Sunday, February 1, 2015

Letting Go of Expectations: Learning to Nourish my Soul

A very happy selfie. Foreshadowing the joy at the end of this post.
Yesterday, we went to Winterlude at Confederation Park; we froze (!); we went out for brunch; it was wonderful.
Over the course of the past few weeks - notably, since I set resolutions for 2015 - I have developed a sense of anxiety. Each day, as I ponder my goals, as well as the non-negotiable expectations I have set for myself, I begin to panic. A surge of anxiety overtakes me. I am unable to remain still or calm. I complain to Graham; I feel shortness of breath. I can't sleep; I can't breath. Thankfully, I have never felt this way before.

He asks:
What is going on that head of yours?
The truth is: I long so deeply to complete all of my goals; but even eating supper at the kitchen table seems impossible sometimes. And in addition to my resolutions, I have certain deliberate expectations about the way I should be living and what I should be doing:
  • Meal planning: I feel as though the entire world has embarked upon Whole 30; while I, on the other hand, have entered a lifelong donut eating competition. I am the only competitor. 
  • Yoga: "I vow to wake at 6 am each morning to exercise before work." This dreaded promise has escaped my lips each day since January first. I have yet to follow through. I have however accomplished snoozing my alarm until I am about to miss my bus... 
  • Spotlessness. No more "big cleans." If we tidy our home for twenty minutes each day, it will remain spotless, right? Wrong. Those twenty minutes I intended to spend steam cleaning the kitchen floor are perhaps better spent training Eggnog not to pee on the floor. Maybe Graham will be overwhelmed by the sudden urge to organize our things when he arrives home from work, ravenous and tired, at 7 pm. Maybe not... 
In an ideal world, I would be perfectly fit, eating a perfectly well-balanced diet. I would feel perfectly content turning off The Bachelor and taking out my glue gun and craft supplies. I would start a new project and make something for our home; it would turn out perfectly. I would wake each morning at 6 am, granting just enough time for yoga and a load of laundry. By the time Graham returned home from work (which is approximately twenty minutes after I exit my last bus), I would have prepared a perfectly whole (whatever whole may be: Paleo? Clean? Vegan?) dinner; and it would be served at the table, which would be set perfectly. After supper, we would play a sport or volunteer as a couple. Only to arrive home by 9:30 pm and find ourselves in bed, reading our books. Perfect. 

Sometimes I feel called to write nauseating things such as the above and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is to reveal how diluted and frivolous my objectives have become. 

In describing my expectations to one of my closest friends, and in asking - Why can't I just do it all? - Cara responded, frankly: 
No one does it all. Social media is deceiving. 
She went on to suggest realistic ways for me to integrate healthier snacking and physical activity into my lifestyle, acknowledging that with a "grown up job," it is challenging to squeeze several things (let alone one thing, other than Netflix) into your evening.

I remember coming across several pins on Pinterest that contained a rendition of the following quote: "perfection is boring," and "there's nothing interesting about being perfect." 

I could not for the life of me grasp the concept. I understand that perfection is unachievable, but boring?! What could be boring about being perfect? About having it all? About doing it all? Is it monotonous to be a skilled chef, regular volunteer, preparer of well-balanced meals, advocate of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, confident artist and yogi? No, of course not. But not very many people are capable of it all...

During the recital of my "ideal world" above, I realized something groundbreaking: the yearning for perfection is not only detrimental, yielding only futility and disappointment (we already knew this), it is also to remove the spontaneity from life! 
No more take-out. No more Wes Anderson movie marathons. No more Netflix. No more (hilarious) failed crafts - that Graham kindly hangs on our walls. No more sleeping in. No more 90s chick flicks with Eggnog. No more "wasting time" on my favourite blogs. No more big cleans (okay, I could probably part with this one). No more relaxing.  
No more donuts...
I understand now. Perfection is boring because you can't have donuts (among other things).

Unexpectedly, I am no longer asking in envy: Who can live this way?

I am instead asking, in understanding: Who would want to?
How can I dream of anything other than the beautiful life I live? Last night, we went on a date with our best friends. I laughed for hours on end. I am so blessed. I am so happy. What more could I want?

