I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
— Joseph Campbell
The last few weeks have been a wild ride, readers. WILD AND CRAZY EXCITING! As soon as I let it slip that I wanted to pursue schooling in the field of holistic nutrition — not maybe, not perhaps, not ‘when I find the time or money’, but ASAP– doors started flying open for me. Everywhere! Awesome ideas came to me in dreams or during meditation, opportunities to connect with exactly the right people came flying into my inbox, and friends near and far immediately offered me fountains of knowledge, resources, and great advice. Pretty great, right?
Well. Lest you think that I suddenly stumbled into a perfect existence and settled into easy harmony with everything on the planet– Deepak Chopra style– let me set you straight. You see, with so many doors opening all at once, somebody (ahem) might have got a bit excited. And with all those (heavy) doors flapping about madly in the great hallway of life, somebody (cough!) maybe got decked in the face by one or two of them. Opportunity knocked. I answered. And got clocked in the teeth by accident…
It all started when cherished reader Michelle pointed me in the direction of Leanne Vogel, who I’m just going to call “Amazing” from now on. (It’s shorter and more to the point. She’s seriously awesome.) Michelle raved:
“I’ve been reading another blogger for months who’s a holistic nutritionist… She has kickin’ low-allergy recipes (today is a 5-ingredient chocolate pudding made out of NAVY BEANS) and Capital G-orgeous photos of her food. I know you don’t *need* another blog to read, but she might be a good resource along your journey (if you’re not already familiar with her work): http://www.healthfulpursuit.com”
Clearly, I had to head over to Leanne’s site, Healthful Pursuit, and check out her G-orgeousness for myself. And it was G-orgeous indeed. So G-orgeous, in fact, that I strangely went from feeling like I was on top of the world to anxiously questioning whether I was cool enough for the internet and wondering if I’d always be less cool than Leanne. (Not my proudest revelation, for sure, but there you have it. Hello, insecurity!)
Being watched, being judged
Leanne seemed to be so grounded in herself and collected in her relationship with food. She had a great website, a dedicated following, and countless recipes that turned the ‘woe is me, I have food allergies’ mindset right on its head. Take that, candida! You’re not the boss of me! (I nearly cried* when I tried her Runners Repair bars. *From the deliciousness, obviously.) And who was I by comparison?
Bland as a boiled potato.
Too tiny for this world, and way too small for my gigantic pipe dream.
A bright-eyed punk with pedestrian recipes and unfortunate photos. (Thank goodness I deleted my ‘groundbreaking’ recipe for ice, no? Ingredient: Water. Directions: Freeze. Of course, I jest.)
The smallest, most insecure shadow of myself suddenly worried that I would spend all this time and money on nutrition school and still not be as awesome as Leanne. Even worse: what if I spent all that time and money on nutrition school and became even less cool than I was already? Coolness regression— heaven forbid!
In my anxiety, I downed half a jar of peanut butter. In, like, 45 minutes. By the spoonful. Without even paying attention.
When I noticed what I had done (and how sick/swollen my belly felt– ya think?), the guilt kicked in. Big time. I felt terrible for eating approximately 100,000 calories of nut butter in one sitting. What kind of person does that, let alone what kind of nutritionist wannabe? I felt even worse, knowing that Kimberly Snyder (my nutritionist idol) disapproves of peanuts and recommends almond butter instead. (And it was salted peanut butter, too– probably with common table salt and not even high-quality sea salt. Ack!!) Soon, I was spiraling deeper and deeper into critical thoughts and all-around chastising. What have I done? Will I ever learn? Bad, wrong, no-good, awful, blah blah blah…
Enter Marty. Thank god!
Marty had been at a fitness class when the Peanut Butter Incident transpired (you know, taking care of his body and loving himself. The irony of his self care did not escape me.) He had left me, super stoked and brimming with positive energy!, and then had come home to a hot mess feeling totally down on herself. The intellectual part of me knew I was being silly and irrational (and that neither Leanne nor her website had anything to do with it), but at the time, my fear of change, putting myself out there, and creating a new life for myself with no guarantees of success threatened to swallow me whole. WHAT IF I FAIL? WAIT A SECOND– I ALREADY FAILED– LOOK AT ALL THE PEANUT BUTTER I ATE!
