Embracing your human-being-ness

  • By admin
  • 4 August, 2016
  • Comments Off on Embracing your human-being-ness

(Originally published in the Bonner County Daily Bee.)

 

Sometimes, I forget that I am a human being.  As the term would suggest, I should be good at being human, or at least know what the heck that means. As most scientific research would indicate, there’s more to it than possessing the figure of a homo sapiens.

In exploring my humanness, I experiment with various aspects of that, though in recent years the trend has been a focus on deprivation. My ability to deny myself things (fun, alcohol, caffeine, sleep, cake, reckless abandon) is almost machine in nature.

The intention is good. I believe all of us operate with good intentions. “I will not over-indulge;” however, becomes “I will deny myself.”  There is a gray area there in the middle in which we ought to operate more comfortably.

So while in Tahoe a few weeks ago, celebrating my brother’s 40th birthday, the expectation of his first kiddo, and miles of epic riding, I stood around the table of libations and celebrations and denied myself.

“I don’t drink.”

“I don’t eat cake.”

The thing is, I was miserable about both of those things. The cake, which I had actually baked, was gluten-free, made with raw coconut sugar, and looked amazing. The champagne was cold and the bubbles rose like little precursors to giggles.

Once upon a time, I had someone tell me that my self-denial was inhuman and merely a ploy to elevate myself to a level in which I could judge everyone else’s fallibility.

In the case of my vegan years, this might have been true. To shield oneself in righteous infallibility is a rather effective (albeit inauthentic) way to intimidate those around us into not questioning the possibility of our faults.

I see it every day – how we cling to one aspect of our lives with 100% control and display it as a representation of our whole selves. Heaven forbid the imperfections behind the shield be observed.

So I drank a glass of champagne and I ate a piece of cake. With extra frosting.

The emotional fallout was so drastic that it’s taken me weeks to process. Did I fail? Was it worth it? Am I less of a person by choosing to shelf my commitment? What would people think of this display of imperfection?

I have come to some conclusions about myself and others, the main one being that we lack self-compassion. It’s a pandemic in our emotional health. Our expectations of ourselves are often far more harsh than those others place on us, our judgements much more cruel.

By not drinking, by not eating meat, by not skipping a workout, by not forgetting to write thank you cards, by denying ourselves pleasure, respite, enjoyment are we sending a message that suggests those who allow such things are wrong? Lesser? Weaker?

I would argue no. They are better at being humans. Because part of being human is relishing in the full spectrum of emotion and sensation and experience it offers. Yes, this is sometimes deprivation, sometimes immediate gratification, but the sweet spot is in the middle.

I decided that I had achieved my goal and the purpose of not drinking alcohol, caffeine, or eating sugar. It was to observe my energy, perform well in a race, and experience the impact it had on my health. But the benefits were all now being outweighed by the obsession of my righteous dogma, by being the single person to always deny the pleasures at the table. You hedonistic cake eaters, you.

So I have enjoyed a glass of wine again. I ate a pastry at Winter Ridge and did not read the ingredients. And coffee, glorious coffee, has appeared here and there with a level of gratitude that is worthy of the greatest love poets.

I’ve embraced being human all over again. From the reality that I am and will be imperfect, to the knowledge that suffering and denial are best left to Buddhist monks who succeed in un-attachment.

If you are not a Buddhist monk, then take a moment to celebrate your humanity as well. Catch yourself in moments of lacking compassion. Allow self-nurturing and kindness. And find that sweet spot of joy in the middle. It might just be found in an occasional cookie, sleeping in, or a lazy cup of coffee.

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