The First Imperfection is the Hardest

I’m always a sucker for the pretty sneakers. My latest set? A pastel pink pair with white soles.

At first, I selected walking routes based on the weather report. Really. For months I tiptoed around puddles and groaned when I saw some new hazard come my way.

But their demise was inevitable; I’d known this the moment I checked out at the sporting goods store. Sure enough, eventually, I came across unavoidable mud and went running on a trail that turned my soles gray.

And then, magically, it was okay. I didn’t have to tiptoe around perfection anymore because it was gone. From that moment on, walks got easier. There was an unmistakable sense of liberation…because surviving that first imperfection was the hardest.

There is also a demerit hidden in here because the “new” pair I reference in this post is actually a year old and needs to be replaced. I’ve been wearing my orthotics (gold star!) and have it on my radar to replace them soon. But then I’ll want to keep those sneakers in pristine shape and the cycle will repeat itself…


PPS. Let’s Talk About Perfection

Header photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Sometimes I Just Have to Live With the (False) Guilt

Years ago, after the birth of one of my babies, I went to see a postpartum specialist. All the emotions and exhaustion of motherhood felt manageable – until they didn’t.

I only saw this therapist a handful of times and, have to admit, we didn’t click. She was lovely, but I left each appointment feeling…about the same as when I went in. But she introduced to me a concept that I still think of regularly: The Passengers on My Bus.

Fairly quickly (within minutes of my first session) we identified the fact that Guilt is a primary emotion for me. I feel Guilt about eating the last piece of cake, Guilt over forgetting to call my sister on her birthday, Guilt over saying no when my children ask for one more snuggle, Guilt over career choices, Guilt over staying up late to finish a good book.

Guilt, Guilt, Guilt.

The therapist suggested I start visualizing my life as playing out on a public bus. (Stay with me here, it starts to make sense – I promise. I hope?).

I get to sit in the driver’s seat, map in hand. There are Detours scattered around the city but, for the most part, I get to pick the stops along the way to my destination. I set the speed and choose the route. I can even design the aesthetics of the bus. Sounds good so far, right?

But here’s the rub. I don’t get much say over who comes aboard as a passenger.

She told me to picture Guilt as another regular passenger, coming along for the ride. Guilt will come and go. So, for the most part, I have to make peace with Guilt and live with its presence.

A few weeks ago the kids were beside themselves over something I said they could or couldn’t do. (I can’t remember specifics but it likely involved treats or screens or the status of their weekend sleepover or heading out to look for a neighbourhood playmate 5 minutes before bedtime.)

I immediately felt guilt over my response even though I knew it was the right response in this situation. So I stopped and told myself: “Elisabeth, you’re just going to have to live with this guilt.

I can spend all sorts of time and mental energy trying to banish Guilt, but most of the time that approach is futile. And I don’t want to remove Guilt from my life entirely; sometimes Guilt will tell me something useful, direct me around a pothole in my blind spot.

What I really want to work on is minimizing the space I provide to False Guilt. I want to feel confident in the decisions I make; when I prioritize my own well-being over saying “yes” to someone else, I don’t have to feel Guilt. As a mother, I almost always need to put my own life jacket on first (which, in turn, usually allows me to be more present and engaged with my kids in the long run).

Hopefully, over time, Guilt will learn to take a different route through the city and avoid my bus. But I know that there will be (many) times I pull up to a bus stop and find Guilt waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. Sometimes I’ll panic. Sometimes I’ll try to wrestle Guilt off the bus. Sometimes I might temporarily give Guilt the front seat, giving it a turn at the wheel. But I’m working at saying: “Oh. Hi, Guilt. How are you today? Please find a seat at the back.

With any luck, Guilt will skulk off without much fuss and I’ll get back to driving the bus.

Thoughts? Do you struggle with feelings of guilt even when you know the guilt is misplaced? What “passengers” do you wish would stop causing a commotion on your “bus”?

Header photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Recent Demerits (and Gold Stars)

Well. That was quite a weekend. It’s Monday and I’m ready for Friday and a good long nap. More about recent events – some fun, some funny, and some frustrating – later in the week. But, today, let’s chat about demerits and gold stars.

