Let’s Talk About Guilt

When I started EMDR therapy several years ago, I was shocked to find out just how much guilt I’ve carried around with me for years over things that were completely out of my control. For the most part, I didn’t even realize that those guilty feelings were part of why I had so many anxious thoughts or negative beliefs.

As I worked through those beliefs with my therapist, I slowly began to understand how I associated certain memories with guilt and finally learned how to stop beating myself up for not only things that weren’t my fault, but for my emotional reaction to events and circumstances. One of the other benefits of confronting those beliefs was that I discovered how to finally pursue aspects of life that were priorities to me and not other people.

It took a lot of practice, and standing up for myself, my time, and my mental and physical health certainly raised a few eyebrows for people who were used to treating me like a doormat. But for the most part I’ve been able to adapt to a life where I prioritize my self above anything or anyone else — and since our society has conditioned us to believe that putting yourself first is selfish, I’ve also learned that doing so allows me to be a better wife, daughter, sister, friend, and employee.

So where do those negative beliefs come from? Past experiences and how we grow up definitely plays into it, but it’s only been over the last few years that society as a whole has begun to recognize how harshly we judge those who put themselves first and don’t always cater to others or even to their jobs or side hustles.

This first became evident in the early days of COVID-19. So many social media outlets were touting memes and videos of how to be productive, stay in shape, and tackle projects during quarantine that those people who may have been using the time for a long-needed rest were accused of being unmotivated, undedicated, or even lazy.

It wasn’t until quarantine bled from weeks to months to years that we started to realize how much we truly need to take care of our mental health and our own priorities before worrying about other peoples’ opinions or all the projects on our “to do” lists.

COVID has certainly made peoples thoughts and opinions on such things complicated — there are those who believe we should just get back to living life with no precautions, those who who feel like we should go back on lockdown, and everything in between. I wrestle with finding a happy medium between these two views almost every time I do something outside of work or home. And yes, guilt, on multiple levels, plays into those decisions too.

Though guilt does not burden me as heavily as it once did, I still find it interesting how much it is an accepted or even normal part of our daily lives.

For example, last weekend my husband and I were working in the backyard. We had a few small landscaping projects we wanted to tackle before autumn in our ongoing efforts to ready our house for sale . . . at some point in the future.
After we’d spread some mulch around our air conditioner and filled in the narrow trench left by the workers who’d installed our new solar panels and underground lines, my husband went into the garage to grab a bag of grass seed. I took the opportunity to go grab a sip of water from my bottle on the porch.
But before I could get there, I rolled my ankle on the uneven ground where grass meets sidewalk and I tumbled in an ungraceful heap to the ground. My ankle and foot began throbbing before I even rolled over to assess the damage, and I managed to scrape my knee on the concrete in the process.
Once my husband emerged from the garage to help me up, I limped into the house to clean myself up and apply some ice to my ankle. Even after concluding that I hadn’t broken anything, I still didn’t feel up to helping J finish the outdoor projects. Instead I sat on the couch with a frozen bag of peas on my foot, wallowing in guilt that my husband was out there in the heat finishing the work we should have been doing together.

Even though I was able to put some weight on my ankle and foot, it swelled up rather badly the next two days. I bought an ice pack, elevated my leg at work, and did my best to stay off of it as much as possible. This meant making quick dinners, not taking any walks, and not going to the pool.

At first I didn’t feel guilty about this. My doctor had said to rest my ankle, so rest I did. And for awhile it worked out that I was essentially chair-bound because mandatory overtime at work came into play, and I spent lots of extra hours at a desk that week.

The following weekend I planned on getting more done around the house. Before 11am on Saturday I’d done the dishes, started laundry, vacuumed, worked on a magazine pitch, and prepped the back porch for painting the following day.
But by noon my allergies were raging. My nose wouldn’t stop running, my chest was tight, I had a headache, and felt foggy-headed. I took some pills and laid down for a nap, hoping that an hour’s rest would rectify the situation. I had so much to do!
Unfortunately when I woke up I didn’t feel any better. I literally could not go more than five minutes without blowing my nose, and it didn’t take long for it to get all red and irritated. Suddenly I was forced to slow down and confine myself to the couch and my bed again — and immediately the guilt started rolling in.

