June 21, 2007

Slowing Down: Walking is Good!

So this is Part II of what Crabby didn't know was going to be a Three Part Post. If you've just arrived and didn't catch part one, you probably want to stop here first. We'll wait for ya.

Back now? Excellent.

Just to recap anyway: Many of us seem to be "runners" in some areas of our lives, but can't get our asses off the couch in others. And even when we know a shift in priorities might make sense--we don't do it. We just keep doing what we always do.

How do we refocus? And more specifically, how do we even think about getting off the couch in other areas (tomorrows subject) if we can't figure out how to back off from our usual favorite "runs?"

Crabby is going to pretend to be your Therapist today. (And she duly warns you that she's not your therapist. Please don't take her advice and then try to sue her when it doesn't work out).

So lets visualize that you're in a nicely furnished office for your Therapy Appointment. The chair is soft and accommodating; the room smells like furniture polish and mint tea; and there's really nice art on the walls. (You paid for it, you might as well admire it). And picture Dr. Crabby as a pleasant, professionally dressed well-groomed Healer here to help you. Today she is neither a hard-shelled crustacean nor a ripped-jeans-wearing Slacker. Let's say she looks just like Dr. Melfi on the Sopranos.

"So," says Dr. Crabby. "Why so frantic? Why are you spending so much energy [running/working/parenting/studying/dieting]? Aren't there other priorities you've said are important?"

"But I can't slow down," you say. "There's still so much more I need to do! I know I should do other things too, but I have to keep going. I can't slow down!"

"You can't?" Dr. Crabby looks curious. "So what are you afraid will happen if you try?"

So? What are you afraid of?

This is not to pretend that nothing bad could happen. Life is all about trade-offs: the time you need for other things has to come from somewhere. But what are you telling yourself would happen? Are you sure your fears are realistic?

Do you fear if you don't do it "all" you won't do anything?

Do you fear people will think you've become lazy/stupid/unreliable?

Do you fear that everything you've already accomplished will disappear overnight if you cut back a bit?

Do you fear you would just be "ordinary" if you didn't excel?

You folks can probably think of better examples. But the idea is to figure out what's driving you, personally, to overemphasize this one area of your life. (If this is indeed something you're doing).

And here's a good place for Crabby to point out that a Psychotherapist's office really is a good (if expensive) place to explore some of this stuff. Because it's one thing to read something, go "yeah, that's me" and quite another to actually work on changing it.

Anyway. Crabby struggles with this stuff herself and is trying to confront illogical ideas about achievement and all-or-nothing thinking. So this lecture is really for her more than anyone else.

One more thought before Crabby turns this subject over to her Smart Readers.

Often, it's easy to prioritize Appearances over Reality. Sometimes adjustments can be made along these lines to free up time. For example the things people do to Look like a Good Parents (i.e., coaching Little League) may be extremely time consuming and may not correlate all that well with being Good Parents.

Likewise, the numbers on the scale, or the miles logged on a treadmill, or the number of pounds we can bench press: they're just numbers. They're not "health."

So what do you folks think? Are there areas in your life you're overemphasizing, and if so, could you imagine doing less? Or does the very thought make you break out into hives? Crabby would love to know.


  1. Yep, you hit the nail on the head again, Crabby. Here's my imbalance in life: I'm so scared of a bad family health history (heart disease and diabetes on my father's side)that despite a sugar-free and pretty much balanced lifestyle, I've pretty much taken the enjoyment out of my life via eating and added unnecessary stress by worrying so much about what may or may not happen to my health down the road. Like a friend of mine told me a couple weeks ago as he grilled burgers, (after I told him how obsessed I am becoming with what I put into my mouth)"do you really want to become one of those people who boast they've never enjoyed a McDonald's french fry or a good Quarter Pounder with Cheese?"
    Balance? I don't know...
    Great post

  2. Hi Adam/Dietking,
    Wow, that's great that you've figured out where the imbalance is coming from--and that sounds like a really reasonable fear! Hopefully, since you're doing plenty of smart things now to protect your health, you can start to tell that anxious part of your brain to just chill a bit more and let the rest of you enjoy life. (Easier said than done of course. My anxious side has a tendency to yammer on and on, ad I often have to yell at it to shut the hell up.)