Listeners of Gretchen Rubin + Elizabeth Craft’s podcast Happier will be familiar with their weekly segment that involves sharing demerits and gold stars.

I’ve always enjoyed this section of the program because it seems so…relatable. But one thing has consistently frustrated/puzzled me: they always apply demerits personally and award gold stars externally. This failure to acknowledge positive momentum in their own lives is something I’ve never fully understood. In addition to being motivated to tackle “demerits” by giving them a name, I tend to learn just as much from the positive reinforcement of gold stars.

This got me thinking about recent demerits/gold stars in my own life. So, without further ado…


  • Not going to the dentist. I don’t actually mind going to the dentist, but hate the bill. That alone is primarily responsible for my inertia, especially since I know most of the time there is nothing that needs to be done and a cleaning is…expensive. But it has been over a year and one of my remaining wisdom teeth has started to poke through. I need to put on my adult undies and just make an appointment. [Update: I’ve made an appointment but, whomp, whomp, couldn’t get in until June.]
  • Not snuggling with the kids for 5 minutes at night. I was on such a good roll with this habit and then…stopped. This coincided with John starting his sabbatical which meant, for the first time in years, night after night someone else was available to handle, or at least share, bedtime. But I really enjoy this special time with the kids. Want to hear one of my (ridiculous) excuses for this behaviour? I’ve been taking my watch off earlier in the evening, which means I don’t have a timer strapped to my wrist. And that 5-minute timer was a big motivator for me to carve out the space for post-bedtime snuggles (having a limit makes it feel more manageable because the kids want me to stay for approximately forever when I come to snuggle).
  • Eating too much dairy. I haven’t been eating that much dairy, but every time I succumb to a slice of cheese (I don’t even like cheese that much) or put a splash of cream in my coffee, I end up paying for it later. It seems to trigger allergy symptoms (sore/itchy throat, itchy eyes), and it’s never worth it. Sigh. Thankfully, butter doesn’t seem to have any impact, and I continue to enjoy butter on my favourite muffins daily.
  • Not drinking enough water. For YEARS I consumed huge quantities of water, but recently this has really dropped off. Some of it, I think, is the fact I’ve been trying to avoid bathroom breaks at night. I have a very large (~12oz+ of water) mug of tea early in the morning and drink several Yeti Ramblers full of water, but it’s still a lot less than I used to drink.
  • Taking so long to switch my watch band. I adore my magnetic watch band – being able to specifically dictate the fit on my wrist is wonderful. But, over time, the metal edges started to catch on my sweaters and jacket. Constantly. After living with this issue for over 6 months, I finally switched the strap (gold star?). But the left-hand cuff of my pink puffer coat will never look the same.
  • Going to bed with mascara on. I rarely do this, but then did it THREE times over the course of a week. It felt icky in the morning and it irritated my skin. I know better. Sigh.
  • Not buying new sneakers. Mine have carried me far more than the 500 recommended miles and I can tell they need to be swapped out for a new pair. But, oh, how I hate sneaker shopping. Just because I find a pair that fits in the store doesn’t mean they’ll be comfortable long-term. And there are also just too many brands and features. On a related demerit, I really should try using my orthotics again. I have a pair sitting in the closet. I never liked wearing them, but they might help relieve some of my recent discomfort. [Update: I’ve now worn my orthotics for several days; time will tell if this helps.]
  • Not getting a password manager. I really want/need to do this since I use approximately one million different sites that require unique logins (and some require regular password changes) and it’s a messy nightmare.
  • Stalled 50th-anniversary plans. My parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in August. I’ve started communications for a big photobook/memory-montage book (I put out a call for pictures/writeups from their siblings and friends), but then no one really responded and I’m, quite frankly, lacking the enthusiasm to continue (though I adore my parents and like creative projects).


