My mother always said, “Everything in moderation”. Growing up, I didn’t quite get it. I guess when something’s repeated to you over and over again, the intention behind the saying gets lost somewhere between the recognition that you’ve heard it before and the eye rolling, “yeah, yeah”, response that follows suit. Nevertheless, I have learned to eat my “yeah, yeah”‘s… quite literally, and recognize that sometimes mothers do know best…sometimes. I have found that balance and moderation were exactly what I shrugged off as quickly as my eyes rolled, and were also precisely what I needed more of in my life.
I was stuck in a pit of extremes. I was trapped in doing and not doing, eating or not eating, spending or not spending, gluttonous or restricted, living or dying. And it all felt the same: exhausting and unfulfilling. These days, in the name of remembering to not remember, I have attempted to wipe my slate clean of how I have been and what I do, taking off my labels once again to experience my now and embrace change.
Though the obvious place I desperately lacked balance was my plate, I found that the patterns in my food were the material for the armor in which I’d wrapped my soul. Yes, I needed to balance out my meals, giving myself the proper nourishment six times a day, two to three hours apart, in appropriate, level quantities with a variety of foods to comprise balanced meals and snacks. That was the first step. But, once I was on a meal plan, I recognized that the food was now the only thing balanced in my life.
I’ve had a tendency to stay up all night doing school work, yet not show up for school due to my exhaustion. I have saved my money for years just to spend it all on what now seems like silly, meaningless purchases. I’ve partied into isolation, I’ve ran until I’ve collapsed, and I have, of course, starved into desperation. Much of this snuck below my radar for a long time, as my food was still my preoccupation, a blinking light to the dissatisfying mania dwelling beneath the surface.
Today, I eat my food. All of it. Every day. Thus, I have the delightful task of figuring out what the heck happened everywhere else and, day by day, trying to sort it out, as well as even it out. One area I am consciously putting my effort towards is selfish vs. self care in juxtaposition with caring vs. care-taking. I am one of those people that neglects my needs until I overindulge in them, leaving myself feeling guilty which then leads to me continuing without care. I am also one of those people who wants to help everyone until I forget myself and my reasons for helping, and then resent the people for which I’m doing it. And, somewhere in the midst of all of that, money ties in.
I am a victim of Buyer’s Remorse, the name for the phenomenon from where the sick stomach after a shopping spree derives. Spending money on myself has always felt like a negative, whether it be a guilty pleasure or a plain, old “no”. My father grew up in Egypt in true poverty, and my mother came from a household led by Depression-survivors. I knew somewhere somebody else always needed my money more than I. Asymmetrically, I like new things, and buying things, and shiny things. So, for however long I put it off, I wound up giving in, and, of course, hating myself for the new shoes, or the latest gadget, or both.
Simultaneously, with the knowledge that others deserved my money, time, affection, etc. more, I became a giver. Philanthropy was largely emphasized in my household and, to earn my gold star, I took on people as projects, I became a self-proclaimed philosopher, giving speeches of wisdom to any friend who would devote a solid hour or two to listening to rants in my basement, and I earned a decent page and a half on my resume dedicated to volunteer work. Although much of these doings were based on my own desire to create a better world, many times I became so caught up in doing for others that I completely lost sight of the intention and became infuriated at how needy everyone and everything I’d surrounded myself with was. I’d throw my hands up and abandon plans, along with myself.
While eating my food, I have now come to the beautiful, though sometimes difficult-to-obtain conclusion: I can have both. Well, a little of both, which, at the end of the day, is more than what I had before. Remembering to not remember, treating myself to a relaxing, semi-indulgent day is now dubbed “self care”, a cute term to make those like myself feel less bad, and reframe the idea of giving to oneself not as a greedy act of an egotistical maniac, but rather as a way to enable oneself to continue to live fully and give to others. I have found the hard way that if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t be of any good to anybody and it will ultimately lead to more people taking care of me. A mouth can only go unfed for so long. Furthermore, the more energy and rejuvenation I get from time spent on myself, the more I feel grateful for my life and life as a whole. I am able to then notice the places where it lacks and where I can be of use. Finally, the best and most mind-blowing treasure I’ve come across is that some self-care can also be caring for others!
Yesterday, I spent a day on myself. A voice in the back of my head gave me a list of other things to do, as it does, and I chose differently, as I now do. After a hike with my friend overseeing beautiful views of Agoura (and almost stepping on a rattle snake… yikes), lounging out by another friend’s pool over sushi and laughter and the scene of the entire Valley below us, and then shopping around, my guilt-o-meter was starting to reach its max. We still had mani-pedis ahead of us and I could feel the victims of human trafficking sitting on my shoulders. I have gotten somewhat used to shaking the pit and going forth if it feels appropriate, but it still isn’t very easy. Nonetheless, we went and I let myself enjoy the company and the opportunity, with the knowledge that preventing myself from enjoying would actually make the guilt worse.
Today, I recognized that giving myself the gift of the once-in-a-blue-moon pedicure was more than just money spent on my feet, I bought a memory. My friend and I paid to listen to each other’s stories and change our scenery and feel luxurious in a world where our day-to-day is often pouring out energy into resurrecting our past and healing our future, along with our bodies. I saw that yesterday was a celebration of my present.
Today, I also found that I was so thankful. In my gratitude, I wanted to give other people the feelings of recognition and connection I received. I got out mixing bowls. I have learned to love baking, something I also had drained the joy of in an all-or-nothing relationship previously. Discovering how to feed myself, has changed my fear of baking, my terror of tasting, and my associations with the products. In my house, we also have a lot of left-over baking ingredients. I like cleaning, I like giving, and now I like baking: a delight I can share. In my time and in a combat against boredom, I have become a scientist in the kitchen, exploring all sorts of cookie combos with the forgotten almonds, coconut flakes, and anything else left behind. Down my street, there are also groups of people who stand outside a few stores waiting for work in the mornings. The two toiled well in my mind, and I have ever since been baking in my spare time to hand out to the workers. Though I’m not feeding the mouths of every child in Ethiopia, I feel clarity in taking food that would otherwise go to waste, and creating a yummy surprise for so many grateful people. They get cookies; I get a hobby, a time-consumer, and the image of so many smiles to start off my next day. Fair trade. I think I’m getting it now, Mom.