Archive for September, 2008

Hours of exercise and crash diets

Yet again there was a blurb in today’s paper about how the stars keep fit, fight cellulite, etc. It’s really quite easy. Just exercise for a few hours a day, eat a strict diet, and fast before major appearances. Every time I read something like this, it irritates me. Today I just happen to have some spare time to comment on it.

One of my personality characteristics is that I am opinionated, and I give myself permission to rant this morning. I spent 13 years battling and suffering with a lousy eating disorder. I had a twisted self-perception, constantly criticized myself, felt I was much too heavy, ugly, etc. etc. I worked really hard to recover. Part of my recovery is about being realistic and sensible. True, I’m not always that way in other areas, but as far as nourishment goes, I am. For the most part.

Yes, I am 46 now and not thrilled about having some cellulite kicking in. But, I refuse to take drastic measures to combat this. I try to be fairly active, eat fairly normal. The presentation in the media of the excessive exercise (3-5 hours a day), crash diets and fasts burns me up. Come on, people! Life is not about torturing ourselves, voluntarily starving, hating ourselves, and bouncing around with our weight like a yo-yo. How about some stability? How about moderation?

How about normal meals? Normal eating habits? Or instead of normal, how about regular? (After all, who’s to say what “normal” is. Certainly not I!) The eating habits seem to reflect the same behavior as the credit card phenomenon. And look at how many people are in debt — so over their heads that they just don’t see a way out. Okay, so some people are wealthy and can afford excessive use of their credit cards, and have house personnel which frees them up for several hours a day so they can do what they want. But that is not the norm. And they have their problems, too. Moderation is the key, boring as it may sound. We only need what we need. Why even bother with more?

Yeah, maybe it would seem boring to be reasonable in the food area, but it’s one area that I truly believe deserves to be treated reasonably. And funny enough, it’s not at all boring. I am free to enjoy — in moderation, without feeling like I’ve sinned or am eating something that will immediately go to my hips. That is a bunch of crap. Unless I eat really fattening stuff every day, but I don’t.

What bothers me the most is the question of what kind of role models these women are for our daughters. And sons. I want my children to grow up with a positive self image, to respect food as a nourishing necessity, a pillar of life, rather than an enemy. I want them to engage in sports and activity because it makes them feel good. I do know a few people who really love sports and are very active. But they do it because it gives them pleasure, not to lose weight. Granted, some people (including myself) consciously try to be active to keep in shape as a means of maintaining health as they age. That makes sense. I’ve never been one to HAVE to go out and do something every day. I tend to prefer the cosyness of my study. But this strong determination to be perfectly in shape at all costs is inhuman. In my opinion, and I am opinionated!

I also find it perverted that we are so concerned with dieting, while at the same time millions of people in the world suffer from involuntary starvation. For me, sensible eating is thus an act of responsibility. By not overdoing, I am not wasting resources. Believe me, I am aware that the simple fact of my comfortable existence is related to wasting resources, but I try to be conscious about what I’m doing, and avoid waste whenever possible.

It takes some time and adjustment. Think about it. Are you willing to try it for say, a week, a month, six months? I think I originally tried to do it a day at a time, which is the best way to start. And gradually I got into the habit of eating 3 meals a day, with rare snacks. I was honest about the food — and honesty often led to the discovery that I didn’t want a snack, I just wanted to take a nap, relax, call someone, or connect in some way. A snack used to seem like an easy alternative. But my problem was that most snacks turned into binges way back then, so I decided to avoid them. Now it’s no big deal.

Learning to eat regularly (after you have been eating-disordered for a while) is like learning to play a musical instrument: It just takes a lot of practice. When I was still sick and then in early recovery, I did think about food all the time. I could not imagine there coming a time when I would be so absorbed in life that I could forget about it. Or I would be so busy working on a project that I would think: “Okay, let me just finish this, then I’ll eat.” To the point of occasionally even resenting the fact that I have to cook/eat, because I’d rather be doing something else. Yet, when I go out to eat every once in a while, how nice it is to take the time to enjoy a good meal (and the fact that I didn’t have to cook it!).