  • Staying on top of clothes that need to be donated/consigned/discarded. I’ve been keeping a regular pulse on what is in everyone’s closets.
  • Photo organization. It’s not perfectly up to date, but I’ve been making an effort to categorize photos at the end of each month which expedites the photobook prep at year-end.
  • Shutting off my iPhone at night. When I catch myself falling into a scrolling pattern at night – when I can tell it won’t be productive or fun – I have been shutting down the phone completely and it still feels liberating! I’m proud of myself for sticking with this habit.
  • Cleaning up my work space at the end of the day. My office is out of the way, so leaving it cluttered and messy isn’t a big deal, but there is something so refreshing about showing up each morning to an organized space. I turn off my computer, put the pens and highlighters back into their holder, push my chair in under my desk; a minute of tidying provides a wonderfully clean slate for the next work day.
  • Using Magic Bags – a lot. I know I’ve talked about this topic more than one would think possible, but my love/gratitude for Magic Bags is unending. It is a nuisance to wait the 4 minutes and 30 seconds required to heat up my two favourite bags, so I often skipped this step until bedtime. But lately, I’ve been doing it 4-5 times a day, especially while working at my desk. One goes at my feet, another into my lap and it makes life so much more pleasant (I still use the space heater, too, but having something warm touching my body is such a help) when I’m warm.
  • Having a good attitude (90% of the time) for our Family Chopped Competition. More details on this Thursday, but over the weekend we divided into teams (John + Abby; Elisabeth + Levi) and cooked an elaborate 3-course meal for friends based on secret ingredients they selected. It’s a daunting prospect for me (cooking with the kids, three courses), but it ended up being a lot of fun.
  • Writing in my One Line a Day journal. I have loved doing this every evening before bed. I’ve forgotten a handful of times but just caught up the following day.
  • Making space for adventure. I spend a lot of time tired, but I’ve also learned that “I can be exhausted, or I can be exhausted with memories.” (And, thankfully, my energy levels have been better lately!) I’ve been carving out lots of time for rest/restoration, and then also trying to show up with a positive attitude for things like our trip to PEI. While John does much of the planning, it takes a lot of mental effort for me to be upbeat, especially if I’m worn down physically. So, gold star to me!

Your turn. Any demerits or gold stars you’re wanting to share this fine Monday?

Header photo by Crystal de Passillé-Chabot on Unsplash

A Health Update Circa May 2022

People have been so kind with their inquiries about my health and I thought it was time for a little update.

Things are (mostly) good.

It does feel a bit daunting to put this in writing because I occasionally succumb to thoughts like: “What happens if/when everything starts to fall apart?”

But that’s no way to live – so I’m acknowledging the presence of those thoughts before slipping them into my back pocket. I carry them around with me, admittedly, but I’m mostly able to keep my hands free to get on with enjoying life.

For new readers to this space, TMI alert: I have extremely heavy periods. I’ve had this issue since I was 12, but the fallout has been most acute in the last decade or so. Near-constant fatigue and anemia which culminated in iron infusions last year. I joke (though it’s not funny) that I average about one “good” week a month. I have at least a week of PMS symptoms, then a week of hellish period-life, and then a week to recover physically. In addition to impacts on my energy, it takes a mental toll as well.

Over the last few months, my mental health has improved significantly, my energy levels have nudged higher, and my sleep is…better (definitely still working on this issue, though).

I still tire easily, have to watch physical activity levels, and just generally pay close attention to my body. But I’m (mostly – this week has been especially tough, ironically) feeling a lot better.

