It’s been a while. As usual a lot has happened in the meantime. The funny thing is, I read the first line of the last post, which I wrote in November, and we’re back to foggy, rainy and cold this week! Hmmm! But despite that, a few rays of sun manage to work their way through the clouds and offer a bit of warmth and a reminder that the warm days will eventually arrive.
Rather than go on and on about how busy life has been with family, job and schooling, let’s just take that as a given. This morning I have a few hours of free time and am happy to be home in my cosy apartment. Put some laundry in the machine and thought about straightening up and vacuuming, but my cat is asleep on the couch and I don’t want to disturb him. (And I don’t really want to vacuum!) Sometimes I am less considerate, especially when I think about how he wakes me up early in the morning to feed him!
That rather trivial thought brought to mind: How often are we overly considerate, to the extent that we disregard our own needs and boundaries? That is a pattern that has accompanied me for much of my life, and it’s not over yet! However, growth and learning are a life-long process. They don’t stop when you’re 50! Just recently I had such an experience. Last week was especially strenuous and I decided to reward myself with a night out on the town with a girlfriend I hadn’t seen for a while. We had a lot of catching up to do. My husband had the idea that we could spend a quiet evening at home watching the Champion’s League soccer game. That just wasn’t what I had in mind.
A few years ago, I probably would have given in, not wanting to hurt his feelings, and would not have enjoyed the evening, since I would be plagued by the knowledge that I really wanted to do something else. But now that I’m older and wiser 😉 I told him that it would certainly be nice to cuddle on the couch and watch the game, but at the moment I need to go out and have fun. He understood and wished me a fun evening.
We have both learned not to take things personally. When one of us needs time alone or wants to spend time with a friend, that need is acknowledged. It has nothing to do with not loving the other person. “If he really loved me, then…” Sound familiar? Been there done that. 😉
Lately the focus has been on trust, clarity and boundaries. As I learn to respect my own boundaries, I can better appreciate others’ boundaries. Sure, misunderstandings can and do occur, but through discussion and the trust that we can find a solution, new possibilities emerge. All of us learned many things during childhood, and many behaviors are unconsciously repeated. We are creatures of habit. Through curiosity, openness and the desire to change, I have discovered new patterns, new ways to approach and deal with situations. But I don’t take all the credit! It has been helpful to talk with family, friends, colleagues and over the years I have also taken advantage of professional help (therapy) along the way. We don’t have to figure it out all by ourselves. There are countless resources available!
Where is this going? As usual, the serenity prayer comes to mind, especially “the courage to change the things I can.” But it’s not just courage, it’s also about openness and willingness to change one’s course, to try something new. Old patterns, even destructive ones, give us a sense of orientation and security. Even a potential change for the better can be a bit frightening, but once it is accomplished, I tend to laugh with relief. How often have I said: “If I’d only known back then… It was easier than I’d expected… Why did I wait so long?” But the process of change takes time and we need to be patient and loving with ourselves — and others.
It’s getting dark early these days. When your town is stuck for days in a cloud of fog, it’s a real challenge to find happy moments. That makes me work harder and pay more attention to little things.
Last week I had a few hours free in the early afternoon. On a whim, I drove out of town to a place higher up, where the sun was shining. I found a café with a terrace and it was actually warm enough to sit outside in the sun and enjoy a cup of coffee. It felt so good to be warmed up by the rays of the sun. I was there for about an hour, then the sun started to sink behind the mountains and it immediately got noticeably cooler. So I drove back to my foggy town, warm with the memory. It was as if I had the sun inside me and was smuggling it into the fog. I smiled at the thought that I had such a big secret!
A few days earlier, before the fog came, I had gone for a long walk in the woods. The sun was shining, the leaves crunched and swirled at my feet, the colors were glorious. Suddenly I felt like a child, filled with pure happiness at simply being alive, being there in that moment. I felt like lightheartedly skipping all the way home. An image of the “inner child” came to mind. “This is what it means”, I though to myself. The child/person I was and still am, when I allow her to squeeze through and express herself.
