Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

It’s funny where you actually find freedom

Today was the first time since our trip to Florida that I went sun bathing. I have been working more than before and I have long work days with long commutes. And the days that I have off need to be spent cooking and prepping and packing meals for the work days ahead. Not to mention laundry and some minor housekeeping. And then there are walks for my health and sanity. And the occasional manicure and/or pedicure for my vanity. I haven’t been able to lay out until today. By late May I am usually a bronze goddess. This year, not so much.

So today I put on my bikini and I went to the pool.

On my way, I saw two women in their cover-ups with their pool toys and their kids headed there too. And I got scared. That I was going to take off my cover-up and they were going to be disgusted. And maybe even make comments to each other about how I shouldn’t be dressed like that in front of their children. Maybe even say it right to my face.

Now I have still not lost any of the weight that I gained after I quit smoking. Or maybe I have dropped 5 or so lbs. But I’m not weighing myself, so I can’t be sure. And either way, my clothes have not gotten any bigger. Nor has my butt gotten any smaller. Which is not the torture that it was in the beginning, but it rubs me the wrong way.

I oscillate between being resentful of God, and choosing peace and acceptance. Though I also spend a good amount of time avoiding thinking about it, which is like a not-unhappy-medium. I mean, it is almost 2 years since I quit smoking. And it is over a year since I stopped gaining weight. I feel like it “should be” time for me to start losing weight. Like I deserve it. Like I paid my dues and now God owes it to me to let me get back into that body I loved being in. And then there is the thought that I “should” love being in this body. That it is beautiful too.

And the truth is that I do believe this body is beautiful. When I stop comparing it to that other body. When I stop wanting to be thinner because I have been thinner.

And as I write this, I can see another part of it. A part that is embarrassing to write. I loved being on the skinnier side of thin because it was the opposite of what I had been. It felt like an “in your face” to all of the people who judged me. And it felt like a kind of redemption for the fat girl I was. Because there was a part of me when I was fat that thought that my broken body meant that I could never be “skinny.” And then I was. And it was painless. (Not effortless, of course. Because there was all of the shopping and cooking and packing. There were all of the boundaries to keep. But there was no pain. No deprivation. No torture and no crazy.) And now, on the bigger side of thin, I feel like it’s not so much of an accomplishment in the eyes of strangers. Or even family and friends. It feels like the world is secretly thinking, “Sure, she lost weight. But a fat girl can never get really thin. They are not built that way.” It feels like more of the same “fundamentally broken.”

But of course, I don’t keep boundaries around my food to be skinny. I say of course because if I did, gaining thirty pounds would have made me give up. Sure I would have gained another hundred and thirty, but that thirty felt like a hundred and thirty anyway. And I certainly don’t keep eating boundaries to impress other people. Frankly, for every person who is impressed, there are three who think that I am extreme, or unhealthy, or just plain weird.

I keep boundaries around my food to keep myself sane. To keep being a person I want to be. In life, and with money, and work. And with people. Strangers and family and friends. And especially my boyfriend. And for me. To keep liking and loving and honoring myself.

So anyway, back to the pool. I took off my cover up, and I set myself up in a lounge chair and closed my eyes. And when I opened them a while later to take a look around, I saw that one of those moms was wearing her own bikini. And she looked a lot like I did. A real woman in a real body. Getting her sun.

And then I remembered something else. That those years ago, when I was in that skinnier-side-of-thin body, I never wore my bikini in public. I was too embarrassed and ashamed then. It wasn’t until after I gained my 30 lbs that I started wearing it where people could see me. This body that I judge so harshly is the one I found freedom in.


Not My Normal

I don’t usually remember my dreams. But when I do they are often using dreams. I had a using dream this week. And it happened to be the most gruesome using dream I have had in the past 8 ½ years. In other words, ever.

For those of you who don’t know, a using dream is a dream addicts who have given up their substance have of getting high. For me they are about sugar.

They are totally normal. They don’t mean anything. In the beginning I was afraid they meant that I was going to have a relapse. But it soon became clear that there was no reason as to why or when I would have them. And it also became clear that every addict I knew who had given up their substance had them.

Up until this week, my using dreams have always been short and simple. In my dream I somehow get to a point that I realize I have had a bite of something that I don’t eat, like a muffin or a cookie. Sometimes the dream even starts after I have already taken the bite. The dream itself is usually about the aftermath. The panic. What I am going to do. Who I am going to tell. If I am going to tell anybody. If I can, or will, rationalize it. If I’m going to be honest or if I am going to lie. And it is always in the context of the fact that I do not eat the thing I have just eaten. It’s not like I don’t have food boundaries in my dream. The point of the dream is that I don’t eat sugar and I just ate sugar.

