Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Don’t use the force, Luke.

I have been thinking lately about the difference between power and force. I began thinking about the distinctions between them several days ago, and since then the idea has come up in my reading a handful of times. Like Jung’s Synchronicity.

Force is the way of the bully. Force is manipulation. Force is violence. It is lies and ultimatums. It is triangulation. It is malice and cruelty. And ultimately, force is about the ego.

This has been clear to me for many many years. Even before I got my eating under control.

But power? Power seemed more elusive. Hard to put a finger on. I could recognize when somebody had power. I could even recognize when I, myself, was being powerful. But there was a question in it too. Why was I powerful? What was the source of my power?

I have been mulling it over now and I can see something today. Power comes from peace. Power comes from letting what is be. Power comes from acceptance.

I am an incredibly powerful person. That is not a boast. I do not have power because I am special. Anyone can be powerful. But it’s scary. One has to give things up to be powerful.

My power comes from the containment of my ego. It comes from my willingness to put down the idea of what I want. It is about giving up any commitment to the way I think it “should be.”

You probably know the saying, “ a square peg won’t fit in a round hole.”

Force is when you take a hammer and you beat the peg into the hole. You might break the peg, you might break the hole, but dammit you are going to get that peg in where you want it.

Power is when you sit with the peg and the hole in front of you. You see them for what they are. You don’t expect them to be what they are not. You don’t expect them to do what they can’t. You don’t curse them for not being what you think they should be. You let it be what it is. And you wait. Patiently. Quietly. Because you know that life will turn up with a square hole for the peg you’ve got. Or a round peg for the hole you’ve got. Or both. Or sometimes, if you’re distracted, both the peg and the hole will just disappear.

The power that I have is the ability to see what is so, with clarity. Accept it with peace. And know what my options are for change.

It took power to stop eating compulsively.

What I wanted (ego) was to eat as much of whatever I wanted to eat whenever I wanted to eat it, and not be fat. And I wanted to eat chocolate cake every day all day.

I did a lot of things to myself in my mid 20’s to try to make this a reality. I abused laxatives. I made myself throw up. I ran excessively to the point of injuring myself. I used a lot of force. It didn’t work particularly well. And on top of not getting results, I was exhausted. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.

What I eventually had to do was look at the reality of the situation. I had this square peg. I was addicted to sugar and when I ate it, I was compelled to eat more and more and this was making me fat. The round hole was society telling me that I should be able to eat sugar in moderation. My peg didn’t fit. Period. And as soon as I accepted that, there was a new hole put in front of me. Boundaries for my eating. A way to control my eating disorders.

But first, I had to make peace with the fact that I had a square peg. That no amount of pounding it into that hole was going to make it round.

Over the past 9 years I am (slowly – very very slowly) learning to look at every aspect of my life in this way. To look at the peg and the hole. To see them for what they are, and not be blinded or misled by what I want them to be. And if they don’t fit, so be it.

This ability to accept, to let what is be, is untold freedom. And from a distance, if you don’t have these distinctions, it might look like I am forcing things. Or like I must have forced them. Like I must have hustled. Manipulated and triangulated. After all, how else does a woman get a beautiful life like mine? A life beyond my wildest dreams!

The truth is that I waited patiently for it. And it came to me. No, it did not come automatically. It did take a kind of work. I had to work on myself.

1) I had to get responsible. Part of seeing what is, is seeing what I created. Part of accepting is accepting my own mistakes. Admitting my part in the problem. And I also had to see what was not my responsibility. What was not my problem. What was not my mistake. I had to own what was mine, and reject what was not.

2) I had to get honest. If I am going to accept things as they are, my word has to reflect that. I can’t lie about something and accept the truth about it at the same time. The truth is the truth. Even if it’s not pretty, it’s mine. If it’s hard for me to deal with, then I had better deal with it quickly and efficiently so that I can move on and sleep at night.

3) I had to start trusting life. If I think life got it wrong, I need to check my ego. I often think back to the many examples I have of when I thought life got it wrong, because I wanted something and I didn’t get it. And when I look at it, I have always gotten better than I thought I wanted. My best friend tells a joke:

Human: God, I want that Volvo.
God: No, I don’t want you to have a Volvo.
Human: But God, I really want that Volvo. It will make me very happy.
God: But I would really rather not give you the Volvo.
Human: Please God? Please please please please please let me have the Volvo.
God: OK. Here’s your Volvo. But who am I gonna give this Porsche to now?

4) I had to start minding my own business. I had to let other people make their own life choices. And deal with the consequences of their own actions. I had to trust that life was always right for them too.

And 5) I had to learn to let go. I had to let go of people, places and things that didn’t fit anymore. I had to learn to let go of the way I thought it “should be.” And things that I had outgrown. And things that were broken. I had to let go of the round holes.

