maya angelou has a quote to the effect that when you know better, you do better.
of course, she says this is a more lengthy, albeit it a more poetic, way. but the sentiment is the same, and it brings me comfort and allows me to cut myself some slack when i mess up. and i mess up with alarming frequency.
isn’t is sad/crazy/bizarre/counter-intuitive/mind-blowing/a host of other adjectives that one can be alive this long and still struggle to learn the same old lessons?
my youngest sister is quite quite wise, and i have tried on more than one occasion to cut and paste excerpts from her emails onto my blog so i could share her wisdom with you. i am always astounded that she can just nail exactly what i need to hear in such unique ways.
one of her recent mantras, which she was kind enough to type for me three times over so i would be sure to get it:
this is response to me whining that i am so defined by my past. that i either repeat it or react to it, but it defines me nonetheless. yet she found a way to free me from that feedback loop. beautiful, huh?
one of my children is currently struggling with a behaviour that i indulged in, but which i will not be specific about in order to respect their privacy. compared to what teenagers in the “real world” (dumb term, but it helps for clarity) are doing, this is so minor it shouldn’t even count, but it’s on my radar, so i’m discussing it. anyway, i am deliberate in the use of the verb “indulge” because that’s what most bad behaviours start as- an indulgence that we allow ourselves. a drive that we follow. we let ourselves tell that little lie or chew our cuticles or pick our noses and then after a while it is such a badly ingrained habit that it is a real challenge to become consciously aware when we do it and make ourselves choose a substitute behaviour. because it’s not enough to resolve to stop. we have to choose something to do in its place. nature abhors a vacuum and if we just resolve not to do x, then we leave a gaping hole that we will surly fall into. so our original sin becomes a full-blown behaviour issue or character trait, and that’s a real problem.
i didn’t realize the effects this particular behaviour had until i was much older and then i regretted it deeply. i told this child that, and the sad thing is that they realize that they too will one day really regret that they are doing this thing (again, something fairly innocuous let’s say something like cursing. i don’t want to cast them unfairly in a bad light at all!), but they just can’t stop themself (it’s so awkward to use “they” as a neutral singular pronoun, but what can you do- that’s privacy for ya!) . they have let themself indulge so many times that the caboose is now driving the train.
so, when you know better you do better. but i guess there is knowing, and then there is Knowing. and there is KNOWING.
i make bad choices all the time, when i officially know better. just yesterday i skipped lunch so i could eat half a bag of peanut m&m’s (only the blues, greens, and yellows). out of a true sense of guilt and shame, i won’t say here what size bag it was. but let’s say i have enough integrity to admit that it was not a single-serving size.
let’s go over what i Know:
1. if i don’t eat healthy food, i will have less chance of feeling healthy. as it is, by the afternoon of every single day i am in bed getting slammed by migraines. no joke.
2. junk food in moderation is ok. 1/2 a bag of m&m’s is too much.
3. i’m exercising and trying so hard not to gain back the weight that i lost. i tried so so hard to lose it. it’s starting to creep back and i am getting really demoralized. i really don’t want to put that weight back on. but m&m’s are not a low-calorie food.
4. it’s hard to be a good role model of restraint and self-control and all of the other things i try to model for my kids when i eat the aforementioned unspecified quantity of m&m’s. because this was not an isolated incident. (but thank you for being so ready to jump to my defense!) and i’ll skip real meals to compensate for the calories. (yikes! i know!!!)
now let’s go over how i get around knowing what i Know:
1- i’m gonna have migraines no matter what i do. no matter how hard i try to eat right, i can’t get out from under this misery, so why not at least have some happiness in a bag of m&m’s?
2- the m&m’s i ate aren’t really so junky because i got the peanut kind. so they aren’t really so bad. it’s not like i ate solid chocolate. the amount i ate looks like more than it was because of the peanuts bulking it up. and peanuts have protein. so it was really like having a peanut butter sandwich and then a few m&m’s. (yeah, i know- this even looks lame as i type it- but this is what i really think as i eat- so i’m trying to be for real…)
3- i really honestly truly believe in my heart that i’m gonna drink lots of extra water (even though i almost never really do. but i still manage to make myself believe i will this time. how powerful the mind can be to trick you into doing bad, huh???). and now that the weather is getting nicer, i will walk more. i really will. (i have done this precisely once.) but it could happen. and i so wholeheartedly believe that i will. and there is no way that i would ever ever ever walk first and have the m&m’s as a reward. you might as well just kill me now. so diet-wise, this all balances out…
4- and this is perhaps the most painful one to look at honestly, because this is the one with the most profound consequences. i tell myself that my kids will understand. they will see that i struggle. they will see that i’m not perfect, but that i try really hard. they will see that i want to be good, and i want to do the right thing. i hope that i am giving them the tools to do better than i do. this sounds suspiciously like, “do as i say, not as i do” sometimes but i hope it doesn’t. because really they do have different skills and abilities than i have. they also have different challenges. mostly what i do to deal with this is to beat myself up. i am constantly critical of myself, which not only doesn’t help me, it certainly doesn’t help them (i hope i don’t do this in front of them too much- especially my girls- i would hate for them to pick this up. girls have enough to contend with; they don’t need to learn to be self-deprecating from their own mothers!). somehow i feel like this restores cosmic balance. if i at least suffer over my failings, then i’ve done my penance- i know, very catholic, right?!?!- hahaha- i just realized how ironic it is to be writing a post about doing better once you know better, and here i am confessing to beating myself up for normal human failings when i obviously know that it doesn’t do any good at all- DUH!
so, perhaps i need to brush up on my maya angelou.
perhaps i need to get my sister to email me more often (poor her- she’s SO busy!)…
perhaps i’m gonna try again to cut and paste from her so you can all see how awesome she is and then you can all say nice things about her and i can bask in the reflected glory
aha! it worked! so, ok, i’ll leave you all with this- from my sister-it’s beautiful, and uplifting after that downer post. just what we all need for the weekend! enjoy:
being alive is a blessing and I think everyone should take advantage of enjoying everything they can about their lives, and if they aren’t enjoying things, they should whatever they can to change them. We do have control over many things, but the things that are out of our control serve even more valuable lessons….although difficult to understand or rationalize, the best person you can be comes from within and everyday should be lived to its potential- in that way you honor life fully, in all its forms. We owe it to ourselves to be happy and I’d much rather channel positivity for myself and the people I love, than be weighed down with the struggles of the unknown and uncontrollable. There are sad moments for reflection and introspect, but in owning and accepting those moments, the ego can overcome self pity, and help heal itself.