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Finding Middle Ground


As with practically every gathering these days, my Weight Watchers meetings are now held on Zoom. Although you might think otherwise, that setting actually makes me feel more like I should participate in the conversation rather than less. Something about seeing my own face with six or eight others on that screen keeps me from just staying quiet and not engaging in the meeting. So, when our leader recently asked us about our goals for the coming week, I felt compelled to come up with one. It seemed too obvious to say, “Lose weight,” so I thought a little harder. What I came up with was, “To stay in the middle.”

When the leader asked me to explain my response, I told her that I have a tendency to either push myself to eat strictly and exercise stringently so I’ll be the best ever, or to just eat whatever the heck I feel like eating and quit weighing myself completely. I hardly ever focus on just trying to stay balanced about my approach. What I realized when the meeting was over is that this is hard for me in other areas of my life, too. At best, I am a woman of extremes. Regardless of the circumstances, I’m often either all in or all out.

I’d like to give myself permission to enjoy the leisurely pace of in-between instead of terrorizing myself with extremes.

In my daily life, this is what that looks like: I start the morning with a strict schedule that I probably created days before, not connected at all, necessarily, to what’s really happening on this actual day. If I’m being a highly energetic version of myself, I can usually tear through that list and even add to it as I go. I respond humbly when people say I have a lot of energy, but inside I know that getting things done is what keeps me getting things done. I’m like an ad for “Grab all the gusto you can get.” But if I get thrown off—if I wake up tired and feeling lazy—that’s it. I don’t want to do anything at all. There’s no in between.

I'm exaggerating—just a little—but the basics are the same. I have high expectations for myself and, if I don’t achieve them, I’m likely to want to throw in the towel. In the world of WW, that means that if I eat more than my allotted number of points in Skinny Pop (it has the word “skinny” right in the name—how bad could it be?), I could easily move on to a whole lemon meringue pie. So, my resolution for the week at our recent Zoom meeting was a sincere one. I would love to learn to live in the middle more. I’d like to allow myself permission to enjoy the leisurely pace of in-between instead of terrorizing myself with extremes.

During the pandemic, this means practicing just being where I am. I can’t count the number of times a day that I think about all I should be doing and listing all I will do once we can finally be in regular life again. My next thought is often the total opposite. I might as well just lie on the couch and read a trashy novel because things are too screwed up to do anything real. I’ve been around long enough to know that these things even themselves out, but this is all dragging on for a long time. The unknown makes me be harder on myself than I need to be.

It's the same old story, though, and I know that. Despite the reality of the pandemic, the real messiness is in my head, and it always has been. That’s where I let the stress, and the expectations, and the rules run amok. They are all a result of my own fears and anxiety and, when I’m feeling particularly worked up, I can grab one of those elements and run wild. The result is what keeps me out of that peaceful, calm middle. It’s what makes me try way too hard or not nearly hard enough. It’s when I am gripping things with a vise-like hold, instead of finding my calm, quiet place and letting myself enjoy the view. It’s one of my hardest life lessons, but recognizing it helps. So does taking a deep breath and enjoying the scenery from this lovely spot in the middle of the road.