things that are helping right now

  1. John’s sabbatical. I recognize the immense privilege of being able to make this decision. But I also can’t deny the positive impact it has had on both my physical and mental health. I’m getting better sleep, I’m eating more healthfully, the division of labour has shifted considerably, and everyone is more relaxed. In short – it has been wonderful. It’s impossible to know if some of the other changes listed below would have had as much of an impact without this unprecedented level of flexibility/rest for our family. Despite my diagnosed physical challenges, I think the exhaustion of being immersed in start-up culture for so long played a big part in my burnout.
  2. Making a decision about surgery. I don’t think I realized how much this was weighing on me. Some back story: my former OB/GYN was in favour of a hysterectomy (she moved), my family doctor has always been hesitant, and my new OB/GYN also discouraged this approach. Because of major scar tissue from my C-sections, the risks associated with a hysterectomy are higher for me. It also rules out the more obvious option of an ablation (which, regardless of scarring, doesn’t work well because I’m so young, and the procedure would need to be repeated before I reach menopause). Surgery has been on the table for years now, and it’s confusing when medical professionals you respect don’t necessarily find consensus. Having finally made the decision to go ahead with surgery (now I wait – it could take two years) feels like a major burden lifted.
  3. Trying/going off an SSRI. The end of 2021 was brutal. In December, I asked to try an anti-anxiety medication. I have always managed low mood/anxiety with various forms of behavioural/talk therapy. But starting in November, I was averaging 3-4 hours sleep each night and it was not sustainable. Unfortunately, the SSRI didn’t work well for me. I had panic attacks, lost 10 pounds in the span of several weeks, and felt sick around the clock. I am, however, so glad I tried this approach. Everything I try that doesn’t work takes one possible treatment off my radar which, for someone who can be paralyzed by choice, is very helpful. It was/is so hard to tease apart what is physical and what is mental. I consider these medications to be wonderful assets (and recognize, at another time, I might opt to try a different medication), but it wasn’t the right fit for me, which ended up being helpful in its own way.
  4. Going off hormone treatments – for good. I have been off and on hormone treatments (in a BROAD range of doses and applications) since I was 14. Yes, you read that correctly. 14. Not a single treatment has worked properly. If it fixed one problem, it created three more. Again, I love my team of doctors, but I eventually had to go with what my body was telling me and it was telling me…stop. So I stopped. Mid-treatment! What works for others isn’t necessarily going to work for me. And to get to the point where I say yes to the surgery and no to any other intervention feels liberating.
  5. CBD oil. I’m not sure how much impact the CBD oil is having, as I started using it at the same time all the other things were falling into place (#’s 1-4). I haven’t had a single side effect (CBD oil has essentially no THC) and I think it has helped – in subtle ways – with anxiety, sleep issues, energy levels, and overall physical discomfort.
  6. Removing a large work project from my portfolio. I tend to overlook this final development, but for the last five years I have been in charge of a project that required intermittent – but completely unpredictable – work. There was an underlying tension that I felt at all times, 24/7/365 about this project. It was an unreasonable response given the sheer amount of time I invested was quite low, but it’s the response I had nonetheless. Finally moving this off my plate has also undoubtedly played a role in my improvement.

So there you have it.

This week has been tough as I wade through the physical fallout from an especially awful period. But with so many big decisions made, it still feels like I’m moving in the right direction.

A huge thanks to everyone for the love, support, and inquiries about my health both in this space and from friends locally. It really does mean so much to me!

Header photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

Acceptance Doesn’t (Have To) Preclude Growth

I’ve been mulling over comments from my post a few weeks ago on weight and body image. It’s a complicated topic and I naturally approach it from the perspective of personal experience.

Many commentators talked about pursuing/finding “peace” and coming to a place of “acceptance” and those words reminded me of a quote I wrote down years ago:

Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.

Flannery O’Connor

Frankly, I think “become better” would be more appropriate if substituted with the phrase “to grow.” Sorry, Flannery.

And then I keep circling back around to one of the thoughts captured in this post by Suzanne (which I’ve modified for a broader scope):

“I feel like I should love [insert trait]…So wanting to [make this change] feels like a failure. But the fact is, I DO want to [make this change].”

So I’m asking – can’t we do both?

In pondering that question, let’s take a minute and discuss toddler temper tantrums, shall we? While neither of my children was prone to tantrums, they definitely happened (and always at inopportune times).

Did I love my children less because of their tantrums? No.

Did I refuse to accept their tantrums? No…there is really very little one can do about a tantruming toddler.

So I both loved and accepted them at that stage – but I also actively worked to help them move toward positive emotional responses.

With a two-year-old, most of the heavy lifting comes from the parent. I’d make sure they were well fed before a trip to the grocery store. I tried to prioritize naps and bedtime routines. I avoided taking them to certain locations when I could tell the conditions were just right for a tantrum (hungry toddler in grocery store cart = the worst).

Now, when they emerged from the stage of tantrums, did I love or accept them more? No. (But it sure did make life a whole lot more pleasant.)

