I am a person of extremes. I really like something or I really don’t. I dive into new dogmas with 100% commitment and enthusiasm. I am desperate for answers and if someone I even remotely trust offers them in the form of a new (to me) moral take, nutrition/fitness plan, or alternative to body shaming, I jump in with two feet and I take it on as my life’s compass.
I commit. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes…not so much.
I quit Diet Coke cold turkey (along with a laundry list of other “bad” foods and beverages). If you’ve known me longer than five years, you know I must have been possessed by a demon to do this. Diet Coke was my lifeblood. It was my absolute FAVORITE. It made bad days good and great days even better.
Did I drink too much of it? Yes.
Did I need to cut it out of my life completely?
But I did it because I believed quitting Diet Coke (Lean Cuisines, white flour, ice in my water – not kidding – dairy, and flavored coffee, to name a few others) would be the key to me losing weight and feeling better. I met with a trusted source and I followed their advice. I turned my kitchen upside down to rid it of “toxins” and I forced my husband down the rabbit hole with me. I even proudly blogged about it.
I didn’t stop there, though. Nope. Because I didn’t lose weight. I gained weight. About 8lbs in the first two months of this new eating plan. Was it the trusted source’s fault? Not at all. How would anyone know that if you tell me I can eat bacon that you ALSO have to tell me when to STOP eating bacon? They said I could eat bacon. So I ate ALL THE BACON.
Because I am a person of extremes.
Instead of looking for middle ground, I catapult myself into a new idea or way of thinking. I do not pass Go. I do not collect $200. I go from drinking Diet Coke, eating Lean Cuisines, and smashing 2-a-day cardio workouts to room temperature water, “real food” only, and heavy resistance training after just one 60 minute consultation.
It’s a 180 degree, about face, LET’S DO THIS mentality.
None of these things are bad, mind you. Not the Lean Cuisine, not the heavy resistance training. It’s the extreme behavior switch that just isn’t a great idea.
It’s not that I don’t eventually swing back to the middle. I do. But it takes a while and I often leave a wake of destruction in my path.
After being in therapy for some time, it was very clear I felt, justified or not, that what I wanted or thought did not matter to many people close to me. Their needs and wants came first and what I wanted or felt was not heard and even more rarely validated.
However, I feel what I feel – I can’t change that and I really shouldn’t have to defend it. They are MY feelings. Telling me not to feel them is ridiculous. But I didn’t really understand that before therapy.
So what’s the next step to claiming my feelings?
Like every good extremist, I sprung to action. I said, “NO.” more often between 2012-2014than I had the rest of my life. I said it to my mother. I said it to my husband. I said it to my sister. I said it to the church. I said it to friends and bosses and customer service reps. No, I will not do what you want me to do. Just…NO.
It was invigorating. It was empowering. For once, I didn’t feel the cloak of guilt normally draped so heavily on my back. I said, “No.” guilt-free. Ish. Ok, I said, “No.” with slightly less guilt.
But, per usual, it was an inappropriate level of response. It was a blanket statement. I didn’t stop to think about anyone else or even if “no” was what I wanted. I said no just to say no and demonstrate my new found independence.
There were boundaries drawn in those few years I wouldn’t give up to save my life. I am proud of the moments I was strong enough not to sacrifice what was important to Mark and me just to keep the peace within other relationships.
But there were other times when my Just Say No approach was meaningless to me and heartless to others and for that…I am truly remorseful.
I think sometime last year, the pendulum starting swinging back to the middle for me. I ate McNuggets once. I started exercising in ways I found enjoyable, which, just so happened to generally be cardio-based. I still don’t drink Diet Coke, but not because I think I’ll grow a third nipple if I do. I just lost the taste for it. It took two years before the cravings subsided, and now, I wish I could have them back – in my new modified approach kind of way.
I started saying yes again, too. I’m slowly learning how to balance my needs with the needs of others. It sounds ridiculous that it’s taken me 38 years to think about it in terms of balance but I honestly spend FAR too much time worrying about everyone else and ignoring what was going on with me.
I’m giving myself a pass, though. I’m focusing on the fact that life is a configuration of events and while some people only see those events as proof that their way is the right way, I choose to learn and grow and try to keep an open heart. It is NOT easy for me to see outside of black and white so the open heart thing…that’s going to to take some work.
I am learning to believe in myself and believe in the validity of my feelings, just not at the exclusion of everyone else’s.
A work in progress, for sure. Back swings the pendulum….