onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “writing”

And the Kate award for Kate awesomeness goes to…Kate (Who could have seen that coming?)

When I gave up sugar, I figured I would end up with an average, boring, mediocre life. And that did not thrill me, but I had become so unhappy in that previous year with eating and body image disorders that I was willing to go to any lengths.

I had always despised the thought of my own mediocrity. Perhaps it was being a child who grew up in the 80s. Sesame Street told us we were all special. Perhaps it was that I had a huge personality and love of the attention of strangers. People expected me to be a performer. And that made me expect to be a star. Or perhaps it was that I was born with a lot of a particular kind of talent, the kind of keen intelligence that made understanding the world around me easy as a kid. People called me precocious. I expected that I would be able to win for my whole life as easily as I had early on.

This was not the case for several reasons. Obviously, my pool got smarter. It turns out, they put smart kids with other smart kids. Also, I was pretty fragile emotionally. I did not take failure well. And I didn’t learn much from it. The lessons I took from failure usually ended up being not to do that thing I was bad at anymore. And, probably most importantly, early in life I figured out that sugar and carbs would make all of my difficult feelings go away.

This life that I have now would almost certainly make child and teen Kate cringe. It would occur to her as pathetic and pointless. It would occur to her as mediocrity incarnate.

But I look at this life as particularly extraordinary. And I think it’s specialness, and the fact that I think so, is all about having my eating under control.

Being the person I am now means I judge my success in terms of my integrity, my growth, and my contentment, not accolades or prizes from outside. This lack of outside approval is exactly what mediocrity looked like to my young self. How would I know I was awesome unless someone else told me. Unless everyone told me. Unless *important* people told me.

I am not diminishing the power of “important” prizes. But not everyone is going to win a Pulitzer. And I don’t have to base my pride in my life on whether or not I do. (I am not even writing right now. But even if I were.)

When I got my eating under control, it finally clicked for me that wanting an outcome had nothing practical to do with getting it. By putting boundaries around food, I learned about taking action. I learned about practice. As crazy as it seems to me now, I somehow had it in my head that wanting to lose weight was enough. But it’s not that crazy when you consider that sugar gets me high like a drug. The thing that was making me fat was also muddling my thinking. It was a win-win for sugar and a lose-lose for me.

Sometimes people in the self-help world talk about visualization. I used to think this meant something like visualizing myself winning the Pulitzer. And while science says that there is a case for that kind of visualization being effective, what is more effective is visualizing oneself *doing the work.* Because if you picture yourself doing the work, you are more likely to actually do the work.

Through having my eating under control and thereby getting a body I could love and be comfortable in, I came to understand about the practicality of achieving something. I got this body by entirely changing the way I eat. I did something about my body. I didn’t just “want” it to be different, I did the work.

Between my meals, I do the next right thing in my life, whatever that is for my next goal. When I wasn’t working full time, it was writing. Now that I am working, it can be dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s on a particular work task, making sure I am doing my job to the best of my ability. Or in my free time it can be ripping out a section of knitting because I realized I did something wrong and I want to get it right. Or it can be drinking my water quota or going on my jog.

I practice the things I want for myself and the things I want to get better at. And in understanding practice, I have come to recognize that one doesn’t win a Pulitzer Prize by aiming to win one. One writes the book or the music. One does the thing. And maybe it strikes a chord with one’s fellow humans. Or maybe it doesn’t.

The idea that something I do won’t wow the world no longer feels mediocre to me. The idea that I do *anything,* especially with any semblance of integrity and consistency, whatever that may be, feels like I have become a powerhouse in the world. I feel like a shining example of accomplishment. And I haven’t won an award of any kind since high school.

I used to think that everyone understood life but me. I used to think that knowing with certainty what to do next was obvious to everyone else. I felt incapable compared to all of the confident, well-adjusted beings all around me. But I realized that most people are flying just as blind as I always was. They are just better at hiding it.

And I realized that wanting to be liked by others more than honoring oneself is about as average and mediocre as it gets. And here I am trying to impress the hell out of myself. That sounds pretty extraordinary to me, if I do say so myself.

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Even if I don’t use my whole ass

Welcome to this week’s blog post. It’s goin to be half-assed because I forgot about it until my alarm went off just now asking if I wrote one this week.

Yikes!!!!!

I have this alarm for exactly this reason. Because sometimes I forget that I have to write a blog every week. And I have a commitment to post. Even when I don’t know what to say. Even when I “don’t have time.”

Not having time is usually the reason I forget. I have a lot going on. And sometimes I need more rest time. I need more down time. I need a break and a breather. This week is one of those weeks.

