The human species thrives on labels. They help us understand the world around us and communicate with each other. I'm pretty sure they've been around for as long as we have been thinking.
"Yo, Glog! Don't eat those berries!"
"Why, Og? They are red and juicy and look ever so good."
"Those are the Bad Ones, Glog. They will make you squat in the bushes and wish for death. The blue ones on that bush over there are the Good Ones."
"Why, thank you Og! I appreciate you taking the time to communicate, and I now more fully understand the world around me."
We label ourselves, others, everything. It's a kind of short-hand so that we don't have to constantly define everything to everyone at all times. The thing about labels is, they're helpful... until they aren't. And the thing is, it's usually not so much the label as to what one brings to it.
"Weird" is usually used as a negative label, but it isn't always. Some people love weird, seek it out and embrace it. "Beautiful" is usually a good label, but there are many out there who would say it is a burden they wish they didn't have. And yes, most of us would reply with "oh, poor you" but still. Pain is pain and who am I do belittle?
If you've been reading this blog for the last few months, you know that I've really be struggling with my food issues. I've never been to either of the extremes (anorexia or morbidly obese), but food and I have that Mean Girls relationship.
Food: I love your skirt. Is it new? It's so pretty!
Me: Oh... thank you! Yeah, I just got it.
Food (walking away, whispering to Drink): Gimme a week, I'll make her look like a porker in it.
I don't want to hate food. I don't want to worship the ground food walks on. I just want to stop with all the worries, all the second-guessing, all the rules.
Yeah, rules. Rules that I given myself so I can Be Healthy. So I can Be Thin. So I can live up to the labels that I have defined so minutely that the only way I can fulfill them is by becoming obsessed. And as we know, once you start obsessing over food it is a short trip to either of the extremes.
I became vegetarian for health reasons. My family members had been dropping like flies, all of them from health related issues that culminated in massive heart attacks. I was terrified of the same thing happening to me and decided that my best option would be to cut out almost all meat. When I initially started down this road, it was never my intent to fully cut out meat. I'd allow it every few months, mainly when I was traveling for work or on special occasions.
But the further I traveled down the road, the more I got into it. I started learning things, I started more fully understanding what the definition of Vegetarian was and how seriously vegetarians took it. There were Rules. And, being the person that I am, I had to follow each and every one of them. Because if I was going to be a Vegetarian, I was going to be the Best Vegetarian I could possibly be.
I've mentioned I'm a perfectionist, right?
The further I got down the Vegetarian road, it became clear that it wasn't enough. If I wanted to really be the best, I needed to be Vegan. Which, of course, has even more Rules. So down the road I went... narrowing my focus more and more until it wasn't so much of a road as a small little path just circling this one idea. Around and around I went, trying to get closer and ever closer to an idea I couldn't quite reach.
About four months ago, I started looking up. I started to realize that my vision had become so narrowed that had lost my perspective. I had lost the reasons why I initially started down this path. I was no longer doing it for me. I would hold the health benefits of vegetarian up to all I could get to listen to me, but the dirty secret was, I was no longer doing this for health reasons. I could tout all the reasons for vegetarianism, but I wasn't doing it for any of them, either. I was doing it because I HAD to.
I HAD to be vegetarian I couldn't go back I would be a bad person if I admitted this had become more than I could handle I'm not a bad person I don't want to FAIL I can't fail I don't want to be a failure at this I CAN'T FAIL.
Last week, I stopped calling myself a vegetarian. I still fully believe in the myriad of benefits inherent in a vegetarian and even vegan diet. But until I can travel down that road in a healthy manner, I can no longer apply that label to myself. Yes, I want to be healthy. But I need to include emotional and mental health in that as well. Unfortunately, I have proven to myself that I am not currently able to do this in a healthy manner.
Perhaps in the future I will be once again be able to apply that label to myself. Healthily, and with an easy heart. But for now, my goals are just to eat as healthily as possible and to leave the rules at home. There are no rules, there is just my life. There is just this moment, and I should make the best choice I can in that moment, and then let that moment pass without carrying it on my back to weigh down the next moment.