The bottom line is: Let’s learn to listen to our bodies and pay attention to the signals. If we can do that, our body gives us all the information we need. We know when we are hungry, satisfied, and what feels good. Let’s be active, but not overdo. A happy medium does a lot of good — in most areas of life, not just food.

My body is a temple and it enables me to live well if I respect it and take care of it, but my body is not the sole focus of my life nor does it determine my worth. So that is today’s rambling rant.

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September 30, 2008 at 8:11 am 2 comments

Adjusting to work and life

It doesn’t seem possible that only two weeks have passed since that first day of work. I’ve worked a lot of days (weekends as well), which makes it seem much longer.  My minimum quota of housework was again reduced due to the stress of employment, but today I feel more energy. I even cleaned up my room, which was starting to be unmanageable. Papers, books, CDs all over the place, dirty socks under my bed, cat hair all over. Not a pretty sight!

Strangely enough I had a dream this morning. It was one of those weird early morning, endless dreams that makes you wonder if you’re awake or asleep. My mother has a serious clutter problem. On the bright side, she doesn’t have to vacuum her floor — because she can’t see it. Anyway, I dreamed that I had my old apartment in Manhattan again, with a few more rooms, and there was clutter all over the place. It looked like her apartment, but the clutter was definitely recognizable as mine and my kids’. Perhaps that scared me enough to give me clean-up energy this morning.

Lately I’ve gone back to sleep for a couple of hours after my son leaves for school. I think if someone had reminded me 16 years ago that kids go to school and that means you have to get up at 6 am, I would have seriously reconsidered my desperate wish to become a mother. I am not an early riser. Never have been. Never will be. But we’re not supposed to say Never. Who knows what the future will bring? In any case, I only slept one extra hour this morning. I think I’m ready to move out of the eat-sleep-work-minimal-housework-and-grocery-shopping mode and have a life again!

Oh, by the way, the dream continued. I’ll give you the short version. Some man came over to visit my husband, and they were standing outside. I panicked when I realized he intended to come into the house. Then I did an about-face and suggested that my husband move out. After all, the mess belonged to me and the kids. There wasn’t a trace of him to be found anywhere. End of dream. What does THAT tell me?

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I am working hard to get up and stand up on my own two feet. A job is a major step in that direction. Already I feel much less dependent. I’m up for making big changes in my life, but taking it one step at a time. While cleaning off my desk I found a piece of paper: “List of Little Steps” which I’d written in the summer. Some steps have been taken, others are still pending, but I am on my way.

They say the journey is the goal. I do believe that. These little steps are not simply something to get done. They are little developmental steps, as I learn to function and cope on a level more appropriate to my being. Authenticity is a big word in my vocabulary right now. I’d swept it under the rug for a while and let Harmony try its hand, but that just isn’t the way to go. The word “Harmony” is too boring for me. “Authenticity” has more pep, is much more interesting, and it starts with “A”. I think those are three very good reasons to go for it and that’s what I’m doing. 

After all, what are reasons about? Generally, when I think about something as being reasonable, I don’t particularly care for it. And just because something might be the reasonable thing to do, does not mean I’ll do it. Whereas, I think Authenticity is a very good idea — and has nothing to do with reason. It is about survival. Survival of my soul, my inner being, who I really am. That is what my life is about. No, it’s more basic than survival. It’s quite simply about being. Purely existing in my true state.

Today I do my best and let go at the same time. I put my effort into doing what I think is right, what feels right and makes sense to me. At the same time, I let go of expectations. Sure, I do hope that some things will turn out a certain way, but I am open to whatever happens. There is only so much I can control. Yet when I look back at how things have developed thus far, I can make some sense of it. That leads me to trust that what I’m doing now is just right for me. All will turn out as it should.