I’d wanted to go to a community day even that my cousin and realtor was holding. I wanted to support her business and contribute to the local animal shelter fundraiser they were having. I needed to go to the library to return a book that was due. I wanted to head back to the pool. I wanted to paint the back porch and finish laundry and polish that magazine pitch.

Instead it was back to wallowing. In between blowing my nose and rubbing my red, itchy eyes, I wondered if I had somehow I had contracted COVID again. I thought about how I was letting my husband down by delaying our house projects for another weekend in a row. And even though my last post was about how it’s okay for writers to not write everyday, I started beating myself up for not finishing my magazine pitch. Like an anxiety attack spiraling out of control, so did my guilt.
I felt guilty for not taking my heartworm-positive dog to the park recently, about wanting to sell our starter home. I felt guilty for not helping my sister enough with her upcoming art show, for not taking advantage of the beautiful day.

Although these guilty feelings do not carry the same weight as traumas do, it made me realize just how prevalent guilt still is in our daily lives.

By Sunday I was feeling better — not 100%, but better. I pushed myself to finish laundry and write a bit, and even did an hour of overtime for work. But for the most part I laid low and took it easy. Another weekend would eventually arrive, and with it, hopefully the time and opportunity to make up for the last crappy two.

And as I sat on the couch, folding socks and sipping ginger ale, watching reruns of America’s Next Top Model on Hulu, I reminded myself again that exactly what I was doing at that moment was perfectly okay.

25th Anniversary

I met my two best friends in sixth grade — Twenty. Five. Years. Ago.

In an effort to not feel obscenely old and to kick some excitement into the current world-situation, I reached out to both girls, KP & KF, to see if they wanted to go somewhere to celebrate this anniversary of our friendship with a girls’ weekend.

They readily agreed, and we began scouring the internet for road-trip accessible destinations that we’d be able to visit once we all received our COVID vaccines. Finally settling on a cozy cottage adjacent to a small winery in Ripley, NY, we made the three hour drive on the first weekend in June to relax and enjoy a few days away from our husbands, pets, jobs . . . and the nightmare that was 2020.

The drive north was impeded only by nearly three straight hours of an absolute DOWNPOUR. It rained so hard we could barely see the road at times and had to stop twice to settle our nerves. Still, we made it to the winery without incident, checked in, received our complimentary bottle of wine, and set about to explore the charming little cabin that would be our home for three days.

The place was perfect — the kitchen was well-equipped and the living room was cozy, complete with plush chairs and an entire wall of built-in bookshelves that made all three of us drool. Three bedrooms and two bathrooms gave us plenty of space, and while everything was comfortable and reasonably modern, there were also old fashioned charms like uneven, squeaky floors, sloped ceilings, and soft, faded area rugs that gave it a turn-of-the-century vibe.

On that first night, we chose our rooms, unpacked, and headed to the grocery store to stock up on snacks, coffee, and alcohol to last throughout our stay. We sat up late, talking and laughing about work, family drama, and sex, reminiscing about each other’s weddings and hilarious or painful middle and high school memories. We discovered at some point that we were only about ninety miles from Niagara Falls, New York, and decided that the state park would be our destination the following day.

The drive north was relatively pleasant, and we had no trouble finding a place to park so we could wander through the blocks of restaurants and gift shops before hearing the rush of the rapids and the falls that made up Niagara Falls State Park. We spent hours gazing at the water, walking through the pretty, lush grounds, and taking in the beautiful summer day. What started as a chilly, gray morning eventually gave way to a sunny, humid afternoon, and by the time we’d had our fill of the falls we were grateful to sit in an air-conditioned restaurant and enjoy a late lunch. On the way home we stopped at a massive indoor outlet mall, where we spent lots of time and money ducking in and out of a variety of stores — my favorite of which was the Lindt Chocolate Outlet store. Drool. We also stopped to get drinks at Tim Horton’s (my first time)!

