onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Fat Girl Sh*t

My best friend, like myself, is a compulsive eater who has had boundaries around her eating, and has been a healthy weight for over a decade. Sometimes we will be talking, and one of us will say something and the other one will say, “No, no. That’s not true. That’s just old fat girl shit.”

“Fat girl shit” can be any number of thoughts that I have about myself that are rooted in how much I hated and was disgusted by my body when I was fat, and how I assumed others judged me based on my expectations that they also hated and were disgusted by my body. It does not matter how long I have been a healthy weight, or had my eating under control. These are old old thoughts. These are paths I’ve worn into my brain by thinking them consistently for as long as I can remember. This is exactly the kind of thing that I have to dismantle on a regular basis.

This week, I got back in touch with a High School teacher that I haven’t seen or heard from in over 20 years. The first fat girl thought I had was that he wouldn’t remember me at all. I have this thought a lot. I have it in my head that I was not memorable, because who would want to recollect such an unattractive person. And then, if for some strange reason he did remember me, I would be remembered as the fat girl. Because being the fat girl has always been my first identity. Even now, when I can get out from under my fat girl shit, being a person with boundaries around my eating (essentially, the opposite of being a fat girl) is my primary identity. In other words, I have always been either a fat girl, or the woman who overcame being a fat girl.

But this teacher does remember me. He remembers me even though my name has changed. Not only that, he remembers, and still quotes (!?!) a line from a poem I wrote that was published in our school’s student art and literature magazine. He remembers me as “wicked funny.” (Hell yes, I will take that compliment.) He remembers me laughing a lot. But here’s the thing that threw me for a loop. He does not remember me as fat. At all. I mentioned it briefly, and he was surprised. 

I bring this up because it’s bittersweet. I am grateful to know that I was more than just a fat girl to people. And yet, I wish that my teenage self had known it too. I am sorry that Kate could never see herself as just a person first. And I am sorry that even looking back now, I have a hard time seeing that Kate as just a person first.  

I am not sorry to have found a solution to my eating problems, nor am I sorry to live in a healthy body that is easy to move around in. And my zen-like way of living reminds me that there is no other way for things to have gone except for the way they went. But I would like to make amends to that Kate for never really acknowledging her. I would like to start remembering that Kate as something more than fat. I think I’ll go with “wicked funny.”

Just because you won’t look at it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there

The New York Times apparently thought I’d be surprised by how many foods contain added sugar. The New York Times obviously doesn’t know me very well. Or read my blog. Which is fine…I guess…

But really, do people not know?

I know that I read labels and not everybody does. So maybe I know that there is sugar or starch added to all sorts of things you wouldn’t expect, like pork and fish. And maybe people who don’t read labels don’t realize that. But in the grand scheme of things, if you are not addicted to sugar the way I am, maybe in small amounts it’s not enough to affect you. (Though, seriously, fish? Why does anyone need to add sugar to fish?)

But do people really not know that if something tastes like candy, it has sugar in it? Seriously. Do you, as an adult, really still think Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch is part of a balanced breakfast, just because when we were kids they said so in the commercial and printed it on the side of the box? (Alright fine, it does have 25% of your recommended daily riboflavin.)

Here’s the thing. I’m not talking about everybody quitting sugar. I am sick around sugar, but I don’t pretend that everyone is. And I am a firm believer in freedom. Like I think that people have the right to smoke. But nobody is pretending that cigarettes are good for you. I was a smoker for many years, I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyway. Smokers know that smoking is dangerous. And if you tell a smoker that smoking is bad for them – which people sure do like to do for some reason – and you get a shocked response, it is sarcastic. Because everyone knows and you’re being a moron.

But we pretend that certain sugar foods are “packed with nutrition.” And we let people be shocked when somebody says that a granola bar is not that healthy; it’s mostly just sugar. But have you had a granola bar? If it tastes like an oatmeal cookie, that’s what it is. Even if it’s rectangular, and says “organic” on it. As a culture, we say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but we eat doughnuts and Pop-Tarts. Or frosted cinnamon rolls. Or various kinds of bread with syrup.

