. When something else happens to remind me of my inherent human-ness, I feel like I’m starting all over again.

This is exam week, hence my lack of regularity in posting. I’ve been stressed the past few days about the exam I had this morning–not because I was unprepared, or because it was going to be particularly challenging. It is my easiest class, and therein lies my problem: I’ve been unwilling to accept anything less than an A in that class because it is easy and unchallenging. There were several homework assignments I forgot to do, which makes my current standing in the class less than my ideal. Had I done them, I would have gotten 100%–but I just completely forgot. It had been a hard few weeks with a death in the family, traveling to the funeral, missing class, working through my emotions, and I simply blanked.

It took me days to stop kicking myself over them, with renewed pressure this week to excel on the final so I don’t get–oh the horror–an A minus. I keep trying to remind myself that this isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of life. That it is a learning experience, a reminder that when I mess up, life will continue.

It is this same, take it or leave it, perfection driven mindset that got me into a state of un-health in the first place.  I refused to yield on myself, convinced that I could make myself do anything if I simply set my mind to it. If I applied myself, I would get what I wanted. I’d never experienced anything contrary to this logic in the past–if I wanted a good grade, I could get it. If I needed to get into a certain program, I’d apply and get in. If I wanted to change a system, I’d simply find the right person to talk to and convince them to my way of thinking. If I thought modeling was something I wanted to do, I’d be damned if I didn’t whittle myself into their restricted standards of measure to succeed by someone else’s definition. Problem is, I didn’t always evaluate if my end goal was actually something good, as it clearly wasn’t in the latter.

Sure, I’ve learned occasionally that there is room for failure in my life–when I didn’t get accepted to the Washington DC Senatorial Page Program, or when I didn’t receive a scholarship I wanted at a certain school. But all of these I could justify as ‘not part of God’s plan,’ or some other factor. When it is my own personal involvement that trips myself up . . . that is what I struggle to accept.

I’m trying to learn to love and accept what my counselor calls the shadows of ourselves. What would happen, she asked, if you were a forgetful person? But I’m not. That isn’t a part of who I am. But, you forgot. Does that make you forgetful? She was purposefully letting me be flustered so that I could see the hypocrisy of accepting forgetfulness and imperfections in other people, but never myself.

Grace. Forgiveness. Self love.

How do you forgive yourself? 

Do you ever struggle with perfectionism? 

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Eating Well and Exercising . . .On Vacation

Fellow pilgrims, I journeyed this past extended weekend to a friend’s home in North Carolina for Easter Break.

And unfortunately for me, this post . . . isn’t about how I ate well and exercised on vacation. Because I didn’t. I grazed mindlessly throughout the day, ate when I wasn’t hungry, and didn’t do anything physically active. Not once! And it’s ok to have weekends like that. It’s ok to take a break, and eat foods you don’t usually eat, and lay around like a slob relax on breaks. It is especially ok to take a break from exercising, as I’ve mentioned before. But what isn’t ok is to feel bad about it, or feel unsettled because you’re not controlling your meal times or meal components.

What I didn’t do but could have done better: thought about the weekend ahead with a plan in mind. In my excitement to spend the time on break with friends, I didn’t think there’d be any challenges. If you’re breaking routine or going somewhere new, I encourage you to pause beforehand and come up with a game plan. Write it down, if need be! Will exercise make you feel better and give you a break from the family? Bring clothes, and make that a priority (preferably in the morning). Are you wanting to take a break from physical activity, but wanting to spend time catching up on a book? Do you want time away from the internet, or from television? Think of pitfalls that could come up and waylay these goals, and devise a few creative solutions to fall back on if you encounter an obstacle en route.

On a check in for this week’s Pit Stop Monday:

Every time I get on my computer, I want to get on Facebook. It’s habit–my fingers automatically go to open another tab while something is loading to check it. Same thing for my WordPress stats–it’s a default action to get on my account, and if there are no comments or replies to click over to see how many of you viewed my blog today. That fixation is definitely not constructive, so I’m glad this is my special focus this week.

How do you stay happy, healthy, and relaxed when away from your routine?

Do you ever take a break from the Internet, or specific sites? 

