The best sermon I ever heard was at Creekside Community Church, given by pastors Jim Gaull and Colin Griffiths called The Vomit Pile. The two pastors delivered it together right after New Years, about the things they do over and over and over that they wish they didn’t. The term “vomit pile” is taken from a verse in the Bible found in Proverbs 26:11 that says “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” You know when a dog throws up, then goes back to eat it? Yeah, we all do that in life. Metaphorically. Pretty disgusting right? It’s also pretty human, unfortunately.
So I think about my vomit pile a lot. I know that I have a tendency to be aggressive with people who are close to me. I know that I overdo eating and shopping when I’m stressed. I forget the little things, and put way too much presure on myself. The thing is, I know these things, but daily life gets in the way of conciously knowing them and actually correcting them. Enter: reflective vacation.
I’m in Hawaii right now, siting on a patio while Mr. Dreamy sleeps in our rented condo. I have two cups of coffee, one for now and one for five minutes from now. There’s a little stream with coi in front of me, with a lush jungle setting around it, and birds and other unidentified animals calling all around. This trip was a surpsrise to Mr. Dreamy and myself; my co-worker told me she owned a condo in Kauai and that it was vacant just four days before we flew here. We had been planning a vacation for around now but had decided not to take it because I started working and Dreamy hasn’t started yet. We’ve spent the last year living apart trying to accomplish our seperate goals to set our life together up properly, and once we got to living in the same house again we thought it called for a vacation celebration. So even though we thought it wasn’t meant to be, when this little jewel presented itself we decided that it was the right time after all! We made quick flight reservations and got here Tuesday afernoon. Siting here in paradise, reflecting on our good fortune, I think it’s a perfect time to take a bird’s eye view of my life; my choices, my triumphs, my failures, and my blessings and situate myself within them. Hence: the vomit pile.
I told Mr. Dreamy the other day that on the whole, I’m proud of my choices in the past few years, and that’s the truth. I went back to university, which wasn’t an easy thing to do. I moved away from my love to do it: even less easy. I found work in a profession I’m honoured to be a part of, funeral and cemetery. I look around at my friends and family and am proud of the relationships I’ve built. But there are some things I want to stop doing, and that’s what this post is about.
My Vomit Pile
I am so darn fast. In regular life situations it’s good, but interelationally it’s very bad. I rush people, I get visibly and verbally frustrated and annoyed, and generally make others feel crappy when they’re slower than me. And most everyone is slower than me. A good friend once said to me “Brianna, the thing about you is that the stuff it takes most people a year to get to will take you maybe a month, and you don’t understand that about them.” It’s true, I don’t. I understand concepts faster, I figure stuff out faster, I move faster…and I have very fast patience that runs out much too quickly. I need to slow down. Part of the problem of being too fast is that I miss things, like appreciating the world around me, or appreciating the people. I need to take stock, take a breath, and slow it down. Ironically, I married a man who is quite literally the slowest person I know. He takes his time, he double and triple checks things, he is careful and consistent. I love and hate that part of him every day, but I know I fell in love with him for a reason, and part of that reason is to help me slow down so I can be a better me.
I have a highly developed sense of self-loathing. This is a big one. There are diferent schools of thought on how best to attempt self-improvement. The first school says that self-love is what inspires a person to improve, and the second says that self-loathing is the thing to do it. I have always said self-love, but acted on self-loathing. I tell people to accept themselves while completely rejecting myself. It’s a funny thing. I’m fairly certain this idea comes from my Dad, who has since mellowed out tremendously. But growing up, I really internalized that anything short of his idea of perfection was not ok. And it’s not that he meant to be such a hard-ass, it’s just that he saw the world a certain way. So now I have to really get in to my brain and do some renovations. Is it ok to not be at the peak of physical fitness? Yeah. Is it ok not to be exactly where you thought you’d be career-wise a year ago? Yeah, it’s ok. There’s a big difference between wanting to improve and beating yourself up for what is. That’s something I want to not just say anymore, but really believe and practice. Because I think that relaxing my inner dictator would help me accomplish my goals even better: it’s a carrot vs. stick thing.
I worry about how everything looks. The part of this that I like is my personal style: I always try to look put-together and reflect who I am in what I wear, how I decorate etc. The part of this I don’t like is the neuroses that stem from it. And because my vomit pile is all interelated, this involves a lot of self-loathing. Because I don’t always look the way I think I should, I agonize. For example: gaining weight. It’s a fact of life for a lot of people, and as I’m sure we all know, it’s about more than just eating and exercising; it’s about what’s going on in your head. Just before I got divorced I lost 30 lbs, fast. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating. People everywhere told me I looked great, so I kept it up. I was miserable but at least I looked good! When I moved to Alberta and felt isolated from the life I had created in BC I put on 30lbs. These two incidences were both all about how I felt and the fact that I dealt with both scenarios through eating or not eating. In high school I toyed with bulemia and anorexia, though no one would have guessed, and at this point I just have to be honest about myself: I deal with a lot of life’s problems through food control. Me and Oprah, and like thousands of other men and women do this. It’s pain avoidance through creating a new pain. Makes no sense, but there it is. It’s not just my body though, I worry about how my house, my car, the people around me and how my life looks. And the problem with that is that instead of feeling my feelings I spend way too much energy worrying about how I am perceived by others. It’s a waste of time, and I know it. Because it means that other people’s values and ideas, which I have no control over, end up being more important than my own. And I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s something I do. I’d like to stop though. I’d like to feel what’s in me and deal with that, and have that be the end of it. I’m working on it.
So that’s the condensed version of my vomit pile. It’s there, I see it, and I’d like not to go back there anymore. I guess this is life: being honnest about who you are and what you do, and trying to become the person you want to be. The effort of doing this, the experience of evolving is what I think living is about. And I suppose that without these struggles we’d be awfully bored. So hooray for self-realization, hooray for epiphanies, and hooray for Hawaii, where I can ponder these things in between snorkeling expeditions. I hope you can identify your own vomit pile and make a plan to stop going there. Let me know how it goes, ok?