This afternoon I had a long lunch break, as I work later on Mondays. It had been a busy weekend and I was tired, though slightly tempted to go for a walk. Instead I came home, warmed up leftovers from the weekend, and after lunch decided to lie down and listen to some music. I put on a CD, lay in bed, must have dozed off at some point, but awoke feeling wonderfully refreshed! Such a simple delight!
Funny how we have a tendency to come home at the end of the day and reflect on what went wrong, what annoyed us. But if you take a few moments and reflect on the day looking for the happy moments, you just might be surprised! Have a nice evening!
Things have been quiet here, as a few readers have recently pointed out. Thank you for your emails! As usual, when it’s quiet on the outside, things are bubbling like crazy within.
A few weeks ago I celebrated my 50th birthday. Although I knew for nearly a year ahead of time that this milestone was on its way, I didn’t know what to do. Should I give a concert? Have a big party? Spend the day in quiet meditation? Go hiking? Take the train to Vienna and party with my friends? One week before my birthday, I happened to read the Sunday newspaper. There was an article about my favorite cinema — they were to reopen after nearly one year of renovation just a few days before my birthday! So I knew what I wanted to do. I checked to see what film they were showing: “Moonrise Kingdom” Perfect!
The day before my birthday, I suddenly plunged into a deep place. Oh my goodness, I will be a half century old! It was a strange feeling indeed. On the big day, I woke up thinking, “Oh, no! Why did I invite people over? I would rather spend the day alone after all!” A friend showed up unexpectedly around noon. We had a nice chat, and I felt much better afterwards. In the afternoon, a handful of friends came for coffee and cake. My son came as well, which was a great joy. And he actually stayed for quite some time, even though he didn’t really know anyone. That made my day. My daughter was away at school and didn’t come home until the weekend.
In the evening, we all walked together to the cinema in town, about 15 minutes away. The film was great and we had a nice time. At the end, I was happy it had all turned out the way it did. No big deal, just a fun day with people who are dear to me.
The next day, a package arrived. One glance at the return address told me I would laugh when I opened it. Sure enough! Inside were peanuts in the shell and little potatoes all wrapped individually in tissue paper. The note cracked me up: “This was just on an impulse, since I know you like potatoes. They are from the local organic farm. And the peanuts are made in USA, as a reminder of home.” Then I thought to myself: That’s not everything, it was just the packing material! I dug through the potatoes and peanuts and found a card and a book: “Banga” from Patti Smith, with the new CD inside. Yahoo! I’d bought the CD but didn’t know about this special book edition!
Her card brought tears to my eyes. She wrote that now she’s known me for more than half of my life, and she listed all the milestones in my life which she’d had the “privlege” (her word) to experience with me. She’d been there during night school and at graduation. She’d seen me study at the university and graduate, and she had witnessed the emergence of my family — my marriage and the births of my two children. She was the first to hear me play the songs I began to write and sing, and my biggest fan at the first concert — and every concert since then. She recalled the process of how I worked on and published my books in English and German, as well as recorded 3 CDs. She’d seen me go back to work after 17 years and be successful! And then, she said: “And those are just the milestones!!!”
This review of the past 25 years was touching. A friend of mine will turn 40 in February and is kind of down. He thought he would be further along by now. He expected to be grown up at 40 years of age. My view narrowed the years to the ten between 40 and 50. I realized that the past 10 years were the most productive in my life! And it occurred to me that if someone had told me 10 years ago that I would do all these things, I would have told them they were crazy! Ten years ago I didn’t have the courage and self-confidence to believe that so much could be possible. And so I spoke with my friend and told him about this insight, offering it as encouragement along the way.
In the meantime, it has helped me in the process of letting go and embracing this new decade. The 40’s are over. It was an incredible time in my life and many things happened, most of them were totally unexpected, some were secret dreams that took a long time to admit and pursue. But I did.
And so, the 50’s have begun. I have no huge goals, but some ideas about what I would like to achieve. As usual, I continue humbly on my way and remain open to the universe and what it offers. Today I am grateful for all that was, is and is yet to come.
Let’s be honest here. I would be a liar, with my eating-disorder history, to say I’d only had a few regrets during this journey. During a recent trip to my homeland, I was unexpectedly confronted with this reality, though generally I’ve been pretty good about accepting “what is”.
