Over the past year and a half, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery. I haven’t completed said journey as of yet – there is still much to learn. I had set the goal for myself of working towards ‘getting in shape’ by the age of 40th on my 35th birthday. I was sick of complaining at my husband all the time about how I was feeling – tired, lazy and rundown. The problem with a ‘goal’ like this one is that it leaves much to the imagination in terms of what it actually means. Does it mean 6-pack abs or a healthy relationship with food or walking 12,000 steps per day or eating ‘more’ vegetables or … the list goes on and on. I still don’t really know what ‘getting in shape’ means – I’m more confused than ever! But I’m on this road. This path to self-discovery. And I’ve learned a few things.
First, it’s okay not to know or have the answers. I continually try new things in an effort to figure out what I need and want from life. My family says I’m idealistic and a bit of a dreamer. I don’t mind. It means I’m trying things. I’m figuring it out. Spit-balling. I love spit-balling. Nothing has to come out of brainstorming except a ton of ideas and sometimes (like Wool n’ Spinning), good things (great even!) come out of it. I realised that over the past year, I’ve steadily pushed my making to the side in favour of adding more and more physical activity to my plate. Over the summer, I thought a lot about how I want to spend my time going forward: Do I want to spend my time at the gym? Spinning and knitting? Housework and household activities? Nothing? Nursing more?
This brought me to my second thing I’ve learned. Six-pack abs will not make me happy. A woman I know is very unhappy. There have been some major life events happen to her that have left her unhappy. She has chosen to pursue a very competitive athletic training schedule. She now has her dream: 6-pack abs. But she’s still not happy. She still doesn’t find much joy from her life. She is still struggling immensely. But, she has 6-pack abs you might say?! But she didn’t work on herself. I’m learning on this complex journey that while being active and ridiculously strong is a good thing for longevity and health, it won’t make you happy. It can help, but it won’t bring you joy from working on the ‘head’ part of the equation – the mental and emotional health. I’ve started journalling almost daily again, which I did for years and years from the time I was 13 years old but got away from it when I was a new mom. Now, I’ve rekindled my desire to write my thoughts down – and man, does it help sift through the thoughts, ideas, wants and needs!
Thoughts, ideas, wants and needs. That’s complex. What is it that we want in life? What fulfills us? How do we attain that? There’s part of me that wants to just live off-grid and bury my head in the sand. There’s another part of me that loves knowing what’s happening in the world (for better or for worse), connecting with people all around the world, and making items that I will cherish for my life. Making the odd toque and blanket, and mitts and scarves for the kids. I enjoy the quiet time that allows me to sit and write, which is the perfect outlet for reflecting on my spinning. At the end of the day, a creative life fills me, but also my nursing helps to feed the side of me that needs to nurture and care-for. Being a mom and wife fills the need for family and closeness. Taking time from my day to go lift some weights, squat and lunge, and laugh with the women I workout with at 5am (yup, you read that right) each day gives me the physical strength, camaraderie and friendship that keeps us alive, joyful and healthy year-after-year.
While this all might sound really idealistic and ‘perfect’ – like I’ve figured it all out, it’s also a reminder to myself that life is ever-changing. While it would be nice to train 4-6 hours per day in the gym, the reality is there are other things that give my life meaning. Training is a part of my life – it’s not my life.
I hope that you are trying new things, stretching yourself and constantly figuring out who you are – it’s a long journey and as corny as it sounds, I’m trying to take it in as best I can. My career job as a trauma nurse has certainly taught me that life is fragile, not to be taken for granted.
And with that, the kids are finally asleep and I’m going to do a little more plying before I call it a night!
Lovely, thoughtful post. It’s too true that we promise ourselves we’ll be “happy if only…” and then get where we were going only to find it wasn’t what we actually wanted anyway. I have been trying to pare things down at work a bit–since my job is multi-faceted, I want to focus on the things I love doing and do less of the things I don’t enjoy. It’s one place where more is not always better and those achievements that are supposed to make you happy often fall flat. I especially find this after finishing a big project–I’m usually at a loss for a while! I’ve decided that the work itself has to be the best part: writing books, knitting, raising kids and pets. The end goal or reward isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but aiming for it can make all the difference in the making and the meantime :) Thanks, Rachel!