September 25, 2008 at 11:57 am 3 comments

For what it’s worth

Recently I have found myself in quite an unexpected situation. For those of you who don’t know my story, I’ll be brief. I’ve lived in Europe for 23 years and now I’d like to move back to the States, but I have a husband here and two children, and none of them really feel like moving. That is an extremely brief summary, but it’s enough.

My 16-year-old nephew is presently also in Europe. He doesn’t want to be here at all, but the family situation has put him there for now. He is living with his aunt (unfortunately a different one, not me!), skipping school, and quite depressed. He sees his life as being in the States and feels more like a pawn in a complicated story. (But then, don’t we all feel that way at times?)

My strategy at the moment is to utilize all resources to eventually get myself back home to New York, be it for six months out of the year or completely. I don’t know at this point. That includes a job so that I can save some money, as well as earn practical work experience. It includes other steps as well, but I won’t bother with them now. Suffice it to say, I am working hard towards a major goal.

The past few days I’ve been e-mailing and telephoning with my nephew. Tonight I found myself explaining to him that we can’t always get what we want, that we don’t always see the big picture, but that God or higher power has a special plan for us and we can believe in that.

I urged him to straighten up at least in the next week or so, because then he could come visit us during the fall break. He would like very much to come, but he’s not allowed to because he’s been goofing off about school. (He’s subconsciously sabotaging it, hoping he’ll get kicked out and be able to go back home. But the situation at home right now is less than optimal.) I suggested he write letters to God, like I did as a teenager. I also suggested he see if he could find a place somewhere near his heart to nurture faith, and trust in the greater plan. He could focus now to make the best of things, but make clear affirmations and send them out to the universe. He can’t know know how things will work out, but to make the most out of the present situation is not a bad idea.

He is going through a rough time now, but perhaps he will be able to use this experience later. I told him about a dear friend of mine who wanted to be a ballerina. Her parents made her study architecture. She did that, was an excellent student, graduated with outstanding grades, and then said: “So, now I’m going to New York City and I’m going to dance.” And that is what she did. She danced, acted, did stand-up comedy, and enjoyed the wild 80’s in New York City. Unfortunately, her knees didn’t hold up, so that was it for the dancing. A couple of decades later, she got into real estate. She said: “You know, the architecture degree really comes in handy.”

So we don’t know what is in store for us. And when you’re 16, it’s even harder to trust in life, because you just don’t have that much experience yet. I’m glad that I can be here for him, and I’m glad that I had so many similar experiences. I can relate to his feelings of frustration and helplessness. When you’re 16, you feel like you are grown up, and yet adults still make decisions for you which don’t always agree with you. It is a challenging age. 

When I turned 17, I spent a year abroad as an AFS student. Even though I really wanted to do it, I was quite homesick until Christmas. Then I had some friends and started going out more and having fun. When I moved to Europe as a 23-year-old, I was horribly homesick. I didn’t really want to move here, but figured: “What the heck?”  I spent 18 years in a beautiful old european city and grew to love it. Four years ago I moved to the boondocks and had to start all over again. I’ve gotten quite settled, although I am less than thrilled here. But that is due to a complicated interaction between several factors. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d be having a blast.

Today it is my challenge to share this experience and knowledge in a way that offers comfort. I convey that I understand him. Indeed, he is in a difficult situation, and I will not try to convince him otherwise. But I want to help him make the most of it, rather than simply be miserable for the whole year. We will keep in touch, and I will focus on helping him find short-term goals to keep him motivated. I don’t think God put me here for all this time just so I could gather this vast experience in order to help my nephew, but it sure does come in handy!

September 21, 2008 at 8:52 pm 2 comments

Dreaming

This is a nice song I heard on the radio as I was driving home with my daughter tonight. She turned up the radio and I thought: “Hmmm, not a bad song.” Kind of puts me in a dreamy state of mind. A nice mellow way to end the weekend.

“Chasing Cars”

We’ll do it all
Everything
On our ownWe don’t need
Anything
Or anyone

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

I don’t quite know
How to say
How I feel

Those three words
Are said too much
They’re not enough

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

Let’s waste time
Chasing cars
Around our heads

I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

Forget what we’re told
Before we get too old
Show me a garden that’s bursting into life

All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes, they’re all I can see

I don’t know where
Confused about how as well
Just know that these things will never change for us at all

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?

