onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “clarity”

I trust my gut (except about cake)

I have had a couple of things happen in the past week or so that have made me question my savvy.

The first incident happened late last week. I jog my two miles in the morning, and I usually start before sunrise. On this particular day, it was drizzling. (In case you are wondering, I wear one of my husband’s reflective vests so I can be easily seen.) At one point on that route, I would run for about a quarter mile with no houses nearby. There are some buildings, but they are set back about a block from the sidewalk where I would run, not to mention that the whole area is fenced off.

While I was approaching an intersection on that houseless stretch the other day, I noticed a black pick-up slow down, and then stop. I was wary. I veered off a little to run farther away from the truck, when the man inside it got out. Now I know that southerners are friendly, but this was a huge red flag for me. I yelled at this guy to “stay the f*** away from me,” but he kept approaching and just smiled at me and asked if I wanted a ride. Now I don’t care where you are from, if a woman tells you to stay the f*** away from her, the next right action is always to immediately leave her alone. So I veered even farther away from him and yelled at him that I was going for a run, he was scaring me, and “don’t get out of your f***ing car!” At which point he got back into his truck and sped off, clearly furious, tires squealing.

This man set off my fight or flight reaction. Do I know that he was up to no good? I don’t. But do I think so? I sure do.

When I talked to my husband about it later that night, he said that he suspected that this man was just flirting with me. But we agreed that I would change my route so that there are houses around me the whole time. Plus he got me a whistle and a can of pepper spray.

Then this week, a man knocked on my door and said that he was from the local fire department and he wanted to check that my smoke detectors were working properly. I believed him, but I told him that I was not from the south and that where I am from, we do not let people into our houses. Then I posted about it on Facebook, and a handful of people I know from New York and Chicago freaked out. They thought it was a scam. They were sure this man was dangerous, or at least out to rob me. But this man did not set off my fight or flight reaction. I was simply being cautious. However, I did call the fire department and it turned out that the guy was legit. I live in an apartment that is attached to another apartment, and in those circumstances, the fire department here does, indeed, send someone out to check the smoke detectors.

The man who answered the phone at the fire department was very nice. We joked and laughed a little, and he said that it was fine that I did not let the man in the house. That my safety should be a priority and that I did the right thing.

When one lives in places like New York City, or Chicago, one acquires a set of skills for reading the atmosphere. I have long prided myself on my street smarts. But the truth is that living in a smaller town, especially a southern one, is different. People tend to be more trusting, and friendlier. And because of that, the way official business gets done is in a friendlier and less “official-feeling” way. I’m sure that the people who were born and raised here think it’s better this way. I’m sure they appreciate the neighborly ambiance of their culture. But to a Chicagoan and a New Yorker, yeah…not so much…

So these two incidents, and more specifically, other people’s reaction to them, had me start to doubt myself. They started to make me feel crazy, or at the very least, like I was losing my “instincts.” My husband thought I was overreacting to the man in the truck. My city friends thought I was not being vigilant enough regarding the man at the door. And I started to question myself. Am I losing my street smarts? Am I not seeing things clearly?

I often talk about the clarity and confidence I get from keeping boundaries around my eating. One of my favorite benefits is that I don’t doubt myself. I always felt that getting my eating under control only made those atmosphere-reading skills stronger and more reliable. But when my reactions were repeatedly called into question, especially after years of small town living, I began to call those skills into question.

When I first put boundaries around my food, people in my life (and strangers too) had a lot of opinions. People questioned whether it was healthy to give up carbohydrates. They thought I was losing too much weight. Or losing it too quickly. They thought it was “crazy” to give up sugar forever. They said I should eat it once in a while. They said I should have a cheat day. They said it was okay for my birthday, a holiday, a special occasion. They said it was just one bite. Thankfully, at that time, I had the wherewithal to realize that I was experiencing, from my strict boundaries, a peace and freedom that I had never experienced from moderation, or just one bite, or sometimes. I trusted my gut. (I mean my instincts, not my stomach. My stomach was still campaigning for cake then.)

I think what happened in the past week or so was an important lesson for me. It was a good reminder that I am still clear-headed and perceptive. It was a good reminder that I not only can, but should, trust my instincts. It was an opportunity to reaffirm for myself that, while I may ask for help sometimes, or for a sounding board sometimes, or for someone else’s opinion sometimes, I don’t have to doubt myself or question my clarity. That I am just as savvy, even after all this time in small town America. And it was a chance to recognize that I do not have to listen to the chatter that tells me to question myself.

The truth is, I was pretty sure that the man from the fire department was who he said he was, and I still did not let him in the house. You can take the girl out of the city, but it’s a damn sight harder to take the city out of the girl. But I am grateful that these incidents brought something to my attention; it was not that my instincts were getting eroded, but my confidence in them. And now I feel pretty confident. I know that the people who questioned and doubted did so out of love. And I can be grateful, and honor that. But I don’t have to trust them more than I trust myself.

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Two parts clarity, one part magic

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago where pretty much everybody drives, but I never learned how to drive. I was afraid of it. I used to have nightmares as a very small child about being expected to drive a car and not knowing how. I can still remember how small and frightened I felt in the big driver’s seat in these nightmares. I didn’t even understand there were peddles when I started having these nightmares. And my fear of driving did not really lessen as I grew up.When I was 18, I left the suburbs and went to college in the city of Chicago, and lived on campus. Public transportation was the norm. And then at 21, I moved to New York City. Where the subway was not only the norm, but was cheap and reliable, definitely the best way to get around. I loved NYC immediately, and expected to live there for the rest of my life. I remember a feeling of relief at one point early on when I realized I would never have to learn how to drive. 