But that doesn’t mean I skip it. It may, however, mean I half-ass it. I am allowed to do the bare minimum. What I am not allowed to do is make up excuses for when it’s OK to break a commitment.

I have genuinely forgotten once or twice. And I don’t have to wear a hair shirt or give myself 50 lashes. But I have to make amends to myself. I have to write as soon as I realize. I can’t let it be “no big deal.” The big deal is that I make promises to myself and I have to keep them. If I don’t, I don’t like myself, I don’t trust myself, and I don’t feel good.

A family member on Facebook wrote the other day that he gets down on himself when he has “a shit workout.” I don’t worry about how my workout went. I worry about whether or not it got done. Everything else is gravy. (Metaphorically speaking. I don’t eat flour or cornstarch.) I find a lot of relief in putting the emphasis on the doing, the practice, over the results.

But I will say this. Even in putting practice over results, I get results. Because if one does something long enough and with consistency, one will get results, even if that is nor the goal. Even if occasionally one doesn’t use one’s whole ass.

Life is fast and I am slow

I feel like I need to write about the fact that I am still not writing, aside from my weekly blog post here. But I am definitely not writing fiction. I feel like I have to mention it because it is exactly the kind of thing that easily fades away from my own mind if I don’t keep talking about it, if I don’t keep it fresh. It has happened before and I have let my writing fall through the cracks. My world has changed significantly in the past month, and I am getting my bearings and finding my footing.

It’s interesting to me how I forget all the time that this is the way life works. Yes, I have a particularly mutable lifestyle. I am very happy with it. But change is the only constant in life for everyone. It has always been this way. I just didn’t recognize it until I got my eating under control.

And I probably didn’t recognize it because I was holding on to things too long and too tightly. Sometimes long after they ceased to be.

I sometimes think about the ways my physical self and my emotional self mirror one another. I literally have a hard time remembering to physically put things down. I will hold on to objects, even when they are getting in my way. For example, sometimes at the grocery store, I will have my wallet in my hand while I am trying to load an entire cart full of groceries onto the conveyor belt. Obviously this is a task that would be better done two-handed. All I would have to do is put my wallet in my pocket or my purse. But it does not occur to me. The wallet is already in my hand.

This is also how I find myself acting in life. A few months ago, I already had a routine. And instead of rearranging my life, I have been trying to fit 40 hours of work into the routine I already had. Needless to say, it’s not working out as well as I had expected. (No, I have no idea why I would expect that to go well.)

I have a quick mind and wit, but emotionally, I am slow. Slow to recognize. Slow to get comfortable. Slow to decide. Slow to change.

When I got my eating under control, I started to understand what it meant to “go with the flow.” I learned about “life on Life’s terms.” I learned to accept things the way that they were, and most importantly, that when I accepted them fully, exactly as they were in the moment, it was only then that I had a chance to change them.

I read something the other day about sayings that people hate. (I read a lot of random stuff on the internet.) And one person hates the phrase, “it is what it is.” I, personally, love that phrase. It may be obvious, particularly linguistically, but to a past version of me, it was frustrating if the way it was didn’t match the way I thought it should be.

Right now, I am not writing fiction. And that is what it is. But I want to. And I am slow to change. So I am going to keep talking about it, and writing about it, and meditating about it. And I don’t doubt that something will shift. That I will notice that I am trying to load a cart of groceries with my wallet in my hand and finally manage to put it down. Because life is full of changes anyway. And did I mention I’m slow?

They won’t all be handed to me.

There is an experience I have had throughout my life. Whenever I have been interested in accomplishing something, the first step has always been easy. Not just easy, kind of a joke. In my first attempts at almost anything, I have generally been handed a win. When I was in college, I took a playwriting class. I wrote the first act of a play and got rave reviews from both my teacher and my fellow students. I ended up getting a D in that class, my only D ever in my entire school career, because after that first act, I never wrote another line for that play. Or for that class at all, as a matter of fact.

Then, when I was 20 years old, I had dropped out of college and wanted to be a professional stage actor. I was working at a restaurant, and a man walked in, approached me, and asked me to audition for a long-running, famous stage show. I showed up and got the part.

This is not normal or common. If you or someone you love is an actor, you probably know that the process of getting a professional acting job is not generally that quick or easy. A professional actor puts in a lot of work just to get an audition, let alone a part. Being an actor is not all developing a character, having a genuine moment with a fellow actor, or transforming into someone else to the joy and awe of an audience. There are head shots, cattle calls, cold reads, agents (if you are lucky enough to get one) and just generally lots of fruitless pavement-pounding. The whole thing is full of work that is not glamorous or exciting. I never auditioned for another professional acting job again. (Though I did dance with a company a few years later, but I never auditioned. And though I was paid, and took it quite seriously – I really love to perform – it was not a job, and I never thought of it as one.

