On Friday I put a message on all of my social media that I’m out for a bit. Then I turned off notifications, closed Facebook, and checked out. I almost uninstalled the app, but I am still running The Good Life, so I need that! But for all other intents and purposes, I’m out for now.
Then I got out a notepad and a pen and wrote at the top of a new, clean sheet of paper: “The Whole Point of This.” I didn’t plan to write those words, they just came out. So I went with it.
I sat there for a second or two, and then my pen wrote, “to help people live healthy, balanced lives.” I loved that my mission statement is so much a part of me that it came out like that.
I listened for more, but there wasn’t more. There was nothing more for me to do. I help people live healthy, balanced lives. Period. The world keeps shouting that in order to do that, I need followers and likes, and Tik Tok videos and a YouTube channel, and that I need to do Instagram stories with links in the bio, and I don’t even know what it means to have a link in the bio.
And I don’t care, because trying to get people to like me is 100% exhausting. It’s not that I don’t want them to, because of course I want people to like me. I just don’t want it to be my job. I just want to help people live healthy, balanced lives.
It made me think about my friend who recently received a beautiful bouquet of flowers. You know the kind, like out of a magazine. And like any flower arrangement, it was gorgeous for a day or two, and then it began to wilt and fade. That’s the point when I usually toss them out, thanking the universe for the beautiful flowers as I push them into the trash can, letting them fade into what was, moving on to what’s next.
Of course, my beautiful friend didn’t do that. She pulled out the dead and dying parts, transferred them to a new vase, and made a new arrangement. She showed them off in a Zoom call, sharing that she likes to re-purpose arrangements into smaller pieces that continue to bring her joy. I’ve included pictures here so you can see the original arrangement and the new one.
I immediately asked if I could share this with you, because it was such a relief for me. (Thank you, Sheree!)
The world is really noisy and confusing right now. It has been for a while, but particularly now, it is getting to me. I personally have gotten to a level where I wonder, is this it? Is this what we have created? Is this really the time in which I am living? The negativity, sadness, vitriol, confusion, contradictions, spite, and hopelessness that I see in my newsfeed is overwhelming to the point where I wanted to toss the whole thing out.
Then I remember my notebook paper, and its silence. I remember how there were no words to write after my personal statement of purpose. And I realize that I was so wrong, and that I had confused social media with the world, and that the actual world is pretty quiet.
And then I thought about the flowers, and how when some of them began to wither and die, my friend had taken them out and rearranged what was left into something new. So I did that, too.
I help people live healthy, balanced lives. Period. I do it in The Good Life, in my podcast, and as a health advisor for Wellview Health. Those are all of the flowers I need.
Do you need to weed out some wilted areas of your life? Are there any dead pieces that need to go? You may want to pull them out, too, and create something fresher, smaller, and new. I’ll help if you need it, because that is what I do.
During my quarantine house-organizing, I found a vision board that I made a couple of years ago. I enjoy creating vision boards because the process allows me to think through my aspirations, really process what they will require of me, and get inspired by the pictures and words I choose to represent them.
In this case, finding the vision board was extra fun because, as I looked at it, I realized that I’ve actually achieved a good bit of what’s on it, even if not in the way that I expected. Pretty cool!
One of the defining elements of my vision board was this quote by Oprah Winfrey: “The real point of being alive is to evolve into the whole person you were intended to be.” I liked it, so I tacked it up. I remember that a few days later, I walked past my vision board, propped up on the mirror above my dresser, and the word, “evolve” jumped out at me. Hmph, I thought. Who has time to evolve? I want things to be the way I want them now! But I knew that word was important, so I got a pen and I circled it.
When I sat at my computer, I looked up the definition of the word evolve, and smirked when I saw that the Latin root is evolvere, which means, “to unroll.” Of course. Yes, it was starting to make sense now.
In a world that promises results in 90 days and praises overnight success stories, waiting around to evolve into the person you were intended to be seems like sitting on the sidelines. We’re supposed to make it happen! Just do it! Be the change you want to see in the word! Carpe diem…and hurry! We want to force change to happen in our lives, so we keep shoving it into place, as if we are trimming the ends of the puzzle pieces of life so they fit together into something that kind of feels like it might stay that way, as long as no one touches it. But then it buckles and warps, and the pieces come apart, and we know we should have slowed down and done things correctly. We should have let it unroll.
When something evolves, it changes. It grows, morphs, adapts, streamlines…it becomes something new by nature of what it has experienced. We can’t rush evolution; it has to happen on its own. Creating change in our lives, especially in how we manage our health and well-being, is the same way. Although it can seem overwhelming to think about changing the course of our lives and everything that entails, it can really be as calm and steady as allowing ourselves to unroll.
So, that’s my big health advice for this week. Just sit there and allow yourself to evolve into the person you were meant to be. Pretty easy, right? No, we are called to find the balance between forcing change and surrendering to it. I’ve begun referring to this as my proactive, responsive steps.
Be Proactive About Change. I believe that evolution favors the proactive: those who are willing participants in the process of being changed, and open to the possibility that rolling with change could very well send you in a direction that was better than what you planned for yourself. Create a vision for how you want to live your life and manage your health, set your course for that destination, and launch that ship, friend. Go for it. But don’t forget the next step.
