Tag Archives: failure

me vs. me

Some days my brain conspires against me in ways I don’t quite understand. Yesterday, the massive heat wave that has been hovering over the midwest offered a slight reprieve. It was 80 glorious degrees and I never thought I’d say it, but 80 degrees is downright pleasant when your body is fighting to acclimate to 100+.

I decided to celebrate by going for a run outside on a trail near my parents’ house. I haven’t been on this trail in a few years because, well, I’ve never been much of a runner in the first place. Also, they found a body not far from the trail a couple of years back and my mother tried to convince me to never run on a trail (or visit a forest preserve) ever again (always the fear monger, that one is). Judging by how busy the trail was yesterday with bikers, walkers, and joggers, I’m going to venture to say the trail itself isn’t that unsafe.

I digress. My body has really accustomed itself to the treadmill and now I’m fighting to break the habit by introducing more challenging landscapes. To my delight, I handled it with the gracefulness of a gazelle (not really, but bear with me). I was able to crank out over 3 miles and it felt great. I felt like I was running on a cloud. This was my first time running outside that I didn’t feel like a giant failure. I vowed to repeat this today. That didn’t happen for two reasons (or three, depending on how you look at it):

1: I went for a walk during my lunch break and the flats I was wearing totally deceived me and cut up my heels very painfully, making it difficult to walk in shoes

2: it started to rain during my commute home, even though weather.com CLEARLY stated that there was only a 10% chance of showers, and…

3(ish): after the first drop of rain, I gave myself the permission to skip my run even though I knew the rain would pass.I do this a lot…grant myself permission I don’t deserve. And then that is usually followed by eating more than I know I should because I get into this mindset that it doesn’t matter anyway (which is a bad mindset to have).

I guess the only point I have to convey today is that I’m still here and I’m still struggling, but I’m owning up to my failures and keeping on track the best I can. I’ve been so sleepy and lethargic lately–moreso than usual–so it’s been incredibly easy to cut myself slack even when I know I don’t deserve it. I’m trying to find a motivating factor that I can use as a weapon against myself when sitting on the couch and eating cookies sounds better than putting forth effort to be a better and brighter me. I haven’t really found it yet, but I’m searching.

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cooking is fun! and other declarations I never thought I’d make

Do you ever feel like cooking is a lot of effort for very little reward?

You know as well as I do that cooking does offer rewards–ie, healthiness, thriftiness, it’s a great (and cheap!) therapy–but some days, it’s a hassle. You don’t have all the ingredients you need so you have to stop at the store for the umpteenth time that week. Something burns, or you time it all wrong and certain things are done cooking while others aren’t. Sometimes, new recipes just suck and you’re left with 5 servings of disgusting food and you have to come to terms with a) throwing it all away (precious food!) and b) your still-hungry belly.

And don’t even get me started on dishes. I live in a small apartment with a tiny kitchen and no dishwasher. I am WELL aware of the absolute pain in the ass dishes are. Especially when you’re lazy and you left that pot coated with remnants of that steel-cut oatmeal you made last night in the kitchen sink and didn’t even bother to soak it overnight…dried oatmeal is a bitch to scrape!

Cooking the right way (ie, fresh produce, everything from scratch), while can be fantastic and fun and tasty, is generally viewed as a pain. That’s why so much of this country stops at drive-thrus on the way home or heats up TV dinners. We’re busy! We work long hours in this country. We commute long hours to our jobs just to make ends meet. Many of us have busy schedules with children or volunteer work or second jobs or what-have-you. We’re always pressed for time in America. Even when we do have time, we want to spend it doing something other than hunched over a pot for 1 hour in a hotter-than-hell kitchen–like totally zombied-out on the couch watching reality TV so we feel better about our sucky lives. These are the reasons why I used to never cook. Convenience foods were easier. I love healthy food and always have (broccoli? yes please!) but the convenience of veggie burgers/fries/etc. outweighed any desire I had to eat whole foods. Total junkfood vegetarian. I was one of the worst of ’em!

I realized at the time that my eating habits were not sustainable for me. I was gaining weight rapidly in college. I was miserable. But I always told myself that I wasn’t a good cook, so why try? I was self-concious when I did attempt to cook as my boyfriend often eats with me and if he didn’t like it, I thought I was a big giant failure. I grew up eating delicious buttery fatty meaty meals that my mom made and I decided I would never be able to replicate the tastiness of that food. I obviously didn’t want to replicate the content of that food, but I wanted what I cooked to taste as good as what I ordered at restaurants or as good as what I remembered my mom’s home cooking to be. But I was clueless in the kitchen! So I just never tried. That’s a big character flaw of mine: if I perceive something as challenging and I decide it’s something I’ll suck at, I don’t try. I like challenges, don’t get me wrong, but only challenges that seem attainable to me. Running a marathon doesn’t seem attainable to me so I don’t run, ever. Is that smart? No. I could aim for something lower like a 5k but I’ve decided that since I don’t like to run and it’s something I’m bad at, I just shouldn’t try. This is bad! But it’s the way my mind works and I have a hunch that many people have that same mindset. So, the fast food game turns into a cycle and we’re eating processed garbage and wondering why obesity is an epidemic…something’s not right here.

