Relaxing on a lawn chair in my backyard I watch a hummingbird jam its needle beak into a plastic yellow flower on the feeder hanging from my maple tree. Wings flapping like whirling fans, the hummingbird daintily takes only a few sips before zipping over my head and out of the yard.
Acknowledging that the hummingbird is fascinating and beautiful, my mind abruptly shifts gears into wondering why it didn’t stay longer to drink more. If I were that hummingbird, I’d figure out a way to peck and rip the ribbon tying the feeder to the tree branch until the feeder dropped to the ground.
In my perfect hummingbird-feeding fantasy world, all of the sugar water would leak out allowing me to drink to my heart’s content. Never mind the hummingbird’s stomach is probably the size of a teardrop. This is where my mind goes every time I watch them.
My appetite for anything sugary, bready, or in the pizza family has been voracious for as long as I can remember. I wish this wasn’t the case. I have always envied people who, unlike me, don’t seem to care about food.
“I just really could take it or leave it,” my sister-in-law told me one afternoon. “It just doesn’t play a very big part in my life.” If only…
To combat my devotion to fluffy sandwiches and those peanut butter filled pretzel nubbins from Trader Joes, I exercise and work hard to keep my love handles in check.
But sometimes on trips, when I’m grueling through a busy semester of teaching, or when I’m lost in seven episodes in a row of Bates Motel, I overeat and conveniently forget about spinning class. As a result, I’ve gained and lost the same fifteen pounds several times over the past fifteen years.
Discussing this pattern with my friend Kim, I admitted that I will feel so much better when school is out so I can get back on the fitness train.
“When I lose these extra ten pounds, I am going to be so happy with myself!” I told her.
“Or you could just accept yourself exactly as you are,” Kim replied with a smirk. Her words and what they meant hung like floating bubbles in the air. Even if I tried to grab onto one, I knew it’d pop.
So why can’t I fathom getting to that acceptance level? To love my body, even when my muffin top is shining like some bees stung my waist, isn’t easy. I don’t hate myself. I just know I would feel better if I were ten pounds lighter.
The problem is, when I sat down to really think about this concept of, “when this happens, I will be so much happier,” I kind of unfortunately acknowledged a lot of them: When I lose weight, I will be happier. When I get published, I will be so happy. When I fall in love, rockets will shoot through the sky. When my tomatoes grow and some small animal doesn’t eat them before I can pick them, I will do backflips.
I think it is great to look forward to events, I just want to check myself to make sure I’m not living in the future.
If I’m constantly thinking the next thing will make everything better, I am never truly experiencing or feeling full gratitude for the life I’m living right now. And the life I am living right now is really quite spectacular. Honestly.
Unfortunately, that critical voice holds me back and tells me to give up. It doesn’t actually encourage me to do anything except feel worse. By becoming hyper aware of it lately, I am getting better at shutting that voice up. Self-compassion helps me feel more relaxed, grounds me in the present, and teaches me how to be kinder in relationships.
I don’t know that I will ever be able to dance around my living room singing, “Tra-la-la-la, I love my body so very muuuuuch.” Even when I do lose those ten pounds, I’ll surely find some other area to obsess over and try to change. I am a woman after all.
I still want all of those things I mentioned before (especially the uneaten tomatoes), but the more I gratefully stay right where I am, the better I am able to appreciate all of the blessings I totally already have. And, the closer I get to accepting Michelle exactly as she is, the more I can fully roll around in the good stuff happening right now.