Our staff know all too well that creating space for nutrition, activity, rest, relaxation, relationships, personal growth, community and all the rest is no mean feat. And yes, being human, even the members of our editorial team (including yours truly) have been known to stray occasionally from the righteous path of total wellness.
Goodness knows, I’ve sacrificed my share of nutritious meals, deep conversations and much-needed naps in the name of productivity. I still eat at my desk sometimes, even though I know it’s a dreadful thing to do. I take forever to return friends’ phone calls. I succumb, now and then, to taking myself and my work far too seriously.
I recall one particularly stressful stretch, just a couple years back, where I started losing all the eyelashes on one eye and breaking out in rashes. Not pretty.
And then there was the time I stomped so hard in frustration (over an editorial matter, no less) that I broke a bone in my foot (you can read about that one in “The High Cost of Being Hurried,” available in the March/April 2002 archives at experiencelife.com).
Talk about a loss of perspective.
I’m not proud of these things. And I’m not invulnerable to the influences that provoked them. But I’ve been watching and learning. I do think that over time, and with ongoing exposure to the kind of information we work hard to dig up and share here at Experience Life, I’ve gotten wiser.
I’ve gotten better at making sustainable decisions about how I spend my time and energy, and at noticing when things are getting off kilter. I’ve gotten more adept at reading the signs (victim-thinking, obsessive nitpicking, reactivity, negativity) that tell me it’s time to slow down, chill out and get some support.
I’m fortunate to have family and friends who tell me whenever I’m starting to look and act bedraggled. I’m grateful to Dr. Ren, the Chinese physician and acupuncturist who explained the concept of yin and yang to me, telling me that the only way for me to enjoy optimal health would be for me to relax a whole lot more into my yin side. And I’m particularly indebted to my body, which consistently broadcasts clear signals (insomnia, cravings, shallow breathing, neck aches, eye tics, susceptibility to colds, and so on) to let me know when my reserves and resiliency are running low.
I get those signals less and less these days — even though I still work like a person possessed much of the time. I credit some of that improvement to yoga, good nutrition and a more disciplined sleep schedule. But I think a lot of it also has to do with nearly losing my dad last year in that terrible car accident. Life, I realized, is just too short to squander in a fit of must-do productivity.
Interestingly, since I began making a little more time for family and friends, for love and fun, it seems like all of my efforts — professional and otherwise — are proving more rewarding. The more kindly I treat myself, the more considerate and authentic I become with others. The more I allow myself to receive simple pleasures (like standing still in a patch of sunshine, really listening to a friend or feeling my body ease into a good run), the more I am able to offer. And the more often I’m able to just go with the flow.
Am I perfect about this stuff? Heavens, no. But I care less about perfection than I used to. And I’ve gotten better, in Byron Katie’s wise words, at “loving what is.” I think this attitude is an important one in predisposing us not just to happiness, but also to good health and fitness. Because it’s virtually impossible to make good choices about things like nutrition and exercise when we are freaking out about all the things that we think are “wrong” about us and other people, or that are “going wrong” in our lives.
Increasingly, the connections between stress, inflammation, obesity and chronic disease are becoming more clear (something we’ve talked about in past issues, and that we’ll be covering in depth in future issues). And as we understand these connections, our awareness of the importance of things like life balance will only become more pronounced.
We’ve dedicated this issue of Experience Life to the importance and beauty of balance of all kinds. May each of us see that beauty, and embrace it, in the ways we can. And may we all focus just a little less on the perceived distance between where we are and where we think we need to be.