 

 

September 21, 2008 at 8:15 pm 2 comments

Piece of cake anyone?

I was quite delighted to discover that SanityFound baked me a cake for my birthday! Actually, two! To see them, just visit her blog at www.sanityfound.wordpress.com. First there’s a rather interesting piece on alcohol and impaired speech ability, then scroll down and you’ll get to the cake. I’m glad she warned me about the danger of drinking, as I now know to be especially careful this evening. Wouldn’t want to end up like that cat tomorrow!

There’s nothing like friends and humor to make a birthday special. Thank you!!!

September 18, 2008 at 11:04 am 3 comments

It’s my party!

And I’ll cry if I want to. But not today! Why? Because today is my birthday and I am as happy as a kid can be! I’ve always loved celebrating my birthday. Perhaps because my mother always made a big deal of it. Today I got to thinking about her. Sure, I’ve complained about her and often thought she could have done better, but when I think about what she gave me, it blows me away. I had a lot of freedom. She loves me and has always believed in me. Our house was always an open house. I was free to invite friends over, have parties, and simply be in my room. It really was my home. That became even more clear to me after a disagreement with my husband regarding our daughter’s upcoming 16th birthday. He would prefer that she not have a party here. He is concerned that his beautiful house might get damaged. I never had to think about that.

But back to my birthday, since it’s not my daughter’s turn until next month. I have to work today, so I won’t be actively celebrating. I baked a cake and will take it to work with me this morning. It is my way of thanking my colleagues for their help and support thus far. Early evening I’m on duty for a few more hours, but that’s it. I’m off for the night. A close friend or two might stop by, but no big deal.

Since it’s my birthday, I can do whatever I want. (As long as I don’t get into trouble!) So I’m going to share a song that changed my life. Back then, I was 16 years old. Not just this one song changed my life, but it’s how I found my heroine. It was her first and only hit record, a song she co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen. Thank God she had this hit! Otherwise, I never would have heard about her out there in the boondocks! This is a more recent version, but at the bottom I’ve included the original version.

Since I have no idea how long I’ll be around, or how long it will take me to finish all my projects, let me just enjoy today. I am happy to be alive. Happy to know so many wonderful people. Happy to know true love. Grateful for my family and relatives. Happy to have two wonderful, healthy children, whom I love dearly and who manage to drive me crazy at times, just to keep me on my toes. Happy to have two cats to cuddle. And I have dreams for the future. I’m not finished yet.

Because the Night

take me now baby here as I am
pull me close, try and understand
desire is hunger is the fire I breathe
love is a banquet on which we feed

come on now try and understand
the way I feel when I’m in your hands
take my hand come undercover
they can’t hurt you now,
can’t hurt you now, can’t hurt you now
because the night belongs to lovers
because the night belongs to lust
because the night belongs to lovers
because the night belongs to us

have I doubt when I’m alone
love is a ring, the telephone
love is an angel disguised as lust
here in our bed until the morning comes
come on now try and understand
the way I feel under your command
take my hand as the sun descends
they can’t touch you now,
can’t touch you now, can’t touch you now
because the night belongs to lovers …

with love we sleep
with doubt the vicious circle
turn and burns
without you I cannot live
forgive, the yearning burning
I believe it’s time, too real to feel
so touch me now, touch me now, touch me now
because the night belongs to lovers …

because tonight there are two lovers
if we believe in the night we trust
because tonight there are two lovers …

September 18, 2008 at 4:44 am 7 comments

Humility

It has happened on occasion that I have overreacted, gotten very emotional, and/or made quite a fool of myself. Why do I have such a strong desire to share this with other people? It’s quite simple. I can’t even begin to think of the countless times I felt really stupid, and because of that, hesitated to ask a question or take an action. Several times I derived consolation out of the realization that other people can indeed be just as foolish, and it often made me feel better.