Respond. This is the key element of evolving into the person you were intended to be: notice when you have to keep shoving those pieces back in place, and respond to that. If sticking to your charted course requires a rigid lifestyle that can’t be maintained without constant attention, there’s a good chance that you’re headed in the wrong direction. Healthy changes aren’t always easy, but they are absolutely attainable and shouldn’t require much forcing. Pay attention, and respond.
Take the Steps. The balance between being proactive and responsive is in partnership. It may not be realistic or practical to change all of your habits at once in pursuit of a healthier life, but taking the first step is. Relax. Don’t rush this. Just make the next step. Allow yourself to unroll, and evolve, into the person you are intended to be by taking the next positive step towards your goal.
Honestly, I don’t know if evolving into the person you were intended to be really is the point of being alive. I think the point of life may be a little bit bigger than that. But in a world that rushes and pushes and forces change, perhaps those who take those quiet, proactive, responsive steps will be the ones who survive to find out.
My 8 year old has been pretty bossy lately.
He’s been making a lot of rules for how we should interact with him. He wants me to be quieter in the mornings, and not open the curtains in his bedroom without his permission. He’s dictated what kind of ice cream should be on the grocery list (mint chocolate chip) and let us know that he is out of yogurt. But only the very specific brand of strawberry that he likes. Don’t get that other kind. It is NOT good.
My husband and I roll our eyes and smile when he issues his orders like a prince. In a world where pretty much everything changed for him overnight, I figure he’s looking for anything he can control at this point. Aren’t we all? And, I admire him. After all, others might say that he’s really just setting some boundaries for himself.
Setting - and verbalizing - boundaries is a lesson we learn early in life, even if we have a clunky way of doing it. Have you ever heard a preschooler say, “get out of my bubble?” They’ve learned that they have the right to a certain amount of space around them, and they’ll speak up when it’s being invaded.
It’s pretty easy to name the kinds of boundaries we need to protect ourselves and our interests from potential threats: we will not allow others to abuse us, put us in danger, violate our privacy, or insult us for long before we stand up and defend ourselves (or at least vent to someone else about it).
And, we have internal boundaries, too. Our bodies have a threshold of need for movement, sleep, nourishment, connection, and love, and the only person who can violate them is us.
We do that when we consistently over-obligate ourselves to others, speak negatively to ourselves, and put what others want ahead of what we need.
If you consistently find yourself wondering why you can’t seem to make the time for exercise, get enough sleep, or motivate yourself to follow through on pursuing greater health, it may be because you are not being N.I.C.E. to yourself.
Use each letter in the word “NICE” to remember the steps for respecting your own boundaries:
N = Notice. Notice when you are approaching an internal boundary that needs to be respected. You would not tell someone else that what they need is selfish and unimportant, so why is it okay to tell yourself that? Hearing negative self-talk is one way to notice that a boundary is in jeopardy. Feeling anxious, guilty, or otherwise overwhelmed are other signs that there is a personal boundary that you are not respecting for yourself.
I = Identify. It may seem silly at first, but verbalizing to yourself what you have noticed really helps clear the mental clutter. It can be so powerful to say something like, “I just accepted a piece of cake that I do not want to eat because it was offered to me. I am pushing my boundary of eating within my calorie needs because I feel obligated to eat food that is given to me.” In doing so, you’ve noticed how you feel and why you feel that way, without judgement or evaluation of yourself as a person. Wow! You are so evolved! Go you!
C – Commit. Once you notice how you feel and identify why, it’s time to commit to respecting that boundary. “I am committed to making choices that will support my health and vitality.” Sometimes that means saying no to people who made cake. Sometimes it means saying no to another part of yourself, like the part that wants to stay up late watching TV instead of getting enough sleep to be energized for a morning workout. Committing to respecting your own boundaries doesn’t mean putting yourself first at the expense of others, it means taking care of yourself so you can take care of others.
E – Engage! Act! Do the thing! Put your metaphorical foot down, steel your resolve, take a deep breath, and say, “thanks, but I’m good.” Turn off the TV and get in bed so you can wake up energized for exercise. Get off the couch and prepare a healthy lunch and snacks for the next day so you don’t end up in the drive-through. Do the thing. Nothing changes if you don’t engage with your own commitment.
As empathetic, mature, and responsible people, it is completely expected and appropriate that we will put the needs of others ahead of our own at times. Selfless acts of kindness and compassion are part of what connects us as people and makes the world a better place. But when we take it to an extreme and allow our own emotional and physical health to deteriorate as a result, no one wins.
My little prince will get his requested ice cream, and I’ll let him decide when his bedroom curtains are opened. I can’t guarantee a quiet morning, but I appreciate his desire for one! As we navigate this new world, take time to be nice to yourself this week. See if the world suffers. I expect it will actually be very, very nice.
About This Blog
Each week, I write the "Healthy Heather Blog" in the Tallahassee Democrat. It is republished here in case you are not a subscriber (what???). Sometimes it is really good and other times it is just okay. Thanks for reading it regardless of your opinion!