During a drive to Vermont, I passed the exit for Marlboro and remembered have gone to visit the College there some…30? years ago with my Aunt. I was excited, it seemed like exactly the place I wanted and needed to be, but something inside held me back. The next day, or perhaps in that same thought, I remembered that I’d had a partial scholarship to Binghamton University after graduating High School, but I didn’t see how I could get there.
I wonder at the lasting effects of the trauma in my life, which led me to doubt that I deserve, to resign myself to the fact that certain doors were closed to me. Now I ask myself, what would have been necessary? What could have helped me say: “Okay, I don’t have the money, but there must be some way to get there!”
On the same trip, I met an old friend. We’d had a crush on each other way back in Elementary School, but neither of us had said a word. We got to talking about a concert that his band had played at the local college, back in the early 80’s. I remembered that night. We had talked, but even then were both too cautious to let on that there might be more interest on a different level. What would have happened, if one of us had found the courage to say something?
At this point in my life, I’ve had ample opportunity to learn to accept what is, to treasure it, and to trust that things are the way they were meant to be. Life is full of opportunities. I believe that each of us has his or her own destiny, yet we have the freedom to make choices — and then see what happens and work with that. It takes courage and trust, both of which I have learned to consciously integrate into my life during the past years.
Life has given me some bitter lessons, but I have learned a great deal. Gratitude fills me as I approach my 50th birthday and know: “Every day is a new day, a new chance to begin.” So I am full of hope and anticipation as to what this new year of life will bring. But there’s still a good month to go — and who knows what will happen in the meantime?! Yes, there are some regrets, some things I would do differently, but I only know that now! And now I have the opportunity to make decisions, to choose where I want to go, and I’ll see what happens. 🙂
She said her name is Cindy and she doesn’t bite. Some of you may be wondering, “What does a spider have in common with eating disorders? Or has Martha totally lost her mind?” Well, it all started a few days ago. On Monday. I had the privilege of watching Cindy spin her first web on my balcony, and was simply fasinated to watch her work. It was truly beautiful to observe her. When she was all finished, my cat came outside. He turned around, and wish a swish of his tail destroyed her work. I felt really sorry for her, but there was nothing I could do.
The next morning I discovered that she had been busy over night. She had spun a new web, bigger and more beautiful, and higher up. Yes, she had learned about the perils of low webs and incorporated that into her life. In the dazzling sun, I found it beautiful and took these pictures. I planned to write a blog post about it as a source of encouragement. She’d worked so hard, had her work destroyed, but didn’t despair. She spun something even better. However, intuition told me to wait.
Towards afternoon I’d noticed that she’d enjoyed a few delicacies. Late afternoon I was devastated to discover that her web had once again been destroyed. No, this time it wasn’t the cat. It had been rather windy. She lay there in the remnants of her web and I wondered: “Is she digesting her food? Is she tired? Or, could it be that she’s depressed?” I don’t think spiders get depressed.
This morning I was absolutely delighted to discover yet a new web. It was better, bigger, stronger than the previous ones. I laughed at myself: “How can I be so happy about a spider’s web?” When I came home during my lunch break, I sat outside and admired her web. A pretty white butterfly had settled on the lavender for a bit, then fluttered around. For a moment I was concerned. “Oh, please pretty butterfly, don’t vall victim to the web!” But then I realized that life takes its course, and I shouldn’t interfere. Nevertheless, I breathed a sigh of relief as it flew by the web without getting caught.
This little story and distraction illustrate a few things. The spider works hard and nourishes herself, which gives her energy to work again. But she also lets herself rest, gather her energy and digest her food. And even though life gives her some hard blows, she just goes about her work and does what she needs to do, doesn’t question her ability or whether or not she deserves this kind of treatment. She assesses the situation, takes action, and leaves the rest up to the universe, I imagine.
Where’s the connection to eating disorders? Well, okay, I admit, I am kind of stretching it, but I think her coping, sense of purpose, working with what is and always doing her best are things I learned about during the course of recovery. 😉
another opens. We all know that saying. The months have passed so quickly. A whirlwind of activity, change, work, school, as well as the usual everyday stuff accompanied me. Last weekend we took our final exam for the three-year training program. It was a long haul, but an incredibly valuable experience. To say it changed my life feels like an understatement. It changed everything!