Our plans for day two took us to Erie Beach, about 45 minutes from where we stayed. We found Presque Isle easily enough, and I took the time to climb the tiny Presque Isle Lighthouse, where I very nearly had a panic attack when I realized how tiny the damn thing was and became claustrophobic while scaling the steep stairs and gazing out over the narrow observation deck. I’d been in lighthouses before, and always enjoyed the climb and the view, but this teensy tower was not like the hulking giants found in my frequent jaunts to the Outer Banks. Glad I had the experience, but just as glad to never climb those particular stairs again.

For the rest of the day, the three of us lounged on the beach. It was sunny and warm, and my Aquarius-self absolutely had to get in the water. After applying sunscreen and baking for awhile, I headed to the water’s edge — and nearly peed myself.

The water was ICE COLD. Looking back, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that water this far north hadn’t had a chance to warm up yet so early in the summer, but I was so looking forward to splashing in the waves that I couldn’t bear to stay on dry land. So I gritted my teeth and plunged in as far as I could manage before my skin puckered and my teeth chattered and I hurried back onto the sand to warm up.

And warm up I did. Over the course of five hours, I alternated between sunning myself and wading in the frigid lake. I noticed that my skin was taking on a slight pink tint, but I wasn’t concerned. My body hadn’t seen the sun like this in over a year, and besides, I was wearing sunscreen. We talked and laughed and munched on our PB&Js and veggies with hummus as the sun moved across the sky.

It wasn’t until we left, and I ducked into one of the bath houses to use the facilities that I realized how red my skin actually was. Still, I felt fine on the ride home, and was excited to get cleaned up and head to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I showered and shaved my legs, looking forward to an evening of chips and salsa, margaritas and memories.

Then I tried to get dressed. All of a sudden, my skin was absolutely burning. Not pinching like normal sunburn. Burning like I’d laid myself in a frying pain of hot oil. Denim shorts were not an option. Neither were leggings. I managed a bra only by loosening the straps. Frantically, I thought about the bottle of aloe sitting in my chest of drawers back home. Instead I grabbed the bottle of sunscreen I’d taken to the beach and double checked the SPF strength — 50. What had gone wrong? Then my thumb felt the raised numbers on the seam of the bottle — it had expired six months prior. And I hadn’t reapplied it after my icy dip.

Jesus.

Luckily KP had brought a sundress with her. I delicately pulled it over my head and breathed a sigh of relief to have the loose garment flowing around my legs instead of clinging to them. We headed to the Mexican restaurant and placed our orders, and I promptly began fishing ice out of my water glass to apply to my thighs that were still on fire.

“Note to self — don’t shave overtop of sunburn,” I muttered to my friends.

“Why would you shave?!”

“What were you thinking?!”

“It didn’t hurt when I was in the shower,” I answered. “I didn’t even think about it. I shaved out of habit.”

Sadly my margarita didn’t do much to dull the pain, so we stopped at the store on our way back to the cabin so I could buy aloe. I also purchased another cotton sundress to get through the next day, and went to bed covered in green slime and only managed to sleep after downing a couple of Advil.

The ride home was pretty rough — it was ninety degrees and sunny, and I couldn’t escape the sun’s harsh rays beating down on my legs through the car windows. To add insult to injury, at one of our rest stops, I stubbed my toe on a huge, metal door, splitting it open and bleeding all over my sandal. Great, I thought, limping through the parking lot. If I don’t die of skin cancer in a few years, I’ll die of gangrene. Good thing I got a tetanus shot last summer!

