March 25, 2014

Softening my Love for Extremes. ~ Kristin Monk

Photo: Malin Bakay

I am prone to extremes.

Blame my Arian nature, my Gemini rising, my Vata dosha, a strong and early tendency to be a perfectionist, and a highly addictive personality. Or just, you know, some combination of the 17 million things that make all of us the unique me-soup of ourselves.

I live for sweltering summer days of 100 degrees and 98 percent humidity. Getting tossed around by waves that send normal people to the shore, shaking with bathing suit tops around their waists. I have drunk 250 pound men under the table, and I have gotten into dance offs with professional break dancers.

On the downside, I had an eating disorder for 20 years and am pretty lucky I was terrified of drugs and my parents, or I’d probably be dead.

I will take a dare to prove a point, and I laugh when people shiver.

I am kind of an asshole, actually.

Naturally, I love New Year’s resolutions—they are the ultimate dare with myself. How much can I improve myself? How many miles can I run? How much yoga asana can I perfect? How many recipes can I master? And so on and so forth. If there is a resolution you can think of, I have probably tried it. One year, I didn’t drink for 90 days—by far, the best thing I have ever done. Another, I decided to try hot yoga. Another life changer.

This year, however, I was hovering near a precipice—only I didn’t know it. I knew that big changes needed to made in my life. I thought that by setting resolutions, by deciding the controls, the changes, that would be made, that I would get to determine what they would be. How I would shape myself, my life.

It turned out that I was about to pour gasoline onto a very, very big fire.

I decided that I would do 100 days of several different things that would, hopefully, cultivate kindness, abundance, love, and clean eating and living. I called it 100 Days of Kale, and I was going to write about it. I did write about it, for about two weeks.

I meditated every morning. I ran and lifted weights every day. I practiced asana every day. I signed out of facebook. I gave up processed and refined foods, coffee, dairy and gluten. I asked myself, constantly, “What would someone who loves themselves do?”

It turns out, I had no f*cking clue.

Meditation got me in touch, as it does, with some deep seated issues that had been hiding. Well, not hiding. I simply had been ignoring them. Now that I became quiet and opened the door, they barreled out and starting screaming for my blood.

Losing the connections of Facebook, as well as being new in a city without many friends, made me feel even more isolated.

Exercising every day, as well as further limiting my food choices (which I had been doing, along with other unhealthy behaviors for 20 years) brought my eating disorder to a very, very ugly head. I went on the pill to bring back my menstrual cycle (as someone who loves themselves would try to do, right?) and it sparked a hormonal imbalance of epic and catastrophic proportions.

Within two weeks, I was not only not loving myself, I was barely recognizable to myself.

But that is another story.

It’s been almost 100 days since my original New Year’s resolutions, my 100 days of Kale. It hasn’t been what I intended, what I thought it would be.

It’s been even better.

I’ve learned to surrender. I softened. To moderation. To quiet. To peace. To this thing that is my real life, not the life that I was trying to force.

I see a nutritionist, who set me up with a healthy eating plan. For the first time, I haven’t been eating at extremes. Extreme starvation to extreme binging. I eat nourishing foods, at appropriate meal times. I weigh a healthy amount. I don’t weigh myself seven times per day. In fact, I never weigh myself—my nutritionist does.

I see a therapist. We work on cognitive behavioral therapy, on everything from my body image to communication to life goals to sex. We draw on white boards. We make lists and diagrams. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes I cry. All of the time, I feel better when I leave.

I also see a psychiatrist—and I am not ashamed to say that, despite the stigma I have found it inspires, even in some of my closest friends and family. Something in my chemistry fizzled or fuzzed or bubbled, and, for right now at least, or maybe forever, I take medicine to balance it out. And that’s ok. If that means that I am better to myself and to others, that is actually more than ok. It’s pretty fantastic.

The first thing that I said when I met with my team of Wellness Warriors was “I surrender. I want to get better, and I need you to help me.”

And I felt free. For the first time in a long time.

I was done. I was so tired of feeling sick, and sad and tired. My life of extremes had depleted me. I think that happens to everyone who gets to a bottom—whether it’s with a relationship, an addiction, a behavior or just a Monday.

I’m done. Get me outta here. I don’t think I can do it alone, please help me.

But in order to be helped, I needed to give in, and give up. No more fighting. No more clinging to bad behavior that didn’t work anymore. It felt like it did—it certainly functioned, certainly kept me thin, successful, well-liked, what-have-you. But happy? No. I was seeking happiness with those things, filling myself with them, grabbing at them. If I could be perfect, I would be happy. I would muscle into it. White knuckle myself into happiness. How utterly exhausting.

100 days later.

I sit quietly, with my favorite mug full of strong, black coffee. My mornings are full of yoga, and writing, and wonder at what the day will bring. Gone (mostly) are the dread of the scale, the self-loathing that brought the punishment, and the shame of not wanting to share myself with the world around me.

If I want a slice of pizza, I have a slice of pizza…and I kind of marvel at it. I can have a slice of pizza, and not swallow a fistful of laxatives, or go without breakfast tomorrow. I’m free.

My mind doesn’t rush around, a restless little monkey seeking happiness on the next tree branch. I am making friends, and I know that they value me for all of the weird me-ness, and not because I am perfect. I teach at a wonderful studio, where I feel accepted and loved, and part of an amazing community.

Life is blooming around me—right when I relaxed into it. When I stopped looking for it.

100 days of kindness, abundance, love and clean eating and living. I got there, after all. The means were very different than I had intended, but the end was the same. The difference was that I could not muscle into my happiness, could not white knuckle it. Happiness, it turns out, cannot be chased and caught. Happiness, it turns out, is found in the quiet. In the still. In the in-between.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photos: elephant journal archives

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