I had all kinds of funny little stories to share with y’all about my second day, but then I scratched them literally minutes ago. I had just gotten back from class, and was in the shower, when I realized I finally had an answer to the question: Why do you do this to yourself?
I get ask the question in some form of another on a regular enough basis. It can be about anything including:
– becoming a vegetarian
– doing 30 days as a vegan
– going to Bikram yoga for 66 days straight or even at all
– giving up soda (almost there!)
– this juice feast
The things on this list all spin off of my practice in some regard. My standard answer is, “I like to challenge myself” (true) and “I’m interested in seeing how it changes my practice” (also true). But while these answers are accurate, they are not the answer that lies at the core. I kinda knew I wasn’t hitting the root, but I didn’t know what the root answer was. Now I know. Now I know why I do these things.
Before I can tell you the root answer, I first have to tell you that I am currently very angry at my father. My father has been telling me – for literally years – about how healthy he is. He tells me about how he exercises and what he eats. He also makes a point of telling me how much healthier he is than all his buddies his age (70ish). All his buddies are on multiple kinds of medication. He’s not on any. That’s his lecture, and I want to stress that it is one he voluntarily gives many times each year. I do not butt in and ask him questions about his health.
Well, last Saturday I was talking to my mom. Dad turns 70 this Friday, and I asked her is he was handling it ok. She thought he was. I said it seemed he wasn’t worried given that he’s not on any meds and his friends are on so many. My mom informed me that wasn’t true at all. That hadn’t been true for two to three years. My dad, she explained, has been taking medication for high blood pressure for years.
So yes, I am mad that he lied to me. I am mad that he didn’t tell me he had been diagnosed with high blood pressure. I feel like I might have a right to know that in the chance that it’s genetic. I’m not really worried though. I am pretty sure he’s done it to himself given what he eats, the amount of alcohol he drinks, and his lack of exercise.
But the answer to the question, Why do I do these things to myself, is not grounded in the anger I am having to deal with about my father lying and withholding information from me. It’s grounded in something else.
I reside in a family that, by and large, has a long history of self destructive habits. As a result, I have gotten to sit on the sidelines and watch people harm themselves ever since I was a little girl. I’ve gotten to hear stories about how the people who came before me also engaged in self destructive behaviors. Of course not everyone is like this, but it is very common. I have watched my mother destroy herself with food and lack of exercise. And while I knew my father had some habits that were not great, I am now forced to really look those habits in the eye and it feels like yet another family member is self-destructing even if it is at a slow pace. This might seem like I’m overreacting. I can understand that. I’m not giving you all the details. That would require me to write a book. You get the cliff notes. 🙂
My whole life, I realized, has been about not self destructing. When I was a teenager I was the last person my parents had to worry about in terms of drinking and doing drugs. I’d already seen the consequences or had heard about them. I’d already known family members who had those issues. I wanted no part of it. Not even a taste. I was not going down that path. I wasn’t even putting my foot on it.
So that’s the answer. I do these things to benefit my health and my practice, yes, for sure. But at the core I do them because there is this determination in me to not self destruct and to not engage in the types of behaviors that put people over the edge and down into a spiral. There is a determination in me to be good to myself and to nuture myself even if doing so is hard and deemed “crazy” or “weird” by some people. I remember very clearly being a little girl (about 8 or 9) and vowing to myself that I would take care of myself and not follow the path that had been well trodden by so many people before me. I’m keeping my vow. What it looks like in practice evolves as I do.