Balancing Act

I love movies. I love watching movies over and over and over again. No matter how many times I’ve seen a particular movie, I can almost always pick up on something new every time (I’m also the nerd who watches all the bonus features, audio commentaries, and any “Behind the Scenes” footage I can get my hands on). Sometimes I’ll notice an action in the background that I never noticed before that adds to the depth of the scene. Sometimes I’ll talk right along with the movie because I know it so well, and I’ll amuse myself while I jump back and forth from character to character. Sometimes if I have a lot of pent up emotion, I’ll purposely watch a movie that I know will make me cry in order to get it out of my system (Steel Magnolias, I’m looking at you). Sometimes a particular line or performance will affect me differently than it previously did because of where I currently am in my life and my own experiences. Such was my experience as I watched Black Swan again last night.

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Black Swan, but I’ve experienced so many different things while watching Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) prepare for her performance as the Swan Queen. I’ve appreciated the beauty and pain that comes with being a ballet dancer, and I’ve identified with the stresses of being a performer preparing for a show. I’ve watched closely to determine which shots are actually Natalie Portman dancing and which shots are her double (with some help from the special features). I discussed how “hot” Natalie Portman’s sex scenes were after seeing the movie in theaters with my friends (This was 2010 and pre-coming out… but regardless of that, these scenes are still pretty, for lack of a better word, “hot”). I’ve noticed the muscles and the bodies of the male ballet dancers, both pre- and post-coming out.

This time around, something else landed in a different way than it ever had before: Nina’s obsession with being perfect. She is completely focused on getting every dance move and every ballet pose exactly right. She is so consumed by the role that she ultimately drives herself insane and experiences hallucinations and visions of another girl trying to replace her. While I’m not quite to that point yet, I recognized her obsessive tendencies and lack of balance in myself… something that has been really bothering me for the last few of years.

Like Nina, I have a tendency to get obsessed with whatever is currently going in my life. I get so consumed with this one activity that I don’t direct any attention to anything else that also deserves my attention. Sometimes I watch movies over and over again. If I’m dieting, I’m constantly focused on what I’m eating and if it’s healthy or not (I really struggle with letting myself “cheat”). If I’ve already lost control of my diet, I’ll binge and eat as much junk as I can until I’m so full and bloated I can hardly move. If I start reading a book or I get into a good rhythm of writing a play or something, I’ll only read or write until I’m finished. If I’m working on a jigsaw puzzle (yes, I’m a puzzle nerd too), I’ll work constantly until I’ve put the last piece in its spot. If I’m directing a show for my community theater, I’ll dedicate every moment I can to working on some aspect of the production, especially during show week. If I can find a way to put all of my effort into something, it usually happens. Sometimes it can be a good thing. Other times, not so much.

Sometimes this lack of balance takes the shape of me doing nothing. I get so overwhelmed by everything I want to do that I just sit on my bed and think about it all instead of actually getting any of it done. I have so many new, un-read books on my bookshelf, so many new movies and television shows that I want to watch, so much school work and grading that needs to get done, so many new jigsaw puzzles piled up, so much planning and paperwork that needs to happen for my community theater, so much exercise and running and healthy eating to do… I constantly switch back and forth, trying to decide on which activity I should do. I often spend so much time debating with myself that when I finally decide, I don’t have enough time to carry any of it out. I often feel guilty once I make my decision because by focusing my attention on this one thing, I feel I’m neglecting the other things I want and have to do.

The most apparent struggle I’ve had recently is maintaining a balance between exercising, eating healthy, and school work. Ever since I started student teaching, I’ve turned to the stress-eater part of my brain for relief, and the result is pretty telling. Here is a picture when I started student teaching in September 2014 and a picture of me today (about 3 years and 2 months later), wearing, or attempting to wear, the same shirt. No matter how many times I tell myself “I really haven’t gained that much weight” or “I don’t look like I weigh that much”… pictures and old clothes don’t lie.