At long last, I arrived home to be greeted by my over-enthusiastic doggos and husband, who could only shake his head at my bright red skin. It was certainly the absolute worst sunburn I’d ever had. The only plus side was that I had the following day off work — good thing, too, because I could barely manage to get dressed. I also discovered Sun Bum Cool Down lotion, which feels like magic, even when your skin isn’t on fire, and immediately purchased their sunscreen, lip balm, and dry shampoo. At the risk of sounding like a lifestyle blogger, this is one very satisfied customer.

Despite the horrendous sunburn, I’m really glad my friends and I got together for a much-needed getaway, as quick as it was. KF asked why it had taken us so long to take a trip together, and all of us agreed that it was something we’d definitely have to do on a more regular basis.

Fine by me!

Please Continue to Hold


I know, I know — I’ve been a bad writer.

I’ve been inconsistent. Undisciplined. Unfocused. Lazy even. Instead of tearing myself away from Netflix or reading to focus on writing for even half an hour a day, I’ve allowed myself to be lax. Or maybe relax?

I can’t believe it’s been four months since I’ve posted a blog. Sometimes it feels like it’s been a year. And while I haven’t been doing nearly as much writing as I did during the height of COVID (round 1?) in 2020, I’ve still been puttering about here and there.

Short projects have kind of been at a stand still, but I did work up the nerve to send my latest manuscript, Ocracoke’s Daughter, to its first beta reader, and the feedback was both helpful and incredibly positive. I’m up to four rejections from agents on The Month of May, but two of them included personal messages which were quite encouraging.

I have a few ideas floating around in my mind, but I’m finding it hard to form complete storylines and my attention span has recently become similar to that of a 12 week old puppy. At first I was beating myself up, thinking about all those writer message boards and Facebook groups where it talked about what a terrible person/writer you are if you go twelve hours without writing 5000 words — namely, that you’re clearly not devoted enough to your craft.

But enough with that bull shit. While I completely understand the mindset behind discipline and dedication, I also understand that those of us who are not full time writers yet — and even those of us who are — need to make concessions for ourselves. We are only recently learning the effects of “burn out culture,” and in addition to acknowledging the need to rest and reset, we also need to be cognizant of the fact that the world is (still) experiencing unprecedented circumstances right now. It’s no wonder so many of us are struggling on different levels.

A year and a half into the pandemic, everything is still uncertain. How much longer will this last? Are we wearing masks or not? Do we send our children to school or maintain virtual learning? Is it okay to require vaccines or ask if one is vaccinated? What are my chances of contracting the Delta variant if I’ve been vaccinated? Is it okay to hug people? Shake hands? Is it okay that I traveled out of state in June? Will I ever get to visit my friends in Holland? Is COVID going to haunt me for the rest of my life?

Among all of these internal struggles, we can’t escape the very real controversies that each of these questions evoke online, on social media, in person, and on the news. It is exhausting to say the least, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to be absolutely, 100% OVER IT on every level.

I was talking to my therapist about this a few weeks ago — I’m so completely tired of waiting for things to get back to some semblance of normalcy. I’m so tired of waiting for it to be okay to travel, to have a party, to not panic every time I have a scratchy throat. I’m tired of the judgement, the arguments, the insults, the uncertainty. I’m tired of how this is effecting people, our hospitals, our economy, employment, our government. I’m tired of not going anywhere further than work and my own backyard. I’m tired of dreaming about “some day.”

Yet I cannot summon the energy to do much of anything. I get short bursts of inspiration to write, and that burst may last a few days, but it putters out as quickly as it came on. J and I have started half a dozen projects in an effort to ready our house for sale . . . at some point . . . but most of them are half finished. We can’t even take our dogs to the park or on day trips right now because Kitty was diagnosed with heart worm back in May and excessive exercise is absolutely no bueno. (She’s doing well so far, and I’m grateful that Heart Guard is paying for her treatment considering she’s been on their preventative the entire time we’ve had her, but I’m nervous about her wellbeing all the time and I am not looking forward to the second round of injections she has to endure at the end of August. Positive vibes for us and our sweet girl are greatly appreciated).

