what if you already knew?

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Earlier this week, my friend Jill Krause wrote a blog post about her decision that she didn’t want any more children, coupled with the realization that she could focus on her health purely for her her body’s sake. "Pretty soon I’m gonna be not-pregnant for the longest I’ve been not-pregnant in 12 years," she said. "But I had an idea the other day that I think I love and can stick with. What if I spent 40 weeks growing and investing in me, in this body and mind? What can I give birth to after 9 months of intentional time and investment in self care?"

I love this commitment — and honestly, it felt really familiar. Because I made the same commitment to myself at the beginning of this year.

When Marcus’ family was with us for the Christmas holidays, I pulled my sister-in-law aside. “How do you think your brother looks?” I asked. She smiled kindly. “Tired,” she said gently. “You both do. It’s been a difficult year.” And she was right — I could look at a photo of myself pre-Hurricane Harvey and another post-Harvey, and I can tell when they were taken, even without any context. So I decided that I was going to to focus completely on self-care, to see if I could reverse the stress caused by the Hurricane and rebuilding after the disaster.

It all sounds good — but how, exactly was I going to go about doing this?

Well, I decided that I was going to tackle this 100% intuition-based. I had become completely disenchanted with the idea of diets (you want to see my eyes roll back in my head, simply say the words “keto” or “paleo” to me). While I’ve been an avid gym-goer in the past, the thought of going to the gym started to sound like a chore — working out has never been anything that I’ve been particularly interested in. I was tired of reading articles about things that were “good for me,” and despise anything that advises what I should do/how I should eat/what I should wear/how I should look after the age of 40/45/50. I decided that I’ve been on this planet long enough that I actually know what’s good for me.

And so that’s what I’ve been doing: I’ve been experimenting with foods and movement and rest and self-care, and taking a moment to think about how each thing I try makes me feel. And if I feel good, then I keep doing it. If I don’t feel good, I stop. Because what I’ve been doing is deeply personal, I won’t tell you everything I’ve been doing; however, I’ll share the following:

  1. I’ve been drinking a lot more water. I’ve always been really bad about staying hydrated, and I’ve made a point of really counting the number of glasses of water I drink per day, making sure that I get a minimum of the recommended 8 8-oz glasses per day.

  2. I play. This is what I do instead of working out, because again, “working out” feels like a chore. So instead, I’ve been making sure that I play at least 4 days a week. I won’t give you details, because again, I don’t want to influence you, or suggest how you should “play,” but suffice it to say this: I’ve been doing things that I used to love to do as a young girl. (Here’s a hint about one of the things I’ve been doing.)

  3. I sleep. I’m getting between 6 and 8 hours of sleep every night, without compromise.

It’s been 5 months, and I feel great. And while I don’t know that other people can see any difference in me, I feel like I can.

January 2, 2019 (my “before” picture).

January 2, 2019 (my “before” picture).

June 5, 2019, five months in.

June 5, 2019, five months in.

All of this is well and good, but one of the things that I’ve found is a side effect of being mindful about how I take care of myself is that I’m even more suspicious of the wellness industry. Ten years ago, because of my photography practice, I became suspicious of beauty industry, since every face I photographed I found to be uncommonly beautiful — was it possible, I thought, that all of these beauty businesses make us feel bad about ourselves so that they can sell more product?

I’ve come to believe that not only is it possible, it is, in fact, reality. And now I think the same thing about the wellness industry:* that for the most part, what we’re told about how to take care of ourselves is generally purely to sell product, and really has very little to do with wellness at all. I think we each actually already know what makes us feel good, if only we take the moment to tune into our bodies.

Anyway. I plan on keeping up my little experiment for the rest of the year — again, not with any end goal of getting to a certain weight or size, but simply to see what happens when I listen to my body and am mindful of taking care of it.

More at the end of the year.

* To be clear, I’m not talking about your personal physician’s advice — a huge caveat for actual medical science, here, which I exclude from the cultural “wellness” industry. And for the record, I’m a big fan of regular doctor’s visits.

Soundtrack: Feelin’ good (Joe Claussell Remix)