onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “patience”

High on Learning? I think I saw an after school special on that…

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.

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A stitch in time

I sometimes have mentioned that I have gotten many benefits from getting my eating under control. More than being in a smaller, healthier, more comfortable body. More than no longer being obsessed with food.

There’s a long list, frankly. Self-confidence, integrity, peace, happiness and love are just a few. But this week I am really struck by one of those gifts. A specific kind of patience that I have acquired. Patience to learn and improve. Growth patience.

When I was a small child, my grandmother taught me how to crochet. She taught me one stitch, and how to make rows of that one stitch. But I don’t remember ever finishing anything as a kid. Not a scarf or a blanket. Not a pot holder. Perhaps I did. But for most of my life, I thought of myself as someone who never finished anything she started. And I would say that I thought of myself that way because it was true.

In my early 20s I took up crocheting again. But I did it feverishly. And with no concern for the quality of my work. Or the quality of materials I used. I half-assed a few hats and scarves because they were quick and easy. I would get impatient to be done and would start making my stitches bigger to hurry up and get it over with. I even started using the wrong size tools so that I could make bigger stitches in smaller yarn. I had zero patience.

I’m not sure why I even wanted to crochet back then. I don’t remember enjoying the process at all.

But in the past 10 months, I have completed and given 7 homemade gifts, made 2 blankets, a hat and a scarf for myself, and have 2 small complete throws sitting in my closet that don’t have recipients. And I am in the process of 2 new projects at the moment. Some have been quite large and time consuming. Some have been smaller and quicker. But they are complete.

And they have been good. I take my time. I care about both the quality of my work and the quality of my materials. I am proud of what I make.

Mostly because I have been patient about learning. And practice. I have been willing to make the best thing I can with my current skill level. And then to take the time to learn something new. And to make a project with my new knowledge. And then to practice some more. And to be content to be where I am without needing to be the best right away.

Don’t get me wrong. I got a little ahead of myself in the beginning. Wanted to go from making a scarf to making a dress in an instant. Tried to make a dress. And failed.

But I decided that was ok. I didn’t quit crocheting. Instead I decided to quit having ridiculous expectations of myself. I decided to take a step (or ten) back, and get better at what I already knew. And then I decided to learn a little something new. And get comfortable with that.

Because one thing I learned from getting my eating under control, is that pretty much everything worth anything takes time.

Losing weight takes time. Changing the way you think takes time. Getting the life you want takes time. Becoming the person you want to be takes time. That slow and steady wins the race.

And it’s always only a journey. That there is no destination.

My life eating was all about destination. And accomplishment. One destination to the next kept me from ever being satisfied. My worth was based on getting everything right and/or perfect. And that still didn’t propel me to doing things right or perfect. It more just kept me from ever getting anything done. Out of fear and shame.

Getting my eating under control has taught me patience. I have to be patient for my next meal. And in between meals is time to do something. Anything. Have an experience. Read something. Walk somewhere. Learn something new. Make something.

For the most part, I am still making blankets. I’m not quite ready to move on to sweaters or dresses yet. But it has been less than a year since I started crocheting again. And perhaps I never will move on to sweaters. Perhaps I will only ever make scarves and hats and blankets. I don’t have to decide today. I just have to get better at what I know. And decide what I want to learn next.

I learned that from putting boundaries around my food.

I’m posting some pictures of a few of the things I have made since last November when I started crocheting again.

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