Ever since moving out of my parents’, eating out has become a thing of the past. I can’t afford to pick up dinner every night. I have to be thrifty with my weekly budget and the only way to still eat is to cook. When I decided over a month ago to adopt a new veganish diet, that reality hit even harder: it’s hard to eat out as a vegan. So almost 100% of what I eat now, I cook myself. I never thought I’d ever cook as much as I have been lately. And I’m finding something quite strange–it’s something I’m good at! I mean, maybe restaurant critics wouldn’t agree, but I’m getting much better at chopping vegetables and timing all the burners in the kitchen so everything is done simultaneously. This is a skill that takes practice. You don’t just come out of the womb this way. But the best part of it is that it is fun. I enjoy trolling the interwebz for new recipes and picking all the ingredients up. I’m looking at grocery stores with an entirely new set of eyes. Do you know how much is out there that you’re probably not even seeing? If you’re pressed for time and you’ve made a list, what do you have vested in strolling down the organic aisle? But if you have some time and it’s a relatively slow grocery day (Wednesdays are great!), it’s amazing the treasures you’ll find. Even at non-health food stores, you come across lots of gems!

Today was one of those days where I wanted to come home and pop a vegan convenience food in the microwave and call it a day. But last night I watched Forks Over Knives and decided there was no chance in hell I was going to already succumb to the processed-foods game while that documentary’s knowledge is still fresh in my brain. So I came home and made a delicious bowl of basmati cilantro-lime rice, black beans, and homemade salsa. I sat at my dining room table alone, with no distractions, and ate mindfully. I did not overeat because I wasn’t vegging out in front of the TV. I ate a balanced, delicious, and rightly-proportioned meal. I’m now content and have two leftover servings to feed me for the remainder of the week’s work lunches. Eating healthy is rewarding! And easy! And if you haven’t watched Forks Over Knives, you need to. It’s not about the vegan crusade and there are no graphic slaughterhouse scenes: it’s a completely different perspective on why eating plant-based is good for the body and soul. It’s a must-watch for vegans and omnivores alike.

What prompted you to change the way you see, eat, or prepare food? Did you have to train yourself to love cooking?

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“going vegan”

When I set my mind to something, I set my mind to it–period. Most of my important decisions thus far in my life, I’ve made completely on a whim. This is not to say that I’m impulsive, because I certainly find my life lacking in the spontaneity department. But, this doesn’t change the fact that I’ve made some pretty hefty decisions in .0000008 of a second.

College: I almost didn’t go at all. I was dating someone at the time who was older and not enrolled in school, and for some stupid reason I thought I could get by without a higher education. While I may have been able to get by, and this is in no way a monologue on the American education system being not-fucked up, the point is: I am where I am because I went to school. Many kids I went to high school with researched potential colleges, visited the campuses with their parents, and made firm, and difficult, decisions. Not I. I decided one day, hey, maybe I should go to college, applied to two schools–one in my price range and one way out of it–and settled for the state school. Done and done.

And now for a relevant example: vegetarianism. As a high school freshman, while on a roadtrip-style vacation to Florida with my parents, we stopped at a Waffle House or some similarly awful all-night breakfast chain to eat pancakes at 11:00 pm and I sat down at the table and said, hey guys, eggs are kind of gross, right? As they were all eating eggs, they naturally shushed me. Upon arriving home from our vacation, I decided to cut out all meats and (most) eggs. It wasn’t until I was in college that I caved and started eating eggs again. Of course, I still ate eggs when they were baked into something (if a tree falls in the woods…that tree doesn’t have eggs mixed into the batter, right?) but by and large, eggs were something that disgusted me. As did milk. It’s just cheese that I couldn’t give up, so veganism wasn’t something I could wrap my adolescent head around. I was already doing vegetarianism wrong as it was. My immune system was shit and I was never eating nutrient-rich foods.

Fast forward a bit and I made a series of bad life choices and also started eating meat again in college. I hated myself for it. My senior year, I was sitting at Chipotle with my boyfriend with a vegetarian burrito bowl in front of me and I said, hey James, I think I’m going to give up meat again. And I did.

Now I have this new world of veganism staring into my soul. A few days ago I decided to challenge myself and go a day without eating any animal products at all. I succeeded and it felt great. Someone once told me that, by nature, we all grow a little bit more dairy-intolerant as we age–but possibly not to the point where we’d really notice that it’s the dairy that makes us feel sluggish. A vegan coworker told me that if I tried to not eat any dairy for a few days, I’d really notice a difference. Weirdly, I did–but that could just be because I wanted to. The seed was already planted in my brain after all.

The issue I’m having with this is the fear of failure. I hate to fail. Just like I hate when I order food at a restaurant and can taste that there is chickenstock in the rice–it makes me feel like a bad vegetarian, so imagine if I couldn’t live up to my vegan potential. Everywhere you turn, there are vegan police. There are police of just about anything, not just veganism, but the point is–can I live with myself if I let myself down and everybody knows it? I’ve known several vegans who slip into dairy binges and feel awful about themselves, but I wonder if they feel worse because of what they ate, or worse because everyone they tell has something to hold over their heads?

I suppose the point of all of this is that nobody should be afraid to try something new because of failure or rejection. I shouldn’t fear “failing” at veganism. But it’s the thought of “failing” that keeps me from commiting to this and most everything else I have a hard time committing to. This is a flaw in my personality, most certainly, but part of my 2012 is to try to overcome my own high expectations and live fearlessly.

I don’t think I’m going to be labeling myself “vegan” any time soon, but I think this is a theme I’m going to keep coming back to. I want to make better, healthier choices for myself. I need to stop talking and start doing.

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