Tag Archive for perfectionism

The Walking Dread

I used to make lists of things to do for the day. I’d find them all over the place: crunched into dehydrated balls at the bottom of the dryer, in coat pockets from last season, and at the bottom of my purse with stray hair clips, pennies and the odd sugarless gum wrapper. I’d jot things down on scraps and stuff them down into my pockets and then forget to look at them. Later, if they weren’t annihilated in the laundry, I’d find the lists with shorthand on them standing in for some lighting bolt idea I had at the time, and I’d have no clue what the hell it meant. Little stray pieces of would-be genius littering corners of my life, physical refuse of what could have been and the loss of each idea that might have brought me a nice essay or a great client or a recipe to thrill people with. Detritus of what never was.

And the thing about these lists is that conveniently losing them or forgetting them let me see  that I tend to carry bullet points around in my mind, pinballs of things I should be accomplishing or mastering. This luggage brings with it a sensation of dense dread like a Pig Pen cloud following me. I watch people bob and weave around my anxiety as if they’ll get sucked into the fray like a smoothie in a blender.

DREAD.

It is almost always so much worse than whatever the thing is we are dreading. Since here we are in April, let’s take taxes, for example. I can put off doing taxes as well as the next guy. Something about all those rules, all those numbers, all those facts that tell me things about my abilities, or lack, as a new businesswoman. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to watch the little calculator at the top of Turbo Tax telling me that after all that toil, I still have to send the government MORE MONEY. I don’t want to face the hours of sitting. The resentment of spending time doing taxes while I could be LIVING MY LIFE.

And there’s the rub. Dread is about tricking ourselves into believing that we are not CURRENTLY living our lives. We think that if we put off doing our taxes (or breaking things off with our date, or going out for a run, or quitting smoking, or, or, or…) that we are staving off the discomfort of the bane of this event.

The reality is that putting it off keeps us in the dread itself, torturing us with our own worst fears about the impending unwanted event. It keeps us in the cycle of loathing a fiction of a thing that has NOT EVEN HAPPENED YET. In addition to the experience of that dread, it also does the work of withholding the possibility that the thing we are dreading might, in all actuality, turn out ok. Or might be an experience that we can bear or grow from or laugh at or tolerate. Or it might suck even more than we think it will but at least it only has to suck while it is actually happening rather than the hours of dread leading up to it PLUS its attending real-time suckage.

Dread is a thief. It robs of of our peace in the moment of the life we are actually living to rake us over the coals of a future that may be nothing like what we are living through in our imagination. That’s two problems at once. The present is given over, and the creative power we possess is being used to hurt ourselves.

So. What to do?

Take the object of this dread and break it down. Splinter it. Do your taxes for ten minutes. Set a timer. Maybe the first ten minutes isn’t so bad. Do another ten. Put them away. Now you have 20 minutes of taxes under your belt with the added victory bonus of having spent 20 minutes of doing your taxes and not having anything be uncomfortable yet. You are now armed with a triumph going into day two. And since taxes, in this example, are something we’ll do again and again (if you believe in that kind of thing, but feel free to substitute a dread you relate to) we are also rewriting the story of how they actually feel. Turns out, the first 20 minutes feel fine. Maybe the first hour does. Maybe then it gets horrible and it feels clearly worth it to hire someone to do it next time or to start 4 days earlier or WHATEVER.

This experience of eradicating dread isn’t about curing our lives of discomfort, but it is about alleviating pain and struggle we create for ourselves around fictions that we create to haunt ourselves. The world is going to serve up plenty of real struggle for us. We don’t have to help it. And so when the real discomfort comes, we can show up for it in our lives and experience it as an honest and actual kind of difficulty. And the other thing is, we might just be wrong. I spent my whole adult life dreading the eventual truth that I would have to live in a body I wasn’t that psyched about.

Turns out, I was wrong and I now have the great pleasure of making amends to my body each and every day for the rest of my life. Even on days like today when it really didn’t do what I wanted it to. Maybe especially on days like today.

It’s like Mr. Whitman says,

“There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.”

So be here now and not with dread.
And good luck on your taxes, everyone.

 

My Interview About Imperfection as Muse

I was honored to be featured on the Blog of my recent alma mater, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I’m excited to have such a forum to talk about why I love my job and how I swear a lot.

The Road to Wellness: Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

by Bridget Shannon

Sara Seinberg, who recently graduated from theHealth Coach Training Program in May, was stuck. She was working a good job, and doing some freelance writing and photography, but her health was a different story. For her 40thbirthday she made a big move and signed up for a marathon. Recognizing a powerful inner strength upon completing the race, she made the decision to get her health back on track, and the rest is history.

