Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “July, 2014”

Money is money. And time is money. But my attention is worth more than gold.

Twice now in the past three days I have had to speak up for myself. I have had to say no and stop.

It’s always an experience to see where I resist this. My “Good Girl” is a bit of a die-hard, it turns out.

Although it is not all about being a “Good Girl.” There is a line many of us walk. That line between self-care and egotism. I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing that line. I know that living my life generously is a gift back to myself. But taking care of, and responsibility for my own needs is also a gift to myself.

My mother and I were talking not too long ago about money. She said that my whole life, even when I was a child, if I “lent” somebody money, chances were I would never get it back. Because I never made it a priority. In some ways that was generosity, and in some ways it was a lack of self-care.

The truth is that while I like money, I don’t love it. It does not motivate me or thrill me. Losing it does not scare me. But over the past several years, as my self-care has become ever more important, I have done very little “lending.” And more often than not, if I am going to give you money, I am going to gift it. I don’t want there to be expectations. This also makes it easier for me to say no. If I pretend that I might get it back, I might feel like I “should” say yes. If I know that once it leaves my hand, it is gone, I can better gauge if I am willing to part with it. It’s a kind of Jedi-mind-trick. But it works. And brings me peace.

But what I had to do this week was not about money. It was about time, sort of. But really, it was about something else. It was about access to my attention. It was about allowing people in. And this is a line I have a very hard time walking.

My first reaction is to keep everybody out. I spent my life building fortresses and hiding within them. When I was actively in my addiction, I lived in a fortress of fat. That I fortified with isolation. I would hide away and eat. I would sit alone for long stretches and binge. I would eat all day until I passed out in a sugar induced coma. And I would wakeup fatter and more “protected” than I had been when I came to from the previous night’s passing out.

But I also have a history of doing things I don’t want to do because I “should.” (There’s that word again. I hate that word…) Things that I thought I would want to do if I were a good person with a pure heart and an honorable soul. I have a history of being a “Good Girl” and resenting the hell out of the people I was being “good” for.

The first boundary I set this week was a long time coming.

I am part of a group. A group I like and love and enjoy. We meet once a week on a video conference call. And it is important to me.

Several months ago, I was asked to help a couple of people to get set up on their computers. Make sure they had the proper accounts and software. And I did that. Even though I don’t like computers. Or interacting with strangers for that matter. And then it became expected. And for months, the expectation was that I would help everybody and their brother set up their computers. And even the few times I said no, I didn’t stick to it and ended up doing it in the end.

Part of this was my “Good Girl” who could not bear to say that my time and attention were too important to help somebody else. And my ego that told me that I had let it go on so long that it must officially be my job and that I would shame and dishonor myself by saying anything about it after all this time. And part of it was my arrogance that insisted that if I didn’t do it, it was not going to get done. And that that somehow made it my responsibility.

And I got more and more resentful. And as time went by and my resentment grew, the level of responsibility that I grudgingly and hatefully took on grew. Until this week I got a message from a complete stranger, saying that somebody had told her that there was some sort of meeting on the internet for our group and that she should get in touch with me.

First I boiled with rage!

And then I said no. I said that they should refer back to the person who referred them to me for help.

And then I wrote a message to the group and I said no again. To everybody. I said that I was not available to help people get on the group any more. That if people wanted people to join us, they were going to have to take some responsibility for it. And I am so grateful to have said it. I am so relieved.

Resentment feels awful. It feels dirty and itchy. Plus it’s exhausting. You would think that I would recognize right off the bat that it is not something I want in my life. That if a behavior of mine is cultivating it, that I should stop that behavior. Immediately.

But it can be so hard. It can be so easy to second guess myself. And this is coming from somebody who works at exactly this every day. I’m not some schlump walking through life blind. My only ambition in life, besides being an amazing girlfriend and partner, is to grow spiritually. To be an amazing friend to myself. And I can still harbor a resentment for months and months.

And then two days later the next one happened.

It was late at night (for me. I happen to be incredibly lame.) I got a PM on Facebook from an acquaintance. She wanted to ask me about something and told me that for that purpose, I needed to accept her friend request.

Now you should know that I have a hard time with Facebook and friend requests. I already have many people on my friends list that I have hidden from my news feed. If you share a lot of pictures of cakes and brownies and various foods I do not eat, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of weight-loss/diet articles with pictures of skinny women in yoga pants, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of violent stories and pictures, chances are I have hidden your posts. Or just generally, if what you share upsets me or makes me uncomfortable, chances are I have hidden your posts.

But there is also another aspect to being Facebook friends with somebody. It gives them license to comment on your life. When you say yes to a friend request, you are saying, I care if you “like” what I post. I am willing to hear what you have to say about what I have to say.

And guess what? If we are not friends or family, I don’t give a shit what you think.