J and I talk about moving all the time. We desperately need a change and more space. We are beyond annoyed with our irresponsible, inconsiderate neighbors and we’re on the same page when it comes to wanting to sell. But the market is so unstable and unpredictable right now. Some days we want to take advantage of the seller’s market and get as much as we possibly can for our current house while there’s this much equity in it. But on the other hand, we don’t want to pay too much for any new house, regardless of how perfect it may be. And I can’t help but worry that the housing market bubble is going to burst at some point like it did back in 2009.

So here we are. Still waiting. Still holding. Still unsure. Itching to make a move, to feel safe, to feel confident, to feel normal . . . and still waiting.

I’m going to try to be more disciplined about my writing, including blogging. There are a few things on my mind that I’ve got to get out, even if it’s just to the handful of readers on Word Press. And since it doesn’t seem like in person conferences or writing events are going to return any time soon, it might be the best option for connecting with other writers. At the very least, I suppose it’s a place where I can unload my thoughts and worries.

When I started this post, I was hoping to have some sort of revelation about my mindset and the state of things in our world, but instead I’m just pausing every few sentences, picking at my cuticles and stare out the window at the hazy, humid day. Out of the corner of my eye I spot my empty curio cabinet, the one now void of Wizard of Oz treasures that I sold in an effort to clear out clutter in preparation for moving. Across the room is a cluster of plants I just watered this morning — an aloe plant sprawling from its yellow pot, situated peacefully behind an unidentified vine that has succeeded in crawling all the way across the floor to the other side of the dining room. There are two tiny succulent plants next to a tall, spindly tree whose leaves shadow a mason jar decorated in colorful letters. The thick glass shelters a dozen or so multi-colored notecards, each one folded to hide the word scrawled across it — Alaska, Chicago, Toronto, Ireland, San Francisco, Maine, — places J & and I want to see someday.

Someday.

What Dogs Can Teach Us About Resilience

As you may know, J & I are proud fur parents of Miss Kitty & Ghost, as well as the dearly departed Comet.

All of our dogs have been rescues, and while I’m no stranger to the love and comfort they offer, or the lessons they can teach, I continue to be amazed at how these four-legged creatures have repeatedly, unknowingly, offered me insights on life.

The other day, I took Ghost to a vet appointment for some redness that suddenly appeared around his left eye. When it didn’t go away with Benadryl, I took him to get checked out. I also asked if the vet could take a look at his other eye because J & I had noticed that something about his vision wasn’t quite right. During obedience classes, when using hand signals, we had to move rather close to his right eye before he’d react. And sometimes when the light caught the eye in a certain way, we’d see an unusual fogginess.

The vet prescribed us some ointment for the redness around his left eye, and then addressed our concerns with the right one. He wasn’t blind, and all of his neurological functions were intact, but he did have a scar on both his cornea and his lens. These were almost certainly caused by some type of penetrating injury from when he was quite young. By the time we adopted him, the injury was healed, but he does still have limited vision in that eye. Still, the vet isn’t concerned. He doesn’t squint or compensate for the lack of vision, and it certainly doesn’t slow him down. Ghost has learned to live with his injury in his young life, and although I feel horribly about whatever must have happened to our “little due,” I now look at him with a new perspective.

When Ghost first came to us, he was only nervous for a couple of minutes. He seemed to instantly make himself at home and wasted no time in harassing his older sister. His behavior has been frustratingly challenging at times, and we still have a lot of work to do, but I have a new respect for what he must have gone through with this eye injury. Since he was only about 8-10 months old when we adopted him, and anything but shy, we figured he’d had a pretty cushy start in life. But the new information about his eye tells us that he’s overcome his own struggles and pain, whether the injury was from an accident or abusive human.

