“That was the best thing I could do with my time,” I found myself saying as I recounted the story of the last year of my life. That referred to spending about 15 hours per week at the gym–between teaching classes, taking classes, and doing cardio and lifting weights on my own. Teaching Zumba on Friday nights made sense because I had nowhere else to be, no one to spend time with, and didn’t enjoy being home.
Sometimes when I finished a workout, I even wished I could stay longer at the gym. How else would I spend my time? Where else would I go? But acknowledging I’d already spent three hours in the gym, I figured I should probably leave soon. So I’d stretch in the sauna, talk with the employees, buy a protein bar, and finally head home or out to do errands.
That life is less than eight months behind me, but it feels like decades ago. It’s crazy how much your life circumstances, heart posture, and emotional tone can change in a short amount of time.
Back then, I lived alone and was driven by a deep sense that I was unlovable as I was–and every day’s performance either increased or decreased my worth. (Doesn’t that sound so silly written out?! Yet, many of us walk around every day, clutching these deep-seated lies like they’re a lifeline of truth.) As a result, I lived a very perfectionistic and robotic lifestyle.
I looked at everything as an opportunity to prove my worth. At work, no time to talk to coworkers about their weekend; I needed to crank out results. At home, no time to watch a show; I needed to read an industry book. At church, no time to sit at the alter; I needed to volunteer for special events, teach Sunday School, and greet visitors.
And at the gym, the idol of performance became especially obsessive. Now that I’m on the other side of the story recounted in this post, I’m finding myself extremely confused yet utterly at peace.
As I strip away all the expectations I placed on myself that I believed would prove my worth, I am left to question what it is I genuinely enjoy doing, who I naturally am, and how I truly want to spend my time. I’m wondering what my priorities actually are.
This is a strange and special discovery period, because I still teach one Zumba class per week (not on Fridays though!), attend some fellow instructors’ classes, and try to do some other exercises on my own. But my rigid 5-days-a-week-for-3-hours-each-day plan is long gone and I don’t miss it! I’ve gained weight since I stopped living my legalistic calorie-and-rep-counting lifestyle. And much of that weight was not gained healthily (again, as shared here). BUT, I’m living with the consequences of my actions, which was that I threw my body into a tumultuous season of extreme dieting, followed by excessive binging.
And now, I’m getting back to holistic health–eating because my body needs it for fuel, not because it’s a special diet food to lose weight or a gallon of ice cream to numb my fears.
Now, I live with seven girls–yes, you read that right–seven other young women in ONE house! I thought that was a crazy idea, at first, and I tried to move out several times. But what I’m learning through this living environment is that I’m allowed to be a human. I don’t have to be a perfect robot, shiny and productive and emotionless. In fact, no one even wants that!
When I came home crying and angry because I was too tired to lift a heavy set of weights on leg day, and my roommates saw me defeated, they rallied around me, hugged me, and gave me a small plaque that reads, “You are beautiful.” That never happened when I lived alone.
When I hid out in my room for hours because I was angry about sharing a house with a lot of people, and bought into the lie that all my problems would disappear if I could just have some space, my housemates gave me space. Then they said, “What’s wrong?” and one stood in front of me without breaking eye contact as I told her how annoyed I was about being forced to share this, that, and the other. She said she always wanted to hear my opinion, and I thought that was the weirdest response she could have given me. After all, I just complained and told her all the things that bug me about her. But she loved me, hugged me, and thanked me for sharing. That wouldn’t have happened if I still lived alone.
For my entire life, I thought I could escape pain, outrun my fears, and impress everyone I met if I could just be perfect. But now I’m learning through a variety of new and meaningful relationships that no one wants to love a robot. Robots can’t love back–and they surely don’t give good hugs!
So I’m done trying to be a robot and I’m embracing some ambiguity as I find my footing and discover my hobbies, passions, and true self. And really, aren’t we all on a journey to do that?
If this resonated with you, I’d love to hear about your journey––please drop a comment below!