Here’s the thing.
We live who we think we are.
We all act consistently with how we define ourselves.
And I define myself as a good daughter. Over this past year and a bit, I’ve also begun to define myself as someone who takes care of herself. Recently, these two values butt heads and I wound up gaining 10 pounds.
Here’s what happened.
I. Taking Care of my Mother
It happened at a bad time. I was just beginning to redirect my focus from a six week effort of helping my mother declutter and freshen up her home when it happened. From the middle of July to the end of August, I had spent every spare minute painting rooms, packing, organizing, hanging pictures and delivering loads and loads of things to Value Village. It was worth it. Mom was on medication that gave her physical strength and mental clarity–but it would only be for six weeks. So, we worked hard to declutter and transform her home.
Then, abruptly, t the beginning of September, with three months of back rent owing, my sister and her family moved out of the trailer she had been renting from my Mom. She took clothes, the kids’ beds and the curtains (and rods). She left everything else. Pots and pans. Books. A sectional, a bed, a dresser. An entire room full of boxes. An 8×10 shed full of boxes. The kitchen drawers were still full. It’s like someone left in the middle of the night–in the middle of a life. So, I jumped in to help. I painted, I packed, I bought new light fixtures, installed curtain rods, and hung curtains from Mom’s stash. I drove countless loads to good will and to recycling. Every spare minute I had, I was on the road to that trailer–1/2 hour each way. And it was fine. On the day I was there to take the final pictures for the listing, a fellow knocked on the door and asked to see it. Mom wound up renting to him: so all turned out the way it was supposed to.
II. Taking Care of Myself (not).
I worked out only 6x in August.
September was better with 15 workouts logged. However, 6 of those workouts were during the single week I took off between the two projects not understanding how dire the trailer was.
October: 5 or 6x.
As I drove along the highway to the trailer, I’d promise myself I’d just take 15 minutes and go for a quick walk in the fall sunshine. Never happened. Instead, I ate crap in my car. When I had time to sit down, I had pie. And it got worse. I was in junk food free fall.
As an only child (my sister wasn’t born until I was 19 and I’d already left home) I have had a long and complicated relationship with my mother. It would be natural to cast this narrative as a conflict between meeting my needs and meeting hers. That’s certainly how it looks. But that would be a mistake. Luckily, as I was drafting this blog post, I read this article; Why we crave comfort: a peek at the science of food + mood, I realised it was something else entirely.
Stress, I’m looking at you.
According to this article, when you put yourself, or find yourself in a stressful situation, you tend to revert to behaviour you have always used to comfort yourself. I mean why wouldn’t you? You need comfort. You need to feel good for a hot minute. So, in my case, I eat something engineered to deliver the biggest dose of pleasure I can get legally. Pie, ice cream, chocolate in any form. Stuff that certainly does not help me towards becoming a healthy person. Couple that with virtually no exercise and boom, ten pounds.
Originally, I’d thought the value of being a good daughter and the value of looking after my self were in conflict–because I did not look after myself at all while helping my Mom (though I could have). But fortunately, that’s not what was happening. It’s just that my newly found awareness of the importance of looking after myself has not yet solidified into stable habits. On the contrary, those habits are very fragile. They need protecting. And so I mustn’t take on any big projects or tasks even as we go through Christmas and New Year’s.
Though that might be difficult. I think I may be a stress junkie.
I intend to sign up for P.N. again.