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  • Janel

ALL. or nothing.

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

A slogan that takes a perfectionist to unhealthy extremes

What is "balance" anyway?


I tend to be an "all-or-nothing" kind of person. This is helpful, for instance, when I adopt dietary changes that are positive. A destructive force though, when dietary restrictions become an obsession that negatively impact my health. Helpful, when I adhere to a schedule to keep up with domestic-type chores. Not helpful, when laziness prevails, I become averse to all things orderly, and the apartment becomes a scene from Twister. Extremes. Being so regimented that I soon reach exhaustion. Sitting on my ass so long I physically ache.


“What is the alternative? Balance? What does that even mean?”


Despite my tendency toward these extremes, I do prefer structure and routine. It makes me feel safe. At a different time of my life, I liked it so much that I held on to my structure and routines with a death grip, and was known to enforce them on others in order to make them feel "safer" to me. Somehow, if I corralled them inside this bubble, they would remain safe. Obvious to me now, this season of my life led to the demise or wounding of relationships in my life. When I finally realized how counter-productive this was, true to form, I let go entirely and adopted a "nothing matters" mantra. "I don't care" became my response to EVERYthing. This season of my life was characterized by choices that nearly led to the end of my physical life.


ALL. or nothing.


What is the alternative? Balance? What does that even mean? I wish I could say I found the cure just out of the blue, one day. I ate this food, I did this mental exercise, I went on this trip or I met this person and, poof! Honestly, it was a bunch of stuff like that. I gained weight, got divorced, declared bankruptcy, got a new career, bought a house, developed health issues, lost a career, lost a house, lost weight, battled addictions...you know, just life. Through all of that, I would try on different ways "to be", almost like trying on a new pair of shoes or a shirt. Different ways to eat, move, sleep, love, protect myself, be vulnerable, be strong. I practiced gratitude. I practiced speaking differently to myself. Some stuff fit great and was easy to wear. Other stuff fit funny, and I had to practice getting used to the "new fit". Some had no place in my "wardrobe" at all and were discarded. It took...practice.


Practice requires an interesting mind-set. "I'm not good at this yet"

1. "I'm not good at this" - Admitting I'm not good at it. Being fine with that. (I'm really good at eating junk food. I'm not good at eating food that nourishes me. I'm gonna practice that.)

2. "Yet"- As in, it hasn't happened, but it will.


Practice also brings a strange and unexpected band of cheerleaders. Whenever I would catch myself doing what I was already good at instead of what I was practicing, I would own it as quickly as I could. No excuses, just the facts plus gentle correction directed towards myself. "Whoops! I spoke too soon. I'm practicing being a better listener. Would you say that again, please?" The response was almost 100% supportive from people around me. In fact, I heard from so many, "Good for you!" or even, "Yup, I need to practice that, too!".


When I look back and reflect, I see something that shocks me. I am DOING it. Life. I am really DOING it. The mundane, the unexpected. The joy, and the boredom. The peace, and the anxiety. Some unhealthy habits have died and sloughed off. Various healthy habits have become my "new normal". There is this awesome up and down thing, sometimes gentle and sloping, sometimes more sharply, but it all has a gradual "up-tick" feeling to it. I still have occasional tendencies toward an "all or nothing" mindset. And yet, this has been the greatest gift of the process: with all the practicing I've done, I have come to realize that there are some things I may never master. It is a relief and breath of fresh air to comprehend fully, that I am a work in progress.


What are you not good at? Can you practice? Is admitting you're not good at something, is THAT what you're not good at? It's ok. Can you practice that? Want to talk about it?

I will listen.


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