I can’t say that I notice the difference as far as more free time just yet, as I’m in another program as well — preliminary training to become a psychotherapist — and we just happen to have classes this weekend and next, so I’m not exactly relaxing just yet. But soon!
What I recently realized is that once again I was neglecting myself. Full speed ahead on the cognitive and spiritual levels, but not paying attention to physical aspects — like sleep and adequate nutrition. The last few months I was dragging along, exhausted, pushing and pushing. My spiritual connection was waning. My solid trust and faith in the universe had crumbled a bit. I was attempting to control things.
Two weeks prior to the final, I took vacation time. I wanted to relax, enjoy, and, of course, study! What a difference it made to get enough sleep and eat well. How nice it was to spend a few evenings with friends, having dinner together, going to a concert and to a movie. It became so clear — exactly one aspect of what I’d been studying: Health is a combination of physical, spiritual, emotional and social well being!
Now back to everyday life. Just finished a busy week at work and classes yesterday evening and all day today. So I’m taking it easy this evening and will enjoy a quiet day tomorrow.
It is an amazing cycle. Just when things seem to be on track and running smoothly, some new impulse comes along with a new challenge. Since I don’t expect things to stay calm, I am open to change and view the eruptions as possibilites for growth. That keeps me sane. Thus that momentary calmness of September has since transformed into turbulence and energy. Once again the outer events force me to take stock of the situation: Where am I? What am I doing? What needs improvement?
Synchronicity astounds me. Frequently I am confronted with issues in counselling sessions that are amazingly related to present experiences. My own challenges add depth and understanding, and the insight they bestow upon me is a valuable enhancement for which I am grateful.
Just when I thought I had it all together, I have recognized the pressing need for change. Big changes are in store. At first I felt a bit overwhelmed at the prospect. Yes, there is a strong tendency to try to hold on to what I have achieved and stay comfortable there. Yet the seed of discontent was sown and there’s no point in trying to deny it. Denial requires an immense amount of energy.
How to go about drastic change? I chose to rely on a trusted method. The goals are clearly formed in my head and brought to paper. They are positive, realistic and verifiable. I set the date by which they should be accomplished — at the latest. I prefer to be generous in that respect, because I am delighted if I attain the goal sooner than expected, but on the other hand don’t get so easily discouraged when things seem to be dragging along. I keep the big picture and the long-term process in mind.
I thought about all the “sub-goals” necessary to get there, and once again gave my self the task of one step every day. It never ceases to amaze me what a difference it makes when an ominous huge change is broken down into little steps. There are so many little things I can do along the way. What? I wrote a list of all the goals to be accomplished by a certain date. On the other side of the page, I wrote that date and then made a list of all the things that will be accomplished — as if I were already there. One day I woke up and decided to spend the day in the energy of having already accomplished everything — to see what it would feel like. Wonderful!
The steps can be small and not all of them have to feel like immense work. One day I chose to go for a walk in the forest with a dear friend. The fresh air and shared confidence did wonders! I called a friend I have known for 25 years and talked about it with her. That was also helpful. Generally the strength of close friendship is an extremely valuable “ressource” which I allow myself to use. Yet it is everything but one-sided. Through shared confidence, my friends also make valuable new discoveries for themselves. Each one of us is on her own path.
On the more practical side, I am also taking concrete steps in the outside world when possible. And of course I got my hair cut. That is always good. 😉 Today I’m going back again — my hair isn’t short enough yet. There is something renewing and cleansing about getting rid of the weight of long hair. And I find that the longer it gets, the “better behaved” I tend to be. It’s as if it turns me into the good little girl I no longer choose to be. Strange.
It is exciting and frightening, but the wealth of past experience comforts me and gives me strength. I remind myself of all I have accomplished up until now, that I have been through much worse and always manage to survive and learn from the process. And when those moments of fear get too close for comfort, I sit still for a moment, acknowledge the butterflies in my stomach and the tingling in the rest of my body and tell myself: “This is what change feels like.” 🙂