Thursday, July 21, 2005

Perfection and Punishment

Firstly, all y’all who called me an inspiration? You people are nice.

Since last we spoke, there have been some high calorie days. And I mean high. Taco has taken it in mind to perfect the perfect lamb burger. He’s pretty good at it. Problem is, those suckers are not low-cal. They just aren’t. He puts cashews in there and chevre and a bit of olive oil, and anything else made of fat. They taste fantastic. And two of them, in pitas, with a bit of plain yogurt, clock in around 1200 calories.

Not an everyday food, that’s for sure. But once in a very great while. Yeah. Oh yeah. We had them twice in one week though. Which means we won’t be eating them again till maybe winter ’06.

The Lambony Snicket festival was followed by a strange weekend in the Valley. Strange in that it was entirely relaxing and entirely stressful, all at the same time. (Long story short: Kravitz and I went to visit her sis-in-law and niece, and, by extension, her sis-in-law’s mom, at the home of some friends of said sil’s mom. Friends who run a corporate retreat—which is an extremely beautiful place, hence the extreme relaxation—and who are self-styled self-help experts—hence the extreme stress. There’s something so…aggravating about the sanctimony of the self-righteous self-helper. An assumption that everyone but them is broken, and also stumbling around looking for the answer, the answer only the self-helper has. But let’s not get into it, because then I will get VERY ANGRY and it’s too hot for that kind of emotion.) There was eating, though not an excess of it. But, you know, some apple pie, some ice cream, some crackers (crackers are the anti-christ. So greasy and delicious), some steak, some lobster (which, as a matter of fact, besides being delicious, is also very low in fat. Until you dip it in drawn butter, that is. Which I managed not to do), a bagel. You get the idea. A lot of stuff I wouldn’t normally have around.

But, to escape the craziness of our hosts, Kravitz and I went for long walks, so things mostly evened out. I didn’t lose this week, but I did hold steady, and that’s a good thing, what with my period and all. I feel ok about the way things are going. Still working out in some fashion every day, which balances the chocolate I have been eating to make the experience of having my period during the hottest days of the summer somewhat less hateful. Going off the Pill has meant less general crazy PMS feelings, but a less comfortable period. I’ll take the latter over the former any day, and I’m pretty sure Taco would rather rub my lower back for me a couple days a month than deal with my irrational hormonal rage on and off for ten days a month. Right, Taco? Right.

Ok, so finally, here’s what I really want to talk about. Perfection and punishment. It seems to me that so many of us feel the need to do this thing perfectly. That if we can’t be perfect, we just won’t do it, because what’s the point?

That’s a tough one, hey?

It’s possible that perfectionism is what brought me to this place—or to the place I was in before I woke up and starting treating myself a little better. I would have it in mind to eat healthfully, but come mealtime I would ALWAYS forget (an interesting response, to be sure, and one that probably bears some investigation, some other time), and eat a cheeseburger. And then I’d remember afterward that I wasn’t going to eat cheeseburgers any more, but that since I had, I might as well have a Mars bar. Logic has never been my strong suit.

The thing is, life is not perfect. It just isn’t. There is no perfect set of circumstances, no perfect time, no perfect behaviour. It’s an unreasonable expectation. I make all kinds of allowances for the people in my life: for co-workers, siblings, friends, Taco. But what kind of allowances am I prepared to make for myself? Not very many. I am great at cutting slack for other people. Great at figuring out why they might not behave like perfect paragons all the time, and forgiving them. But when it comes to my expectations for myself, I am unforgiving. I have a higher standard for myself, and I’m going to go ahead and say it: THAT’S FUCKED.

It is! It’s not healthy. It’s not compassionate. I would never treat one of my friends that way, ever, ever. In fact, I have shown more understanding to strangers than I show to myself sometimes.

And then there’s punishment. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m pretty good about not punishing myself for not eating perfectly or not working out (there may be a little chatter in my head about it, or some general fretting, but it’s never hateful). I know I make good choices most of the time food-wise, and I’m actually really into exercising (imagine!), and I’ve been able, so far, to take the long view about all this. But I think it’s easy to get into punishment mode. And I feel sad when I read a blog where someone is castigating herself for her “weakness” for eating ice cream or not going for a walk.

Because yes, individual decisions and actions matter, but what matters much more, I think, is the accumulation of decisions and actions. It wasn’t one ice cream bar or one missed walk that got us this way. It was the way we lived. And the way we live now has to leave room for sweet treats. It has to leave room for lazy Sundays. It has to leave room for compassion.

It has to, because we are our bodies, like it or not. Our bodies are not all we are, but they are part of us. And we should be as kind to them as we are to others.

So that’s it. I’m letting myself off the hook for perfection. I’m going to continue eschewing punishment as a response to my perceived lack of perfection. It’s all compassion up in here, all the time.


Anonymous dietgirl said...

i think i love you! you keep coming out with such smart stuff... it is very very thought-provoking. plus i cannot stop thinking about those lamb thingies, they sound genius :)

9:20 AM  
Blogger stephanie said...

Oh jesus, don't think about the lamb thingies. No good can come of that. However, if you ever make it to the east coast of Canada, let me know and I'll make sure Taco puts some together for us!

11:08 AM  

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