Does anybody else remember that absolute fever dream of an era when kids would just say YOLO and then do the dumbest shit they could think of? I honestly think that the “YOLO” era might just be one of the biggest contributors to my lack of a gut instinct. Admittedly, there are a lot of reasons why I feel that I lack a particularly strong gut instinct. Here’s a few of the big ones, the “heavy hitters” if you will…
1. I’m allergic to dairy and didn’t know it for many years. I used to eat yogurt and cheese every day of my life, and I had no idea why I was in such emotional and physical turmoil. The biggest symptoms of my allergy aligned with fatigue and exhaustion, and with that a whole lot of stress and anxiety. So essentially, any time I was in distress and tried to follow my gut instinct, I was trying to decipher a code that was ultimately just saying “please stop eating cheese, I can’t handle it.”
2. I have severe anxiety. Anxiety is quite common, and it comes in many forms, shapes, and sizes. I’ve spent many years with many therapists trying to decode the ways that anxiety has fed me lies, and how I became so susceptible to believing them. I spent a lot of time going over the same script: my gut instinct is telling me that I am stupid, so naturally what I need to do is train myself to not be stupid, and then my problem will be solved. And much to my disbelief, that was not the most helpful narrative to be relentlessly forcing down my gullet. It took me a long time to realize that sometimes my anxiety actually causes my gut instinct to lie to me. And instead of training myself to not be stupid or lazy or any of those negative things, I’ve been training myself to recognize that sometimes my gut instinct is trying to make me believe things about myself that just aren’t true.
3. I was a trained ballet dancer for many years. This one may seem far fetched, although the ties do begin to form when I remember that a large portion of my training was learning how to convince myself that I wasn’t in pain. Dancing is painful, ballet technique is hard on the body. And unfortunately, one of the ways that dancers are able to overcome these hurdles is the acquired mental discipline of “working through the pain”. I can’t speak for all or even most dancers, but I know for myself that this strongly disciplined mindset regrettably translated into the instinct to ignore or cover up any feelings of discomfort, pain, or nervousness.
And number 4… fucking YOLO. You only live once, they say! I thought that my singular existence was already implied, but thank you for the reminder. And now that it’s suddenly an acronym, it’s become to ultimate justification for anything and everything. It was so hard to find a middle ground, a balance, a gut instinct, when my high school years were fueled with the growing infestation of the phrase “you only live once”. It was incredibly difficult for young people to try and cultivate their own moral compasses with one person telling us “You only live once, don’t do drugs!” and the very next person saying “You only live once, do drugs!” To be clear, I didn’t do the drugs, but there was a moment of inner conflict nonetheless. And the juxtapositions just kept coming “You only live once, stay up late” and then “You only live once, sleep well and take care of yourself” And my personal favorite “You only live once, protect your relationships and keep people in your life” versus “You only live once, cut em out and don’t look back”.
Eventually YOLO faded from my social vernacular, and I like to think that I replaced its philosophy with a healthy mindset and intuitive thinking. Then again, I will admit that to this day I say to myself “hey, you only live once” every time I consider eating an entire key lime pie in one sitting.