I have been thinking lately about patience. The nature of patience. And how I learned patience from getting control of my eating.
I spent my life as a pleasure junkie. I don’t think it’s too uncommon. Food was my first drug of choice. Drama was probably my second. Then cigarettes. Marijuana. There are others. Some more benign. Reading and daydreaming are still pleasures I indulge in regularly.
There is something else that I love. That gives me a certain kind of pleasure. Learning something.
I started crocheting since I started this blog. I am pretty good at it. I have gotten significantly better in the past few months. I find that for me, there is a tipping point to learning. Or really a series of tipping points. I learn the basics. And I practice them. Then I learn something a little more advanced. And I practice it. And I mess up. And I forget some of the things I originally learned and I have to go back and relearn those parts. And I practice. And I learn a little more. And I get good at one something and I do it over and over until being good at it loses its novelty. And then I learn more. And at some point, all of this disjointed knowledge that has been teetering on the brink over my head tips over and cohesion cascades over me. Suddenly, how it all fits together makes perfect sense, and I have reached a new level of understanding and skill.
So I decided the other day that it was time to teach myself to knit. And this was kind of a big deal. Because I am already good at crochet. And I already get a lot of pleasure from it. And there is still plenty for me to learn. And when I do it, in the end I get a product I am proud of. And knitting was going to require patience. It was going to mean a lot of messing up. And frustration. And being bad. And ugly products. For now.
Now, I am good at certain things. There are things I naturally have a knack for. That I have since childhood. I have very good fine motor dexterity. (Hand-eye coordination for things like sports and video games is something else entirely. Um…yeah, that stuff not so much…) I am also good at understanding how things fit together to make up a whole. One example of this might be how loops of yarn interlock with other loops of yarn to form cloth. Or how to reverse engineer those loops.
So obviously, I am at an advantage when it comes to something like knitting. I am sure that being predisposed to be good at it made me want to do it. I don’t know that it would give me as much pleasure if I would only ever be mediocre at it. The plan is to one day excel.
But right now, at this very moment, I am one notch above sucking royally. And that is uncomfortable. But totally ok. Because I have patience. And I have patience because I got my eating under control.
Getting the hang of something sets off my pleasure centers. While the struggle before that happens can be frustrating. And sometimes it can make me doubt myself. Or be angry with myself. But that moment that something clicks, I get a nice little buzz. And that moment of greater understanding is positively blissful.
But lets face it, chocolate cake would give me that whole blissful experience in a matter of seconds without the year+ of toiling and learning and practicing and trying. With out all of that discomfort in between.
And that’s exactly what I would have done if I were still eating sugar. I would have been excited to learn something, because the prospect of learning is exciting. And then I would have tried. And sucked. And eaten a cake. And gotten that feeling. And stopped trying. And eaten more cake.
Of course cake was killing me. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. It left me depressed. Not to mention hugely fat. It made me hate myself. It took more and more, more and more often, to get that blissful feeling. And eventually, the feeling was not so much blissful as just “not in deep pain.”
Because blissing out, and then eventually just numbing out, all the time made any kind of discomfort into “deep pain.” And getting control of my eating slowly allowed my body and brain to re-regulate. Not eating over every feeling allowed that “deep pain” return to being regular old, bearable discomfort. And not eating feelings also taught me how to bear it. Not manage it. Not mask it or fix it. But just let it be there. And live with it.
And I will say that the experience of learning, the clicking and cascading, is better than “getting high.” It is worth the discomfort. I don’t know why exactly. But I’m sure it has something to do with those feelings being real. That I earned those feelings of pleasure. That I did not steal them. And that I do not expect them to be my constant state. That life, as it is, is enough for me. And maybe I’ll get a scarf out of it. Sure, an ugly scarf for now. But I’ll be patient. And eventually I will make something pretty.