Now the reason this was particularly poignant for me was that this is not the first time that this person has sent me a friend request. The first time, I told her no very clearly. I even gave her a brief explanation. Which I did not owe her. I do not owe people explanations for the choices I make. (And no, I did not say that I did not give a shit what she thought. I was clear but diplomatic. In case you were wondering.) And shortly after that, she sent me a Facebook message that said she did not know how to get in touch with me since I wouldn’t accept her friend request. Of course I responded, without noting at the time that she was, in fact, being in touch with me.

A few months ago I got yet another friend request from her. By then I had realized that if you just leave the friend request there, you don’t have to reject the same person repeatedly. So her request has been sitting there since then.

And last night it happened yet again. Her PM said that there was something that she needed to go over with me, but she didn’t know how to get in touch with me if we weren’t Facebook friends.

Now I was angry.

And I took a few deep breaths, and I wrote her immediately. Sure, sometimes I believe that communication should be slept on and considered. When I need to disentangle what part of it is my BS and what part of it I need to address with the other person. But there was no doubt in my mind what I needed to say. It was obvious. It was simple. It was “Respect me.” “Respect my no.” “Stop it.”

When I was eating compulsively, I ate difficult conversations. And sugar made me high enough to make the uncomfortable feelings go away. And not feeling the uncomfortable feelings allowed me to convince myself that a conversation didn’t need to be had. Or a statement didn’t need to be made. Or a boundary didn’t need to be set.

But the farther I get from the food, the harder it is to sit in the discomfort. And I will say this. I have been keeping my commitments to water and meditation this week. And it has occurred to me that it is perhaps no coincidence that I have had a little breakthrough in saying what needs to be said. Perhaps it was hard to sit still and be with myself when I was itchy and gross with resentment. And perhaps forcing myself to sit still has made not saying what I needed to say unbearable.

I don’t know. It might be a coincidence. But then again, it might not…


The best way to know why you do is to don’t

I am feeling like such a brat this week. I’m tired. And I don’t wanna! (Can you hear the whine?)

Of course, I did. And I am. Even though I don’t wanna. First, and most importantly, I did all of the things that I needed to do to keep my food boundaries. Plus, I did the laundry, even though I didn’t want to. I cleaned up the deep-fryer and strained the oil and put it away for next time, even thought I wanted to leave it and deal with it “later” and sit on the couch and take ridiculous quizzes on Facebook. I am writing this blog, even though I would rather be lying in the sun doing the Sunday crossword puzzle.

But I will tell you what I did not do every day this week. I did not drink my 64 ounces of water two days this week. For some time now, there have been occasional days when I have fallen short of drinking all of my water. And I have not been doing my morning meditation regularly for a while, either. I do it some days. But not every day like I had for years. I don’t wanna. And somehow, I have let both of these commitments become less than commitments.

There’s no particular reason I’m tired this week. I have learned over the years that bodies sometimes get tired and slow down. That minds sometimes get foggy. That thoughts and emotions sometimes get wonky. Human bodies are complex. With hormones and chemicals and all manner of reactions going on that I personally can’t comprehend. I have realized that if an experience is not a trend, I should not, under any circumstances, worry about it. If it is a trend, well, that’s something else. And it merits exploration.

And these episodes of resistance to drinking my water and sitting down to my morning meditation are trends.

I have wondered what could have come between me and these commitments. I have thought about it. I considered using this blog to ferret out the answer. But then I remembered a very important lesson I learned when I got my eating under control. If you want to know why you eat compulsively, stop eating compulsively.

In other words, if I want to know why I stopped meditating regularly, start meditating regularly again. If I want to know why I’m getting lax with my water intake, get vigilant again.

The truth is, I don’t know if I will just get right back on the horse here. I have unsuccessfully attempted to recommit to these things before in the past few months. Specifically the morning meditation. But it occurs to me that I did it in my head. And not in the world. Where I know real changes happen.

And I will also say that writing it out makes it seem so much less shameful. In fact, I hadn’t even realized I was ashamed until just now. It even takes the pressure of success away.

So as of today, I am recommitting to you that I will do my morning meditation and drink 64 ounces of water every day. And when I glean some new (or recycled) insight about myself, I’ll let you know.

For now, I have to go meditate.

Graceful like an elephant

I was thinking today about what I want. And I can’t think of anything. More time in the sun, maybe. But I took a few hours this morning and laid out by the pool. Another trip to Florida. But that will happen. Probably in the next couple of months. But even if it takes longer than that, it’s not some long-term, impossible goal. It’s not a dream.

I used to want things. I used to want to be and do and have.

But I don’t have much to prove anymore. And I like it this way.

I think that what I want most in the world is more grace. To grow ever more graceful at dealing with life.

When I was fat, I was self-conscious about how graceful I was physically. If I tripped, I was humiliated. And often angry at anyone who saw me. Especially if they had the indecency to smile or laugh.