Last week, I submitted my first article to an online publication. Within days I got a response saying that my piece was accepted for publication. (You can read it here.)

It was a first attempt at something, and it was, once again, handed to me.

Please don’t misunderstand; I know that I am a quality writer. I know that I have a gift for expressing complicated ideas, and for illustrating how things work in relation to other things, both mechanical and interpersonal. But there is a way of things with that kind of writing, very much like the way of things with acting. There are query letters, and résumés where you explain why you are qualified to write on a topic. There are rules about simultaneous submissions of the same piece to multiple publications, and protocol to follow if you need to “unsubmit” a piece from various publications because that piece has been accepted at one particular publication.

And then there is self-promotion. I can’t even tell you how I hate self-promotion.

Perhaps it has a lot to do with my Good Girl, who just wants to be liked. Or maybe it’s my Fat Girl, who is afraid of drawing attention, and thereby ridicule.

And there is something else. It’s a thing I sometimes forget. I am easily overwhelmed. If I step back, and look at the whole picture, it is always too much to take in. And yet, it is my default setting. 

I am a huge fan of the grandiose. Maybe that’s why it seems right to me to take three giant steps back and take in the whole wide world at a glance. But I need to remember that after that first sense of wonder, what seeps in is paralysis. 

By getting my eating under control, I learned two really important lessons about achievement.

1) all I have to do is take the next right action. And the next right action is usually small. Sometimes, it is literally eating my lunch. 

And 2) Sometimes the next right action is unclear, and all there is to do is wait for the moment when I know what the next right action is. One of my favorite sayings is, “when you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” 

This second one, especially, is not particularly popular in our hyper-active, results-based culture of “winning.” But I find that the answer always does come, eventually. And for me, even if I fail, I feel that an action born from following my heart is always worth my time. An action born of the fear of not taking action generally leads to a lot of messes I have to clean up before I can move forward again.

I don’t know what to expect from choosing to write professionally. (But hopefully it includes lots of money and renown.) At this particular moment, the whole thing seems fraught with pitfalls and traps. Every set of submission guidelines occurs to me like it was written by a frosty, snooty schoolmarm with a too-tight bun who would like to know just who in blazes I think I am. 

But I have to remember another thing I learned when I got my eating under control. Any time I tackle something new, there is always a learning curve. Even if that first experience was easy peasy, there will always be a set of necessary skills that I lack. And it will always take time to acquire those skills. If I choose to do the work at all. 

The little girl in me who is terrified of failure would choose a chocolate cake over any work every time. But I don’t let her make decisions anymore. So I will figure out what the next right action is eventually. And in the meantime, I will keep doing the fun part. I will write, and read, and deconstruct the genius of what is already out there. I will do my part to acquire the skills that I lack. And I will take all of the next right actions, one at a time. And I will particularly look forward to the moments when the next right action is lunch. Or dinner. Or breakfast.

It’s all just experiences

As I have mentioned, I live with a steady stream of low-level anxiety. It buzzes in my background like a radio station on the edge of a signal. (Does that even mean anything to anybody younger than 20? Anyway…) You know that thing where they say before you get upset you should ask yourself “Will this matter in 5 years?” Well, for me, even a minor struggle can be played out to me being homeless on the street in 5 years. I know it’s irrational. Knowing that it’s irrational doesn’t make the worry any less real. Since I gave up sugar, this kind of irrational anxiety is easier to keep in check, but it takes work on my part.

I have a similar anxiety about being stuck. About some difficult situation or another never, ever changing. I know this is irrational too. Same rules apply.

Since I have been working, I have not been writing fiction. I was doing a lot of writing before I had this job, but now I’m tired. If not all the time, close to it. And it makes me worry that I won’t write again.

There is a part of me that says I should start a new regimen of waking up at 4 every morning to start my day writing for 2 hours before anything else. But the tired part of me tells the writer part of me to shut the hell up, thank you.

What I have to remember is that everything changes. This part of my life where I am tired from my job and I don’t have time to write will change. Somehow. I am not saying that I will definitely start writing again any time soon. What I am saying is that when I look back on the past 10 years, I have lead so many different lives. I have encountered countless situations that I feared would never change, and they changed. Not to mention countless I wished would never change. They changed as well.