Again, the judgment is not about what we are eating, but how we are lying about it. If you want to eat sugar for breakfast, I will not try to stop you. More power to you. But you know that doughnuts are just cake. Breakfast cake, yes. Sure! But still just cake. And if I see you “look shocked” when you “find out” that the snack that you bought at the health food store, which totally tastes like a candy bar, is just a candy bar, I am going to have to call bullshit.

But here’s the thing. I get it. Because when I didn’t want to give up sugar, I also pretended that health food store candy was not candy. And I pretended that healthy meant it wouldn’t make me fat. But I wasn’t losing any weight. And I wasn’t interested in looking at the truth if it meant that I was going to come face to face with my relationship with sugar.

As a culture we are playing dumb for one another. We’re a bunch of enablers. And I think it’s ridiculous. Eat what you choose. I hope you enjoy every bite. But I also hope you have your eyes open. Not looking at the sugar, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Even Eskimos eat dessert

Yesterday, my husband decided at the last minute to go to home for a celebration that we were originally not going to attend. It was 8 in the morning and he asked how long it would take for me to get ready if I wanted to make the almost 6 hour drive. I didn’t have any meals prepared, and I was not interested in spending the next 2 hours cooking and packing, to spend 6 hours in the car, just to go home for a day and turn right back around. So he went and I stayed at our apartment. Yes, I miss him when he’s gone. Yes, even for just a day. This is just one example of how my eating boundaries can be inconvenient.

Earlier in the week, we were talking about how hard it must be on a relationship to have someone put boundaries around their food in the middle. He said he wondered how many marriages had ended because of it. He said that for him, he knew what he was getting into from the start. I had boundaries around my eating for seven years when we started dating. But even knowing that ahead of time, it is still inconvenient for him that I am sober from sugar. It is inconvenient for me to put boundaries around my food every day without exception, and I’m the one whose life is getting saved. We don’t eat out a lot, because it can be difficult for me to get what I need. We can never just order a pizza, or drive through a fast food joint. He can, but we can’t. (By the way though, I cannot imagine that being affected by my food boundaries is more inconvenient than being married to an active addict…just sayin’.)

And then he said something that I think is really important. He said that he (as I know, because I do all the grocery shopping) has a cabinet full of bread, snack cakes, starchy sides, sugar cereal and candy that I never touch, but what happens when people are already married, and one of them suddenly gives up sugar and can’t have it in the house anymore?

In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it talks about avoiding alcohol as a means of staying sober. “[Some people say]…we must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink…we mustn’t think or be reminded about alcohol at all.”

But the Big Book’s reply to this is that it can’t work that way. “[The addict’s] only chance for sobriety would be some place like the Greenland Ice Cap, and even there an Eskimo might turn up with a bottle of scotch and ruin every­ thing!” 

The truth about sugar, like alcohol, is that it is everywhere. I was never going to outrun it. I was never going to escape it. So I had to change my mind about it. That started with my thoughts and my words. I stopped talking about “loving” sugar. I stopped thinking about eating it. If I do think about eating it, I stop having that thought. I remember that it is poison to me. 

I don’t romanticize drinking bleach. I don’t think about how nice it would be to slit my own throat. So I also don’t think about how great it would be to harm myself with sugar now, because eating sugar would always be self-harm.

Yes, in the beginning, it is easier to keep oneself away from tempting situations. While one is still detoxing, it is a great idea to keep sugar out of your home. It is probably not the best idea to walk into a bakery in the beginning. But ultimately, one has to muster some immunity, because there is nowhere to hide. Grocery stores, coffee shops, movie theaters all have sugar foods. Even just walking down the street in some places we are bombarded with smells. Where could we go? Even Eskimos eat dessert.

So my husband gets a cabinet of sugar and carbohydrates. He gets a freezer of ice cream and pizza rolls. I pack his lunch every morning with pizza, doughnuts and Mountain Dew. It’s not mine. And the way I eat may be inconvenient, but it’s the way I eat, not the way he eats. I don’t have to be afraid of sugar. It turns out it is not going to jump into my mouth.

