Archive for October, 2008

Halloween Baby

Since my daughter doesn’t want to hear the story anymore (she’s heard it about 15 times already!), I figured I’d share it here. The day before Halloween I always get a bit sentimental, as that was the night, 16 years ago, after cleaning our new apartment and going out for pizza in the evening, that my water broke. Turns out, I was the fourth one that evening in the maternity ward who’d eaten pizza!

The original due date was October 22nd, but I secretly hoped for a Halloween witch. I’d completely forgotten about it, but recently a friend reminded me that on October 22, 1992, a bunch of us went out to a Greek restaurant. The conversation turned to my stomach, which was not overseeable at that point, and someone asked: “How much longer?” I said: “Well, she’s due today.” Another nearly shrieked: “And what are you doing here with us out to dinner?” I laughed: “Well, you know, she might not come today, so I figured I’d just as well go out with the girls and have a nice evening.” She said: “And what if you go into labor?” I smiled: “Plan B.” I don’t know if it was exactly like that, but I think one gets the gist of it.

Nine days later, I was sick and tired of waiting. I couldn’t tie my shoelaces, couldn’t sleep, knocked the coffee grounds off the counter and marvelled that my daughter was making a mess before she was even born! We were moving into a newly renovated apartment, so I purposely was down on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, helping to move things, and doing whatever else you’re not supposed to do — unless you want to go into labor, which I certainly did. We also wanted to get the apartment ready before the baby was born.

That evening, as I said, we went out for pizza. Shortly after we got home, the excitement started. We raced to the hospital, as I was certain it wouldn’t take very long. After all, I am a very calm, relaxed person. Well, after around 19 hours and no pain medication (“No, I don’t want to be numbed out as I’m sure she’ll be arriving any minute now.”), and having reached the point where I changed my mind and decided I was NOT going to go through with it, my dear daughter made her grand entrance shortly after 5 pm on Halloween. She was so beautiful, all the pain and exhaustion were forgotten in a second. I didn’t sleep at all that night — I stayed awake watching her. To this day, she has no qualms about making me wait or keeping me up at night! 🙂

I cannot believe it has been 16 years. It seems like no time at all, but that’s what all parents say. So I’ll stop now and do something useful like baking a cake for tomorrow!


October 30, 2008 at 1:34 pm 2 comments


Yesterday I had the day off and was going to be very productive. It turned out differently. Instead, I stayed in bed and quietly listened to music for a couple of hours. I was so tired that I just barely managed to get up, shower, have breakfast and get to an 11.30 physiotherapy appointment. The clinic is barely ten minute’s drive from here.

Afterwards I ran a few errands and decided to treat myself to lunch, since there was no one at home to cook for, and I had another appointment in the same neighborhood a bit later. There’s a really nice, reasonably-priced place nearby. First I stopped at the book store. I’d wanted to get another book by Paulo Coelho, so that was perfect timing. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me to eat out alone and just lose myself in thought or observe the immediate environment, but yesterday I felt too alone. I needed company, so I bought a book.

As soon as I walked into the restaurant, I saw two friends at a table. We chatted for a few minutes, and then they asked if they could join me. I was delighted. They switched tables, since there was only space for two at their table. It was such a nice surprise to have human company, and just what I needed.

After lunch, I went to my next appointment. I had to wait for a while, so I took out the book and started reading. It’s a collection of short stories. That’s about all I’m up for at this point. One of the stories hit home. An explorer in Africa had paid his local entourage extra money so that they would walk faster. He was in a hurry to get to his destination. They walked really fast for a few days, and then one day they sat and refused to move. No amount of money could motivate them. When he asked them why they wouldn’t move, they replied that they had been moving so quickly, they didn’t quite know what they were doing anymore. So they were just going to sit there and wait until their souls caught up with them.

That’s exactly how I feel these days! I need to space out and let my soul catch up with me. Sanityfound calls it “in limbo” and that’s it: I’m sort of floating, doing all this stuff, having a lot of new experiences, and trying to keep it all together and remain calm. Even in the midst of excitement, it’s one step after the other, as I wander along my path of life.