So while I love and accept my children at every stage, that doesn’t preclude an attempt to change and/or maximize positive behaviours.

And the same can be true in other areas of my life. I do love and accept my body (as much as I’m able given natural responses to societal pressures, let’s be realistic here). I think it is a miraculous gift from God. The fact I can see and hear and taste and move – these are incredible facets of my life and some of the most obvious sources of #joyfinding.

But I’d argue love and acceptance do not preclude me from seeking growth and positive change.

Is it hard to balance these two, sometimes conflicting, mental states? Absolutely. But I think love, acceptance, and a longing for change can, and do, exist on a spectrum…together. Especially when nurtured under the umbrella of wanting to show appreciation for this body (or insert other relevant trait or state – mental, physical, emotional, financial, relational) God has given me while recognizing my responsibility and privilege to make choices for the betterment of my health and those I love.

One last thought. We throw around the word “acceptance” a lot which has an air of finality to it. I vote we say “accepting” which connotes continual action which will, undoubtedly, ebb and flow over the years.

Thoughts? Do you think acceptance precludes change/growth?

Header photo by Fabien Bazanegue on Unsplash

A Big Ol’ Sleep Post


From how long we sleep to our assortment of idiosyncrasies, sleep is now categorized as another branch of “hygiene” – as if there are clean and dirty ways to get our shut-eye.

Since such a large portion of our time is spent sleeping (or trying to sleep or trying to get someone else to sleep), it’s also a topic that permeates everyday life for all humans on the planet.

So let’s talk about sleep, including some weird (but true) quirks about my own sleep habits.

weird but true

  • In high school I hated making my bed and, at some point, decided to sleep in a sleeping bag every night. My parents were 100% okay with this decision. I feel like I might resist my own children making a similar choice, but I’m not sure why? It just seems like a weird habit in retrospect. I had a giant wicker basket that I would stuff my sleeping bag into during the day, so making my bed took seconds. I loved this arrangement.
  • I sleep on the same side of the bed, even at hotels. This might not actually be uncommon, but I once talked to someone who said she and her husband would just randomly pick a side if they weren’t home in their own bed. Um, no. This simply would not work.
  • For over 30 years I slept on my stomach every night. When I was a teenager I happened to see a snippet of an Oprah show where a guest (a chiropractor, maybe?) was suggesting viewers wear a baseball cap to prevent rolling over onto their stomachs. Or, alternatively, the suggestion was to stop sleeping with a pillow. I chose the latter. I was so attached to stomach sleeping it was one of the hardest things to avoid during pregnancy and I slept on my stomach almost immediately after giving birth. Now it hurts my lower back and I rarely sleep on my stomach (but I sleep with a VERY thin pillow and if I do happen to spend any time on my stomach, I put my head directly onto the mattress).
  • I wash my sheets infrequently. I will not share how infrequent this is but will let your imagination run wild (let’s just say it would be horrifying to any once-a-week folk out there; I had an aunt who was a once-a-day sheet washer. We clearly do not share the same genetic profile on this habit). I tend to shower most evenings, though, which has to count for something?
  • Speaking of sheets, I no longer use top sheets. Just a fitted sheet (over a mattress protector) + a duvet. Life is too short for fighting with top sheets.
  • My nighttime routine is getting more and more complicated. I use a white noise machine and wear an eye mask. I cannot sleep without either of these things. I must use the washroom about 10 times or I am guaranteed to wake up in the night. And if my feet are cold I can’t sleep so I often warm up Magic Bags. It’s a gong show.

nighttime bathroom breaks

I can remember drinking a full glass of caffeinated pop (soda, depending on where you live) right before bed as a teen and my Dad would always shake his head and say: “I don’t know how you can do that and not be up constantly.”

How I miss that young bladder. Baby #2 did away with my bladder of steel and regardless of how little I drink in the evenings, I often wake up to pee and then struggle to get back to sleep.

This is so frustrating and I feel like I’m too young for this issue. I do have significant scar tissue from my C-sections and have had osteopathic adjustments which have helped with scar adhesion to my bladder. But still. I definitely don’t have the guts to drink a full glass of anything before bedtime these days.


