8 Lessons the Election Teaches Us that Have Nothing To Do With Politics

Like so many Americans, this election had me in tears. Tears of sadness. Tears of frustration. Tears of bitterness. Tears of what could have been. My brain literally has been unable to comprehend how I live in a country where the majority of my fellow citizens are standing behind someone who is the antithesis of goodness and logic. I have stopped trying to understand it (at least for the time being), and instead am using it as a time of reflection on the themes and lessons of this election that apply to other areas of life beyond politics.

 

  1. We are far too passive. We talk about needing change and wanting to change, but what do we actually do to make that happen? We want new jobs. We want new career opportunities. We want more social opportunities. We want to get healthy. We want to lose weight. We want to save money. If you want it, go get it. Stop waiting for someone else to do it for you.
  2. The universe has a way of giving us things at the right time. Sometimes things are meant to happen despite what we really, really REALLY want, for reasons that we are not supposed to understand at that moment in time. If we got everything we wanted when we wanted, we would never evolve. I strongly believe life is about timing and being patient for what is meant to be. (For the record, I am not a particularly patient person and it has taken me a long time to understand that great things can happen with patience). There is more to learn from events and relationships that do not always come easily. Challenges and failures are what make us better, more evolved.
  3. Speaking of evolving, we never stop. As much progress as we make, there is always more to be done. There is no cap nor timeline on being open-minded, caring, kind and selfless. No matter how great or ideal anything may seem, it is naive to ever think it is perfected or ends there. Whether it is acing an exam or running your first mile or spending a day feeding the homeless, it does not end there.
  4. We need to adapt our communication styles to appeal to the other side or the messages, no matter how dire or important, will be lost. Hear what they are saying and find ways to address them on their terms. Let them feel like you are speaking to them, not at them. Let them know you are taking the time to understand them. (Spewing hate or calling someone ignorant is probably not going to motivate them to ever be open to a different perspective).
  5. Always strive to understand the other perspective whether you agree with it or not.It is impossible to get past differences and step outside of yourself if there is blatant reluctance or refusal to even understand the other side.
  6. Know when to walk away and know when to fight. I know that I have walked away from people, places and situations sooner than I should have. I also know there were times I did not walk away soon enough. Sometimes we walk away because it just seems easier or that staying means we have to face some possible ugly things, which could be in others and could be in ourselves. Sometimes walking away is the right thing to do (we would never encourage a friend to stay with an abusive partner). Yet, lets never lose sight of what is worth fighting for. Choosing to fight or not fight should not be based on the challenge of it.There are things worth fighting for in this world and chances are, they will knock us down before we get back up. Fight for your loved ones. Fight for your beliefs. Fight for those who can’t do it themselves.  (And for heaven’s sake, fight for your country! #shamelessplug)
  7. We should not allow one event to define us. My life, my character, my beliefs are not based on any one thing. I am who I am for an ongoing lifelong compilation of events, feelings, choices and people. Bad and good, they make me who I am. I refuse to be considered any less American today than I was one week ago.
  8. Sometimes you have to take a few steps back (ok and in some cases, hundreds) to take one step forward.

 

Think of these lessons and reminders not just in terms of this election or our country. Think of yourself. Think of your interactions with others. Think of your wants, your ambitions, your goals. Think of your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and even strangers. Think of how you fit into the grand scheme of things.  Think of each of us as having our own individual obligations to live up to while still being part of a bigger, more powerful collective responsibility. We are part of one universe, one space. Let us all learn to respect what it does for us, even if we cannot always see what we want to see.

Food For Thought

This blog post has been one of the harder ones I have written. As someone who has been on a serious mission the last two months to lose weight, I spend A LOT of time thinking about food, dieting, and all the challenges that go along with that. I have vacillated between writing about the social expectations of what one should or should not eat versus the idea that diet is all about free will (so screw social expectations).  Instead of picking one of these two perspectives, I am deliberately leaving it open (and quite possibly a bit disjointed).

Let me start with a personal story.  After  seeing the horrifying results of a body scan, I became determined to change my body composition. (More info on what a scan is here which for the record despite how humbling a scan can be, I am a total advocate for getting them). About three weeks into this revamped diet, I had a birthday around the corner, I refused to be the oldest and biggest I had ever been. By reevaluating and changing my diet, which entailed generally turning down most social invitations that involved eating or drinking, I did manage to lose 6 pound before I turned another year older.

Having said that, life is worth celebrating and diet or not, I was excited to go out for a birthday dinner with friends. I managed to indulge in some foods I hadn’t had in a while without overdoing it or feeling guilty about it. I was mostly just very happy and blessed to be in the company of close friends. After our meal it came time for dessert.  I declined as I felt like my cheat meal dinner was more than sufficient. My friend repeatedly asked if I wanted cake and insisted I needed to blow out a candle. I assured her I would not feel like I missed out if I skipped cake. After the second time though she asked, I did find myself feeling frustrated. Was I being disrespected? Why was I feeling so offended? Didn’t she have nothing but the best of intentions?  Life is short, we should eat cake, right? I wondered though, why if it is a voluntary choice to not eat something, is there still pressure to overrule that?  I felt completely conflicted.

What is it about social expectations around diet and food choices? People have opinions about what others should  or should not eat. Does it matter? Why should I care what other people have to say or think about what I eat? In the story about cake  was it indeed insensitive, or rather a wrongly perceived reaction on my part?

A few days after my birthday, my friend came to me and profusely apologized for the cake incident. She comes from a place of after years of battling some serious health stuff, she is grateful for being able to enjoy foods she hadn’t been able to. She had nothing but good intentions in wanting to see me kick back and enjoy a birthday tradition. It was not a case of judgment or insensitivity.

It has been common for me of late to be in situations where I am offered  either food, drink or an invite and I decline. I immediately feel the need to explain that I am on a diet.  Shouldn’t  simply declining be sufficient enough? Why do I feel compelled to explain why? Is it my own self -defense or is it because I anticipate that when I say “no thank you” it will be followed by “why”?

I do also realize that I have free will.  I choose what I eat and when. No matter if I get one invite or a dozen to be indulgent, it is ultimately within my control as to how I respond.  Whether or not someone asks politely or with a tad of judgment (perceived or real), it should not matter. I know what is best for me so why pay any heed to temptation, whether good intended or not?

On the other hand, there is still a  school of thought that I have a hard time ignoring. I still have that nagging sense that people do at times pose their expectations onto others. As someone who is pescatarian, I am also closely aligned to the vegan lifestyle. I do not eat meat by choice but I still love seafood and eggs. Due to an intolerance of lactose, I cannot eat dairy. So I do get slightly irritated when I see posts on social media poking fun at vegans. Why should someone care if I chose to eat tofu?  I’m not asking them to nor do I care if they eat beef and chicken till the cows come home.

Here is a scenario I pose to you as I think we all have been in this at least once. Two people go out to eat dinner. One person wants a glass of wine and the other does not. What ends up happening? Often the one who really wants that wine, decides against it as they rather not drink solo. So I ask you this without being facetious. Why does it matter what the other person is drinking or not drinking? Does the wine taste any different if the person in present company is instead drinking water? Does it somehow take away from enjoying that desired wine? If it does, I ask you, why? Is it some societal rule that drinking alone is frowned upon? Or does it have something to do with it just simply is not the same if it is not a shared experience?

I truly have no conclusion to my conflicting thoughts and the many questions I have posed. So I ask you: how do you perceive dieting and social expectations?