It seems rather contradictory, really. That power comes from peace. But fighting life is exhausting. Peace lets you keep your energy for the important stuff. Like cooking and making things. And love.


The gift of desperation

I have mentioned before that the boundaries I keep around my food are strict. That do not eat sugar, grains or starch, including starchy vegetables. I control my portions exactly. I eat three times a day. No more and no less. And I do it every single day. There are no cheat days, no exceptions. No treats on my birthday. No snacks. No just this once. Not for weddings or funerals, or births. Some people find this extreme. (I used to, but I don’t anymore. After 9 years I think it is perfectly normal to only eat nutritious food in healthy quantities. I understand that it is not the norm, but I no longer think that makes it “extreme.”)

Today, I was on an internet forum for people who have boundaries around their food like I do. And a new person asked how long it took to get it “squeaky clean.” A number of people said that what we do is “squeaky clean” and that if you are not doing it that way, then technically you are not doing it. And the person responded that that was ideal but not possible. Not right away. That it must take time. So how much time?

I have seen enough people get sober to know that it takes how long it takes. Some people take years. Some people get it right away. There is no right or wrong about it.

I believe a lot has to do with a personal journey. I have heard people tell stories about how they had not had sugar for months, and then one day, they walked into a bakery. They could not really remember doing it. One minute they were sober from sugar, the next they were brushing crumbs off their shirt. They couldn’t explain it. And I don’t feel the need to judge that. It sounds horrible to me. Terrifying. Gut wrenching.

But there is something that needles at me in the question “how long does it take?” Because it lacks responsibility.

How long do I get to do what I want and still complain? I mean, I want what I want. But I don’t really want to do any work for it. This is magic, right? One day I will just stop eating too much, right?

How long am I allowed to keep being dishonest? How big does a lie have to be before it’s an actual lie? I just want to tell little lies, of course. Nothing major. Maybe just a little extra protein. It can’t hurt…

How long do I get to ask for help but not follow directions? I understand that this worked for you, but your extreme commitment makes you look pretty pathetic to me. I don’t want to look like that. I just want the results you got.

How long before I can say that I am totally a hopeless case and walk away? When do I get to quit?

When I got sober, I had what people have referred to as “The Gift of Desperation.” I was miserable. I hated myself. I was overwhelmed with pain and shame. I wanted out!

I had to ask myself what I was willing to do to stop letting food and my eating disorders control my life. I had to make bold decisions and take drastic actions. I did not ask what was going to be done for me. – Though so much was done for me! Supportive phone calls. People who were wiling to give their time and energy to address my questions and concerns. People who were willing to give me rules and suggestions. People who were willing to take a commitment from me and hold me to it, with love and generosity. – I asked what I was going to do to help myself.

I followed directions. I made drastic changes. I did things that, at the time, seemed almost sacrilegious. If I had made a meal and realized there was a problem with it that couldn’t be fixed to make it fit in my boundaries (like discovering I used a spice that had sugar in it or realizing I added too much oil and it was all mixed in now), I thew the whole thing away!

I understand that it can be difficult to grasp the kind of integrity I have around food. Especially for someone new. I would bet that the person who asked that question didn’t for a moment think it was about personal responsibility. Who is out in the world talking about personal responsibility? I get that we live in a society that has gradations for lies. That everyone around us wants instant gratification. That weight loss, especially, is a multi-billion dollar industry, based on losing weight with no hassle to the consumer. You won’t feel hungry! Eat all the foods you love! You won’t have to do anything! The pounds will just melt away!

That’s not how what I do works. I recommit to doing it exactly right every day. Three times a day. I take responsibility for what goes in my mouth, and how much, and when. I do extreme things. I have gotten extreme results.

A love of making things, and a predisposition to panic

I have come to a point in time where there are so many things that I want to do and seemingly not enough time to do them all.

Of course, that is ridiculous. I have a shocking amount of free time while I am not working. But it is filled with things that I want to do.

I am working on a new writing project, totally unrelated to this blog. I have started a new crochet project. Not to mention necessary things like trips to the grocery store, and laundry. I still have a basket of nothing but clean white socks that I have not paired and put away. Plus I have been cooking almost every meal when it is time to eat it. When I was working, I would cook once or twice a week and pack it all up.

It’s hard for me to think about what I got done when I worked. It was different. Mostly what got done was work. It would take me months, not weeks, to complete a crochet project. And my projects then were much simpler. This blog got written on one of the few days that I had off. Usually on the day that I did not cook all of my meals for the week.