What goes into and comes out of my mouth

When I was eating compulsively I spent a lot of my time plotting revenge. I am not saying I necessarily carried it out, but I thought about how best to hurt the person I was angry with. I had a lot of conversations in my head where I used my razor sharp wit to cut someone down or shut them up. I thought about ways to bother and upset people who bothered and upset me. It was exciting. It gave me a self-righteous rush!

When I got sober from sugar, I had to give that up. The desire for vengeance is a byproduct of resentment. I cannot afford resentment. It is as poisonous to me as sugar itself. Resentment is one of the ways my addiction uses to convince me that I “deserve” a fix.

The truth is that there are ways that I am being treated right now that I don’t like. I consider them abusive and controlling. And there is nothing for me to do about it. I didn’t do anything wrong. But if I seek revenge, even just in my head, even if I am just cultivating disdain, I will have done something wrong. And when I have done something to wrong someone, whether or not they abused me first, I will feel the guilt of my own actions. And that will make me particularly hungry. 

But eating my feelings, especially stuffing them down with sugar, is no longer an option. So if I did retaliate against a fellow human, I would have to apologize and make amends for my actions, even if those humans have hurt me, but won’t make amends to me. It is all about me. It is only about me. Not what I want or deserve, but how I have impacted the world and the humans in it.

The good and bad news of personal responsibility is that I am accountable for all of my actions, in all ways, on every level, regardless of outside circumstances. In other words, I am responsible for what both goes into and comes out of my mouth. 

This post does not contain attachment. Post anyway?

I was taking to a friend the other day about compromise. She was confused about why someone was acting a certain way when a compromise would be easy. I told her that this person most likely didn’t want to compromise. My friend asked, “then what do they want?” It was funny to me because the answer was obvious to me, but because of the nature of my loving and generous friend, she could not imagine it. She could not fathom that people want what they want. They want to win. They want complete and total victory.It’s perhaps obvious to me because I lived like that for so long, wanting what I wanted, feeling defeated or put upon if I had to let go of my (often grand and exorbitant) expectations. Feeling cheated and wronged by anyone who got even a fraction of what they wanted at the expense of the total of what I wanted.

Addiction makes most of us self-centered in the most unhealthy ways. We believe we should have all the good, and yet we expect everyone else to deal with the bad. We decide that we deserve our good fortune, but in the face of bad fortune, or even just the consequences of our bad decisions, we condemn life as completely unfair, and others as wicked, cruel, and out to get us.

This ultimately comes down to our attachment. Attachment to the way we want things to be. Attachment to our expectations.

In recovery, I had to learn non-attachment. Non-attachment is a spiritual idea that I have known about for some time, but was unable to practice until I got my eating under control. When I was younger and searching for a spiritual practice to make me feel whole, I read a slew of self-help, spiritual, and religious books. Zen Buddhism books talk a lot about non-attachment. But I was never able to fully grasp it until I put boundaries around my eating. I am sure that had something to do with the fact that addiction is attachment. It is attachment to one’s substance, the belief that you simply cannot live without it.

In recovery, I had to learn that I could only control my own thoughts, words, and actions. Of course this started with the food. I was no longer going to eat cake. Ever. And I was going to have to come to terms with the fact that other people were. And that I could not be resentful of that, or I would be in danger of ending up back in food hell. Even if They weighed 300 pounds and were diabetic. Even if I thought they were sugar addicts like me. I made a choice for myself and the only person I could expect to live the way I wanted to live was me. And soon, it became clear that this needed to be true in all areas of my life.

I do not get a say in what others think, say, or do, and (here’s the kicker) that is exactly as it should be. It was confronting to realize that I was not the center of all of my dealings in the world. It was painful to accept that I, not only would not, but should not always get everything I desired. But there is also something very freeing about recognizing someone’s autonomy as sacred, rather than inconvenient. 

I do not claim to be a guru. But I am good at non-attachment. Not because I think it is holy, but ultimately because it is convenient. I live a happier life knowing that other people’s choices and behaviors have nothing to do with me. Of course I still want things. And yes, there are things that are important to me that I do not get. But that’s life. And that’s another thing I have found since I put boundaries around my eating. When I don’t fight against other people’s choices, trying to force the outcome I think I want, in the long run, life always gives me better than I thought I wanted in the first place.

