So I’m doing this online workshop right now, and I haven’t really told anyone about it because it’s kind of embarrassing to me for some reason. It’s an “Oprah Lifeclass” hosted by Brene Brown, based on her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I signed up for the course because it had a heavy emphasis on creative journaling, which I thought would be a nice, low-pressure way for me to get back into a regular art practice after years of relative dormancy. And it has been great for that – really awesome! But it’s turned out to be so much more than just a way to dust off the creative cobwebs, and I realize now that it was exactly what I needed in order to get acquainted with where I am right now in my life.
Last week’s lesson: “Cultivating Play and Rest” was about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol, learning to identify how we play, and pinpointing what brings joy and meaning to our lives. What really hit me as I worked in my journal was twofold:
- I’ve definitely used exhaustion as a status symbol, countless times. And when I think about it, I know a lot of other people who do it as well. It’s commonplace among my friend group, which is comprised of people getting advanced degrees, running their own businesses, performing at a high level of skill and talent, and working in social services. A lot of the time it seems to be the unspoken judgement that if you’re not running yourself ragged, double or triple booked for events, and getting 6 hours of sleep or less a night, your value is somehow less.
- It’s very easy to pinpoint when I am exhausted and burned out by the absence of play in my life. Furthermore, there are certain cues that I can now identify that point towards the start of a downhill spiral. One of those cues is when I stop cooking creatively and posting to this blog.
When I am working too much, or feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities, kitchen time is one of the first things to go. Fresh produce goes bad in the fridge, and I start buying canned soups and vegan baked goods. During the good times there is not much in our kitchen that is ready-to-eat; instead, there are tons of fresh veggies, beans and grains, spices and such that are waiting to be pulled together into something delicious. But then I find myself standing guiltily at the fridge with the door open, pulling out all sorts of gunky veggies that have gone way past their prime. Before this Brene Brown course I’d never really thought about that as a clue that signified that I needed to get myself back into a better frame of mind, I just thought of it as me having a busy life (and wasn’t it better to be busy, even at the expense of having the time to do the things I love?), and chastised myself for being wasteful. It was a real eye-opener for me when I realized the significance of those rotting vegetables!
This is all coming out on my food blog rather than my personal blog because I’ve started cooking again. Just a little, and not really experimentally, but at least I’m cooking with my own recipes. Last night we had some friends over for dinner and as I was flipping through my recipes, I realized that I can look back through Cooking with Calliope Kittenpants and see clear evidence of large swaths of time when I was burned out, exhausted, or overwhelmed. There are big gaps between postings. Wow, who knew that I would not only be sharing recipes, but also charting my depression and anxiety with this blog? And as fascinating as that is, you know what? That really sucks.
I’m not coming down on myself about this, but I am saddened to think of what a poor job I was doing of caring for myself and the Mr. during those times. Because honestly, cooking is one of my greatest loves, and it uplifts me when I have the time and energy to experiment in the kitchen and cook something delicious that nourishes my little family. And, paradoxically, when I stop nourishing myself is when I need it most! Now I know that when I feel too busy or overloaded to access that part of myself and use that joyful outlet – when I find myself tossing out piles of slimy cucumbers and moldy lemons – it’s time to rearrange things and make myself the top priority again.
I’m making some big changes right now, creating space so I can play and bring joy and meaning back into my life. These are changes that have been a long time in coming, and because things were so dark for so long, I’m giving myself time to remember how I can be when every day is not a struggle. As I come back to myself, I think that these changes will bode well for Cooking with Calliope Kittenpants. I miss it. It’s time to nourish myself again.