There are so many things that I want to do all at the same time. Even, or maybe especially, when I am not working, and I feel like I should have time to do it all.  It’s frustrating. Sometimes when I am doing the mindless part of some errand, like pairing socks, or walking home from the grocery store, I can feel myself getting worked up, almost like a panic. About the next scene in the story I’m writing. About how to attach the sleeve of my new crochet sweater. About which I should do first, and what I will do if they don’t turn out right. I start breathing heavy and my mind starts to whirr. I have to tell myself that it all doesn’t have to be done right now. I have to remind myself that these are not life an death decisions. I have to accept that nothing has to get done in a day except that I have to keep my eating boundaries.

Most of this is stuff that I have gone through all of my life, with one glaring exception. In the years of my life before I put boundaries around my eating, I was never able to calm myself to the extent that things could continue to get done. When I was eating compulsively, I was never able to manage my panic.

My addiction to sugar and my compulsive eating manifested as a kind of manic-depressive disorder. I would have great ideas. I would be overwhelmed with the desire to learn new things and create beautiful art. All kinds of art. I would have great bursts. I would have artistic binges. I would write in a frenzy. I would crochet through the night. I would read until I passed out and then wake to immediately continue reading. I would not want to stop for anything. I was a salve to the panic. I was trying to keep up with the whirring in my head.

And then I would crash. A mistake, or problem, or a block would rear up. And I wouldn’t know what to do. And I would eat. Sugar. And I would be so exhausted from the whirring that I would stop. I would get so high on sugar that I couldn’t do any more. And then would come a period where I would just get high. I would’t write, or read or crochet. I would just get high on sugar and crash from sugar. And this period of nothing, this depressive part of the cycle, would last so much longer than the manic period.

I hated this part of myself. I was deeply ashamed of what I viewed as my laziness. My sloth. My disgusting waste of energy and talents. But I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t will myself to start back up again. So when I got a new mania, I seized it. I jumped in and pushed myself to exhaustion. I manic-ed myself into a new depression. The whole thing made possible by a steady stream of sugar and carbohydrates.

Now I don’t have the sugar to fuel my panic, or stop my flow. And I have the capacity to see the whirring, and calm myself. Because I am sober from sugar and compulsive eating, I have the tools to accomplish things at a manageable pace. I know how to stop temporarily. To regroup. To calm down. To do life things in between, like laundry and cooking and showering. And I have the knowledge that I never had before. That tomorrow is another day. That I will eat three meals tomorrow. I will write some more, and crochet some more. That there is more than enough time to do everything that needs to be done. And I know that if, on any given day, nothing gets done but keeping my food boundaries, that’s ok to. It isn’t a crash or a depression. It’s just a day where I take a rest.

I think I always thought I was a little crazy growing up. And I can see now that I was…sort of. Sugar made me a different person. Kate on sugar was Kate on drugs. I was a junkie in a totally legal and mostly socially acceptable way.

Sure, I’m still pretty neurotic. But I am not a person I am embarrassed or ashamed of. And I am not tormented by “sloth” or “waste.” I am just a woman with a love of making things, and a predisposition to panic.

Not looking for a new normal

Only 10 days in, and 2015 is already normal.

It’s funny to think how normal things can become. How quickly. How seemingly permanently. And I think that works in all directions. Not just in neutral ways, like the changing of the year. Or in positive ways, like drinking 64 ounces of water every day. I think it works in whatever way it works. In whatever direction we push it.

This week I got into a heated argument. I was angry, hurt and scared. It was a big deal. I was crawl-out-of-my-skin unhappy. So in the 6 degree weather with snow freezing on the ground, I bundled myself up, pulled on my boots and went for a walk.

I was freezing. It was uncomfortable. But I needed to release some of those stress hormones making me unbearably emotionally itchy. So I walked.

There is a 24 hour big chain grocery store about 15 minutes from my house. I was going to walk there. Just as a destination. Just to have somewhere to walk to. It would be warm in there. But something in me said not to. Said it was risky. Said I was too upset to walk into a grocery store and know with certainty that I would come out with my eating boundaries in tact and my eating disorders under control.

There was another part of me, yes. The part that said, You got this, Kate. You don’t have to worry about going to the grocery store. You go to the grocery store several times a week. All alone. You don’t even want to eat sugar. You just celebrated your 9 year anniversary for God’s sake. You’re not going to throw it all away after 9 years. I mean, come on. NINE. YEARS.

But in the end, I decided not to go to the grocery store. I just walked and then looped around and headed home.

Because 9 years is a long time, it’s true. And that undeniably makes having eating boundaries and not having sugar my current normal. But it’s not a guarantee. And I know that one wrong bite, and I could be bingeing, and 300 lbs, or even more than 300lbs. And that could get really normal really quickly. And that scares me.

Not a lot. Not enough to never go into a grocery store again. I need my fruits and veggies, after all. And my herbal tea, and my artificial sweetener. And butter and bacon and all of the delicious things I eat within my glorious, life-saving, life-giving food boundaries. But enough not to go barging into one when I am emotionally distressed. Enough to know not to test my own strength when I am vulnerable.