  3. Hmm, I'm very likely overemphasizing my studies and what I need to do to succeed... but to be honest, I don't really see myself stopping, at least not during the school year (I will "walk" during the summer holidays, though). Of course, considering that what I'm aiming at is a national competitive exam, and not 'just' an exam when I need to get a 10/20 and be done with it, I better have my ass in gear for that all year long to stay on track.

    But I admit I'll be DAMN glad when it's over and I can hold my diploma in my little hands and kiss it passionately. ;)

  4. Hi Kery!
    I don't know--sounds pretty reasonable to me to crank really hard pre-exam, since it's a temporary situation with so much at stake. As long as you're not being totally insane about it and running yourself into the ground.

  5. This balance thing is probably why most religions were formed in the days of yore. They help "tell" you what you should worry about and what you turn over to something else to worry about. If only...
    I am like dietking2. I have a scary family history. Because of my presumed shorter lifespan, I usually obsess about how hard my job is and how little spare time I have. Now that I'm on vacation, I'm worried about what I eat and how much I'm working out. Of the two, I prefer the latter. I just try to get comfortable with my imbalance, and not let IT worry me too much!
    ..What do you mean you won't see me anymore, Dr. Melfi?

  6. I've definitely slowed down with all this stuff over the years (I'm now 50). I used to be absolutely neurotic about stuff: no alcohol for 12 years, no coffee, sugar, wheat for 6 years. Used to do at least four hours a day of exercise, then inner spiritual exercises (in the form of intense yogic pranayamas, and such). Used to work on inner growth stuff pretty much 24/7. Alternative therapies galore..I figure I've spent over $30K in workshops and other forms of trainings and sessions. Plus then all the practice in between. I was intense.

    Then I woke up one day and realized I was trying to be "perfect" and constantly telling myself I was a failure, not good enough just as I was, etc.I realized there would ALWAYS be something else to fix and that really..I was pretty cool just the way I was.

    So now, I do deep breathing, I eat whole foods, I don't drink much at all, I usually avoid sugar and wheat, but if I'm by an authentic French bakery once in awhile, I'm gettin' an almond croissant, dammit. And I'm getting a baguette, or other amazing bread if I'm at a fine dining experience. It's all about what I call "the cost-benefit ratio." Balance. Life is fun. Be happy.

  7. Ooooh! Free therapy:) I think for a lot of people (read: me) the issue is one of perceived control over your life. I can spend years getting all my ducks in a row, gathering up all the threads of my life into one neat, tangle-free handful, then something comes along and I drop the whole bunch. Right now, I'm trying to return to my baseline of fitness after I gave myself a 9-month free pass with pregnancy as an excuse. (oops!) Only now that the babe is 5 months old have I started paying attention to cutting out the extra calories and adding miles to my daily walks.
    One thing that truly helps when determining my priorities is honestly examining my motivation. If, as you so rightly suggested, it's about appearances, I just don't have the time or energy. But if I'm motivated by health, or participation (like, I want to be able to ski until I'm 70) or to be a good role model for my daughter; well, these are things that are worth my energy.

    btw, i did do a mini intro in your post about childhood obesity, i think. Thanks for having such a great blog:)

  8. I keep most things in balance and try not overdo anything. All those years of meeting deadline and covering events on nights and weekends showed me what life is like when it's out of balance.
    Food allergies and intolerances forced me into good eating habits so that stays in balance, too.
    Not having kids helps.
    That said, I will still spend a day chained to the computer writing if that's what I really want. It doesn't happen very often so I've decided to see it as a treat rather than an imbalance. It gives me a great opportunity to really pound down the writing chocolate, too.
    I've had friends who needed to have it all and do it all. They were driven to make money, not just to have it, but to have more of it than their friends. It was their measure of success and they're welcome to it.
    Personally, Dr. Crabby, I'd rather have a nap.
    As to your question: I'm emphasizing meditation and pursuing the spirtual side of growth. It's where my focus is right now. I don't think I'm overemphasizing it, though.