Graceful as an elephant. It was a phrase that was used in my family. And I was fat. Like an elephant. And could imagine how people saw me. Lumbering around. And I was bitter about it.

In retrospect, I was physically graceful my whole life. Even if I didn’t know it. Strong, flexible, with great rhythm. I was not personally, spiritually or emotionally graceful though.

When I lost weight, I wanted to look like a beautiful, confident woman. I wanted to look like I belonged in my body. I didn’t think I did belong in my body and it often felt like I was an “eternal fat girl” conning the world. But I was interested in selling this con, so I started to look around and notice what beautiful, confident women were doing and copying them.

One of the first things I remember taking note of was grace in the face of being ungraceful. I found that beautiful, confident women tripped when they were walking, too. Sometimes they even fell. And do you know what they did? They smiled!!! They laughed! They made some charming remark and moved along! It turned out that grace was not about moving flawlessly through the world, but rather about how one dealt with the flaws.

I started to do this too. I got myself a little shtick. I would curtsy, and say, “You can call me Grace.”

And this was so incredibly freeing. I could let it go. I could have peace. I did not have to feel like a victim. Of an uneven sidewalk. Or my grotesque body. I did not have to feel ashamed for the rest of the day. I didn’t have to lumber around, stomping and snorting. Graceful like an elephant.

This has been a lesson to learn over and over in different ways. Grace is not about perfection, but about my attitude and reactions to imperfection.

And that is the only thing that I can think of that I really want. That is my dearest goal right now. To be ever more graceful. To find the peace that brings the grace. And the grace that brings the peace.

Maybe some idea or intense yearning will come out of the blue and light a fire under my ass one of these days. And perhaps I will have the grace to go fearlessly forward into the unknown with excitement and wonder. I’m not ruling it out.

But it sure is nice to sit here with nothing to wish for.

Another little (actually, kind of big) way my life just got better

When I first got my eating under control 8 ½ years ago, other people that I knew who had done it before me said, “Put boundaries around your food and your life will get better.”

And like magic it has been true. A little at a time, I have changed drastically from the 28-year-old girl who couldn’t stop eating, couldn’t pay her bills, couldn’t be honest, to the 37-year-old woman who loves herself, lives in a comfortable body, and has a profound relationship with her own integrity. (Not to mention a life beyond her wildest dreams!)

I know that I have mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Particularly because I just qualified for insurance for the first time since I stopped being eligible for my mother’s insurance.

Frankly, it doesn’t seem like the biggest of deals to me because I have had very few health problems in the past 15 to 20 years. Certainly nothing that was going to break me financially. Which, in retrospect, is a big deal. Because I was incredibly poor for almost all of my adult life.

That is not a complaint. I made certain choices. And I am not sorry to have made them. I don’t even mean that in the “what’s done is done, you can’t change the past” kind of way. (Though of course that’s true…) There are many things I “would have done differently” if that were a possible reality. But the choices I made about money and work and “career” are not among them.

The truth is that money has never been that important to me. I knew that I needed it to get by in life. But I was not particularly greedy for things. Not that I never spent money on luxuries. But I never needed the biggest, best, most expensive. (Unless we are talking about apples and cantaloupes. Then I spared no expense.) I worked enough to pay the bills (once I put boundaries around my eating and got some integrity around money.) But money was never how I judged my success. And “success” the way our culture defines it was actually not something I cared about either. I made choices about money based on how I wanted to spend my time.

But those choices were stressful in their own way. Not that I was unhappy. I was not. But there was little room for error in the way I lived. I could not have gotten really sick. I could not have gotten appendicitis or broken a bone, and still have been OK financially. I could not have had a fire in my apartment. I could not have withstood any number of ordinary life occurrences. I happen to have been very lucky. But I was not stupid, blind, or naïve. Nor did I think I was invincible. So there was an underlying fear and anxiety in my lifestyle.

And I never thought it would be resolved. I fully expected to go through my life with money troubles. With financial stress and anxiety. I expected it to be the direct result of the choices I made many years ago. I expected it to follow me as long as money ceased to be important to me. And this anxiety was so much a part of my daily life, that I didn’t even notice it on a day-to-day basis. It was a low-level hum in the back of my mind unless something happened. Like I got a particularly large bill, or some unexpected expense.

But now that is gone. It’s just plain not there anymore. I no longer worry about money. And now I have insurance. So there is another thing that doesn’t have to worry me.

And I know that this shift is the result of putting boundaries around my eating.

You could argue that it isn’t. That it has to do with the job I took. And the relationship I am in. And you would not be entirely wrong.

But both the job and the relationship, and so many smaller choices that affect my job and my relationship, are the result of putting boundaries around my eating.

8 ½ years is really not that long to have become essentially an entirely different person. The changes have felt so slow while I have been going through them. But really, when I look back at myself, even just one year ago, I am hardly recognizable.

Just like I was promised, when I keep boundaries around my food, one day at a time, baby step by baby step, my life gets better.

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