Tag Archives: know thyself

Consistency vs Commitment

It is okay to go down crying as long as you get up fighting.

~ Marjorie Shier

The leader of a New Moms Group that I was a part of invited us to share something about ourselves that wasn’t about our career or our new babies. Of the myriad of things that I could share, the one that first came to mind was my approach to fitness:

“I’m a runner. And always a novice runner. I really want to commit to it for a length of time, but something always comes up – like an injury, a busy work schedule, or more recently – my pregnancy. But, I am always interested in getting started again. I love running!”

Like the majority of the culture around me, the new year is always a reminder for me to take care of my health more than I was (if only in December!). As part of that resolution, getting more active has been on my radar, and I have been doing more and more every week. As I listened to a workout video from before my pregnancy, though, I started to contemplate how important it really is to be consistent every day.

I did one of the workout videos for the first time in 16 months last Thursday. After encouragement from a fellow mother, I set up my baby as my cheerleader in his jolly jumper, and I talked to him through the whole thing. (He loved the first 10 minutes of watching Mum’s new moves, but started to protest for the last 10 minutes of the video. The middle ten minutes were precarious.) I wrapped up the video sooner than I would have had I been alone, but celebrated the success of being more active even with a 5-month-old under foot.

The next day, I was walking like a spring chicken…because my quads were on fire!

In my old life, I would have just pushed through and put on another video – no pain, no gain, right?  Wrong! I snapped at my husband because I was in pain. I cried when my baby needed me to pick him up again because my legs felt like they were ripping apart. Despite all of the extra stretching I did after the baby had gone to bed, my body was broken. I could not be the mom I want to be when I had done something to make my body stronger.

So, do I stop working out entirely to focus on being that mom I want to be?   If consistency is so important to gaining strength and working through that pain is essential to being fit, did I ruin it all by NOT putting the next video in the next day?

There are so many things in my life that I want to do and so many roles that I want to fill that the activities might not get executed perfectly, and I may not be the person I want to be in those roles all of the time. Does that mean I am failing at them all? Not at all. Just like tearing apart the muscles in my quads in order to rebuild stronger ones, my life needs to be torn apart every so often in order to be a stronger me, too. And being a stronger me is truly the Mum I want to be for my baby.

When I really think about consistency, I realize that my need for it is not coming from myself, but from what the fitness guru on the video was telling me. If fitness were the only thing happening in my life, maybe it would be more important for me to be consistent at it. But I am committed to so much more than fitness in my life right now. When I look back at what has worked in my life, commitments are much stronger than consistency.

For the first few years of my compassionate lifestyle, I “cheated.” I referred to myself as the “Cheatin’ Vegan” as a result, joking at my failure because I wasn’t always consistent. I was still committed to being a vegan, though, and after a few years, it became the easiest part of my life.  I did this through a commitment to being more of the person that I wanted to be than consistently doing the most I could every day. The only consistency I had was in re-committing to being a vegan every single day.

One of my friends had this sentiment to say in regards to my “vegan cheats”:

You can choose to re-commit first thing tomorrow, or not even that far ahead – re-commit at your next meal, your next snack, even the next bite.

You are free to commit or re-commit at any moment. That is the one consistency you will always have.

I did the second workout video this morning. My baby went in his Jumperoo to work on his cheerleading skills and I zoomed past the exercises that my back isn’t strong enough to do just yet. My quads are still sore, and they might be for the next few weeks, but I’m pretty sure that I will be able to pick up my baby without tears running down my face tomorrow. Maybe I didn’t bring “all that I have and then a little bit more” this time, but I brought enough for the change I am willing to put our lives through right now. And that’s more important to me than being a fitness guru leading a workout video right now. Maybe I will do another video tomorrow, maybe it won’t happen again until Wednesday. I can’t commit to any specific consistent time, but I can commit to always growing, changing, and being stronger.

Multi-tasking My Feminism

We used to brag about our ability to multitask. Employers would be excited to hear about our ability to keep track of multiple activities at the same time. It used to illustrate a sharp brain that could process information quickly and efficiently.

And then “they” did a study. I don’t remember who, and I don’t remember when, but I remember hearing about it, and taking note. According to the study, multi-tasking was not as efficient as we all believed it was. Simply put, the brain had to disengage from one activity before it could begin another activity. (Regardless of how quickly our brain could disengage and re-engage?  I’m not sure if that was ever looked into.) This process took 30 seconds, but that is 30 seconds that we couldn’t get back. That was a waste of 30 seconds, and therefore not as efficient as finishing one task before starting another one.

