The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Defined
Spoiler Alert #1: I normally will not write a post until I have some semblance of a solution worked out. Absolutely not the case with this one, read on at your own risk
Spoiler Alert #2: I have a lot to say, this will be longer than usual
I’ve spent some time recently contemplating the various ways I am an all-or-nothing gal. Turns out, there’s almost no way I’m not all or nothing. In other words, I’m all or nothing about being all or nothing. I do not have to search far to give you an example, this is how my day went yesterday:
I have a general cleaning routine that has been disrupted by recent life events, and I realized yesterday that I need to clean all the major areas of the house (probably the minor areas too, I just don’t care about them). So I pick the area I think needs it the most, which is my bathroom, and figure I’d get that knocked out with no problem. So I go in, gather the rugs to bring to the laundry room, and I realize that the towels probably need to be done too, which of course means the kids’ towels need it as well. Which leads me to the conclusion that sheets must need to be washed, and now I’m realizing I am starting to grow this project bigger than I originally intended. Then again, all of these things do need to be done. So all of that goes downstairs, and I start cleaning the bathroom. I realize some of the cleaning supplies I need are in the kids’ bathroom, so I go into a cabinet to retrieve them. To my dismay I uncover a nightmare of things thrown into that cabinet, which knocked over cleaning supplies, which created a huge mess (my reaction to that is for another post). I clean that up, and now I am significantly behind on a project that I’ve made bigger than I intended in the first place, but I’ve started, so simply stopping this process is inconceivable. I am back and forth between laundry and the bathroom, now my sheets are done, and I’m thinking I can’t possibly put clean sheets on a bed (with surrounding furniture) that hasn’t been dusted, so out comes the Pledge. This project takes very little time, and then I make the bed. I realize at this point my bedroom is all but clean if I just vacuum, but I can’t do that if there are clothes in a basket on the floor, so I quick fold them up and put them away. Then I vacuum, but really, the carpet doesn’t end at my bedroom, right? There’s a hallway connected to it, and, connected to that hallway are three other rooms. Finish that up, feeling good about how the upstairs looks, and then take a look around my downstairs. I am appalled by the difference. It’s as if I did nothing at all! So, guess what happens? You got it, room by room, the exact same process.
Now, I’m re-reading the paragraph above, and I feel like I am #humblebragging. Let’s round it out with another story:
It’s the middle of April. Through a series of events, I have embarked on several adventures that I think will all work towards the same goal of improved fitness. I have joined Weight Watchers online with my cousin, I have purchased a Fitbit to track my activity, and I am training for an upcoming 5K. Healthy goals, practical tools, lots of accountability, teamwork and support. In the first 10 days, I have an absolutely banner week, lost an incredible amount of weight, exercised every single day, and improved my Fitbit stats each day I used it. I was also pretty early into my self-directed smoking cessation program as well.
Anyway, weigh in day falls on a Thursday (although who am I kidding, I was checking myself at least twice a day every day), which also happened to be my husband’s birthday. So I happily report the good news to my cousin who is doing this with me, and I let her know that I will be having a “fun” day since it is his birthday. Which I did.
The next day, a Friday, my husband took off work and we went and got spa treatments and had a nice lunch. I guess two days of not tracking are okay, right? And exercise, well, I’ll just get back on it over the weekend.
Except that I didn’t, and the eating continued to devolve. Points counting is a thing of the past, as is exercise. Monday rolls around, and this happens to be the biggest trigger day of the week for me to want to smoke. But there is no way I am backtracking on that progress, so I think that I will give myself one more free-for-all day so that I don’t smoke. Here’s what a free-for-all day looks like:
First off, I will plan for my favorite food in the world: a soft pretzel. Where I like to buy pretzels you save money by buying two. And while I’m at it, better pick the saltiest ones they’ve got, in case the salt falls off in the bag (which I will wind up eating anyway). Round that off with a 32 ounce soda.
Once I’ve eaten all of this, is there really a point to stopping? I might as well go for all my favorite foods, which tend towards crunchy and salty. Eat them as the mood strikes.
If I’m eating like this, do I really feel like moving at this point? Let’s just make it a fun day all around, and watch some mindless television. And so that day continues on, with very little productive to show for it.
So there’s the other side of the all or nothing lifestyle. Of course, I could paint a much grimmer picture, were I to go back a few years and describe a day in the life of active addiction.
And it’s not just about eating, exercising and cleaning. Here are some other categories:
Television: It is a point of pride that I have never missed an episode of Survivor. My husband will corroborate this story… he did not watch it with me Season one, in fact mocked the concept, and I remind him on a very regular basis of this fact. There have been something like 28 seasons of this show, and I will watch it no matter what.
Reading: I am either obsessively reading, or I cannot locate my electronic reader. Absolutely no middle ground. I am on the latter side right now, and yet I still go to my book club lunches (they should excommunicate me right about now).
Apparel Shopping: if I find something I like, I need it in every color. That or I’m wearing the same pajamas like it is my uniform. Seriously, I will wait for the dryer before I get changed for the evening.
Organization as it Relates to the Basement: I am either all about it, and the basement looks like it did last summer after the garage sale, or I abandon it and the basement looks like it does right now (Editorial comment: I do not live alone in my house, and I REFUSE to take sole responsibility for the state of the basement. On the other hand, it seems to bother only me, and my choice when I’m on this end of the organizational spectrum is to just avoid it at all costs. But I digress…)
Free Refills: If I dine at a restaurant that offers free refills of my favorite beverage in this world (Diet Pepsi)… well, I’m sure I don’t have to finish this sentence!
Don’t Touch My Pitcher: Last summer I wrote about a plan for improving my fitness by introducing things into my life, rather than taking things away. Interestingly, these things have managed to hang around for what’s coming up on a year now (if interested, read here). One of those things was increasing my water intake. Now, believe me, there are days when I drink none (of course, all or nothing, right?), but most days I am habitual about drinking 10 glasses of water. The process has evolved to the point that I bought my own pitcher with one of those cages in the middle that I can put lemon and lime in to infuse the water, and I drink it until it is gone, then refill it for the next day. Great practice, right? Until another family member attempts to drink from this pitcher, then all hell’s breaking loose. Because I am selfish and don’t want to share? Not a chance… because then I can’t keep track of my water intake!
So obviously I could add to these categories ad infinitum (I’m sure it feels like I already have), but I think I’ve made my point.
I am sure that, if you could, you would finish reading this, walk over to me, give me a hug, tell me I am not alone, and that I just need to work towards finding some balance in my life. And I would sincerely agree with you, but if you looked closely into my eyes, you would see somewhat of a vacant stare. Not because I’m ignoring your great advice, but because those words truly mean nothing to me.
As in, I get it theoretically, but have no idea how to practically apply the concept to real-life scenarios. Curiously, I remember having similar thoughts about some of the steps in my 12-step recovery program.
My good friend Lisa over at Sober Identity once posed to me this challenge: Figure out what you are gaining from holding on to a behavior you wish to change. Because you ARE gaining something from it, whether you want to admit it or not. If you can figure it out, you can work to meet this need in more positive ways.
So what is the gain to living my life like this? To be continued in The All or Nothing Lifestyle, Examined…
Who knew I had so much to say on this subject? Not me!