If I haven’t gained any weight since I left Walden, but I wasn’t exercising at all during the winter, and I’m much more active now, yet my weight is still stable, then I must be eating more now than I was when I was at Walden. So, if I want to keep eating the way that I’m eating, which I think is healthy and varied, then I need to keep exercising. If I stop exercising, then I will gain weight. But the tendinitis in my ankle hurts. If I exercise, I will make my ankle worse, but if I don’t exercise, then I will be avoiding exercise, and there is probably nothing really all that wrong with my ankle, and then I will develop a pattern of avoidance behaviors, which will just make me think about my ankle more, which will only make the experience of pain worse.
I can’t have turkey today, because I ate turkey the last three days in a row. That is too much turkey. I can’t have egg salad, because I had poached eggs on toast yesterday. Greek yogurt with 2% fat is too calorie-dense to pair with salmon on a day when I ate my optional second starch with lunch. I can’t eat dessert today. I ate dessert yesterday. Two desserts in two days is too often. I need some dessert-free days in between.
It’s been four weeks since I last made a drawing. The right side of my brain is dying. When was the last time I used my coloring books? Coloring a picture that someone else drew may not be creative enough. I don’t think that counts as creativity. I am not balancing all of my interests well enough. I am not spending enough time journaling. I am falling behind in my food diary. When was the last time that I cooked quinoa? I am eating too much toast. I think my diet was more varied a few months ago. I think I am losing variety in my diet. How many times did I go to the gym this week? When was the last time I read anything out of my Brené Brown book?
“Your brain is a very busy place,” remarked my friend, Dorothy, over dinner one Wednesday night. I was recounting just a portion of some of the above thoughts that frequently spin through my consciousness on a somewhat continual basis.
“Tell me about it,” I agreed. “But,” I added, “It’s sort of the difference between having a thought and believing a thought.” I turned my head to one side thoughtfully. Like an owl, observed the color commentator between my ears. “I can hold all these ideas in my head, but they don’t necessarily cause me distress. Sometimes, when they are very persistent, they make me physically anxious, and I can feel my muscles tensing up, or my jaw locking, but at the same time that all of these thoughts are pinging around in there, another voice is saying, ‘Really? Seriously? Are we going to go through this again?’” What a change from a year ago!
When I confided in my therapist just how RIGID I can become about trying to FORCIBLY remain FLEXIBLE, she suggested, “It sounds like the rules are starting to creep back in.” As if to caution, “Uh oh!”
I suppressed what was almost a chortle. “You’re assuming that the rules ever went away. I don’t think they did. Whereas before, I was aware of them and simply tolerated them, now I am bringing more attention to the fact that they are still present.”
Maybe dispelling the background noise rather than just challenging the words is the next step. It would be a big one, because those thoughts do still influence my behavior. I am regimented about being varied. I am disciplined about being able to go with the flow. It’s the mother of all ironies. What would I do without this predictability in my life? What would I do without my rules? I’m scared to find out, but Dorothy’s voice echoes in my busy mind, “AVOID AVOIDING!” It’s on my list of rules.