When I was younger, I used to believe I was supposed to make my mark on the world. I thought I was supposed to create a legacy that was big and bright and undeniable. I thought that was where meaning lay. I thought that was why I had been given such a big presence and prominent personality.

In getting sober from sugar, I came to realize that I am making a mark on the world. And it is bright, and undeniable. Right now it’s not big. It may never get any bigger than it is now. I am positively great with that. It doesn’t make it any less important.

Big personality celebrities and self-help gurus will tell you that you need to go after your dreams. That the only one stopping you is you. And I believe that. They say “don’t regret the things you never did.” But I’d like to take it a step further. Even if I don’t do them, I don’t have to regret the things I never did. I don’t have to have regrets of any kind. Life is not a race. It’s not a test. I don’t need to do anything to justify myself. I don’t need to “earn my spot.” I already have a spot. I already have a purpose. To exist as myself.

A friend of mine once shared an epiphany with me. She said “It’s all just experiences.”

I love that. I was freed by it. That is the meaning of life for me. To experience it. In the body I was given, and the circumstances I was born into, and the choices that I make every day. The meaning of life to be Kate. And that includes everything I missed out on because I was too afraid, and everything I ruined by being an addict, and everything I marred by being a liar and a manipulator. It includes all of it, because it’s all just experiences.

I want to write fiction because I love it. Because I’m good at it. Because I have characters and ideas in my head that entrance me, and I would love to share them with others. And because I make myself laugh and cry and think. And because I love to slip into another world and another life. Because I want more experiences than just the ones I am given. I want to feel all the feelings. I want to know all the corners of what it means to be human.

But if I never finish writing the stories in my head, there would still be nothing to regret. They provided me with hours of my own personal amusement. They were all experiences in their own right.

I don’t know why being sober from food made me content, but it did. Slowly but surely I stopped needing to prove myself in ways other than existing day to day. I keep my boundaries around food and I do my best. And suddenly that’s enough. And that takes a lot of pressure off of the anxiety-ridden girl who thinks that homeless on the street in five years is a perfectly reasonable possibility for the future. A day at a time, life seems pretty rosy. I’m madly in love. I have a job. I have a home. And I don’t have to do anything monumental to have any of it. I don’t need to prove myself in any way to occupy the space I’m in. It’s my space. In my lifetime, it has always been mine. It will be mine until I die.

Free to be funny another day

I was reading a blog the other day. It was a parenting blog. I am not a parent. It was about DIY cleaning products. Which I will almost certainly never make or use. I was reading it because it caught my attention and I clicked on it.

It was funny. It was one of those sarcastic-mom blogs. The kind of thing Erma Bombeck was writing before blogs. Even before the internet being readily available was a thing. I liked what I read. It was fun.

And it got me thinking about the fact that this blog is not particularly funny.

I am funny. In my life, I make people laugh. A lot. And I will be blunt. Eating disorders, while serious, and worthy of an authentic conversation, can still be pretty hilarious.

Anything that is not killing you at any particular moment can be funny. Even something that is killing you can be funny.

So I thought about how to make this a funnier blog.

I thought about the things that make my friends with eating disorders laugh. Like how my boyfriend will eat one snack cake in a package of two. He will just leave the other sitting there. He’s not even controlling himself and saving it like a good, obsessive eater would. Really? You can’t just mindlessly eat the other one because it’s there? What, you’re too good for that? Or when a friend talks about how her grandmother used to tell her that if something had fruit in it, it wouldn’t make you fat. So she would eat big, rich desserts that had some element of fruit and didn’t expect them to make her gain weight. How could I have gained weight? All I ate for dessert was fruit!

But then I wondered if it would land for people who didn’t have eating disorders. Or if it would just be salt in the wound for people who did, and who were not having an easy time of it.

And then I remembered one of the things I love about having my eating disorders under control. I have time and space. For whatever. I don’t have to do everything now. There’s another meal coming. There’s another day coming. There’s another week coming with another blog post to write. If I want to be funny, I can think about being funny. I can try it out some time. No rush. And it will be OK if it doesn’t turn out for the best. I don’t write for an audience. I write for myself and sincerely hope that people get something out of it. But if they don’t, that’s not actually my responsibility.

A while ago I thought about writing some fiction. And I am writing some fiction in my spare time now. I thought about starting an eating disorder blog long before I actually made Onceafatgirl. I thought about quitting smoking before I quit smoking. I didn’t jump into any of those decisions. And in the end, I ended up doing them. In my own time. At my own pace.

It’s so freeing to remember that I really am free.

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