Not a night owl or a vampire, just a sugar addict.

I used to think I was a night owl. I loved to stay up into the wee hours of the morning. I kept what people call the vampire hours. I would read, write, watch movies, and sometimes even do things like sew, crochet, or make some kind of DIY project. I would be happily awake until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more.

But of course, I had a terrible time getting out of bed. I would get 4-6 hours of sleep most days, and then sleep for 12 or more hours wen I had a day off. I regularly overslept for appointments. And I was unhappy to be awake. The daylight hours were a burden. And because I hated it so much, I had a lot of disdain for people who loved the morning.

I have come to realize in the past ten years that I am not a night owl by nature. I am a sugar addict. All of that energy that kept me awake was from sugar, from being high on sugar. That’s how I stayed up all hours of the night. And when I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I wasn’t falling asleep, I was passing out.

When it comes down to it, I have a love/hate relationship with people. I’m fun and funny and charming (and humble, as my husband would point out.) But I am an addict. And addicts are, by definition, bad at relationships. I am anxious. I want to be liked. I am afraid of humiliation. So, along with being hopped up on sugar, I was probably awake in the middle of the night because it was time when I could be alone. Being alone in the dark with a chocolate cake and a pack of cigarettes was always easier for me than being out in the world where the other humans were wandering free. (By the way, I still love to be alone. To this day I spend a lot of time in solitude, and it is a necessity for my happiness. I may not be a night owl anymore, but I am still, and will probably always be, a loner.)

So when I gave up sugar and put boundaries around my eating, I stopped getting the energy at night from the sugar, and wound up sleeping at night. And because I was eating nutritious food, I wasn’t passing out from my drug, but actually sleeping. So I would wake up refreshed.

And then I realized that I love the morning. I love the quiet and the stillness (or relative stillness when I was in New York City.) It’s funny, because it was really a gradual change. 10 years ago, morning was 8 a.m. (Hey, for a girl who couldn’t drag her butt out of bed before noon without threat of death, 8 was pretty freaking early. I was impressed with myself.) Eventually morning became more like 7. And then was really 6 or 6:30. And now, in the past 5 months, I get up every day at 5:30.

I take my jog early, have breakfast, run errands, do a silent knitting meditation, and write for 3 or 4 hours. I get all of these things done in a day before the sugar addict night owl I used to be would even have gotten out of bed.

But there is another reason that I can love the morning, another reason I can happily wake up at 5:30 and not be cranky and angry. I go to bed. I regularly sleep 8 hours a night. It’s important to me. I don’t hate going to sleep like I used to. I don’t fight to keep my eyes open a little longer. I am not afraid I am going to miss anything. I look forward to the end of the day, when I lay on the couch and read a little. Maybe I still want to read one more chapter, but I know that the book will be there tomorrow. And there is something satisfying about another day done.

I really believed once that being a night owl was an unalterable part of being me. I thought it was the way I was made. And it made my life harder. It’s hard on a person’s spirit to always be late, or worried about being late. It’s hard to live in a body that is in physical pain from lack of restful sleep. It’s hard to be cranky and angry because it’s daytime. So I am glad to be a morning person, even if young Kate would look at me with disdain. She can think what she likes.

Let’s not spread it around like germs

It is hot here in Kentucky. For the past few days, it has been in the nineties, but the heat index has it feel like 100-105 degrees. And yet, I am not suffering. In fact, I am enjoying it. (Though I could do with fewer bugs, thank you.) In recent years I have found that I am always cold. Sometimes I sit out on my porch in the morning and if it’s only in the high seventies, I need to put on a sweater. Seriously. Always. Freaking. Cold. So I am absolutely loving that I can go sit outside in as few, teeny tiny clothes as possible.

 

When I was eating compulsively, I was basically always hot. I was so generally warm that I didn’t wear a coat in the winter in Chicago. I would sweat pretty much constantly, no matter the season, no matter the temperature. And on top of that, I was so ashamed of my body that in the summer, I would keep myself covered up. I would wear jeans under long dresses no matter how hot it got; so that was even more sweating.

