Perseverance, exhaustion, and bedroom slippers
I used to spend a lot of time trying to decipher what things meant. Why I felt a certain way, why circumstances were what they were. I thought that everything was significant. And I needed to understand it all If I was going to crack the code of life. What I have come to understand since I got my eating under control is that it is not my job to crack the code, if there even is one.
In the past few weeks, I have been writing for five hours a day as part of my daily routine. And it has pointed something out to me about myself: perseverance exhausts me.
On certain days of the week, I might end up staring at a blank document on my laptop for what seems like an eternity, typing a few sentences, and then just discarding the whole thing. I might do this over and over again for much of the day. On days like this, nothing productive is going to get done after that. Because after hours of fulfilling a commitment for the sake of my integrity, I’m just plain spent. I’m going to do something escapist for the rest of the day, like read a novel or some manga, or watch TV.
But other days, the writing seems to pour out of me. I get my hours in, I make some notes about what more I have to say when I pick back up, and I feel particularly accomplished. On those days I still have the energy to do whatever else. Maybe I do some laundry or run an errand or work on knitting my sweater. The other day, I managed to clean the whole house, including mopping and vacuuming, after an easy writing session.
But here is the lesson, as I see it. The me before I had my eating under control would have expected to always be able to write easily and then clean the whole house. If it was possible once, it should always be possible. But those kind of expectations lead to burnout. Just like eating within my boundaries, or jogging 2 miles a day, or almost anything I do in my life, the goal is consistency, not perfection. The goal is to be able to do these good things for myself for the rest of my life. One day at a time, yes, but hopefully forever. Which is why I make sure that my food is delicious as often as possible, even if it’s not particularly low in calories, and why I focus on running my committed number of miles, rather than working to get faster or run longer or some other method of upping my running game.
When I first put boundaries around my eating, people who had boundaries around their eating told me that if the only thing I could do in a day was eat my meals and not eat anything else, that was enough. They told me that everyone needs a “bedroom slipper day” once in a while. They told me that I should be gentle with myself.
Which was something new to me, frankly. When I couldn’t stop eating, everything in our society and culture told me that I was lazy. The media and the people around me, knowingly or unwittingly, told me that I was not working hard enough or doing well enough, because if I had been, I wouldn’t have been fat. I was cruel to myself. I was hateful to myself. I expected perfection from myself, and when I failed to be perfect I quit. Just one more log on the not-good-enough fire.
But finding out that I could give myself a commitment, and that it would be a benchmark of daily accomplishment, was a revelation. Suddenly there was a minimum that I could do that was attainable, and it would be, by definition, “enough.” This made everything so much less scary. And so much less significant.
I believe in perseverance. I believe in it because I believe in commitment. Because of my willingness to persevere, I have learned a lot about myself, how powerful I am, and what I can accomplish. But for the sake of peace and sanity, I also have to admit that it takes something out of me. And that I need to replenish before I can move on.
I have had to learn that replenishing myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, is just as important as the perseverance itself. I have had to realize that just because I have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé, doesn’t mean I can accomplish what she can. And I’m A-OK with that, my friends.