God knows that life will test me whenever it will, vulnerable or strong. And I guess I’d like to save my strength for when I really need it.

Happy other birthday to me

It is that time of year again. The New Year. And January 2nd is a special day for me. It is my double anniversary. My favorite day besides my biological birthday. My other birthday.

Nine years ago on January 1st, I was hopeless and desperate. And I had been in the death grip of my eating disorders. They were relatively new at the time. I had beed morbidly obese for most of my life at that point, but around 2004/2005, I had started a series of diets and workout regimes. I was going to get control of my body! I was going to lose weight! So I got coaches and trainers and started taking classes and counting calories. And I lost so much weight. But there was something wrong. Seriously wrong. The thinner I got, the crazier I got. I was irrational. I was reckless. And most importantly, I was terrified. And I couldn’t even identify that I was terrified.

Maintaining that new, thinner body was exhausting. And I didn’t understand it at the time, but what had me terrified was the unconscious understanding that I was never going to maintain that body. Because sugar ruled my life.

I have sometimes explained it like this: When I was fat, I was high on sugar. When I was dieting and exercising, I was high on losing weight. But being a certain size for any period of time is not exciting. You cannot get high on staying thin. And I wanted my drug back.

Check that. I wanted my drug back, but I wanted it in this new body. I wanted my drug back without consequences. I wanted to have done the work once so that the work would be done. Once and for all. I wanted to defy the laws of nature.

And I started eating again. Binge eating. Eating constantly. Mostly sugar and grains and starchy things. And I starting exercising in excess. Classes and running. Every day. Twice a day. I went all raw. No fat. Only green juice. And I started taking laxatives. Drinking castor oil. Administering enemas. And I started sticking toothbrushes down my throat.

And I was still gaining weight. And I was insane. Just trying to hold off a little bit longer before I gained back all of the weight and I was 300 lbs again. Before everyone would see it written all over me that I was a shameful, unworthy, unlovable blob. Before the clock struck midnight and I turned back into a pumpkin.

And then around November of 2005, I told the truth. About all of it. And somebody said that I had to start treating myself like an addict.

So I ate myself through the end of the year. No holds barred. It was a sad time for me. A time of self-disgust and resignation. Years later some friends would remind me that they saw me in that time and that I had said point blank, “I can’t stop eating.”

But on January 2, 2006, I met for the first time with a group of people who identified as sugar addicts and compulsive eaters. They had given up sugar, grains and starches, and put boundaries around their eating. And I started to do what they did.

I didn’t really believe it was going to work for me. I didn’t believe anything could work for me. I was utterly hopeless.

But maybe the best thing was for me to be so hopeless. Maybe my desperation was the reason it did work. Because it did. Since that day, I have not eaten sugar. I have kept boundaries around my eating. I have slowly changed the way I think about myself and life.

I am addicted to sugar. And when I was eating sugar, I could not stop. For years now, I have not had sugar in my body. So my body doesn’t crave it. But I could only get to this place with help. I think that’s important. It wasn’t willpower that brought me here. It wasn’t stick–to–itiveness. I don’t have those things around food. What I have is support. And willingness to take suggestions from people who have gone before me. And the opportunity to support others in their journey around food recovery.

A lot of life happens in 9 years. That doesn’t change because you get sober. But for me, no matter what happened – births, deaths, fights, reunions, vacations, vacation debacles, parties and partings – January 2nd is a day of celebration. I get to celebrate 9 years of freedom. That is 9 years of discovering who I really am, and sharing her with the world.

And January 2, 2015 was also the 3 year anniversary of this blog. Another big deal in my life.

Every week, I write a post here about being a woman living with eating disorders. I do it even when I think I have nothing interesting to say. I do it because I said I would. And this blog has been a chance for me to change my life.

I get to put ideas out in the world. I get to bounce them off of reality. I get to raise them up the flag pole and see who salutes. I get to see what gets bigger and more robust. And I get to see what floats away like dust. I believe this blog has sped up the natural pace of change in my life. I could not have made these changes if I were not sober from sugar and compulsive eating. But the writing, and the candid revealing, and the truth telling that have gone on here have made for a dynamic trajectory of growth and maturation in my life that sobriety alone could not have given me.

Anniversaries are about commitment. Nine years ago I made a commitment to myself about my eating. Three years ago I made a commitment to myself about sharing my experiences through writing. Commitments change the direction of one’s life. It is the natural order of things. And I believe that just the act of committing makes me a better person.

So I love January 2nd. It is a day that I celebrate myself. Because years ago, it was the day that I chose to honor myself. Twice. And because I continue to cultivate that honor.

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