 

I would guess that between the ages of 14 and 22, I didn’t own a bating suit. If I did, I don’t remember, and I would guess that I didn’t use it very much. The idea of being seen in a bating suit was terrifying to me. I want you to think about that. I was more comfortable wearing layers of clothing in the scorching heat than I was letting people see my legs, arms and shoulders. I probably didn’t get in a pool, lake or sprinkler for eight years because it was more comfortable to be oppressed by the sun than it was to be oppressed by the potential judgment of strangers. I was both ashamed of myself, and afraid that others would shame me as well.

 

And here is the thing about body shame: it doesn’t go away easily. It didn’t go away because I lost 150 pounds. In fact, it was never just going to go away. It had to be dismantled and I was the one who had to dismantle it.

 

I still have to dismantle it. Here’s the thing, I am not fat. I am 5’6 ½”, I wear a size 6/8. But I am curvy. I have wide hips and round thighs and a belly. And those things can make me feel fat. My thighs rub together. For various reasons, one of which is being fat during my formative years, I am knock kneed. (It is actually a pretty common phenomenon among women because we tend to have wider hips than men.) My upper legs lean toward one another while my lower legs lean away. Because of this, my thighs have always rubbed together. Even at my very thinnest, probably 20 pounds lighter than I am now, when I was wearing size small clothes, my thighs rubbed together. The only way they would stop rubbing together is if I became skeletally thin, and frankly, maybe not even then. Sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have a lot of extra skin and stretch marks and sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have broad shoulders, I have large calf muscles, I have flabby arms. Sometimes every single one of those things makes me feel fat.

 

And it’s not just because I used to be fat. It’s definitely not just me. The other day, on Facebook, there was a picture of a friend (a real natural beauty by any standards) and she made a comment about looking “pregnant” (which I read as fat.) Just to be clear, she did not look either pregnant or fat. And I commented on it, because frankly, it freaked me out. I will admit that it was none of my business, and I probably shouldn’t have made a comment, but I did. In my wishful thinking, I hoped that at least she would acknowledge that like me, while she might feel fat, she at least understood intellectually that she was not. But she declined. She said that at least we could agree that it was an unflattering picture. At that point I had already overstepped my bounds, so after that I kept my opinion to myself, but you know what? No. I am telling you, my lovely readers, that I refuse to agree that it was an unflattering picture. It was a picture of a real woman with a real body, doing real things. What is unflattering about having a body big enough to actually house a full set of human internal organs?

 

I refuse to accept that the only beauty is the hyper-specific set of characteristics that the beauty and fitness industries acknowledge. I refuse to accept the idea that what I am right now at this very moment is anything less than enough. I refuse to look a beautiful woman and agree with her when she tries to convince me that she is lacking.

 

I know that I cannot change others. But I can change myself, and the best way to do that is not always by changing my body, though obviously as a woman who lost over a hundred pounds, I am a proponent of that as well. Sometimes, the best way for me to change is by loving and accepting my body as it is. And what that often looks like for me is to take small actions that make me feel uncomfortable, until they are comfortable. And then I can take another small action that makes me uncomfortable.

 

I can think of so many examples of little obsessions that I managed to let go of. When I was overweight, I never wore a top that didn’t cover my butt. Even after I lost weight, it took something to get over this. It was burned into my brain that by not hiding that I had a lower body, I was somehow being rude to others. When I first started working out about 15 years ago, I wouldn’t wear spandex workout clothes; I would only wear things that were loose fitting, never mind that they might be less comfortable or might even make it more difficult to move around.

 

Several years ago, when I was my thinnest, I started wearing a bikini when I went to my (mostly) secluded New York City roof to sunbathe. I would never have gone out in public like that, but at that point just putting on a bikini was a huge step for me. That I owned a bikini felt daring. Years later, and thirty pounds heavier, I started wearing my bikini in public. And not in a shy, apologetic way. I didn’t hide. I didn’t avoid talking to people (I am a friendly person.) I was just being myself, with more skin showing. It was uncomfortable the first few times, but when I did it often enough, it became “just the way it was.” In fact, I have four bating suits right now, but I only wear two of them, because the others are not bikinis and I decided that I prefer bikinis. My running clothes are spandex now. I wear them because they are made of moisture wicking material. Do they look great? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t wear them to dress up, I wear them to run.