A defining theme of my childhood was my mother’s issues with sleep. She struggled for decades with insomnia. I can only now begin to appreciate how hard it must have been for her to show up for her family, at her workplace, and complete her myriad responsibilities in a regular state of sleep deprivation.

I’ve mostly been an okay sleeper, but have had periodic issues for over 10 years which, coincidentally, matches up with when I became a mother. Hmmmm. That said, both kids have been excellent sleepers. If the kids aren’t sick (or desperately hungry, a recent theme with someone going through a growth spurt), we don’t see them between 8 pm and 7 am. So outside of the baby stage, I can’t really blame them for sleep disruption, though I think having children just makes one sleep less deeply as I’m always, always attuned to their noise. In fact on the morning I’m writing this post, I thought I heard someone knocking on the door at 4:56 am (it was either a false alarm or something happening within my dream), but it woke me up just the same.

The DST change back in November 2021 seemed to set off my worst-ever period (several months) of insomnia. I was getting 3-4 hours most nights, and I definitely fall squarely within the “needs 8 hours” category. It was awful.

I’ve done all the “right” things – I’ve gone weeks without caffeine, I incorporate regular exercise, I shower an hour before bed, eliminate evening snacking, and keep the temperature low. Etcetera.

The full moon definitely impacts my sleep – pretty sad when I start blaming lunar cycles, eh?

I’ve tried Magnesium Citrate (hate that stuff), Valerian Root, Passionflower, and Melatonin. Mostly now I try to read my body. If I can’t get to sleep or wake up in the night, I don’t fight it for very long. I get up and do some low-impact activity (often reading or writing) until I feel tired. In a real pinch, I take one of my OTC drowsy allergy pills, which helps with my relatively persistent allergy symptoms and acts as a sleep aid.

Thankfully, sleep has improved lately, but I know it’s a cyclical thing that will almost certainly impact me again. Such is life.

That’s all I’ve got for today. For any mom reading with small kiddos at home, I suspect sleep is on your mind a lot these days. Does anyone have weird quirks surrounding sleep hygiene they’re willing to share?

Header photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

Let’s Talk About Perfection

2021 was a hard year.

John’s working hours were insane. The kids were home on lockdown for the entire month of May (I often didn’t know how I was going to make it through the next 10 minutes, let alone another day). My health was spiraling, and unsuccessful iron infusions were a bitter disappointment.

Also, undeniably, the psychological weight and exhaustion of 2020 (and some very stressful years pre-pandemic) were catching up to me. I felt utterly depleted, both physically and emotionally.

I did the best I could; I adventured with my crew and met deadlines and did laundry and made s’mores on the beach and laughed with friends and family.

But I also cried. A lot.

And here’s the thing about having a mental health crisis in the middle of a global pandemic while struggling with chronic fatigue – it becomes a “chicken-or-egg” conundrum. Am I feeling sad and exhausted because of a mood disorder, or do I have a mood issue because life is currently steamrolling my emotions and energy levels leaving me sad and exhausted?

Either way, it was time to get help.

*I want to acknowledge, once again, that mental health is a multi-faceted topic with so many important, individual considerations. I’m going to share a portion of my story because mental health challenges can be isolating and, personally, it has helped me to have others raise a hand and share their stories. I would encourage everyone to regularly speak with their family doctor and/or a therapist about mental health, even if all seems well. When we exercise regularly, we build muscle and endurance to better cope with physical stressors and to prevent injury; our minds need the same level of nurturing care, ideally as preventative medicine.*

I’ve been what some have described as “melancholy” most of my life. I struggled with depression as a teen and battled postpartum depression (twice), even working with a postpartum specialist at one point. So I’m no stranger to mental health challenges or to seeking help.

This time, I started with my family doctor. She was patient and kind (and, of course, knows the specific issues I’m facing healthwise). The pervasive theme of her diagnosis? Recurring themes of my struggle with perfectionism.

And here’s the irony – the more life seemed to spiral out of my control, the more this idea of perfectionism put its stranglehold on me.

If there is one thing I wish I could tell myself a decade ago it’s that my notion of perfection is flawed.