  9. Hi Anonymous!

    Interesting thought about religions, I think you may be on to something. Much harder to figure out priorities on one's own than have them Divinely Pre-approved. And yes, scary family history is indeed a motivator! Good luck relaxing on vacation; hope it leaves you renewed & refreshed! (And thanks for visiting this morning, when you should be relaxing on vacation!)

    Hi Pamm,
    What a great realization--that you would never be perfect but were pretty cool just as you were! It's ironic the way we can use "self-improvement" as another excuse to beat ourselves up. Sounds like you've got the balance thing figured out really well now, though. Life is fun and have an almond croissant every once in awhile. Great advice!

    Hi Kate,
    That's right, you did introduce yourself and had a great comment back there (and in Part I here too--in fact I inadvertently stole your "number on the scale" observation). I just forgot the name and thought you were new.

    Sounds like you have really smart priorities. (Though I'm way too chicken to contemplate skiing in my seventies, but you go, girl). And I think pregnancy is a damn good reason for getting off track. It's a big f*cking deal. And it sounds like you're already getting back to a healthier lifestyle.)

  10. Hi leah,
    You strike me as someone who's got the balance thing pretty much nailed. Naps and meditation and writing days (& especially with "writing chocolate," gotta get me some of that) sound like a much more sensible use of time than the pursuit of money and a big fat McMansion.

  11. These two things That Pamm and Kate shared totally resonated with me:
    "Then I woke up one day and realized I was trying to be "perfect" and constantly telling myself I was a failure, not good enough just as I was, etc.I realized there would ALWAYS be something else to fix and that really..I was pretty cool just the way I was...Balance. Life is fun. Be happy."

    "I can spend years getting all my ducks in a row, gathering up all the threads of my life into one neat, tangle-free handful, then something comes along and I drop the whole bunch."

    My life has been turnd upside down a couple of times. And Crabby, I totally agree with the appearances thing. The busier and more choatic my life gets the more I am constantly evaluting: How much does this REALLY matter? will it matter in 20 years?

  12. hi Katieo,
    You're so right about that stuff. And I think that the "20 year" notion is a really important one--so much of what we get caught up in would just seem silly 20 years from now. But other things (like health, relationships, etc) really do count for years and years to come.

  13. I think I'm pretty good at knowing when to walk, when to run, and when to park my a*s on the couch. I do admit that at this particular point in my life, I made a promise to myself to lose weight and get healthy- I actually enjoy- savor- and crave the feeling I get when I am through with a good workout. Until a few months ago, I forgot what a pleasure that could be. I also think there is that fine line where one goes from enjoyment/indulging to obsessiveness. And it is about balance, and being able to enjoy life around us- in my case my current 'running or slight obsessivness with the gym has brought the reward of more energy- I find it easier to play with my kids and keep up with them, and I notice my patience is growing. I tend to believe in the more spiritual side of things, and if we are focusing in on a few different things in our life, there's usually a reason why. I don't think real balance exists, or if it does, it changes as our lives change.

    Okay. Done rambling.

  14. Hi in-between!
    I envy you that sense of comfort with your choices. Because spending a lot of time on one thing isn't necessarily "unbalanced" if it's what you need to be concentrating on. It's when other areas that need attention start getting neglected that focusing on only one is a problem. Sounds like your "gym obsessiveness" is a really positive healthy thing for you!

  15. Gee, Crabby. Now I'm worried about my job. You're showing signs of being a better psychologist than I am ROFL

    very interesting and thought provoking post.

    I'm fine on the exercise, I make it a priority. I know what dietking means on the food. That extreme attention to eating can be an unneeded stress.

    Do you wanna know what is one of my great "running" jobs/indulgences. THIS!!! The addiction to stats and trying to keep them on an upward trend, trying to keep the quality high because my blog was shortlisted for the blog awards last year and I feel pressure to continue the same quality and quantity, and keeping up with all the latest news, and visiting other blogs to get return visits. Visiting AW to check the latest blog news. Trying to sort out whether sitemeter is attaching greeblies to visitors' (insert something technical here), trying to work out why my 2 stat programs are so far apart. Managing the 3 cobloggers that do posts for me.