 

I’m not saying that I am totally free of self-judgment, especially around my body. I have some super-serious body image disorders that I expect will dog me my whole life. But I refuse to kowtow to them. I refuse to spread them around like germs. I refuse to accept them as truth. And I absolutely refuse to prioritize my life around hiding things that some people call flaws, which are really just the realities of living in a human body on the planet Earth.

Perseverance, exhaustion, and bedroom slippers

I used to spend a lot of time trying to decipher what things meant. Why I felt a certain way, why circumstances were what they were. I thought that everything was significant. And I needed to understand it all If I was going to crack the code of life. What I have come to understand since I got my eating under control is that it is not my job to crack the code, if there even is one. 

In the past few weeks, I have been writing for five hours a day as part of my daily routine. And it has pointed something out to me about myself: perseverance exhausts me. 

On certain days of the week, I might end up staring at a blank document on my laptop for what seems like an eternity, typing a few sentences, and then just discarding the whole thing. I might do this over and over again for much of the day. On days like this, nothing productive is going to get done after that. Because after hours of fulfilling a commitment for the sake of my integrity, I’m just plain spent. I’m going to do something escapist for the rest of the day, like read a novel or some manga, or watch TV.

But other days, the writing seems to pour out of me. I get my hours in, I make some notes about what more I have to say when I pick back up, and I feel particularly accomplished. On those days I still have the energy to do whatever else. Maybe I do some laundry or run an errand or work on knitting my sweater. The other day, I managed to clean the whole house, including mopping and vacuuming, after an easy writing session.

But here is the lesson, as I see it. The me before I had my eating under control would have expected to always be able to write easily and then clean the whole house. If it was possible once, it should always be possible. But those kind of expectations lead to burnout. Just like eating within my boundaries, or jogging 2 miles a day, or almost anything I do in my life, the goal is consistency, not perfection. The goal is to be able to do these good things for myself for the rest of my life. One day at a time, yes, but hopefully forever. Which is why I make sure that my food is delicious as often as possible, even if it’s not particularly low in calories, and why I focus on running my committed number of miles, rather than working to get faster or run longer or some other method of upping my running game.

When I first put boundaries around my eating, people who had boundaries around their eating told me that if the only thing I could do in a day was eat my meals and not eat anything else, that was enough. They told me that everyone needs a “bedroom slipper day” once in a while. They told me that I should be gentle with myself.

Which was something new to me, frankly. When I couldn’t stop eating, everything in our society and culture told me that I was lazy. The media and the people around me, knowingly or unwittingly, told me that I was not working hard enough or doing well enough, because if I had been, I wouldn’t have been fat. I was cruel to myself. I was hateful to myself. I expected perfection from myself, and when I failed to be perfect I quit. Just one more log on the not-good-enough fire.

But finding out that I could give myself a commitment, and that it would be a benchmark of daily accomplishment, was a revelation. Suddenly there was a minimum that I could do that was attainable, and it would be, by definition, “enough.” This made everything so much less scary. And so much less significant. 

I believe in perseverance. I believe in it because I believe in commitment. Because of my willingness to persevere, I have learned a lot about myself, how powerful I am, and what I can accomplish. But for the sake of peace and sanity, I also have to admit that it takes something out of me. And that I need to replenish before I can move on. 

I have had to learn that replenishing myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, is just as important as the perseverance itself. I have had to realize that just because I have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé, doesn’t mean I can accomplish what she can. And I’m A-OK with that, my friends.

They won’t all be handed to me.

There is an experience I have had throughout my life. Whenever I have been interested in accomplishing something, the first step has always been easy. Not just easy, kind of a joke. In my first attempts at almost anything, I have generally been handed a win. When I was in college, I took a playwriting class. I wrote the first act of a play and got rave reviews from both my teacher and my fellow students. I ended up getting a D in that class, my only D ever in my entire school career, because after that first act, I never wrote another line for that play. Or for that class at all, as a matter of fact.