A biggie in this sector was the bulimia as well. Even though I logically knew that I was not the only one suffering, how much better it made me feel to speak with other bulimarexics and hear their stories. In fact, sometimes I thought to myself: “Oh, my gosh, she’s worse than I am!” Yes, that comparison did make me feel better. But there were other times I was ashamed to share some details, because I didn’t want to shock the others.

Today it’s not about an eating disorder, it’s about feeling stupid or foolish. Sometimes that feeling occurs because I have been over-exuberant or even arrogant, and then got called on it — whether overtly or subtly doesn’t matter. I notice it. I’ve mentioned humility before, and I don’t think it can be mentioned too often. It helps me maintain that delicate balance of confidence without arrogance, optimism without holding my breath in fear that all will be lost. It is always humbling to admit our shortcomings and weaknesses — to ourselves as well as to other people. It is also quite nice to admit that we are capable and diligent.

Tonight I’m feeling quite happy, as well as slightly foolish about last week’s “devastation”. Yes, I am the one who blows the trumpet and says: “Have faith! Trust in the universe! All happens as it is meant to be! Life is a challenge! We grow most through the more difficult times!” etc. etc. ad nauseum. Then give me a few really challenging days and what do I do? I burst into tears, want to give up, wonder what the heck I’m doing, and feel totally frustrated. Yes, that can happen. With the right combination of influences, I can be totally overwhelmed and don’t know what to do.

Through my ongoing life recovery, I have learned to keep going. Yeah, okay, so I spent a few days crying. That’s part of life, too. But what I want to emphasize here is: I don’t need to put myself down because of it. I’m just a plain old human beansprout who is very susceptible to her surroundings.

So if you are feeling frustrated, hopeless, overwhelmed, sad… that’s just how it is at the moment. But keep doing whatever you need to do, and have faith that things will get better. The rough times will pass. We all get silly sometimes and go off on a tangent. Then again, maybe a bunch of people don’t go off on tangents, but I go off on so many that it averages out to appear that everyone gets silly sometimes. I don’t know for sure. Either way, these feelings are okay. The important thing is to not give up.

I spoke with my boss today, and she told me that she had seen the doubt written all over my face on that fateful first day of work. She really couldn’t tell if I would throw in the towel immediately or grin and bear it to the end. (I have a six-month contract in an assisted-living situation, looking after a group of mentally handicapped people.) I told her I’d considered the surrender option, but I am a fighter and I generally finish what I start. Thus I had decided early on that I would see it through no matter what. I told myself that even if I found it extremely difficult and frustrating, it would be a valuable experience. And that is what is happening.

But it’s not only valuable, it’s actually quite pleasant. My clients have quite taken to me, and I very much enjoy working with them, as well as talking and goofing around. My co-workers have been very helpful and explain things to me again and again, so that today I have a much better sense of my job.

It has been helpful to feel confident in myself, even though I felt overwhelmed. I told myself that I’m quite competent, and that anyone who starts at a new job will find it a challenge. Several people have told me that the first month is the hardest, and that they really didn’t have the full routine for six months. Of course, it depends on the job and one’s previous experience, but most people agree that a month is necessary to adjust. It was really just the surge of emotion on the first day which brought about the “I don’t see how I can ever do this job! What was I thinking when I agreed to this?” reaction. Soon, despite all doubts, I did believe that I could do the job in a passable way. It would simply require some time, effort and adjustment.

So today things look pretty good. I’m sure there are plenty of challenging days to come, and there will be accomplishments as well as mistakes made. Today I simply have faith in my ability to cope, to do the best I can, to do a good job, and to succeed. I don’t have to be the best person who ever did this job, I just have to be “good enough” to fulfill the requirements. Sometimes it’s nothing but those unrealistically high expectations that throw us a curve ball.

Like I said, today I acknowledge that I don’t have to be the best, I simply have to do my best.

September 15, 2008 at 8:48 pm 3 comments

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