I do enjoy running and it’s been a way I’ve been able to relieve stress in the past. Like my first post here where I questioned whether or not I can call myself a writer, I sometimes question whether or not I can call myself a runner. I’ve been a dedicated runner in the past, but I’ve done it so infrequently lately, I feel a little hypocritical when I give myself that title. I like being able zone out and lose myself in my music, and I love the “high” I get after a really good run. But finding the time to run has unfortunately been moved farther down on my list of priorities due to my workload and my lack of balance. That, coupled with my love of food, has not been a good combination.

For the past three years, I’ve participated in the C2C Run, a relay race from Columbus to Cincinnati. The entire race consists of 24 legs and 131 miles. By the end of the race, each runner runs three legs and somewhere in the range of 14-17 miles. Each summer, I prepare for this race and this past summer in particular, I probably trained my hardest. It’s probably been the hardest summer so far because I’ve let myself get so far out of shape compared to where I used to be.

But regardless of how difficult this summer was, it was also very enjoyable. I got back to a point in my fitness level that I could run without feeling tired and without feeling like I needed to slow down. Without the added stress of schoolwork, I really focused on eating healthy and I lost about 20-25 pounds over the summer. I always have plans to continue running after the C2C and to continue to lose weight. Knowing how much I’ve struggled with it in the past, I was really determined to keep going this time around. But my “break” from running to recover from the C2C never ended.

Once I got back into the swing of the school year and my work load, I pushed running and eating healthy back down again and I’ve undone all the success I had over the summer. Now that we’re on Thanksgiving break, I’m about to participate in an annual 5K race that I do every year. When asked if I’m going to run it, I’ve said “Yes.” More than likely, I’ll be jogging and I’ll have to stop and walk up the hills. When my fellow running friends and I hear other runners complain about hills, we often joke and say something to the effect of “You want hills? Come do the Keep your Fork Race.” Since this course is a pretty difficult course compared to others, I’m not embarrassed to have to slow down a little bit. What I am embarrassed of is having to order an extra-large shirt for the race because most of my large shirts are getting too tight.

Now that I’m on the edge of turning 30, I’ve thought long and hard about this struggle of eating healthy and exercising, as well as my struggle to balance everything else in my life (as much as I could blame my weight gain on getting older and my metabolism slowing down, I know that’s not the main problem). Without sounding too cliché and cheesy, I’m really settling into myself and I’m getting much more comfortable with who I am and how I think and feel. I may have been able to survive by obsessing over one thing at a time in the past, but I can’t do that now. I need to have a balance of things in my life, and I don’t have to do everything. I don’t have to, nor can I, do everything.

Like my last post on teaching and schoolwork, I’ve recently been taking more time to focus on myself. I’ve started to balance my schoolwork and my interests outside of school, such as taking the time to mentally relax after a long school day, and making the time to write things like this blog post. It’s time that I incorporate other things into that balance and fully embrace that it’s actually going to take a little bit of work and effort (that’s another realization that’s coming with turning 30… I’m over the delusion that most people have in their mid-20s that everything is just going to fall into place after college… at least I had that delusion. I don’t know how many other people did). I’ve often thought since I lost a lot of weight after high school, and it seemed pretty easy at the time, that I can do it again and it will be a piece of cake. If I learned anything over the summer and the past couple of months, I’ve learned that I’m not that same person as I was 11 years ago when I graduated and it’s not going to be the same simple journey.

I know the struggles of getting back into running: it really sucks at first, but once it becomes a habit, it’s not as difficult. If I make it a habit to maintain a balance, it won’t be as difficult. If I maintain a balance, then I will be able to get back to enjoying cooking healthy meals for myself (because I really do like to cook), and I won’t feel like a total slob after every meal. If I maintain a balance, I can relax and read a book without feeling guilty that I’m ignoring my writing. If I maintain a balance, I can still have days every once in a while where I drink nothing but Mountain Dew and eat a bunch of breadsticks and Rainbow Twizzlers… as long as I pick myself back up and I don’t continue to lose myself in the downward spiral like Nina in Black Swan.

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