Doubting What I’ve Dubbed ‘Veganism’

This is another hard one. Being honest on here is crucial, but boy is it HARD sometimes. I’m taking encouragement from one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon, on this one. She is honest and open, and it’s wonderful and vulnerable and scary all at once.  I think I’ve avoided delving in enough. Shall we?

Lately, following a vegan diet has been very, very difficult for me. Not necessarily the food, but social occasions revolving around food. Especially when I don’t have control over my food, such as when I’m traveling or at other’s homes. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, nor do I want to be defined by what I eat.

It’s interesting. Not eating animal products makes sense to me, both for the feel-good body benefits, the environmental benefits, and because I have a skin condition that seems to be exacerbated when I consume dairy. I was vegetarian for a long time before I went vegan, and choosing to eat vegan stemmed from not having as much control over the origin of my food while at college. It’s just a part of what I do, not who I am. Yet, people identify me as a vegan, as if my whole self was tied into the eating choices I make. I’ve been introduced as, “This is Michaela. She’s a vegan.” But, I am so much more than that–aren’t I?

I chose to identify myself as vegan because I figured that was easier for people to understand. Rather than be more of a conscientious omnivore/vegetarian that said “I eat some animal products when I know where they are from, but mostly I’m vegan, but even though I’m flexible I’m choosing not to eat what you’re preparing for me. . . ” seems so pretentious, unsociable, ungrateful. While I obviously would never say that to anyone, I was afraid that my choices would say that to some people. I do eat eggs when I’m at home, because we get them from a neighbor. I’ve also had a bite of fish that my uncle caught. That is the type of flexibility I desire.

Social situations are very difficult. Early on, I didn’t struggle as much with that, because I was typically eating meals in our dining hall where I had plenty of options and could share the moment with everyone. But in certain situations that food is provided, not being able to share those moments has made me feel sad, emotional, tearful, and un-included. And not because of those hosting the events–it is a self imposed exclusion, based upon what I feel is right for my body and the environment.

I suppose it is ok for that definition to change. I will be working on a farm this May with practices I can laud, and I am open to trying some of their meat. No definitive statements at this time . . . the thought of eating meat is still very weird, even though I choose to eat vegetarian for environmental reasons and this meat wouldn’t have those complications. At this point, I think I will choose vegan foods when I have control over what I am eating and when I am organizing social organizations, but be open to being flexible meals including dairy and eggs when someone else is feeding me.

Maybe this makes me a sellout to the vegan community, or means that I’m not being a good “vegan role model”  to the meat eating community. And I think both of those things will somehow have to be ok. I think I’ll wait, though. I realize some people will be confused about the shift back, and I’m uneasy thinking that it could invalidate my eating choices now. Though basing my choices on the reactions of those around me seems superficial, it might be easier for me to stick out this school year. I don’t know.

Have you ever struggled with your food choices? 

How do you deal with social situations when you are eating differently than other people? 

No Shame: Let’s Talk About Counseling

I go to such a beautiful school!

A wonderful Wednesday to you all!

Guess what I did yesterday? Shouldn’t be too challenging of an assumption, considering my title. After having to change my appointment because of school related busyness, I finally went to the nutritional counselor at our school.

It was scary. The half hour before I went, I was very anxious–heart pounding, slightly nauseated, wanting to run away anxious. But I went, was greeted kindly, and talked to her for over an hour. She affirmed me in many ways, listened, and offered hope. She encouraged me greatly, and told me I was brave, and in the process of healing. I didn’t feel very brave, but I did feel hopeful, and slightly regretful that I hadn’t gone earlier.

Sometimes, we can’t get through things on our own. Seeking help doesn’t mean that we are weak–it means that we are strong, and brave, and willing to do hard things to help ourselves. Seeing a counselor should not be a source of embarrassment, but I’ll admit that I was a little worried. What if someone sees me go in? What if they assume I’m crazy? I responded, Really, self, it sounds like a very sane thing indeed to do anything and everything to make us all better. And if someone does see you, then maybe that will be an encouragement to them to get help if they need it. 

