November 11, 2014

The All-or-Nothing Approach to Life Doesn’t Work.

family kitchen

My life has become a welcome haze of new-mother mornings and exhausted afternoons.

My days are filled with little girl activities and newborn needs.

My relationship with my husband is fixated around the beauty that we’ve created for ourselves and the reality of the workload that it entails.

And then there’s my body.

My physical self needs to move and sweat and yawn through my muscles; stretching and howling from within.

My body craves toning and tightening, loosening and lengthening in order to fully recover from my pregnant months, but the time for this is limited and never quite enough.

Yet I stole 30 minutes this morning. I felt like a thief.

I ran downstairs while my husband bathed our daughters and worked out some of my body’s kinks on my circa-1980-whatever Nordic Track. It felt delicious—I love that thing.

And, afterwards, when my hot muscles wanted to move more through a yoga practice, I settled for a couple of simple postures—because the all-or-nothing approach to life does not work.

I’ve tried that too.

I’ve tried exercising nearly all of my fat away until I was whittled down to less than 95 pounds. It took therapy and hard work to regain my health, especially my mental and emotional health.

And I recovered from my anorexia, but I realized that I’m an all-or-nothing sort of person.

I’ve been with my husband since we were 14—for over 20 years. I prefer long-term and routine and 75-minute yoga classes and long reading sessions with good books.

Or I like flipping through Netflix movies, watching only 15 minutes of one before changing. I like short online articles and magazine leaf-throughs.

But life, I’ve discovered, is so much better when I have only one glass of wine and not three (or none). It’s better, also, when I let myself have a day off from exercise. And it’s so much better when I steal those 30 minutes rather than making excuses and doing nothing at all.

I think this is why I can’t stand the new trend of calling our eating habits “clean.” Because, apparently, the opposite is “dirty”—and I think food follows this same rule too.

I’ll be honest, we still have Halloween candy from last year—even my little girl prefers dark chocolate and, okay, her recently discovered treasure, Peanut M&Ms. That said, I don’t own a microwave. (Actually, one of my very first elephant journal blogs was on why I don’t believe in microwaves.)

So, yes, I might be a bit of a food extremist, but I’m going to write this out loud: my husband and I have recently eaten Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. So there’s that. Because food should not be shameful. It should be something that fuels our bodies with energy and, equally, our souls with love. It’s why so many familial and cultural celebrations revolve around food. Simultaneously, we need to consider that, culturally, our exercise is often limited and that we don’t need to live around our food either.

In other words, we need to remember that we can’t eat everything and anything we want to if we want to be our healthiest selves.

And, here’s another thing—my healthiest self walked away from this writing.

While my preference is to hole up in my bedroom with coffee and my laptop, this, again, is a current rarity.

So I poured myself that glass (and a half) of wine, and I set myself up at the dining table with football on the television in the background and my husband beginning to cook dinner and our children hanging out.

And then I paused to sling the newborn child close to my body; close to my heart.

I walked into the kitchen and listened to my husband chat with me about things going on in his life that he spontaneously felt like sharing.

I laughed with my daughter when she acted silly on her pretend phone. And then I sat back down to my laptop, still spread open at the nicked, antique dining table, with most of my glass of wine sitting next to it.

Because that’s life. And, trust me—I’m an all-or-nothing sort of person (if you’ll recall). So, I understand that multi-tasking is a myth; that life is easier when performed orderly, cleanly, neatly and entirely. But I’m also a yoga practitioner (I think I mentioned that too)—I believe that living moment-by-moment is the only way to truly live (happily at least).

I inhale and feel my baby, strapped tightly to my breast, sigh and breathe along with me.

I ask my husband to go check on our other little girl in the adjoining room because it’s gotten too quiet (a mother alarm). And I know that, while I’d love to go on my much beloved circa-1980-whatever Nordic Track for more than 30 minutes and, yes, I’d also have loved a tandem yoga practice, that my life is at its fullest when I’m actually living in it.

I exhale and look over at my partially full glass of wine. The obsessive writer in me begins to regain her senses.

I start to smell the food cooking in the kitchen and notice the precise words that my daughter speaks into her play phone, and I’m so thankful to have figured this lesson out—that life cannot be all-or-nothing if we want to fully live—while I still have so much left to experience.

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Author: Jennifer S. White

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Lars Plougmann/Flickr

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