Suddenly Ghost’s resilient and sometimes defiant behavior makes a little more sense. He’s had to adapt to his eye injury in order to keep thriving, and perhaps he tends to be defiant because someone didn’t treat him properly when he was a puppy. Maybe that person was cruel when trying to train him, and instead of cowering like most dogs with trauma, Ghost copes with it by running away and not obeying orders.

So while his personality is nearly the polar opposite of Miss Kitty’s, my eyes have recently been opened to how dogs deal with trauma differently — just like people. While Kitty was (and still is) wary and cautious, she’s learning to trust more and more each day. Ghost’s outgoing personality is bringing her out of her shell, and we hope that Kitty’s relatively good behavior will eventually rub off on Ghost.

But the most important thing I learned that night at the vet’s office was that we all have our traumas, our scars, our struggles. We all deal with them in different ways. And sometimes we don’t want to share those stories with others, or like animals, we can’t do it in a verbal way. Still, if we’re lucky, we find people (or pets) who are patient and kind and help us work through and overcome these obstacles that tried to hurt us or hold us back. And while ideally everyone would like to crush each hurdle easily like taking a hammer to an egg, sometimes we simply have to live with the scars life has given us.

Even if we never fully recover from a negative experience, injury, or trauma, there’s hope that we can adapt to it and work through it as best we know how. We may never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we’re unlovable or incapable of living our lives and pursuing our dreams. Sometimes the reality of things is completely different from how you imagined it or how you wanted it. But that’s okay too.

My fur babies — Ghost is the little one and Miss Kitty is the bigger one with the black ear

Mental Health VS Physical Health

In tenth grade English, I wrote a persuasive essay on the subject of making gym class an elective.

For ten years I had endured the humiliation of being naturally uncoordinated and completely un-athletic — I was picked last for kickball, taunted for being afraid of a volleyball flying at my head, and repeatedly endured the time honored tradition of having my glasses smashed against my face during each rousing game of dodge ball.

As if the physical and emotional mortification weren’t enough, my class mates and teachers assumed that I was unmotivated, out of shape, and not a team player. Never mind the fact that I got good grades, loved to read and write, and was active in band, orchestra, and the arts. Never mind that I marched around a football field and along miles-long parade routes every other weekend. Never mind that I lost 43 lbs. between the ages of 16 and 18. Never mind that I wore a size 7.  If I couldn’t put a basketball through a hoop or score a soccer goal, I was a loser. I was lazy. I wasn’t good enough.

Even during that time period when I was at my thinnest, physical activity wasn’t something I excelled at. One particularly painful memory took place during my senior year – where, at age 17 or 18, wearing a size 7, and in probably the best shape of my life – I had to “make up” a few missed gym classes. It must have been winter, because instead of doing a few leisurely laps around the track, I begrudgingly found myself in the musty-smelling weight room, surrounded by football and basketball players, cheerleaders, and soccer girls, all talking about their drunken weekends while admiring themselves in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors on three of the four walls. The only thing making the afternoon remotely tolerable was that the guy I was dating had come with me. We climbed onto side-by-side elliptical machines, where I set a moderate pace and planned on flirting and laughing for the entire allotted time period. He, on the other hand, being active in cross country and track, set out on a more aggressive pace and quickly encouraged me to do the same. I gave it a good effort, but despite being thin, despite being in shape, and despite my attempt to impress him, I was never be able to catch the frantic pace he was used to when competing. I knew he was only trying to encourage me, but when I couldn’t measure up I was left with the familiar feeling of inadequacy.

After a lifetime of these and similar instances, it’s no wonder that exercise and physical activity trigger negative feelings in my brain, and I’m surprised that it’s taken me this long to recognize how these feelings have negatively impacted my mental health.

I’ve written in the past about how I simply do not enjoy working out, aside from swimming, kayaking, and walking or hiking. But it wasn’t until COVID that I realized why I gravitate away from competitive sports, aerobics classes, or exercise equipment with harsh, glowing numbers measuring every step, every breath, and every second.

