Slow and Steady…

You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!

King Lear, Act II, Scene iv.

I love Shakespeare. I know many people don’t, but I love it…watching it, that is. Shakespeare is meant to be watched, not read, that’s the huge mistake that the education system has made. But I digress.

I did a Shakespeare acting class a few years ago and one of my classmates was given King Lear’s monologue from that scene to perform. I could not quote the rest of the speech, nor anyone else’s, for that matter, but I remember that one line because it speaks of that which eludes me…patience.

I have a really hard time waiting for things. “I want what I want when I want it” is something that I find myself saying a lot. I think that’s probably the reason why I am such a control freak perfectionist, I want things done exactly how I want, exactly when I want, and I dislike waiting for things that I want. Weight loss is a biggie.

I have spent many, many years trying to lose weight. Almost 20, in fact. I would bet that I have tried to lose weight hundreds of times over the years, in many ways: the cabbage soup diet, the all-fruit diet, Atkins, Whole 30, no sugar, no carbs, no gluten…so many. In high school, I alternated between killing myself on the treadmill every night to going without food almost all day to try and lose weight. Did some of them work? Sure. For a short period of time. But none of those lasted, nor did the results. None. Why? Because I wanted a quick fix. I wanted to lose 20 lbs a week. I wanted to “be skinny” by such and such date and so I didn’t want to wait, I wanted results NOW. Had I been patient, had I worked out consistently (and at a reasonable pace) and slowly changed my eating habits, maybe I wouldn’t be here now. But I am, so I’m trying to learn patience.

Flexibility is another, as I am a perfectionist. I never expect perfection from others. In fact, I would say that I am very forgiving of others’ mistakes. But mine? No way. So sometimes I give up. I can’t do it perfectly, so I just stop doing it. I can’t tell you how many times I have vowed to exercise for 30 days in a row or 6 days a week for 60 minutes at a time and then I failed…so I got frustrated and quit. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the reality that I have to deal with.

The biggest thing that I have learned along this journey is not about calories or exercise or weight loss or health. It is to be kind, to be patient and to be forgiving…of myself. I am trying to work out at least 5 days a week and to make the best possible food choices I can, I really am. But am I going to beat myself up if I skip a workout? No. Am I going to starve myself the next day if I “slip up” and eat a burger or a cupcake? No. Because this has to be a realistic change. There is no way that I will be able to go the rest of my life without drinking a Coke or having cake and ice cream or eating french fries and a cheeseburger. No way. There is also no way that I will be able to work out 7 days a week for 60 minutes for every single week of my life. I certainly want to live a healthy lifestyle, but I also want to have children. If I workout 7 days a week for 2 hours a day, no doubt I will lose weight, but can I do that with a baby? No. Could I do that if I decided to go to graduate school? Probably not. Maybe some people could do that forever, but not me.

I have had a lot of problems with anxiety lately, so I’ve started seeing a therapist to help me work out my problems. One of the issues that has come up is my perfectionism. I hold myself to an unattainable standard, meaning that I am constantly disappointing myself, leading to depression and even more anxiety. I have started to learn how to take care of myself when this happens: reading a good book, watching a funny tv show, snuggling with my cat…all that stuff. Taking care of myself also means that I forgive myself when I “slip up”: miss a workout, have a “treat” more often than I should…all that. It’s hard. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Loving yourself, treating yourself with kindness…it sounds easy. ┬áBut for me, it’s really not. I’ve spent so many years hating myself, being mean to myself and holding myself to unrealistic expectations that it’s become a habit…and habits are hard to break.

So, I say again…”You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!”

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