Take mothering, for instance. My idea of perfection was the following: a natural birth, an immediate bond, a year – at least – of breastfeeding, and a beautifully decorated nursery. You know, the Instagram version of parenting (even though, blessedly, Instagram wasn’t a thing when I became a mother).

Instead, my body was pumped full of drugs that literally made me scratch my eyeballs (gross and horrific, but true), I ended up with an unexpected and unwanted C-section, I was unable to produce milk (despite trying the gamut of herbs and supplements coupled with round the clock pumping), and in lieu of a beautifully appointed nursery, we came home with both children to apartments where we either (Apartment A) put towels along the bottom of the door to prevent cigarette smoke from leaking in or (Apartment B) closed ceiling vents to prevent cigarette smoke from leaking in.

Not exactly what you’d expect anyone to post on their Instagram highlight reel.

Instead of being proud of what my body had accomplished, instead of recognizing that “perfection” is an elusive target and mental mirage, I entered a mental health spiral that, quite honestly, took years to fully recognize and address.

Here’s what I wish.

I wish 2011-Elisabeth wouldn’t feel like a failure when she warmed up a bottle. I wish 2011-Elisabeth wouldn’t hate her body so much and believe that everything would be perfect if she could just have birthed and fed those babies naturally. I wish 2011-Elisabeth would realize that a gorgeous nursery doesn’t make your baby sleep better at night or make life more idyllic. I wish 2011-Elisabeth would sit down, block out all the peripheral anxiety about the many imperfections in life, and just snuggle her perfect, tiny little human.

But I’m slowly learning and re-learning another life-changing truth: there was no way to know then what I know now. I’d love to save 2011-Elisabeth and 2021-Elisabeth and 2035-Elisabeth all sorts of grief, but that’s not the way it works. Life is one long string of lessons; with any luck, we’re open enough to learn and iterate as we go.

Perfectionism has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfection is a refusal to let yourself move ahead.

Julia Cameron

I’m not going to lie. Perfection – whatever that happens to look like on any given day – is something I may always battle. And by perfection, I don’t mean aiming to do things well, to the best of my ability. I mean getting stuck, unable to move forward.

I’m trying to avoid these negative cycles by making the simple, everyday joys of life accessible and creating the necessary margin to enjoy them more fully and by letting go of expectations that I have to do it all; I can leave good things undone.

This all sounds lovely and aspirational – but I do still want clean floors and kids that adore me and A+’s from my coworkers and to avoid all conflict in every relationship forever (especially that last one; conflict crushes me). In this case, it’s more about :

  • letting go of my expectation that “If I have immaculate floors*, it only stands to reason that I will be fully content, my life will be wonderful in every way and my children will behave like perfect angels.”
  • refusing to be disappointed when clean floors don’t magically do any of the aforementioned things (especially regarding angelic children).
  • and refusing to pursue clean floors (insert any other activity) to the detriment of my mental or physical health.

*This is a bit of a stretch because my floors, especially around a certain wee lad’s chair, are always in need of sweeping and I’ve largely stopped trying.

Flawed can be more perfect than perfection.

Gretchen Rubin

I remember reading about a furniture company known for its craftsmanship. What made their work most intriguing was that somewhere in the design they would purposefully introduce an imperfection. A screw slightly off-center, a virtually imperceptible warp in one of the boards. Their reasoning? Flaws made it obvious that human hands had crafted the item, setting it apart from the “perfect” – and characterless – mass-produced item prepared by robotic arms.

All this to say: I’m human, I’m flawed…and I sometimes still crave the somewhat elusive definition of “perfection” in certain areas of my life. But I crave it a little less than I did yesterday and a lot less than I did back in 2011. And that feels like a step in the right direction.

Case in point: for a post about perfection, I feel like I haven’t gotten the messaging right. On re-reading the draft, my ideas seem scattered and I’m likely trying to fit in too many tangential/incomplete thoughts. But I won’t let “the perfect be the enemy of the done” so I’m posting it as-is and will now head off to enjoy my day. Baby steps, right?