Also: monthly date night was one of my resolutions. Success!
Snuggling my little family. Suddenly I feel refreshed.
Rather than to go on hopelessly pondering what - in addition to my crushing expectations - caused my feelings of anxiety in the first place (the contribution of my frenemy, Pinterest, was likely significant), I instead opt to ask the question:
What can I do to nourish my soul? 
- God. My faith nourishes me in a way that nothing else can or will. I feel refreshed during prayer. I feel cleansed after Mass. God is the centre of our lives. And my only regret is not having treated Him as such during times of questioning. There is not a piece of writing in this world - that I have read - that can make me feel more at ease than the following Biblical quote:
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. 
- Writing. I get lost in writing. But it's more than that. I once told Graham that I don't even know how I feel about a given situation until I write about it. At first, he was puzzled. I was too. At first glance, it sounds like a major short-coming. And in some ways, it is. I hate to admit it, but I have trouble remembering the way in which I felt during times in my life - younger years - when I did not journal. That said, now that I write privately all the time, I see this supposed defect as a blessing. I feel beholden that I can put pen to paper (or finger to key) and have moment after moment of sudden realization and inspiration. A series of inescapable eureka / aha moments that are as terrifying and revealing as they are beautiful. I used to fear them, which is why for several years (age 17-21, approximately), I did not write. To fully understand is to no longer be capable of feigning ignorance.

To say "I'm fine," when you aren't sure how you feel is somewhat acceptable.

To say "I'm fine," when you known exactly how you feel is impossible.

To write is to understand. To understand is - for me - to be transparent. To be transparent is to be capable of being supported. It is because of the support I received that I was able to reclaim the driver's seat in my life over the course of the past two weeks. Something that in the past, would have taken me months to do.

Over the course of my short-lived anxiety, I have learned that in addition to my journaling, I would like to write a book. Not necessarily a book that anyone will read (other than Graham and my mom) but a book nonetheless. I have also narrowed down my preferred genre (for writing, but not at all reading, interestingly). Exciting!

- Reading. I now get lost in writing because I once got lost in reading. After finishing University, and after having read many (thrilling...) textbooks, "reading" plummeted on my list of hobbies. Yesterday, Graham and I visited the library. The tremendous joy I felt as I slipped my (new) library card into my wallet was equivalent to the joy I felt after having finished writing my first story. A joy that is brimming with anticipation. A happy nervousness. What will I read first? What will I lose myself in? Which authors will change my life? Which to me, is only comparable to: What will I write first? What will I name my characters? How will I change their lives? 

- Creativity. My best friend and I, and a few others, are in the process of starting a craft club of sorts. Rather than sobbing in solitude while scrolling mindlessly through Pinterest - because I forgot to buy silver clay - I can enter an environment of other learning creatives. We can make together. We can make crafts, make memories, make mistakes and make messes. It will be joyful. And I can't wait.

- Donuts. While they do not necessarily or adequately nourish my body, they certainly nourish my soul. To eat a donut (or two, as I did on our date night yesterday evening) is to enter a sweet and happy place. Should I eat donuts each and every day? No, certainly not. But to justify turning down my favourite ring-shaped fried dough is to feign ignorance and ignore the way I feel: which is happy (about donuts). There is - obviously - greater meaning here. I don't need to feel guilty for abandoning an old expectation and adopting a new one; namely: I will indulge in what I truly love.
This book - lent to me by my best friend - inspired this post, and helped revamp my self-inflicted expectations. Because of Dominique, an author whose lifestyle I have very little in common with, I was able to slow down. I was able to take strides towards overcoming my endless stream of "you ought to be doing something more productive" thoughts. I was able to let go of unrealistic expectations and welcome new ones. And only yesterday, I was able to appreciate the slow joy that is watching an elderly couple pick produce at a market. One, holding a flimsy, cellophane bag open for the other, smiling, as he asks me: "Would you like us to move dear?"

No. Please don't move. Please stay just as you are.
This to me, and because of Dominique, is slow love. 

Less focus on what I should be doing. Less focus on what everyone else is doing (or what they appear to be doing). More focus on what nourishes my soul: what pulls me from darkness and brings me into new light.

What nourishes you?



  1. Omg you are so cute. I love your headwrap. I've not masted nor tried to master meal planning either. Oops. Haha.

    :] // ▲ ▲

  2. What an inspiring read - I loved it. And I love donuts too :)

    1. I am only seeing this now but thank you for being so kind! :) xoxo
      Ps. donut sisters