A Balancing Act

Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony. —Thomas Merton

It’s going to be hard to keep this from becoming a really long post because I have a lot on my mind.  This past week has led me to experience some important realizations and come to some decisions.

I’m all for being productive and busy.  Ambition is usually an incredible trait that will get you far in life, but you can always have too much of a good thing.  When I decided to start graduate school and compete in figure last summer, I was motivated by reaching a perceived milestone in my life (26th birthday) and recognizing how dissatisfied I was with what I was doing with my life.  I decided to stop coming up with excuses, take some risks, and do something to move myself out of the rut I was in.  I finally achieved my goal of competing in figure and have successfully become a student once again and am very much enjoying my studies.

However, at some point, being busy and productive became less about my own satisfaction and more about distraction.  By filling my time with work, with school, and with competition training, I was keeping myself distracted from feeling and from thinking.  Even during my short periods of down time, I was watching TV or sleeping.  Being busy conveniently allowed me to go on auto-pilot.  It also gave me an excuse for why some things in my life might be lacking.  My lack of free time is a quick and easy excuse for:

  • why I don’t have a boyfriend
  • why I have a less than stellar social life
  • why my performance in training, school, or work might not be what it should be or could be
  • why I spend a lot of my time alone

I have noticed a pattern with my dieting and training that usually consists of 6-8 weeks of hardcore dedication followed by a meltdown/rebellion of some sort that causes me to detour dramatically.  I attribute that to ignoring the feelings that I have kept myself too busy to give any consideration to.  They build and build until I can’t ignore them anymore and then I explode.

I also recognized that deciding to do another competition was less about passion and more about simplicity.  When I’m training for a competition, I maintain this status quo of having a rigid plan that I can’t deviate from and having someone else tell me what to do so I don’t have to think for myself.  I have always had a tendency toward extremes (at least partly due to my perfectionism), so I’m either hardcore disciplined or totally out of control.  Moderation is never something I have done well.  I have this all-or-nothing mentality with everything in life – with work, with drinking, with being healthy, with relationships – I’m either pouring my entire being into something or I’m blowing it off entirely.  I’ve been working out and eating for a competition for months now.  This may sound ridiculous, but it is scary for me to think about how to be healthy without a competition looming or without someone telling me what to do.  I have all of the knowledge I need to create a plan for myself.  I’m just afraid that without a trainer to hold me accountable and a competition to keep me motivated, I will just swing the pendulum the other way and end up inactive, out of shape, and unhealthy. 

This fear, more than anything, drove me to want to do another competition.  I didn’t even enjoy competition day last time.  It was exhausting, nerve-wracking, and stressful.  I clearly remember thinking to myself after I got off stage, “Wow, I worked my ass off for the past 4 months just for that 8 minutes on stage?”  It was such a let down.  It’s never been about winning or getting a pro card – for me it was about proving to myself that I could do it.  And I did.

There is more to this story, but perhaps I’ll save that for another post.  What this all means is that I decided not to compete in July.   My goal when it comes to health and fitness is not to have a goal, if that makes sense.  I want to go to the gym because it makes me feel good and it’s good for me – not because my trainer tells me to or because I want to have the perfect body.  I want to eat healthy most of the time because it makes me feel good and it’s good for me.  I don’t want to be guilt-ridden over going to dinner with a friend or having a beer at happy hour.  I want the freedom to take a day off from the gym when I’m tired and not feel like a slacker.  I want to be a better friend who doesn’t always have to decline social invites because I have to study or I have to train.  Balance and moderation are my goals.  And maybe, once I’ve learned how to do those things, I’ll compete again someday.  For right now, happiness lies somewhere in the middle between mindless self-indulgence/laziness and extreme discipline and rigidity.  It’s uncharted waters for me, so here I go on a different journey…

I’ve learned that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time. —Oprah Winfrey

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