Then, when I was 20 years old, I had dropped out of college and wanted to be a professional stage actor. I was working at a restaurant, and a man walked in, approached me, and asked me to audition for a long-running, famous stage show. I showed up and got the part.

This is not normal or common. If you or someone you love is an actor, you probably know that the process of getting a professional acting job is not generally that quick or easy. A professional actor puts in a lot of work just to get an audition, let alone a part. Being an actor is not all developing a character, having a genuine moment with a fellow actor, or transforming into someone else to the joy and awe of an audience. There are head shots, cattle calls, cold reads, agents (if you are lucky enough to get one) and just generally lots of fruitless pavement-pounding. The whole thing is full of work that is not glamorous or exciting. I never auditioned for another professional acting job again. (Though I did dance with a company a few years later, but I never auditioned. And though I was paid, and took it quite seriously – I really love to perform – it was not a job, and I never thought of it as one.

Last week, I submitted my first article to an online publication. Within days I got a response saying that my piece was accepted for publication. (You can read it here.)

It was a first attempt at something, and it was, once again, handed to me.

Please don’t misunderstand; I know that I am a quality writer. I know that I have a gift for expressing complicated ideas, and for illustrating how things work in relation to other things, both mechanical and interpersonal. But there is a way of things with that kind of writing, very much like the way of things with acting. There are query letters, and résumés where you explain why you are qualified to write on a topic. There are rules about simultaneous submissions of the same piece to multiple publications, and protocol to follow if you need to “unsubmit” a piece from various publications because that piece has been accepted at one particular publication.

And then there is self-promotion. I can’t even tell you how I hate self-promotion.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with my Good Girl, who just wants to be liked. Or maybe it’s my Fat Girl, who is afraid of drawing attention, and thereby ridicule.

And there is something else. It’s a thing I sometimes forget. I am easily overwhelmed. If I step back, and look at the whole picture, it is always too much to take in. And yet, it is my default setting. 

I am a huge fan of the grandiose. Maybe that’s why it seems right to me to take three giant steps back and take in the whole wide world at a glance. But I need to remember that after that first sense of wonder, what seeps in is paralysis. 

By getting my eating under control, I learned two really important lessons about achievement.

1) all I have to do is take the next right action. And the next right action is usually small. Sometimes, it is literally eating my lunch. 

And 2) Sometimes the next right action is unclear, and all there is to do is wait for the moment when I know what the next right action is. One of my favorite sayings is, “when you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” 

This second one, especially, is not particularly popular in our hyper-active, results-based culture of “winning.” But I find that the answer always does come, eventually. And for me, even if I fail, I feel that an action born from following my heart is always worth my time. An action born of the fear of not taking action generally leads to a lot of messes I have to clean up before I can move forward again.

I don’t know what to expect from choosing to write professionally. (But hopefully it includes lots of money and renown.) At this particular moment, the whole thing seems fraught with pitfalls and traps. Every set of submission guidelines occurs to me like it was written by a frosty, snooty schoolmarm with a too-tight bun who would like to know just who in blazes I think I am. 

But I have to remember another thing I learned when I got my eating under control. Any time I tackle something new, there is always a learning curve. Even if that first experience was easy peasy, there will always be a set of necessary skills that I lack. And it will always take time to acquire those skills. If I choose to do the work at all. 

The little girl in me who is terrified of failure would choose a chocolate cake over any work every time. But I don’t let her make decisions anymore. So I will figure out what the next right action is eventually. And in the meantime, I will keep doing the fun part. I will write, and read, and deconstruct the genius of what is already out there. I will do my part to acquire the skills that I lack. And I will take all of the next right actions, one at a time. And I will particularly look forward to the moments when the next right action is lunch. Or dinner. Or breakfast.

Please read my article in elephant journal! (Yay!)

Hello there! I know, it’s early in the week for me to post, but I have just gotten an article about food addiction and knitting published in elephant journal! Hooray! Please check it out!

You can read it here!

Please read it, share it on social media, and just generally be really happy for me!

Thanks!

Kate

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