Six to eight months before COVID shut everything down, I had finally found an activity I enjoyed – I swam laps at a nearby pool 2-3 times a week and had even begun to attend an aqua Zumba class. This pool was housed in a small, local library/community center. There were no glaring bright lights, no buff super athletes, and no judgmental competitors. Zumba class included women of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and I felt as comfortable there as I did with my friends.  This was the way I preferred to stay active – in a welcoming, judgment free zone with no intimidation and no clock or scale measuring what I had accomplished. Still, I left the pool each time feeling cleansed, clear-headed, energetic and limber. And yes, my jeans had started to sag just a little bit, which was an added bonus.

But when the country went into lock down, I could no longer rely on the pool – for exercise or something that made me feel good about my mental health. Like everyone else adjusting to unprecedented restrictions, I did my best to stay active by walking my dogs and doing simple exercises at home. But I quickly lost interest and motivation. I was bored, I was lonely, and I was only doing these things because I felt obligated. Experts on TV, doctors on the Internet, and society as a whole soon began talking about how important it was to stay active even though gyms were closed and classes and group sports were cancelled. Not only did it help us stay healthy, but it would keep our mental state positive, they claimed.

So I pressed on. I walked when it was 90 degrees and humid. I strapped our new, 60-lb. dog into her harness and took her through our neighborhood, struggling to contain her strong, sixty-pound frame when she pulled and darted and startled as she adjusted to her new home. And it didn’t take long for exercise to become a stressful, negative notion again.

When the weather turned chilly, J set up an old elliptical in our basement. I hopped on it a few times a week for maybe a month. It didn’t take long for my legs to start burning and for me to be soaked in sweat. But I kept pushing. I obsessively watched the glowing numbers on the display tell me how much I had accomplished – or how much I had failed. Within a matter of weeks I had given up on the elliptical completely. It wasn’t because I wasn’t seeing results – I was, however small. But aside from the small positive change it was making on my body, the elliptical represented nothing but negativity in my mind. When it came to getting on the elliptical, I felt like a child who was being forced to take piano lessons because it supposedly taught them discipline and made them well-rounded. Even when I did complete a session, regardless of how many miles I covered or how long it took me to cover them, it was never enough. At first I thought this mindset was simply a matter of changing my perspective – that I should be proud of myself for doing 5 minutes or 50, 1 mile or 10. But then I realized that it wasn’t about the numbers. I simply did not care about measurements. I didn’t feel accomplished regardless of what the stupid display said, and I didn’t feel good or refreshed when I finished. I hated the elliptical and was angry at myself because I’d grown up hearing that all exercise should make you feel accomplished and refreshed. But this simply was not the case.

So yes – most exercises and physical activities trigger negative responses in my brain and uncomfortable feelings in my body. This means that sometimes what may be good for my physical health may be bad for my mental health. What am I supposed to do with that? Is this normal? Why does society judge people who don’t find joy in exercise? What am I supposed to choose when something that is good for my physical health (the elliptical) makes me hate myself? And what do I do when something that is good for my mental health (Netflix & chocolate) makes me inactive?
Why don’t you just ask me which leg I prefer to amputate – the left and right have equal value!

When I started this post, I was hoping that I’d come up with some sort of answer by the end. But I think this is one of those subjects that’s going to constantly be up for debate – and the answer will change depending on each individual.

I leave you with a quote from a book I recently read while doing research on sexual suppression in conservative religious communities. I found that many of the themes in this work that focused on sex were relevant to the constant push and pull between mental health and physical health:

Maybe rhythm, not balance, is the key to not falling off the too-much-or-too-little pleasure plank. Maybe here is where grace can enter. Allowing ourselves a bit of time in each place rather than continuously monitoring moderation. A rhythm of feasting and fasting. Of indulgence and denial. Lent and Easter. Based on attention for who we are, how we are wired, what we can and cannot handle, what brings harm, what brings joy … rhythm – Finding one that is danceable, livable, maintainable. A time for work, a time for sex, a time for service,
a time for cake ~
Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber