For the last two and a half weeks, my life has been totally turned upside down. Three weeks ago, there was a flood. Not quite like Noah’s Great Flood, but a flood just the same. It started at the apartment across the hallway and migrated into my apartment.
First, they ripped up the floor. And all of my furniture got balled into a clump in the middle of the living room. Then came the industrial fans. Five of them. Whirring REALLY loudly. 24/hours a day. After that? The need for mold removal. Which caused my kitchen to be fully quarantined like when they covered E.T’s house in plastic. And with the quarantined kitchen came an EVEN LOUDER FAN designed to suck out and remove my mold. Except for four days, they used a dehumidifier by mistake. So then they had to do it again. This time with a HEPA filter that sucked air through a tube out my window. It smelled like a dentist office in my place. It was loud. So loud. I had no usable living room, no usable kitchen and, for two and a half full weeks, I basically lived in my bedroom.
Let me interject real quick — I’m grateful. Believe me, this whole time I knew, in the back of my head, this is nothing. I’m safe, my family is safe. I get it. That being said… it still sucked. (Grin)
I had to eat every meal out. Which killed my budget. (Like, DRAINED ME DRY!) Every single meal. So out the window went my great meal planning, out the window went my great budget. For the last two and a half weeks, I’ve been living in survival mode. I have felt off, every single day. Anxious. Doing the best I can. Continually trying to clean up the clutter in my one bedroom. With a dog who was, clearly, feeling the anxiety and having pooping accidents non-stop as he too was trapped in the space with me.
Tonight, Wednesday, I came home from work, and I had my kitchen back. It will be another week before the dishwasher will be hooked up and the cabinets installed. I can now access my fridge, my stove, my crockpot. Starting tomorrow, I can meal prep, I can do dishes. I am sitting on the couch right now in total silence. No fans. No HEPA filter. Just quiet.
So why do I share my mess with you? Because in this mess, I learned a few really lessons for myself.
The wise coach and spiritual teacher Jordan Bach, a man who continually inspires me, reminded us today in an Instagram post, that sharing our own mess with others is ok when it comes with a message for others. And so I want to share my mess of the last few weeks. What I did well. what I did poorly. And what I learned about myself. Because, at some point in time in your life, your shit might hit the fan. If it does, I want you to hear me in the back of your head. Here are the lessons I learned while living in a f*cked up apartment for three weeks.
Lesson 1: Chill Out, You’re Doing Your Best
I’m going to give this to you plain and simple. When you feel like you’re barely hanging on by a thread and you’re doing the best you can, then shut the hell up and cut yourself some slack. Look, I know you’re a perfectionist. I am too. Big time. But living a healthy lifestyle is not an ALL OR NOTHING deal. It’s a big range of gray and in-between stuff, a constant song and dance of choices that you have to make. Sometimes you make choices and the answers are super clear. Sometimes, not so much.
So here’s a truth about me. Maybe this applies to you too? When I’m stressed, it’s just as easy for me to dramatically undereat as it is to overeat. In the past, I have very easily eaten ONE meal a day, and had that single meal be a Double Whopper from Burger King, a big huge fry and some cookies. (I’ve told you before, I love me a Whopper LOL.) So for me, a victory during this trying time was simply to keep eating as regularly as possible. Make sure I had the equivalent of several meals each day. Was it my normal snack/meal/snack/meal/snack/meal journey? Not at all. But each and every day that I had no kitchen I still had a breakfast, lunch and dinner. I still ate. YOU GO GLEN COCO!!!!!
Let’s talk about food choice. I ate 75% of all my meals from two places: Starbucks and El Pollo Loco. The good part about this is that it allowed me to know exactly what I was eating, eat reasonably simple food and eat lots of plain protein with all the grilled chicken. The hard part of this is that each time I ate it was exceptionally calorically dense. So, while I made decently solid food choices, I was basically over on my macros EVERY day.
Am I freaking out? Nope. Not at all. BECAUSE IT WAS THE BEST I COULD DO AT THE TIME AND THAT BEST IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!
Lesson Two: Snack Food Happens
One of the things I’ve been doing up to this point is removing snack food from my eating. Why? Well, for me personally, it’s harder to control. I don’t totally have FULL control over snack food— some snack food is still really enticing to me. To be specific, pretzels with caramel and chocolate on them. During this three-week period, I found I purchased more snack food than I normally would. Over the course of two and a half weeks, I ate some Veggie Straws, Larabars and Snappers. Also, beef jerky- which is normally part of my regular food-list so I don’t count it as anything exceptionally. Were any of these things awful? Of course not. Does eating them make me a bad person? Not at all. Were any of these NOT allowed in my flexible dieting approach? No. They were ALL ALLOWED! Because flexible nutrition is about eating the foods that you want to while hitting your marcos goal. (Need a primer? Try check out this post I wrote here.) For the first five months of my Greater At 40 journey I have been eating “meal” food in smaller portions for snacking. Remember, food itself is not our enemy– but it is my (our) goal to have a continually balanced relationship with it. To be able to say, “I can take you or leave you, Snappers!” Also, if you are wondering what this food is I have a hard time wrestling with, knock yourself out and look here.
