I have noticed that as I am making even the smallest of changes to my lifestyle or the way I eat, as I’m doing with my Simple Food project, I need to bring a lot of awareness to the process in order to make the changes successful and see the benefit of the change. Sometimes the level of awareness required is exhausting; it’s a reminder to me of why I choose minimalism as my major life philosophy.
I was musing on this and how it relates to the whole process of adapting to the gluten-free diet in the first place. When a person is newly diagnosed with celiac disease, the central difficulty of the process is becoming hyper-aware of everything that relates to eating and food. Because of the connection between food and culture, that awareness and sensitivity begins to extend beyond food to all of these other areas of our lives. All of a sudden we’re noticing how much our social lives revolve around food, how often people are bringing treats into the office, how events with our children so often conflict with mealtimes because grabbing that burger on the way to soccer practice is no longer possible…it can feel completely overwhelming!
I remain convinced that awareness is a good thing, and that this heightened awareness as a result of our diagnosis can become the catalyst for living a more intentional life. The very thing that is tearing your life apart has the potential to help you thrive. We have the opportunity (and often the necessity) of looking at everything in our lives and asking ourselves if the value that it adds is worth the effort that we are having to put in to keep it a part our lives, now that we have celiac disease to manage.
What makes a diagnosis like celiac disease feel overwhelming is that we have no choice in the matter. We cannot simply choose not to have it.
But – and please listen to me carefully, because this is the point that I am always driving at, with every post and every topic I address – we get to choose almost everything else.
No, we do not get to choose how we are feeling on any given day. We do not get to choose whether today we are going to feel amazing and end up being super productive, or whether today we will be crippled by fatigue and nausea. We do our best to control our environment enough to where we aren’t getting contaminated by gluten but sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, it’s going to happen. We cannot control all of that. We cannot control the secondary effects that we have to cope with as a result of our disease and perhaps being undiagnosed for decades.
What we can do is build our lives intentionally, with great awareness paid to what it is that we require in our best and worst moments. We can intentionally build relationships with people who are supportive and understanding of our particular challenges. We can open ourselves up to be vulnerable with these people, and in turn hold their vulnerability sacred and commit to helping each other when it is most needed. We can choose our activities carefully and build in a wide margin so that when we are having our worst days, the necessary things can still be accomplished, either by us or by someone in our close support circle. We can choose to eliminate our unnecessary possessions so that we’re not lying on our sofa in excruciating pain with piles of toys, laundry, books, and other things that we haven’t organized yet intruding onto our already overburdened psyche.
There are few things that can compound a bout of illness more than having to exist in that out of control state in an environment that feels out of control.
We also have the chance to awaken to our own thoughts and emotions and dive into what is happening within us. We have these negative emotions that surface after a diagnosis or a glutening, and we are faced with a decision about what to do with them. That is a very uncomfortable process, but again, it provides us a vehicle for awakening. Our disease provides us with moments that we can use to learn to accept ourselves more fully and to honor our own truths and struggles.
Inviting awareness into life with celiac disease strengthens our ability to bring awareness into every area of our lives, if we choose to do so.
Even if minimalism seems scary or intimidating to you, developing the level of awareness and intention that minimalists bring to the sculpting of their lives can remind you of how much control you have during a time in your life when you’ve lost so much control. This is the difference that living with intention can make, and it is revolutionary.