Sara is one of the most creative and authentic Health Coaches I’ve encountered, and she has a real knack for relating her own story to how she now helps others. She coaches people, out of her San Francisco practice, Seinberg Holistic Health Coaching, around nutrition, but also emotional eating and self-awareness. I got a chance to catch up with her recently, and her method of developing the inner critic into a useful tool, and her ability to attract the right clients are fascinating. This interview highlights her successful journey and what she’s up to now.

What led you to explore the Health Coach Training Program?

At 39 I realized I’d been living in my body rent-free for years. After a hunk of drug use, decades of emotional eating, and a nice side order of self-loathing, I decided to do something epic in honor of 40: the San Francisco Marathon. In July 2010, I finished it. The process wasn’t cute or heroic. I didn’t do well and I didn’t shine. What I did do was become a woman who could face her fears and blow her own mind.

Once I made that decision, I found the school in no time, and got right into it. I knew I could get healthy and hold space that would help others make their way to health too. If I could make my way to thriving from the places I had known, anyone could do it, and the beauty is that they could do it their way.

Which parts of the program had an impact on your success?

Debbie Ford! Also, Deepak Chopra, and Geneen Roth were very impactful.

I loved the coaching focused things and the spiritual topics. I know the root of any eating problems for myself and many of my clients has to do with shame or emotional landscape. I also love working with food allergies and helping people to navigate their way to healthier and happier lives.

How did your life change after enrolling?

I got back into the kitchen and began to really use my creative force for health. I focused on school while I worked and I had faith that the challenges I faced, like being a businesswoman, could be handled and I didn’t have to do it perfectly. I could stumble and blow it and get right back up. No. Big. Deal. It’s my actual job as a human to be imperfect, and I definitely had experience in that arena. I had more fun. I laughed more. I felt less stressed out and my skin glowed. I began to put my punkrock version of perfectionism down and practice being who I actually was.

Do you have any tips or guidelines for accepting and embracing imperfection?

In my newfound life of using imperfection as my greatest muse, the world is a thing of great expanse and beauty. In the world of perfection, the options, as you can imagine, are severely limited. The very fiber of the definition of humanity is the necessity of learning from mistakes. And so if I must make mistakes, my goal then is to make new ones. Make interesting ones. It begs me to try new things, go to a hula class and look hapless and not care. Am I trying to get a date? No. I am trying to move my body and appreciate it as it is today. Was I born to be an Olympic long distance runner? No. I wasn’t even born to be very good at all. But I was born into this body and to have the experiences of creativity, love, family, art, travel, connection and taste, I need to be living in this body. It is my home.

And so it is my job to upkeep the property of my life experience. I support people in coaching to find what makes meaning for them. Together we identify these things and then use experimentation and vast opportunities we have for imperfection to build the truth that it will not kill us. No matter how many times we fall out of a yoga pose, burn the brown rice or wear the wrong outfit to work, we continue on and we have room to thrive. And we may even discover a new outfit along the way.

What’s the connection between creativity and food? Does this concept play into your work inspiring people who have trouble letting go of inner criticism?

Yes! I coach people not to pummel their inner critics or banish them. Our inner critics have been with us through thick and thin. They know us very well and have an enormous amount of information if we pay attention to them in a way that is supportive. Instead of trying to dethrone inner critics, I coach my clients to install a seat beside them and offer the critic companionship. Together we develop their inner advocate who then banters with the critic. Once the client develops a relationship with this advocate, let’s call her Blanche, then there can be an exchange that slowly moves the balance of power within motivation. Because each client is inherently creative, not just artists, the creative process of bringing Blanche to life and giving her voice, style and swagger gives the client a jumping off point of using creativity as a major lynchpin to healthy living.

What makes you and your practice unique?

Well, I’m pretty funny. I approach coaching from a place of abundance, with an artist’s sensibility. I bring a lot of creative work into the practice, a lot of work around acceptance and using our inner critics as guides to shaping our inner advocates.

Then we make colorful, off the hook meals that we look forward to and love. There is no more kitchen dread.

How does your own journey to wellness inspire your clients and others around you?

