What’s messy, and why it matters

If you’re a Brené Brown fan like I am, I hope you’ve picked up her newest book, Rising Strong. I’m into it now and can’t help but be inspired by her words and her dedication of the book to the space in between vulnerability and the heroic ending of the stories we are all so excited to get to. She admits that failure is part of life, and says that the journey is messy:

 “We much prefer stories about falling and rising to be inspirational and sanitized. Our culture is rife with those tales. In a thirty-minute speech, there’s normally thirty seconds dedicated to, “And I fought my way back,”…We like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending.”

I like to think that my blogging here as well as at my old blog was a space for me to share some of my struggles, but I’ll admit that I like to rush to the ending. Sometimes this blog serves as a spot to figure things out, which is great. But as someone who wants to help others to figure their own things out, it’s a disservice to skip to the ending or to leave out the messy parts. So as I’ve been reading Rising Strong, I’ve been thinking about my own mess in the middle.

On a regular basis, there are parts about living my recovered, healthy, life that are not so easy. There are “failures” or stumbles now, and I don’t always want to talk about them. Is it shame? Is it an attempt to inspire and focus on what’s good? Maybe. But talking about where we feel shame, I know, only takes away its power. And being real about the messy parts of life is what is really inspiring to others. Take it from Brené:

“…[T]here’s a vast difference between how we think about the term failure and how we think about the people and organizations brave enough to share their feelings for the purpose of learning and growing. To pretend that we can get to helping, generous, and brave without navigating through tough emotions like desperation, shame, and panic is a profoundly dangerous and misguided assumption.”

She talks about “the beauty in truth and tenacity.” So for the next couple of posts here, I want to share some of the struggles I’ve had and/or have when it comes to living the healthy and happy life I try to stay committed to. I’ll talk about what it’s like to walk around recovered—some of the times where I find myself slipping, or the ways that I have to work on staying true to myself. It’s not always easy, and I hope that this serves to send the message that it’s alright to have to work at recovery or living a healthy life. We sometimes see these images of people who have it all figured out and beat ourselves up for not being as carefree or as put together as them. It’s the whole comparing other peoples’ highlight reels with our behind the scenes footage, and it’s shitty if you’re the kind of person who then beats yourself up for struggling. Talk about kicking yourself when you’re down. I’ve been there, and I hope talking about it both helps me to let go of some of that shame and also to let others know they’re not alone.

 

imperfections

So in the coming posts, I want to talk about what’s tough. Holidays, the scale, comparisons–these are just a couple of the things I want to talk about.

Are there things you struggle with but keep to yourself when it comes to being healthy and happy?
When you tell your story, do you skip to the end? 

bodies: health for living vs. living for health

Bodies. We all have one, therefore we all have a relationship to the one that’s ours. Why is it that some people seem to get along with theirs while others are constantly battling theirs? Why is it that some people don’t mind that they hate their bodies while some people want to get to a place of body love?

I spend too much a lot of time thinking about my body and how it looks, or thinking about how I shouldn’t be thinking about it and how it looks. You get the picture. I know that I’m not alone here—from conversations about how many calories this friend is eating to how many workouts a week this friend is doing to the new program that this friend’s trying to the new body image book that this friend is recommending, at least in my circle of friends, there is plenty of concern with our bodies.

In my last post, I talked about wanting to make my health a priority, but shifting my perspective on it all. Physical health should be like a table leg, one thing that, along with others (emotional health, psychological health, etc.), supports me and my life. A full life requires health, but it isn’t simply being healthy. This is the difference between wanting to be healthy in order to live (health for living) vs. making our lives about being as healthy as possible (living for health).

In the past, I’ve been sucked into a world where health is the absolute be-all end-all. But isn’t health supposed to be what allows us to get out there and live? It’s like the spin class superstar who’s super fit but never takes it to the road; or the indoor rock climber who never touches a real rock; or the swimmer who never dives into the ocean. It’s sad, right? A waste? If we have a healthy body, we might as well use it to live a life.

whoohoo

Some day, every single one of our bodies will just be done—we can’t get away from that. Lots of people are scared to get older. I don’t like to think about the fact that we are all headed to the same place and can’t avoid it, but when I do I remember that I’ve got a limited number of days to spend on this earth. No matter how much effort I put into preserving my body, the eventual end is going to come. So why waste all the effort and energy I have trying to stave off something that I’ll never be able to? Why not focus on how I want to feel at the end of the journey—on what I want to do, who I want to be, the kind of life I want to live? And not so much on the appearance of the body I do it in?

I think it’s normal for us to feel like we are at war with our bodies. We see “ideal” bodies all over the place, and we don’t match up. Then we see blogs like mine and articles and books and coaching programs to help us love our bodies. I think these things are valuable. But I don’t think that we need them forever. In healing from my eating disorder, it’s been absolutely essential to get back to a healthy place with my relationship with myself. But I’ve noted something along the way: my relationships with other people are pretty darn important and deserve my attention too. While I was busy hating myself, then learning to love myself, I let some of my friendships and family relationships suffer. We only have so much energy.

We worry about our bodies, and we worry about worrying about our bodies. We try to fix our bodies, and we try to fix our relationships with our bodies. Both of these things are seemingly in our control. Tackling something like the last 10lbs or our negative self-talk lets us feel like we are in the driver’s seat of a life that we live in what can be a pretty scary world.

We think that if we can fix our bodies, or the way we think about them, we might find happiness. Forever. But we live in a world where bad things will still happen. People will die. Friends will hurt us. We will lose our jobs. Stock markets will crash. Even if we have a six pack. Even if we embrace our cellulite. It’s a dangerous notion to think that we should be happy all the time. Brene Brown talks about embracing all the emotions that come with living and says that if we “numb the dark, we numb the light.” We try to avoid the “bad” emotions but we end up limiting our ability to feel all emotions—even the “good” ones. No matter how strong we make our bodies, we cannot protect ourselves from the “bad” in the world. It is a heck of a lot easier to tackle the fat on our thighs OR the thoughts we have about the fat on our thighs than to deal with things and feelings that really challenge us and come from things outside of our control. I think this keeps us locked into our body struggles. It might be uncomfortable to hate your body, but it’s comfortably uncomfortable and in your own control. It might be uncomfortable to project our stress onto our bodies; but it’s comfortably uncomfortable, predictable and arguably less challenging than addressing what’s really going on in our lives.

numb brene brown

There will always be a reason to dislike our bodies, and there will always be the option of fixating on the physical vessel we’ve got to live our lives. But there will also always be the opportunity to let it go and to focus on the lives we are living. I, for one, don’t want my being to be dedicated to the shell that I’ve been given to make a life with. Remember, at the end of this thing that we call life, what we want to be able to say about the way we lived. Our bodies have been given to us—they are a gift—we can make the most of them but remember that they were given to us to make the most of life. 

onel ife