This morning I saw my first owl. It was a snowy owl, historically rare in these parts, but becoming more and more common, unfortunately, because of climate change. Nevertheless, it was a complete thrill to see her perched on the barbed wire fence at the Portland Jetport. I had gotten some advice on social media that at least one might be there, and so instead of my usual Sunday routine of leisurely coffee on the couch, followed by a slow jog down the road, and then breakfast, I threw on a sweatshirt, took my coffee to go and ran out the door. It made my whole day to see her ~ she looked fake, like a big white puppet owl that someone stuck up there on the fence. A car drove up behind me and she flew away, but it was just awesome ~ rare, sacred, and surreal all balled up into one brief moment.
Later, on my jog, I realized that had this been another time in my life, I never would have seen that owl. I was once so rigid about my schedule that I would have had to have gotten up at a certain time (early), done my running (early), had my (same) breakfast, and then have started my Sunday. I would have missed the owl entirely because any deviation from my usual routine would have made me uncomfortable. Mind you, these were not times when I was in the middle of an eating or compulsive exercise disorder, just “normal” life, questioned by no one and not considered odd ... and really, these times *weren’t* odd. We get in these types of patterns regularly, and it takes a lot of time, pain, and awareness to break them.
And the thing is, they’re fine.
They most likely will never hurt your physical or mental health significantly, your relationships will not be affected, and you won’t lose your job. Do you hop on the scale each morning, or at least regularly to make sure your weight is in the “safe” zone, or at least not spinning out of control? ~ that’s “normal”. You most likely won’t be called out by your mom/friend/partner for having the same breakfast every day ~ that’s “normal”. Work out at the gym several times a week, feeling guilty if you miss a day? ~ that’s “normal”.
The question is, are you free?
The way out is to become aware of these patterns and do the opposite of what that safe voice is telling you. A long time ago, I read somewhere (and I’m paraphrasing), “Safety is the most unsafe spiritual path that you can take.” I finally completely get it, you live with the lights on dim mode when you follow the path most traveled.
So have those pancakes and for God’s sake, stay off the scale unless you have to be weighed.
But above all else, please please please, go find your snowy owl.