Everyone has a story. In fact, it’s one of the only things no one can take from us. It is solely and always ours. I have my own journey to wellness out there on my site and to some extent in a blog I wrote but when my clients arrive, it’s always about their story. Our time is about them and their stories. Through asking a lot of questions, I cull strengths from aspects of their lives to use as support in their wellness journeys. For example, a talented manager uses incisive skills to encourage collaboration for a team at the office. I can use this skill to help them build a collaborative project outside work that will support their wellness, like a cooking swap co-op or a grab bag exercise group where each week a different member picks and plans an exercise for the group. I may use my story to relate to the client, but never at the expense of my story being THE story. I feel deeply committed to the narrative of the client being the most important ingredient to successfully establishing healthy, sustainable, fun patterns.

How do you help your clients be successful? Is there a standout session or relationship you can recall?

I am leading my first cleanse right now and my clients are all reporting huge amounts of focus. Spring allergies are vanishing and stress is falling away for people. The executives are sleeping better and the struggling artists are freer in their processes, unfettered by the expectations of the galleries and the critics.

My first 6-month graduate came to see me with recurring stomach problems, a desire to feel stronger, and to have more energy. She is an overworked teacher with a crammed schedule and a fierce dedication to her students. We used her sense loyalty to her students as a tool for her own health. She ran her first 5k the Saturday before our last session and her stomach problems have been gone for three months.

What do you love about your work?

I love that the exact right clients find me. I enjoy the sense I have of making a difference and also the idea that I can get out of the way and facilitate people making the changes that are best for them. I am not steering the ship. I am a humbled hand on deck and a witness to intense and gorgeous transformation. It’s incredible.

Is there anything you can recommend to other coaches who may be struggling with targeting a specific market or finding the right clients?

I’ve been a working artist and writer for about 20 years. My community was pretty well established when I came to this coaching work. Attracting the right clients to me had everything to do with being myself no matter how much I felt like no one would take me seriously or pay me to help them. I knew my journey was true and that I could help people make theirs true as well. Through my writing and photography, I built a website utilizing my own creative work to support my health coaching. I write articles frequently augmented by tons of photographs and I write the way I talk. I’m a very casual gal, I often swear like a sailor, and I have more tattoos on my hands alone than most people have on their whole bodies. It won’t work for me to try and pretend to be a buttoned up career professional girl straight out of Wall Street.

I find the right clients because I have a practice of coming up against my fear and shame and saying, “Oh, Hello. It’s you again. Here to tell me how I am not really enough. It’s been nice to see you, and I’m sure I’ll see you again very soon, but if you could excuse me now, I’ve got some work to do with people who can really honestly relate to me and change their stories about health to live the lives they dream they can.” I believe that it’s often shame or the struggle to be a certain way we think people want is what keeps us from really just showing up to do the work. School gave us everything we needed to begin, our tenacity and passion for change will keep us studying nutrition, fitness, and spiritual options for our clients, and through any kind of grace at all, it’ll keep us honest along the way.

Gluten-Free Black Caraway Bread

photo 1

In an effort to combat the evil that is perfectionism, I am dedicating today’s post to the effort of a thing rather than its ultimate perfect state. This bread is my first attempt of an altered recipe. Usually I will wait and try and tweak and fuss until I can show you an outcome that sings arias and scales mountaintops. Not today. Gluten-free baking is a whole new venue for me since I discovered by accident that I tend to feel better without the stuff. I’ll tell you about that first and then we’ll get to the kitchen.

So many of my clients come to me with questions about gluten and its side effects. They want to know if it might help them feel better to cleave it from their lives, and how they would know whether it affected them or not. I knew about its inflammatory effects on the system, about the difference between Celiac Disease vs. a gluten sensitivity, intolerance, or a wheat allergy, all of which are actually different, but these were all things I knew from books. Even though books are one of the great loves of my life, I decided to do my own firsthand experiment so I could pass on at least some personal experience. Of course, we are all different and everyone must try their own path. But anyhow, this is how it went for me:

Even though I was fairly sure I did not have any sensitivity, I set out on my experiment. As I learned to do from some doctor’s suggestions in school, I eliminated gluten entirely for one week, and then on the eighth day, I brought it back into my diet. For many years I have had a pretty adorable, if I do say so myself, little belly pooch. After about 3 days of no gluten, my cute pooch began to evaporate and by the seventh day it was gone. While I found the thing to be downright fetching, the idea that it was a result of a food sensitivity made me feel less affectionate toward it.

