Thursday, August 21, 2008

Of Personal Failures and Health

As I got home tonight and was thinking about how run-down I feel, how busy we're going to be this semester with an (at least) 15% increase in instruction schedules already scheduled, and the work that'll be involved in my critical theory class (not to mention the MFA), Allison posted this piece about food an issues. The reason I bring this topic onto my 'professional' - or at least my library - blog is that the spheres of my life intersect. I'm a librarian, but I'm also a student. And a woman. And a mom to a dog. A daughter. And myriad other personalities. I came home and Allison's post was in my gmail inbox, and it hit me pretty hard, for a number of reasons. (Go read it, she's a very good writer.)

Allison talks about unhealthy food issues, and how we convince ourselves - if society doesn't give us a few nice shoves - how we should look, act, eat, and physically *be.* I'm particularly sensitive about talking about this issue for a number of reasons. I'm a zaftig woman, for one, and talking about the thin model of beauty as a societal standard (for now) is something I find disturbing on a personal level. I also spent a number of years violently ill - for a period, the only thing I could eat without getting sick was white rice. I lost a great deal of weight and (I thought) looked great - but I couldn't have a life. My friends took very good care of me during those difficult years, but I remember how great it felt to watch the sizes shrink, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. Now that I'm healthy again, I still occasionally find myself wistfully thinking of my svelte (if sickly) former self, even though I know better.

I bring this up because I'm tired. I am belatedly realizing that I can only be me. My mother worked two jobs until she got hit with hyperthyroidism, and she's still recovering. By extension, of course, I figure I should be able to work two or three jobs just fine. I'm younger, right? Mom instilled a great work ethic in me, right? In my head I know that I have to be careful to balance my stresses, because it throws my health out of whack if I get too crazy, but another side of me doesn't care, and needs to prove I can do it.

Only I can't. Not and stay sane. And polite. And my cheery normal self. With all I've signed myself up for, I find I've slipped from my gym schedule, which was keeping me motivated and healthy. With less time and energy, I've also slipped from preparing my meals, and I can tell by my complexion going downhill, my energy going through the floor, and feeling generally crappy for falling back into bad eating habits. I spend zero waking time with the dog (oh, he gets walked, but we don't play much since I collapse once I get home). And I just got my syllabi describing the 25 page papers coming due.

I am not worried about the papers. I am more concerned that I am losing the good feel of being active and eating healthily (is that a word?). And I could do that mostly because I had downtime both after work and on the weekends. (Yes, yes, I can hear the choir of "I Told You So." I know you did, and you were right.)

Not quite sure what possessed me to think I can do it all. Because I *wanted* to be able to, I guess. And having kept up a similar wacky schedule before, I know I can do it, but that it comes at the expense of my mental and physical health. *Not* doing it makes me feel like a complete lazy ass because those hours haven't been filled with something "official."

Allison's post made me think about personal health, and how our perceptions of ourselves can really hurt us. It also made me think about myself at my healthiest - which was this summer, as I was gymming and cooking and resting and working, even if I wasn't at my thinnest. And this route is not going to lead to healthy. So now I just need to decide how long I can do it before I have to go ahead and drop the third shift and get my weekend rest time back. *sigh* I hate being a quitter. But having lost it before, I value my health, and I'd like to keep it awhile longer. I do not need to prove my superwomanhood. I do not need to prove my superwomanhood.


C Rader said...

Hey Colleen,

Good post. I have to admit, when I read your schedule a while back, I thought 'oy vey, that's a killer'.

I deal with these issues in my life too, although being a man, it manifests in very different ways, but I also have the experience of my wife to draw on, which is somewhat similar to your own.

We (my wife and I) face the same struggle, to work or to hit the gym. Usually, we are good for a few weeks, then sometimes get sidelined by injuries or illness, then it is a struggle all over again.

I often have to fight the urge to make everything matter, because I learned that if I am the judge, it will never be enough.

It is not quitting to realize that you might have bit off more than you want to chew. It is enlightened self knowledge and a humble acceptance that you choose your limits. It is not quitting to admit you made a mistake.

Sure, it's embarrassing to spit it out, but is it so much worse than forcing yourself to chew and swallow something you really don't want to eat?

Take care of yourself, and you will last longer to do better, greater things. Love your dog, love your life. You don't have to prove anything. You are already there.

Chatty Librarian said...

Like the previous commenter, I also thought your posted schedule was a killer. I've thought about it over the past week or so as I've been trying to decide if I should take a class this fall. I love being a student, and I know I would love the subject area, but with my dog and two kids, and my job of course, I know I'd be cutting corners elsewhere. And my dog and my kids and my husband and my job deserve my attention, you know?

Anyway, I don't think you should feel like a quitter at all. I think this kind of self-evaluation is incredibly healthy, and you should feel good about taking care of yourself... or else you'd spend the whole fall feeling guilty about something, right?

Colleen said...

@C Rader - Thanks :) It's always goo d to know that everyone else has to make sacrifices and tough decisions too. I find that looking at others from the outside, knowing nothing, makes it seem like everyone else is simply living a seamless life of frenetic activity and liking it.

@Chatty - you're right. Gotta prioritize, or everything falls down.