By Babette Dunkelgrün, Yoga for Eating Disorders Writer
In recent months, I had the privilege of proofreading Jennifer’s manuscript for her upcoming book, The Courageous Path to Healing, which details her own eating disorder recovery journey and what she learned along the way. One chapter that stands out for me focuses on what she calls an “imaginary clock” that, like a ticking time bomb, keeps her life “in check.”
Jennifer writes, “I had a clock in my mind that counted down how long until I would be thin, perfect, smart, pretty, accomplished, fit, prompt, tough, sexy, loving, happy, and maternal enough.”
As a virgo, I relate to the quest for something tangible with which to measure and validate my worth in this messy world. It can sound like a stopwatch, feel like leafing through pages of a calendar, or look like numbers on a scale. The list goes on.
Since reading this chapter, I find myself admitting how this “measuring up” is more constant than I realized. When pandemic restrictions eased, I found myself back on the mat at my local yoga studio, breathing steadily through my mask. How I’d missed moving alongside other bodies! And yet, regardless of my year-long anticipation, I caught myself looking at the clock several times. It’s not that I wanted the experience to be over, so why did I keep myself in distraction mode?
The same thing happens now, when I venture out on a spring hike or swim outdoors again. How many steps did I take? What was the elevation? What’s the ratio between minutes and laps?
Jennifer’s message, I think, was not that I’m doing my life wrong. In fact, the athletic part of me revels in enumerating every breath, stride, and stroke. The mindful part enjoys it, too. The task, then, as Jennifer shares, is to notice when all this counting stops feeling helpful and starts feeling like a race against myself.
If tracking numbers on a clock interrupts the feeling of water on my skin or the awareness of pavement under my feet, I know I’m in trouble. I’ve become too focused on external validators and need to shift back to a more mindful, present experience of myself in whatever activity I am doing.
My work in recovery (and life) is to grow more conscious, and I’m no longer willing to let anything get in the way of that. I’m committed to keep learning how to remain self-aware, whether the clock is ticking or not.
How do you relate?