This particular dream was long and drawn out. It was specifically about eating licorice. (Yes, black licorice. Licorice licorice.) Which was a nostalgic food for me. I used to eat it with my Italian grandma. It’s what we would eat after dinner. This dream was not just about eating it, but then going out to find more. And the specific brand my grandma used to buy. It was about chasing it.

I was telling a coworker about this the other day and he said to me, “Was it great to eat it again? Were you thinking, ’Mmmm. Wow, this is so good?’” I looked at him surprised. I said, “No. It was a nightmare.”

The main feeling of the dream was the dual terror that I was going to eat more and that I was not going to get to eat more. It was the feeling of how crazy eating sugar made me when I was an active addict.

The good thing about this dream is that it reminded me where I come from. Who I could be if I did have a relapse. It brought me back to what it was like to live in my head when I was crazy and in food hell. And it reminded me that I am a low-functioning addict. That when I was eating compulsively, I didn’t pay my bills. I didn’t clean my house. I would eat in bed, and then just push the garbage aside to go to sleep. I slept in a nest of my own garbage.

It is always a relief to wake up from a using dream. I think that may actually be what they are for. Especially when I am feeling normal and sane and happy in my life. That relief. That full body experience that reminds me that all of the inconvenience of shopping and preparing and reading labels and constant vigilance is actually worth it. Because I didn’t really eat that licorice or that muffin or that cookie. That the life with peace and calm and the ability to cope with every-day situations is not my normal. That there is another me out there who is totally cray-cray. But not today. For today it was just a dream.

Everyone else is already taken

My past few weeks have been about revisiting old lessons. This does not particularly surprise me. It has been clear to me for a long time that growing is circular and cyclical. Revisiting the same aspects of ourselves at different levels and different perspectives.

So first it was remembering that I can take steps to be the person I want to be in the midst of a culture of people I don’t want to be. And then it was remembering to mind my own business. And that being helpful does not always mean offering help. And then it was remembering that it’s ok to judge. That that is how I figure out what I want, how to get it, and if I am, in fact, getting it.

So this week has been about remembering that I have my own journey. That it is mine. That it is exactly the one I am supposed to have. And that it is as good as anyone else’s.

When I was eating compulsively, I had a lot of jealousy. A lot of anger at God. A lot of frustration at what it seemed everybody got that I did not.

Of course, first was my broken body. That I got a body that was fat and disgusting. That mark of my innate wrongness that God made visible to everyone. While everybody else got one that was normal and good.

But there were other things too, outside of the body itself.

There was a girl I went to grammar school with. She occurred to me as perfect. All of the teachers loved her. The principal. The office staff. The other mothers.

She was smart, and pretty. She was popular. (If the term popular can be applied to a small class in a small school in the suburbs.) And I was very jealous. Not that I didn’t like her. I did. Very much. She was extremely likable. But it seemed to me that she got a good life, and I got a bad one.

This kind of thing was common through my whole life. There were people like that in my family. In junior high and high school and college and at jobs and in social circles. Everybody had something I did not. Everybody was privy to things that were mysterious to me. I have described before that I thought that everybody got a life instruction manual that I did not get.

When I got my food under control and stopped being high on sugar all the time, I learned that a lot of what I didn’t understand about life came from my own insistence on numbing myself instead of feeling my feelings. And that part of it was also my lack of integrity. That willingness to lie, cheat and steal. That ability to numb the shame and guilt of lying cheating and stealing with chocolate cake. With my food under control I learned that life actually just works better when I honor my word. When I have integrity.

But there is something else I learned when I got control of my eating and my eating disorders. And it is that lesson I need a refresher course in this week. I learned that the life I got is beautiful and perfect. I learned that I have a place. And that it is a place that nobody else can fill. It is Kate’s place. And I need to fulfill Kate’s missions. Even if I don’t know what all of them are yet. Even if they are not worldly. Even if they don’t make me rich. Or famous. And even if they are and they do. That my life, however it twists and turns, whatever it looks like, is my gift from Life. And that it is also my gift back to life. And that I had better honor it. As it is.

Because this week, I read a book. A novel that made me ache with jealousy. For the first time in a very long time. It made me envious. And it made me pity myself. Poor me. I didn’t write that brilliant novel. And then came the (frankly ridiculous and unnatural conclusion) that I could never write something like that. That I got a bad life. That I got sub par talent.