So, let this be an encouragement if you need to get help. I know it took the encouragement of some of my friends to go see our nutritional counselor. Maybe your struggle is very different than mine, or maybe it isn’t. We all have our different obstacles and trials. Maybe your help won’t be in the form of a counselor–maybe it will be finally opening up to friends and loved ones. That’s what I had to do first, a little over a year ago. And if you do go see a counselor and it doesn’t feel right, don’t assume that it’s counseling that’s wrong. Maybe you and your counselor aren’t a good fit–they’ll understand. In high school, I saw a counselor twice before I stopped going. It wasn’t that I disliked her, something about our sessions just felt off. Unfortunately, it’s taken me this long to go again.

On a check in for my focus on flexibility this week…let’s just say I haven’t been as intentional as I should be. Good thing it’s early in the week!

The Exercise Compulsion

Quick check in, day 2, week 2 of Pit Stop Mondays.

I’ve been stretching, but half hearted motions. What I really want to talk about today is a revelation from this weekend. Here’s something I wrote on Sunday that I wanted to share:

Today, I was planning on going on a run and going to the gym despite my protesting body (my knees hurt going up stairs . . . I’m guessing because I was very very active the day before) After reading this post, I decided to plan on a walk, and to run if I felt like it, followed up by some elliptical action at our gym. I headed towards my usual route, and walked at a very leisurely pace to our amphitheater.

The weather was beautiful: warm, breezy, and sunny yet slightly overcast, and the sloping grass in the amphitheater was absolutely alluring. I contemplated a nap,  but instead went to the far corner and, hidden by trees, stripped down to my sports bra and did a few sun salutations on soft, springy growth.

Here, I again considered a run. It’s hard for me to break out of the idea that I should be active when I have time, and that walking “isn’t exercise” because it isn’t hard or rigorous. But I simply kept walking—and I am so glad I did. Walking outside on the trails in the woods, I was able to talk out loud (which is important for me) to God, and continually be amazed at what I saw.

My usual running route looks so different when I actually stop and look at it. I had no idea how diverse and beautiful the plants were—if someone had seen me, they probably would have been confused at my antics. I stopped to rub soft tree leaves on my cheek, to marvel at shapes, to gape at trees I’d never noticed before. I saw a toad, several caterpillars, and even helped a lost baby turtle back to the lake. I’d never have seen it if I had been jogging.

Allow yourself breaks. Marvel at nature, breathe in the scent of spring.

I’m going to take my camera out on that route, and show you all what I saw! I’ll add them in soon.

 

Dare to (Not Compare) Check in Day 6

Good Morning! Happy Sunday!

I am so grateful that this is how I started off Pit Stop Mondays–I think it has definitely set the tone for the rest of the challenges. Now, one week after intentionally not comparing myself to others, I can see that it has definitely made an impact. Since I’m not constantly looking to others to see how I measure up, I’m better able to assess my own abilities and appreciate myself.

Because of this week, I’ve noticed a few patterns that were probably very apparent but that I hadn’t connected before. First, comparison–> a more negative body image, whereas refusing to compare–>more appreciation of my body. When I appreciate my body, I treat it better and listen to its needs–whether it needs food, rest, exercise, etc. I’ve also noticed this week that there has been a drastic decrease in my temptation to binge. Because I’ve been encouraging rather than disparaging myself, I’ve been happier and have had a more realistic (and optimistic) view of myself, and I think that is what has lessened the impact of what has historically been triggering.

One of my close friends with who I have dialogued constructively about these issues shared a parenting practice a mother she knows uses. When her daughter was a baby and toddler, every time she bathed her she would say “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful” as she moved the washcloth over her body. Now that the little girl is starting to bathe herself, she too echoes that she is “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful” as she washes herself. What would happen if we adopted this practice–affirming every part of ourselves as beautiful, beautiful, beautiful?

Another realization: in my quest to avoid comparison, I’ve been focusing primarily on bodies. After going on a run with a guy friend of mine and getting discouraged that he was seemingly fitter than me (after months of only sporadic exercise and running because of an  injury, whereas I’ve been exercising consistently), I realized that I also can’t compare myself to others in terms of performance. I can do my best and no one else’s.

This is a pit stop Monday week practice that I’m going to continue. Many of the others will last only a week, but I’m keeping this around for the long haul.

Have a great week! See you tomorrow for Pit Stop Monday, Week 2!

Have you noticed a subsequent increase in happiness because of a decrease in comparisons? 
What is one challenge you could practice for a week to increase your overall health?