Header photo by Natasha Polyakova on Unsplash

On 90 Days of Walking

On January 1st I decided to start walking (outside) at least 1 km a day. And that’s exactly what I’ve done for 90 days and counting.

I’ve walked in rain. I’ve walked in freezing rain. I’ve walked in hail.

High winds? Check. Icy sidewalks? Check, check, check.

I’ve trudged through snowdrifts and walked in multiple blizzards. I’ve logged miles on a frozen lake, on maintained sidewalks, and through backwood trails. And I have, occasionally, seen the sun.

I’ve worn hats and gloves and snow pants and heavy jackets. And that’s mostly all I’ve worn because, well, it has been winter in Canada and that is the dress code. I’ve worn boots and I’ve worn plastic bags inside those boots after they sprung a leak. And now, finally, I’m logging most of my miles (kilometers) in sneakers. Except for Monday, when we had an April snowstorm that closed schools and left the sidewalks covered in slippery slush.

I’ve had an Apple Watch for years now and, at first, the daily activity rings were a great motivator. But last year, when I had some health flareups and burned out completely on exercise (Exhibit A: 25 km last July), those rings started making me feel…terrible. Maintaining streaks and closing rings sometimes (often?) took precedence over proper recovery periods and mental health. I literally ran in the dark at the foot of my bed on multiple occasions to close rings. Arbitrary billion-dollar-tech-constructed rings.

I’m not against rings or related equivalents. They worked for me for years. But then they didn’t and it took me longer than I would have liked to come to terms with that reality. Because I had learned to crave those gold stars from Apple.

But I did stop closing rings. And literally nothing bad happened.

Last fall I tried to exercise regularly but with the chief aim of prioritizing mental and physical health. In September I ran every day – no set distance and no rings, but I was still so relieved when the month was over. Every day felt like work. And as much as I appreciate our treadmill, it’s a depressing piece of equipment.

So on January 1st, I decided I would walk – outside for 1 km every day. There was no set goal or streak. Just walking. Outside. Through the Canadian winter. Until it didn’t work for me.

It’s still working.

See burnout creeping in by July 2021; ironically enough, and without trying or monitoring, my second highest mileage over the last two years occurred in March 2022, with 180.0 km of walking. Also I realize, to some, 57 workouts/month might sound excessive, but some of these would be 0.3 km walks to the mailbox. Or 0.1 km runs at the foot of my bed. When I was trying to close my rings I recorded…everything.

1 km doesn’t feel like much. But it’s enough to get outside, reset my mood, and put my heart muscles to work.

…the benefits of exercise begin with any amount of exercise that is more than zero.

Ellen Vora

Working it out across the first 90 days of 2022, I averaged 4.0 km/day. A lot of this is related to our walks to/from school, but it also represents walks with John, close friends, and even a few solo walks.

I no longer record everything (for example, the walk to/from the school bus is rarely recorded unless I haven’t already logged my 1 km for the day).

It has been a wonderful, wholly positive experience. I don’t have to think about getting outside each day – I just go. Some days I walked solo until I reached the 1 km mark and then raced into the warmth of the house. Other days I’ve set out two or three times with different companions.

But, without a doubt, the benefits of this daily walking routine have been more mental than physical. The cold air has woken me up on days when I felt exhausted. The birds and the trees and the snow have given a source of lightness to the world, and my thoughts, on this dark, long winter.

A friend recently asked me how long I’ll keep up with daily walks outside.

I’m not sure. I didn’t make a goal for the duration. For now it works and I like it. It doesn’t feel like a burden – it feels like a privilege. I am healthy and mobile and live in a place with safe sidewalks and clear air and I have the use of my legs. This too shall pass, so I’m enjoying it now.

But I hope when the time comes that I miss a day – and that time will come – that I shrug and move on with my life and then, hopefully, wake up the following morning and walk if I’m able.

I’m currently on Day 97. And, for the record Apple, I haven’t looked at my rings a single time in 2022. And literally nothing bad has happened.

Your turn? Does anyone else have to be careful with their exercise patterns? Anyone else overstretch their limits and burnout like I did? Anyone else prioritizing low-impact walking over other forms of more intensive exercise?

Header photo by trail on Unsplash