I had a manager once who gave morning meetings. It was a womens-only business, and for the most part, I had a lot of time for thinking while there. I was the morning receptionist, so I wasn’t always there for the meeting that the rest of the team really needed to hear. One morning, though, I caught the end of her daily pep talk. I cannot remember what she was referring to, but she made the point about something that all of the women really resonated with:

“It’s like when you’re cleaning the house. You don’t just finish one room at a time and move on. You start the dishes, pick up the papers, take the laundry to the bedroom, etc.”

I think it resonated with me so well because I had never thought about what I was doing in that way. Growing up, we had a list of cleaning chores that we ticked off throughout the weekend as they were done, so I always did think of it as accomplishing one task at a time. My favourite chore, though, was laundry, and that is something that necessitates ‘multi-tasking’ while you do it. Unless you take your laundry to a laundromat (something that I have always fantasized about but never had the pleasure to get to do), you put some dirty clothes, and go onto something else for the next 20-30 minutes while your machine is cleaning it. I think this may actually be why laundry is my favourite task around the house. When I’m doing laundry, I get it in the machine, and then I am motivated to do something else around the house while I am waiting for the next part of that task. It’s somewhat rewarding to have the tasks around the house broken down into small tasks that I can engage and disengage my mind from.

Last summer, I read an article about how women’s work around the home is still not valued for the amount of effort put into it. Simply put, women are still informally put into the position of house manager, needing to remember events, chores (“honey-do” lists are just one way of delegating), and holding the family unit to the standard required for that family.  This idea has led to many conversations with my feminist ally husband… and even a few arguments. (Our relationship thrives on the constant growth of understanding our world from our slightly different viewpoints.) I am still ruminating on this idea, and probably always will be ruminating on it.

(The article is on the drain that this mental workload places on women. I highly suggest you read the article and have conversations about this with your friends and family. Check it out here: The Mental Workload of a Mother)

Recently, it has dawned on me that – just as women’s role as ‘house manager’ is not valued – women’s ability to multitask is being devalued with this “new study.”  Of course, nobody in the study or the media reporting on the study would ever say that women’s ability to do this is actually detrimental. That’s not the power structure of patriarchy works at this point in time (nor for the majority of its recorded history). Power structures are often more nuanced than to blatantly state something like that. Instead, the strengths of the lower segment of society are inadvertently de-valued to keep their power and confidence at bay so that those in power can stay there with the value of the strengths that got them there still intact.

This brings me to my leading philosophy on the kind of feminist that I am. There are several forms of feminism – from those who think women should be treated (and as such act) just like men to those who push for the acceptance of gender fluidity and a rejection of the binary.  I sit somewhere in the middle of those groups (I just like seeing the whole spectrum so much).

I recognize that there is a cultural construction of each gender. Within those constructs, there are characteristics that we apply to either genders. For example, men are assumed to be better at spatial reasoning and therefore excel in mathematics. Women, in this example, are assumed to be better at emotional intelligence and therefore excel in roles as caregivers. I know that culture is not static, but a web that we are constantly creating and navigating throughout. In this web, men are told that they are better at math and so they are more interested in it and spend more time understanding it. Women are told that they are better at understanding emotions and are encouraged to learn more about other people’s feeling, opinions, and the social repercussions that this has. Our web is still constructed with patriarchal tendencies, and those dictate that mathematics is more valuable than people’s feelings. Building a bridge is seen as a greater accomplishment than building a team of people with diverse opinions.

My call to feminist arms is to change the characteristics that we as a society value.  All of us have amazing strengths, and it is time that society values those strengths for their uniqueness rather than valuing only those that have always been in power.

When it comes to multi-tasking, I can see it from a non-feminist viewpoint, too. In this the information age, we are bombarded with so much information, tasks, and something new and shiny, that it can be overwhelming for many people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that some people thrive more in this environment than others. This doesn’t mean that multi-tasking is bad for all of us. What should be focused on instead is how much multi-tasking is still efficient for one person before they can no longer hold it.

For me, I need that break after 20-30 minutes. I also need to feel like I am accomplishing something in order to be motivated to get something else done. As I get into any new role, I use this knowledge about myself to make my work that much more efficient. My multi-tasking load is not going to be the same as yours, and that’s OK.  As someone with an adequate emotional intelligence, I will accept your knowledge of yourself and your strengths and help you excel for who you are.  And, in a slightly different life, I might even have been able to build you a bridge, too. 😉