    It's exhausting and I'm sitting here in my chair doing it. If it was fine I'd be outside with my laptop which makes it less onerous. Oops that came out wrong!

    But I agree. This is something I've given a lot of thought to. Sometimes the happiest people are laid back people who don't push themselves all the time. Are comfortable in the middle. Have some goals but not a huge list and plan and all the other things. Their happiness may not reach the same peaks as some of us who strive to be excellent in everything, but they have a general comfortable happiness and less of the disappointment and guilt and beating themselves up for not being active (whether physically or otherwise)

  16. P.S. I'm going to take your advice and slow down. Although to be honest I had already decided a couple of days ago to slow down and focus on what is really important not the stuff that seems important but can be skipped from time to time.

    P.P.S. I see you have sitemeter. Now you've given me crabs!!! Go read up about sitemeter at AW. It does naughty things

  17. Oh my dog! I was going to comment but now I have to race off to AW to see what ghastly things sitemeter is doing!

  18. I agree with you, it is fear. Fear almost always runs us off in the wrong direction.
    Many of us never stop long enough to wonder if that is what is motivating us.

  19. Crabby, Your blog is so insightful, and these last two posts are your finest so far. I love the way you speak to a timely issue in an accessible, crystal-clear, and funny way.

    On to the substance of the post . . . I've found that when I lose my sense of balance and start obsessing about where I'm "only walking" (recently, for example, an article about the need for regular family dinners reminded me that I'm a terrible mom), my body rebels. I end up frozen with back spasms or in bed with the flu. It's nature's way of saying, "Get over yourself. Your pursuit of perfection is not helping anyone."

    Thanks for giving us all some great stuff to ponder, Crabby.

  20. (saunters back slightly embarrassed - I have Stat Counter not Sitemeter!)

    I think I'm just coming up to a "have to rearrange priorities better" time. I didn't post last night. Could only think of negative things so decided against it but my head was full of "well, there's the end of your blog then". I know I've let the blog take over but to lighten up seems like loosing what I've worked for over the last couple of months.

    Oh well, I dare say I'll sort it out. It's good to read that others get caught up in this trap too.

  21. Hi Talia!
    This blog thing is definitely a "run" not "walk" for me too, and I've only got one, not several like you. (And mine is certainly not any sort of award winner!)

    I'll have to check out the sitemeter issue a bit more. My understanding is that this information came from one of their competitors, so I've got a bit of skepticism, but at some point I should probably look into it. Or I'll wait and see what everyone else does. But thanks for the warning! And if you want to avoid "crabs," until I figure this out, I completely understand!

    Hi Dawn!
    Yes, do tell me what you end up deciding to do! I tend to follow your example on most things bloggy. Since we share a sitemeter addiction, I'll be watching your blog carefully to see what the next move is.

    Hi Samantha!
    I do think fear is behind some of this. Yet somehow you seem like one of those more naturally balanced folks who is not all that fear-driven. (Crabs are somewhat neurotic by nature).

    (On preview, discovering Dawn has returned...)

    Hi again Dawn!
    So I'll confess that I checked your blog about 200 times today, out of habit. Where is she? Did something happen? Oh... maybe she has a... life! Good for her!

    I'll still be back at your blog tomorrow even if you miss a day every now and then, and I'm sure everyone else will too.

    (So I slacked off on responding to comments yesterday and felt guilty about it all day today. But it's silly to think that the world revolves around our little blogs! We take ourselves so seriously! And by "we" I mean "me!")

  22. Hi anonymous!
    Sorry I missed you earlier, I sit there dilly-dallying over my comments, and people come and go in between when I start and when I finish--I caught Dawn but didn't realize I'd been futzing around so long someone else sneaked in as well!

    Thank you so much for the kind words! I wish I was half as insightful as you folks are.

    I think your body is very smart, giving you a kick in the pants like that when you get too perfectionistic. (Mine tends to act out randomly, rather than strategically). Thanks so much for stopping in and taking the time to comment!


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