Being And Becoming

A belated, but not forgotten, New Years reflection post. This year, I remind myself to not only strive for a better future self, but exist fully in the moment, now.

Being –  presence; existence; the nature or essence of a person
Becoming –  the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state; grow to be; turn into.

So begins the annual ritual of reflecting on the past year (and all of the years before that) and seeing whether I measured up to the goals I set for myself, and how I compare to the person I expected myself to be when I last sat here in the same state. 

As with previous years, I’m continuing with the Three Word Mantra to guide me through the rest of 2019. And just like before, I’d like it to build upon what I learned in the last round. Every year I feel like I’m approaching this exercise as an entirely different person, and every year I struggle to figure out what’s next. But as I reflect on where I’ve been and where I might be going, this year it feels a bit different.

I didn’t meet all of the daily, weekly, and monthly goals I set for myself this year, and it’s easy to want to berate myself for that, or feel like I’ve somehow failed. But I’m not actually blind to the progress I’ve made, so I do have to acknowledge my accomplishments in 2018:

  • Exercising for at least an hour a day, nearly every day this year (except for when I was actively sick). Many of these days were an hour of intense movement (weights, kickboxing, endurance, intervals, cycling), in addition to low-level movement like walking. This has completely transformed my daily mindset, for better or worse. At this point I’ve made some incredible gains in my strength and cardiovascular endurance, but I’ve also managed to strain pretty much all of my major joints, and lost a ton of sleep in the process due to adopting early workout hours, which has been completely awful for my mental health. This level of activity is a lot more “fitness as an athlete” than “fitness for long-term health,” and I will need to decide what my true motivations are in order to continue any of this sustainably.
  • 290 days in a row of logging all food, drink, snack, and activity into MyFitnessPal in an attempt to test whether “calorie and macro math” actually worked (short answer: yes, technically). Having reduced my life to a series of numbers for more than 2/3 of the year has had some interesting mental effects on me, for good and bad. On the “good” side, in addition to some shallow/aesthetic goals I had for my appearance, I have a much more honest understanding of exactly what I’m putting into my body, and more excuses to get clever with cooking new ingredients and spices. On the “bad” side, a more neurotic relationship with food, many hours spent hungry/miserable trying to wait for a proper time to have a meal so as not to “waste” calorie consumption, and many hours spent struggling with eating “to fit my numbers” while everyone around me enjoys themselves. 
  • Moving into a new, larger apartment with Matthew, which gives us the space to live, work, and host friends/family. And living together will push our relationship to grow even more, in both joyful and painful ways. It has also put into sharp focus my prior lack of balance in trying to simultaneously run a household, serve as the primary income, contribute to a community, volunteer, speak, teach, travel, cook, exercise… the list goes on.
  • Prioritizing “Togetherness” in 2018 has led to the creation of Monthly Game Night, where friends from all backgrounds get together to eat home-cooked food, meet new people, reunite with old friends, and play games (serious and non-serious included). I’m very proud that this event is gaining traction, and thrilled to host in the new, larger space. I love to host events, and being able to facilitate people’s enjoyment is a favorite activity of mine, but the late nights, excess consumption, and extra hours doing party planning have eaten up even more of the little sleep I’ve been getting.
  • Taking on a contract UX Lead job with Target, which puts me onsite in a corporate environment for the first time in my life. I’m doing really interesting work on a major internal data processing app, the regular income is nice, and I’m so grateful for this random opportunity that I was never expecting to take… but it’s completely at odds with the independent life I’ve been attempting to build for the last decade, which kind of feels like it’s been left in disarray.
  • Hitting A-List on Southwest, apparently. That’s 25 flights in 365 days. Which means I’ve been able to travel to several interesting destinations this year – family events, conferences, vacations, speaking engagements, seeing friends. Some of it was rewarding, and some exhausting, and all of it was a constant battle between wanderlust and homesickness.

Despite being able to list all of these accomplishments, and understand the amount of growth I’ve experienced to get to where I am now, there’s a nagging voice in the back of my head that says I should be doing more. It’s like I am constantly comparing myself to a future version of myself that is 20% better than where I am, no matter where that is. 

In a sense, the voice isn’t entirely wrong. The process of Becoming requires consistent, dedicated work. Change, growth, forward progress – these things don’t happen by standing still. 

But the problem is allowing myself to focus too heavily on Becoming – on the future – and not on Being, on the present, on who I am at this very moment. Pride in my accomplishments, joy in my experiences, satisfaction with my life, seem to only be permissible in passing on the road to the next achievement. Truly Being, in this very moment, is something with which I struggle.

As I look at my life, I see that I have become very skilled at optimizing my life to have the best, most productive, most attractive output. I jokingly refer to this as “Mrs. Maisel-ing” in reference to her seemingly perfect life in the very first episode of the series. It’s apparent in the desire to work hard and bring home the bacon, then fry it up (with organic brussel sprouts in a homemade garlic paprika lime sauce paired with a matching themed cocktail) and serve it to a room full of close friends in my spotless, well-decorated apartment while modeling perfect abs in a bikini as I capture a precisely filtered photo of the moment for social media. All of the Awesome Actions expected of a Practically Perfect Person. 

But under the surface of all these actions is a tumultuous and anxious place inside my head. The place that tells me I’m only enough if I continue to try to be more. Where achievements are only celebrated as part of a greater journey, and not on their own merit.

On the plus side, I’m much better at not comparing myself to the accomplishments of others. I understand that we all have struggles and we can’t compare our behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. But I still have that final hurdle to overcome: to stop comparing myself to a non-existent version of me that is exactly the same, only 20% cooler.

And that’s why, in 2019, I need to balance Becoming – the transformative, aspirational state – with Being – the mindful, present state. My Three Word Mantra is Being And Becoming, to remind me that both elements are equally important in a balanced, successful life.

Anxiety is often due to being stuck in the future, dealing with hypothetical situations and the terror of what-ifs that haven’t even manifested yet. Being is centering myself back in the moment, at what I am doing right now, and allowing myself to be at peace with experiencing that. To remember that I will constantly be a work in progress, but that I don’t have to be a finished piece to have value.

How might this manifest itself?

  • Continuing with the Three Daily Gratitudes, shared every morning to Facebook before I start my day. I’m posting them socially in order to have some accountability, and also to just share a little bit of positivity in an increasingly negative, cynical world
  • Actively practicing kindness to myself. Allowing myself to be “less than perfect” in a given moment. Remembering the Four Agreements, and that your Best is variable depending on the circumstances.
  • New Daily, Weekly, and Monthly goals, focused on health, fitness, and mental wellness.
  • Mindful activity rather than mindless activity. Finding meaningful things I can do (read, walk around, simple chores, sketching, breathing, stretching) when I’m feeling anxious, rather than getting stuck or turning to the dopamine-hit of social media as a default
  • Seeing a therapist. Going back to my chiropractor. Allowing professionals to help me work on it.

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