And then I saw a girl in a perfect outfit. Simple and clean. Unobtrusive and yet stunningly fashionable. And then I realized that I could never wear that outfit. Because it was beautiful on her because she is thin and straight. And I am curvy.

I love fiction. And I have, several times in my life, attempted to write some fiction. I have written some that I thought was pretty good. But I have never gone very far with it. Certainly never all the way. And for most of my life I thought of myself as not worthy of being a writer. Because I never finished anything. Or I never polished what got finished. Because I never followed through.

And then I started this blog. And I made a commitment to write. And I have written. Regularly. And well. Granted I do not always impress myself. But sometimes I do! Sometimes I read something and I think, “Hot damn! Did that come out of me?”

And I know for sure that this is what I am supposed to be doing right now. That this is my mission at this moment. That this blog is Kate taking the gift from Life. And giving the gift to Life.

I also need to remember that this is the body I am in. And it is beautiful. And that I have a very specific style. And it is also beautiful. I have really gorgeous clothes that fit me body and soul. That I can admire somebody else’s style without needing to adopt it.

So maybe someday I will write a novel. But if I do, it will not be the novel I read this week. That one is already written. And maybe I will change my style someday. But it won’t be that girl’s style. That’s already hers.

I should remember Oscar Wilde’s perfect advice.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Just call me Judgy McJudgerson

I have been thinking lately about judgment. About what it means to be a judgmental person. And about what it looks like to live and let live, while at the same time judging.

I have written before about the difficult relationship I have with obesity and judgment. (In this post right here.) And that turned out to be a very important exercise for my growth. It was the first step in my reconciliation with the girl I had been growing up. I did make peace with the person I had been and the body I had been in. And there have been some subtle changes in my thinking since then. But some things remain true. I have been fat and I hated it. And I hated myself. And it was so difficult and painful. So I pity. And pity is a kind of judgment. And I don’t ever want to be fat again. And that is a kind of judgment.

There is this thing I hear in some of my circles and on social media a lot. It’s this idea that nobody should be judged. With an unspoken yet clear undertone that says nobody except those who judge. And those who judge should be judged harshly.

Well I am going to tell you, I judge. And I have come to realize that I like it that way. And that I don’t have any intention or desire to change that.

First, some clarification. I don’t think it is ever ok to be unkind. I don’t think it is a favor to anybody to shame and humiliate them. Or anybody’s right to do so to another person. Also, judging does not mean vomiting my opinion all over the place. It does not mean unsolicited advice. It does not mean meddling. As I said in my last post, I am looking to focus on minding my own business. I believe in live and let live. I believe in keeping my eyes on my own plate and my own life. Not that I am perfect at it, but that is what I strive for.

Judging also does not mean liking or disliking people based on anything other than liking them. The truth is that there are people in my life whom I am judging about certain aspects of their lives, and I really like them. And there are people whom I do not like at all, but there are things about them that I cannot help but respect and admire. There are people I want to like, but I don’t. And people I do not want to like and I just can’t help it.

But I am a judger. I believe in judging. I believe in having a critical eye (tempered with a loving heart.) Because how else would I know what I want? And how else would I know who to ask to help me get it?

There is a saying that I love: If you want what I have, then do what I do.

When I was desperate to get my eating under control, I found people who had their eating under control. I asked them for help and support. I learned what they did and I did it. And it worked.

When I wanted to have a breakthrough in my love life, I went to a friend who had the kind of relationship I wanted and I asked for her to teach me. To point me in the right direction and show me the next step. She did. And it worked.

When I wanted inner peace, I went to the people whom I could see had peace. The ones who radiated self-love and serenity. Even when their lives were in turmoil. I asked them what I could do to have peace, and I followed their directions. And it worked.

If I hadn’t been judging, how was I supposed to choose what I wanted? If I hadn’t been judging, how could I have known if I was succeeding or not?

Now seriously, would you take fitness advice from an out-of-shape trainer? Would you take marriage advice from someone in a miserable marriage? Would you take dating advice from a single person? Would you take career advice from someone who hates their job? Would you take food advice from someone obese and unhealthy?

Here’s the thing, maybe you would. Maybe you do. It turns out that many people do. Maybe you think that it is wrong to judge. Maybe you think that anybody’s advice is as good as anybody else’s.

But I do not see it that way. Now I look for who has what I want. And to figure that out, I am out here judging. Looking around with honest and clear eyes. And a head that is not fogged up with sugar. Using my gift of discernment. I believe God gave it to me for a reason. To use it. Not to call people out. Not to shame and humiliate. To use it for myself. To make myself the person I want to be. And deciding who I want to be, and if I am that person, takes judgment too.

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