In addition, have you ever been in a room and found yourself growing increasingly annoyed for no apparent reason and then all of a sudden an air filter clicks off and you realize there has been a constant noise in the room that never registered until it vanished? That’s what happened with my sense of feeling bloated. I had no idea I felt that way until I stopped feeling that way. My assumption was also that I would feel deprived and pissed off about not having gluten for the week it was gone, but it turned out to be no big deal. In fact, the challenge made my choices so streamlined, it was kind of a relief. Even so, I did look forward to the eighth day, on which I had a hunk of my very favorite Acme whole wheat and cranberry bread.

While my mouth rejoiced, my innards stewed and churned and revolted. And there was my answer. My system isn’t that psyched about gluten. I can still choose to eat it, which I do on occasion, sparingly, and knowing full well the consequences. But sometimes, it just seems like I must have pizza. Period.

In the mean time, I like to keep my own kitchen gluten-free now, and as such have been dipping my toe in the pool of attempting baking. It’s hard. Turns out people like to measure by weight rather than volume. In addition, some of the flours are not grain based and therefor act totally differently than grain based flours. Anything can happen. The breads tend to be dense and heavy, which people LOVE to make jokes about. I’ve come to sort of appreciate the richness of their flavors and earthy bottom of the weight. This bread in particular turned out to weigh a full metric ton and not be NEARLY as gorgeous as Heidi Swanson’s version that I based it on. I will say, after all the changes I made, it tastes delicious. It has a kind of sour (teff flour) and bitter (ground espresso) and sweet (carrots and molasses) combination I like. It’s weird at first but each slice tastes better than the last. I am going to keep working on it over time and get it right for you, but here’s to getting it close. A nice pitstop on the way to getting it better.

I also have a wonderful feeling about this bread because the kitchen was so quiet, the light was beautiful, and I got to cook all day yesterday. It’s such a nice feeling for me, and it’s been awhile, so maybe a lot of what I like about this bread is how great I felt while I made it.

1 3/4c warm filtered water
2 1/4t dry yeast
1t maple syrup
2T cocoa powder
2T finely ground espresso (I used decaf)
1/3c blackstrap molasses
3 1/2t caraway seeds
3T earth balance or coconut oil
2t fine sea salt
3 grated carrots
1c brown teff flour
1/4c garbanzo flour
1 1/2c almond meal (fresh from the almond milk you just made!)
3c brown rice flour (1/2c set aside for dusting later)
2T olive oil

Preheat your oven to 450.

First get yourself a nice small bowl and whisk together the yeast in the warm water with the maple syrup. Set this aside while you get busy but check on it to make sure it gets foamy like a little root beer float.

Meanwhile, put your espresso, 3t of your caraway seeds (the rest is for the top later), cocoa, molasses, earth balance (or coconut oil) and salt together in a saucepan and stir it until it’s just melted. It will be the richest color in the world. It makes you not care if the bread is perfect because it smells so good and is so beautiful.

Next pull it off the flame and set it aside while you combine the yeast mixture and the grated carrot in a large bowl. Then add in all your flours. Now add your rich molasses mixture and stir. It won’t come together like a traditional bread dough. It’s looser and seems more like a dense cake mix really. Mine was a little wet and I added some rice flour. I then put it in my mixer for about 3 minutes with the hook attachment. No worry if you don’t have a mixer. The dough doesn’t really need kneading at this point because it’s so loose, but turn it out onto  cutting board and form it into a ball. Take your dough ball and place it in an olive oiled bowl, nothing metal, and cover it with a cloth. I leave mine in the sun to rise for about 2 hours while I putter about. If there is no sun, I leave it on top of the oven and bake something else while it rises, using the heat to keep the bread rising.

Return to your dough and look how puffy it is!!! So cute! Bully it gently and push it down. Then turn it out onto a floured surface and make it into a round. Because the dough is heavy, it will settle wide and kind of flatten. Do not despair. Also do not expect that it will turn into a fluffy little debutante in the oven. This is a hearty country girl bread who can toss hay bales all day and picks her teeth with stray stalks. Now put your dough on an oiled cookie sheet and recover it with a tea towel. Let it rise again for another hour. Cover the ole’ lass with a dusting of brown rice flour and a 1/2 teaspoon of your caraway seeds. Then throw it in an oven at 450 for an hour. Turn the heat down to 350 for another half hour and check on her all as you go. As you know if you read this blog, my oven blows so check on your bread for you own times. Hopefully your oven is more well-endowed than mine is. The bread should be crisp on the top and bottom and dense all the way through. Dense, but done.

Ok. Good luck.
Enjoy the imperfections and let me know what you do with this recipe as you go. We can discover it gluten-free perfect version together.