Striving for the “C”
I am going on a small blogging hiatus to enjoy a much-anticipated family vacation. Before I go, I wanted to share a lesson I’ve recently been taught that has yielded great results.
This lesson probably only relates to a small percentage of the universe… or not; I’ve given up thinking I have any sense of what is normal and what is unique to my personality.
Backdrop: I’m talking about my view of competition, which seems not to jive with a lot of people around me. A lot of people I know find competition to be energizing, motivating, and inspiring. But often what I view as competition tends to have the opposite effect: it enervates me and creates anxiety within about my progress (or perceived lack thereof) in the given area of competition. Historically, given these set of conditions, I give up long before the competition ends.
Mind you, most of this is mental. I don’t mean I overturn the Monopoly board, or throw my miniature golf club into the trash can as I storm off the course. I mean I give up trying my best, because I believe my best won’t be good enough.
I could give 100 examples of this type of behavior. It’s just another manifestation of my all-or-nothing personality, a topic about which I’ve written numerous times.
In the conversation of which I am writing the subject winds around to weight loss, fitness and the like. Here the competition can be with others, like a family organized weight loss competition, but more often than not the competition is between (among?) me, myself, and I. Diet trajectory that I’ve traveled numerous times:
Week 1: I am motivated and raring to go, I follow X plan perfectly, and I lose a lot (10 pounds has happened on multiple occasions).
Week 2: I amp it up, buoyed by the success of Week 1… more exercise, more precise food measurement, loftier goals. The weight loss is significantly less (think 1 pound). I fight disappointment, and I attempt to talk back to it with logic.
Week 3: Dragging a bit, I find the whole process to be getting old, but I’m still doing better than my average in terms of exercise. No weight loss at all, and now I’m frustrated. I look to see what I can do to generate success, and I see a million ways I can improve my diet: increase speed on treadmill! eliminate creamer! reduce sodium! eat more vegetables!
And then I become so overwhelmed with what I’m not doing, it feels as if an elephant has demanded a piggy back ride.
Weeks 4/5: At this point, any number of things happen. Sometimes I simply give up right then and there, defeated by the disappointment. Other times I will manically try several days more, all the while compulsively weighing myself and getting more and more frustrated.
It ends by scrapping the whole deal, and reverting to the old lifestyle I was trying so hard to change.
Those who have tried and failed at sobriety might be able to relate, since it mirrors a lot how pre-recovery attempts often start and end. In my case, sober attempts lasted a lot less than 4 or 5 weeks, it was more like 4 or 5 hours, half the time!
Back to the conversation: the person to whom I was sharing had taken a Feldenkrais class, a method of alternative medicine that deals with somatic movement. In class, the instructor advised the students to aim for a “C” grade, rather than arduously striving for the perfect “A” grade.
This suggestion, made by an instructor no less, rendered me speechless. In what universe would it be a good thing to aim for a C?
The answer, in this case, is that the class was about movement, and stress-release. If you are anxiously trying to maintain perfect form, then you are missing the point.
This further explanation made more sense, and I knew I would be considering this concept again. Turns out I didn’t have to wait long.
The next day was a Friday, and that day, more than any other in the week, my meal plans are looser. We hosted a sleepover with my daughter’s friend, and I made some brownies for them to eat. Already hungry for dinner, and at loose ends due to indecision over what to prepare myself, the brownie batter was looking better and better.
And the panicky voice is getting louder and louder:
You can’t eat that! How will you account for it? This is not on your plan!
At which point the words from the day prior came back to me…
Strive for the “C”
Immediately a peaceful feeling swept through me, a palpable sensation of relief. I had done well all day, all week, as a matter of fact. There is no perfect here, and the point is to enjoy food, not be a slave to a plan. And I knew that it truly could fit into my plan, that I had more than enough calories allotted for this treat.
And I ate the brownie batter, and it was delicious, and, the craziest part of all, revolutionary for me, in fact:
I stopped after a few bites. I did not go back for more. And I continued that day, and the rest of the weekend, to follow a healthy eating plan.
Why am I writing about this here, in a recovery blog? Because the whole experience was reminiscent of my early days of sobriety. I’ve written about this about a million times before, but bear with me while I repeat myself. If you are newly sober, I hope you take these words to heart.
When I was at my bottom, and crawling my way back to normal, I had 4 items on my to-do list:
- Go to a meeting
- Talk with another person in recovery
- Refrain from picking up a drink or a drug
If I completed those 4 things, the day was a success. In the earliest days that was not striving for a C, completing that list was an A+!
But as time went by, I naturally started to do more things, take on more responsibilities. Occasionally, things would get stressful, and that panicky feeling would come back in, a feeling I know to deal with in the moment, lest it lead me back to active addiction. In that moment, I would look down at my feet, and remember the checklist of 4, and I would remind myself that is all that is really important. If I am sober, everything else in life will fall into place.
And with the application and conscious gratitude for each day of successfully completing those things, before I knew it, I was more successful than I ever thought I possibly could be.
Now I shall try to strive for the “C” in other areas of my life, and see where I wind up!
We are westward bound, and we can’t wait!