But 14+ years later, and I did leave New York City to be with the love of my life. And oddly enough, to return to the suburb of Chicago I grew up in. And that meant I did have to learn to drive.

So just about a year ago I got a permit and got behind the wheel for the first time. I got my license in February, at the age of 38. 

Last week, I did something a little terrifying, and pretty exciting. I drove over 2 1/2 hours, by myself, to an airport in a city I have never been to. And it was particularly empowering. 

I have always been an anxious person. When I was a kid, I used to bite my nails, and chew on the sleeves and collars of my shirts. I would often have large wet spots under my chin, or up my arms. It was how I managed. As I got older, I numbed my anxiety with food, specifically sugar and carbohydrates. True, I was less anxious. But I was also either ineffectual, or reckless. Instead of worrying about everything, I didn’t worry about anything. And nothing got done. Or I would fly headlong into a situation without thinking it through. But either way, the situation probably turned bad, and I got through by expecting someone else, usually my mother, to bail me out.

A lot of the anxiety I feel is not specific. It’s like a fear of the unknown and unknowable. It is fear for the sake of fear.

What having my eating under control does is allow me to break my life down into manageable pieces. It allows me to look at real possibilities, and create contingency plans. Like having enough meals with me, or leaving myself more time than my GPS estimates I need. And it also allows me to trust that all is well, no matter what happens. It reminds me that I am capable and clearheaded. It lets me recognize that if I stay calm and present, any issue can be resolved. That it’s all just experiences anyway.

I don’t really know why it works that way. I’m pretty sure it’s two parts peace, quick thinking and self-possession, which come from not being high on food all the time, and one part magic. But either way, it works. 

This drive to the airport felt like a turning point in my life as a driver. I expect there will be more of those turning points in the future. That’s life, after all. But I don’t want to miss feeling the satisfaction of this one. And I can feel the satisfaction, just like I felt the anxiety. Because I feel things when I’m not numbed out on sugar. And that’s as it should be. It’s all just experiences anyway.

When the worst thing VD stands for is actually venereal disease and not that February 14th holiday…

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. And it was my first ever Valentine’s Day where I had a valentine. Ever. And I am 36 years old.

I didn’t need this Valentine’s Day to be a special day. And it really wasn’t. My boyfriend and I both worked a full 10 hour day plus commute. We came home and had dinner. We watched an episode of Heroes on Netflix. It was no big deal. But Valentine’s Day being no big deal was a VERY BIG DEAL for me.

I have very much hated the day for as long as I can remember. I didn’t even want the chocolate, though I was a sugar addicted compulsive eater. Because it came in a heart-shaped box which I was sure was only going to make the contents taste bitter. Like my heart.

Because I was sure that not only was I not going to get any romantic gifts that year, but I was never going to get any romantic gifts any year ever. I was going to be alone for my whole life. I was positive that I was fundamentally unlovable. And VD (as I used to call it) was a day when everything seemed to revolve around being single or not being single. Being loved or not being loved. Being somebody’s chosen, or being alone and neglected. It was about measuring up. And I not only didn’t measure up this time, I was never going to measure up.

For the first time, because I am in a relationship, I can look at the day with some clarity. Because it was too loaded for me to ever see it properly before. And I have to say, it is an unkind holiday to the single. I can see that there is first a kind of shaming of people who don’t have “a valentine.” There is an expectation that you should at least have something. A date. An admirer. A booty call. There is this underlying idea that to be alone on the day is pathetic.

And then there is a shaming of single people who hate it because they are being shamed. There is a clearly stated reprimand if you don’t like it, and especially if you say so. You are ruining it for everybody with your bitterness.

Seriously? Bitter single people are ruining your Valentine’s Day? Are you joking? It was so hard to choke down your chocolate? It made your filet mignon with the person you love taste bad? You had to throw away your bouquet of roses because you couldn’t stand to look at it while Bob and Mary were hating February 14th?

I have compassion for those who suffer on that day. I’m serious. Not pity. Compassion. Because I suffered too. I hated the holiday. And I felt ashamed of myself for hating it. And for being bitter. And I am so grateful that I have a new context, and can see it from a new perspective.

No, I did not shun this Valentine’s Day. I have to admit that it felt amazing to have someone to give a gift to because I love him so much. My boyfriend did indeed get heart-shaped chocolate from me. And I am graciously (and very happily) accepting my gift of being whisked away to Florida for a long weekend at the end of the month. But it didn’t feel amazing because I “finally” got chosen. It felt amazing because it’s him. Because I have a relationship that has continued to exceed all of my expectations. Because it took 35 years, but I ended up with love that is better than a fairytale. Because it’s not “happily ever after.” It’s a day at a time of honor, and respect, and laughter, and music, and Netflix, and dinner together, and grocery shopping, and laundry, and cleaning the oven, and making the bed, and mundane life.

Getting my eating under control gave me a ridiculous amount of clarity in my life. Not being high on sugar, not being obsessed with eating, not being obsessed with my body and my weight opened up so much room in my head for understanding, and critical thinking, and hearing my intuition. But for the 7 years that I had clarity but no romance, I could not have been this clear about Valentine’s Day.

This has been a powerful reminder for me. That there are still things that exist in my blind spot. That there are still things I can’t see, for all of my heightened perception and lucidity. That my life will continue to change as long as I continue to grow. And it is my intention to grow. It is what I want and what I work for. So I’m looking forward to the next time I get taken out of my own context and watch the world shift.

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