The words Marty spoke as he cradled me in his arms were simple and delivered with love, and they lifted my spirits not only immensely, but immediately:
Please be kind to yourself.
There will never be another you!
It wasn’t an order or a demand– it was the answer. Holy paradigm shift! My angst simply dissolved when it met with Marty’s words. Snuggled in his loving arms, I felt a flash of realization:
Kindness is the first step.
Who knew? All this time, I’ve been doing things backwards: I always start with my mind (knowledge, information, statistics, a particular program, a list of ‘allowable’ foods, a certain diet, etc.) and then I promise my body and my spirit tenderness when (read: if) I succeed on whatever regime I’ve adopted. On a subconscious level, I’m only offering myself love, respect, and compassion as a reward for a job well done! WTF??
If you can believe it, I’ve repeated this backwards pattern ad nauseum since adolescence with the Wild Rose Cleanse, the Beauty Detox Solution, the ‘avoid gluten and chocolate’ program, the ‘stop eating rolled oats and lemons’ approach, the anti-candida diet, and most recently, with our elimination diet. In each case, I arm myself with important nutrition information (foods to eat, foods to avoid, milestones to achieve, etc., etc.) and impose that information on my body, knowing that if I just try hard enough or follow the rules closely enough, I will succeed. Who cares what my body thinks or how my body reacts? I find an odd comfort in deferring to the experts and take solace in the idea– however crazy it is– that somebody else knows how to make things right for me.
Who is in charge here? (Stained glass by artist Ted DeGrazia)
Here’s the kicker: even though I don’t go into these eating/diet programs consciously thinking that I’m soldiering off to war, that’s technically what’s happening. I am pitting my rational mind against my less-than-perfect body. Kindness isn’t often found in this equation, even though blind hope, optimism, and youthful naivety are. (In other words, I don’t undertake these programs in a willful desire to sabotage myself. I’m convinced in my mind that I am doing these things for the right reasons, but my body feels differently. It feels attacked and ignored.)
Using the awesome power of my mind, I control myself, discipline myself, deny myself, fix myself. And sometimes I do succeed. I lose x amount of pounds, or fit into x size of jeans, or get rid of x pesky condition (skin, digestion, whatever)… but it never lasts for long. Without starting from a foundation of kindness, change is not sustainable! (Dr. Obvious, yes, but I’m a Slow Learner and had never really thought about things that way before.) Without caring for myself and truly loving myself right-freaking-now, no amount of willpower or healthy eating practices are going to mean or matter much, even if I undertake them from a desire to ‘detox’ or ‘clean up my eating habits’ or ‘figure out my food allergies’. I won’t change anything about myself without enlisting everything of myself– my body, my spirit, and my mind.
(The potholder I really wanted but didn’t buy)
Kindness is the first step.
Wow, are you still reading? Kudos to you!
My fall from the top of the world into the deep recesses of my insecurities and back up into the light of a kindness-themed paradigm shift took all of 3 hours. (Yeah. I get around.) During that time, Leanne was still awesome. But so was I. My awareness finally caught on to the
crazy obvious notion that it’s all good. Leanne’s amazing-ness in no way precludes or prevents my own. (And seriously– you should try making her recipes. They kick allergy ASS!) Judging myself more harshly than I’d ever judge anyone else makes zero sense. Eating peanut butter isn’t the end of the world. And loving myself is the start of something great!
Note: Even though the paradigm shift happened instantly, I realize that the practice of ‘genuine self love’ might take a little longer, despite the fact that my mind has officially declared myself Immediately and Perfectly Loved. Ha. I have started with 3 small practices– brushing my hair (which I haven’t done daily since I was about 12), oil pulling first thing in the morning, and giving myself mini foot massages every day– and reminding myself while I do those things that I deserve tenderness. So far, it seems to be working… slowly, subtly… and my hair is silky smooth! :)
What about you, readers? How do you pull yourselves up from the depths of insecurity? How do you honour the whole of your being– body, mind, and spirit? What are some of your favourite self-care practices? I’d love to hear from you!