Long story short. Snack food happens. For me, I’m going to continue with my greater goal of eliminating processed snack food from my diet because it really doesn’t serve me. But, I am at peace with having eaten it.
MORAL OF THE STORY is that I bought snack food because I was hungry and making snap decisions in response to that hunger and the fear-based narrative I was replaying in my head again and again. Better choice? Would have been to make sure I ALWAYS had almonds and apples in my bag. I was scattered and overwhelmed, and I allowed that to get in the way of my proactive planning. Which leads me to lesson three.
Lesson Three: Proactive Planning Makes for Calm Decisions, Reactive Actions Make For “Runner Up” Choices
When you are up against the wall, the best you can do is simply the BEST YOU CAN DO. (See the first lesson.) When you are proactive, you will make more calm, more thoughtful decisions. Always do your best to be proactive. Anticipate where you might have some stopping points the best you can. For example, had I really thought about my challenges instead of “getting caught up in them and trying to deal,” I might have reached out to my friends and inquired as to if anyone had a mini fridge in their garage. As it turns out, Blake (my trainer and Jedi) did, but it simply didn’t dawn on me to problem solve that way. Having a fridge might have allowed me to go to a friends house one afternoon, cook a bunch of meals and eat from them for a few days!
Here’s another example. I was standing in line at Frye’s electronic store and stressed out. I had gone to three stores looking for a replacement charger for the battery that goes with my Canon G7x camera; nobody had one. Days before, I had attended a lecture by spiritual teacher Gabby Bernstein about the release of her new book called The Universe Has Your Back. I was huffing and sweating and convinced the universe did NOT have my back! If it had my back, surely SOMEONE would have the charger I needed! Without the charger, I wouldn’t be able to videotape my experience at the RiSE Festival the next day and I had really set my hopes on that!! THE FATE OF MY ENTIRE LIFE HAPPINESS RESTED ON GETTING THIS CHARGER! Ok. No. But at that time, that was how I felt. I was fed up with my kitchen fiasco. I was feeling lethargic from not eating well. I was sweaty and exasperated and convinced the Universe was conspiring against me. And there, standing in line I saw…the snack food. You know how you go to the store and, at the checkout is like all this random food? Even though you’re at a tile store, they have impulse food? I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t using my tools to keep love-based dialogue going in my head. I was living totally in a fear-based narrative that wasn’t serving me at all and I was HUNGRY!!!!! Cause, you know, I hadn’t been eating the way my body needs to and it was evening and time for my nightly run to El Pollo Loco. So I bought snack food. And I ate it. In the car. On the way home. On the WAY TO GETTING DINNER! That, my friends, is the exact kind of personally sabotaging behavior I am working to redirect.
Had I been more prepared for my challenges, I might have had a snack in my purse. An apple. A few dried figs. A snack pack of Fig Newtons or a snack size bag of popcorn. All of which would have provided me with the emotional security and stability I was so desperately craving at that exact moment. But the bigger issue I will keep addressing in this journey of health, is how I could have minimized the negative narrative that made me want to self-sooth with food in the first place! How could I have been proactive in keeping myself in a place of more balanced peace vs relatively fighting with all this STUFF I felt was happening to me?! How could I proactively worked my kindness into my day so that I didn’t feel as if I were so frazzled? How could I have prevented the moments of mini freakout that caused me to want to turn to food as a solution?
And so now I get to a point that I wish I would have kept in mind this entire two and half weeks: obstacles are opp ortunities for learning.
And so now I get to a point that I wish I would have kept in mind this entire two and half weeks: obstacles are opportunities for learning. They do not need to be reasons to freak out. They do not need to be reasons to add undue stress. They are chances to expand your current way of thinking.
Back to that moment in Frye’s. Cue minutes later. In the car. Eating Veggie Straws. I open up my backpack… and there is the charger I thought I’d lost. The Universe really did have my back. But I was unable to see it because I was so caught in my own negative self-talk spiral.
Ding, ding, ding.
And so I will sum up my ramble with these few words. Being a more healthy person isn’t a black and white checklist of boxes where, if you deviate from the “plan” you throw out your North Star. Being a more healthy person is about taking a truly long-term view. Where you are willing to look at the WHY behind things and not just the WHAT of “fixing” it.
Being a healthier person is about constantly being willing to live in stages of non-perfection with the faith that things will come about as needed. It’s both active and peaceful at the same time. It means forgiving yourself when you drift a bit and then stopping to understand why you drifted in the first place. Then putting in some energy to address that and remember it for the future. It a constant dance of forgiveness, celebration, recognition and adaptation! A dance I am super grateful to be learning.