This is wonderful, Rachel—thx—
I feel like I am very much in the same place. About six months ago, I decided I seriously needed to make an effort to lose weight in order to lower my cholesterol, which was getting borderline high. So I started making smarter choices about what I ate, tracking my calories, and being more active. Today, I’m one pound away from hitting my initial goal (though I might try to lose more), but I’m also noticeably stronger because of the additional exercise. Physically, I feel good, but that alone isn’t going to make me happy. I still need my hobbies — knitting, spinning, designing, reading — and quality time with my family to make me truly happy. I think you’ve absolutely hit on the right things in this post. There is no one thing that creates happiness in your life. It’s all about finding a good balance among the many aspects of your life.
I’m of no help on the balancing act of finding who you are but I really like that bobbin in the top of the post.
I feel like you could be speaking from my brain and heart in this post… so many things …. I haven’t started journaling again which I know I should as it would at least allow me to get those feelings/worries/sadness/questions out and try to settle them. Thank you for inspiring me to try again.
Thank you for being honest and sharing.
I will think of you as you ponder and wrestle. I am sending you a big hug. Take care of you xo
Sent from my iPhone
Wow, it’s really funny you’d be writing about this today. I’m struggling with related issues of having to massively up the ante of caring for my and my families physical needs, and trying to find space for my/our emotional/spiritual/relational needs. Thanks for being real.
Well said Rachel and insightful!
Rachel, from an older woman to a younger woman, simplify, simplify, simplify, balance, balance, balance. One can’t do “all the things”. Take the pressure off. Juggling too many balls leads to collapse of said balls or yourself.
As a nurse you must know that, not to do this will lead to that chronic burnt out feeling or total burnout.
Take care of yourself and when you have lightened your load, do something that makes your heart sing!!!!!
Thank you so much for this post Rachel. It’s very insightful and real and you’ve inspired me to pick up my journal after several years of neglect! Finding happiness and joy takes work but when it happens it feels effortless – how bizarre! I wish you well on this fantastic adventure!
But you HAVE figured it all out! There is no end goal – no final destination, unless you count the grave, it’s all about the journey.. 😋 and it seems to me that you are travelling well. You have certainly learned to enjoy each different part of your life and that is a wonderful thing. Just know that nothing ever stays the same, everything changes, and when it does that’s ok too. Thank you for your honest, inciteful and always interesting posts.
What a great post. I’m 46 and feel the same and need to start doing some exercise other than walking the dog, definitely felt healthier and less stiff when I was doing yoga every day. I don’t want abs but do want to feel healthy. Thanks for sharing your story, it’s given me motivation to get on with it instead of thinking about it.
As some one in recovery from an eating disorder, and who avoids all diet talk even as a fat woman (descriptive, not negative), when the “get healthy” talk started on your podcast and in slack, I was SO worried. I was like noooo not ANOTHER group of women I really enjoy focusing on losing weight, becoming smaller, etc etc. I heard everyone saying health but feared it would devolve into diets, point systems, “being naughty” etc.
I just wanted to say I am REALLY grateful it didn’t and even more grateful for you to have written this post acknowledging that healthy, fitness and thinness do not equate to happiness. I am also disabled and have chronic pain. 3 years ago I needed a wheelchair outside of the house. Through a LOT of physiotherapy and small things like walking for literally 5 mins at a time, eventually I started to regain some strength. This past fall I was able to get on a bike again for the first time in nearly ten years.
I am fitter and healthier but I am still disabled and I am still in recovery from an eating disorder and very very rarely in my communities of women do I hear people discuss health like you did above and its really refreshing. I also notice every time you mention on your podcast “I am careful discussing this and the concept of making ourselves smaller as women”, etc and your awareness of the awful pressure from the diet industry and your desire for women to not feel like they have to shrink themselves.
Is good. I am relieved and delighted :) As someone who is in pain every single day, I find a ton of happiness in life and I will never again be able to attain health as I have a genetic illness, but I can attain healthy habits and happiness in my making and acknowledging here that fitness in itself doesnt bring happiness was very validating :) <3
Wow – an amazing story. Thank you for sharing. I think stories like yours are good reminders that so often we are fed such unrealistic ideals of what ‘healthy’ looks like. While I’ve struggled to find this balance, I don’t want to look back when I’m 95 and think, “Well, I spent a lot of time trying to be healthier.” And I mean that in the negative way. I think it would be way more positive and meaningful (because that’s what it’s really about, right?) to look back and say, “I had a balance, when I could achieve it because sometimes life demands we focus 100% on something/someone else, of health, activity but my focus was on what I loved which fed my soul.” Does that make sense?
I so appreciate your honesty and yes, I am very aware of the industry standards and how we talk to one another about health and ‘diet’ – I am heartbroken for those women who think they have to ‘diet’ to attain happiness and I don’t want to be a part of perpetuating that. :)