Part of what is so exhausting is the newness. The new job, new opportunities, learning to relate in a different way — grounded and less insecure, more self-confident. For someone who didn’t grow up being confident, it’s not so easy. Like any other ability, it takes practice. Sometimes I just get tired of being on my guard and reminding myself that I am a worthy human being and entitled to an authentic feeling, response, reaction, action, whatever. It’s the first stages of practice that require patience and perseverance. Once I get the knack of it, it should get better. But I’m not quite there yet.

By the way, I wasn’t sure if it was “perseverance” or “perseverence” so I looked it up in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary. And what did I find? Perseverance with an “a” and:

1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

2. Theology. continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.

That really sums it up for me, as I consider this life to be just that: trodding the path in steady persistence towards eventual salvation or enlightenment. The journey is the goal, enlightenment the summation. To borrow from Gestalt: The whole is more than the sum of all its parts. All of these little pieces of experience, fragments of insight, all is woven together, worked intricately into a unique, momentarily indistinguishable the pattern which in the end will be clear as glass.

October 30, 2008 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

Helping and asking for help

During the past months, I have worked on various projects and several times asked friends to look something over and give me their opinion. It was not easy for me, as I have always found it difficult to ask for help, but I decided to go ahead and do it. I trusted that they would refuse if they didn’t have the time or even feel like doing it. The responses were positive to enthusiastic. I think only one person in ten didn’t have time.

Recently a friend of mine asked for help on one of her projects. It was funny. Last year I asked for her advice on my book cover, and this year it’s my turn to help her! I was delighted that she asked, and I find it exciting to work on these projects together. In the process of helping her and emailing back and forth, I started to laugh. I remember feeling guilty last year when I sent her yet another version, yet another possibility, and asked for feedback. And now she sent me a few versions, and I find one better than the next, make suggestions, re-check it, and it is not at all a bother. On the contrary, it is exciting to see the creativity process unfold. So I laugh, because I was so concerned about being a bother.

For me, this is a simple but very clear example of how important it is to ask for help as well as to help others. Through experiencing both sides of the situation, I learn more about cooperation and communication. Of course, my work is also a golden opportunity for learning, but today I choose to focus on friends.

October 26, 2008 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

It started last night

What an exuberant feeling of happiness and anticipation! After working 10 days straight (which included 3 night shifts), I have today off! Last night I poured a glass of red wine, picked up my guitar, and had some fun for a change.

My schedule for the coming week is much lighter, and my husband and son have gone off on a men’s trip for six days, so my daughter and I have the run of the house. That certainly added to the excitement last night. I felt like a little kid looking forward to school vacation! My son has a week’s vacation, but my daughter has to attend classes, so I’ll have some much-needed solitude this week, as well as enjoy it just being the two of us. What a wonderful change of pace!

Not only is today Sunday, but it’s a holiday, and the sun is shining! My daughter is sleeping in, so it’s just me and the cat hanging out. And to make it extra special, we turned the clocks back last night, so sleepy-heads like me got to snuggle under the covers for an extra hour!

I am absolutely delighted! And since the economy is momentarily so depressing, it occurs to me that this joy didn’t cost me a cent! Well, okay, the bottle of wine was purchased at some point, as well as the coffee beans and bread for my breakfast. But that is quite reasonable! Today I enjoy the beauty of the day and the little pleasures in life. They are all I truly have.

October 26, 2008 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

More thoughts on normal eating

This is an issue that needs attention. Just recently I got into a discussion with a work colleague. She is slim, but confessed that she has been dieting on and off the past couple of years, and has made acquaintance with the yo-yo effect. I would say that her natural tendency is toward slim, but having passed 40, her body is changing and she needs less fuel to achieve the same results. That requires a slight adjustment.

So I see that even only slightly eating-disordered people sometimes need assurance and sharing. I suggested she give it some thought regarding what her goal is. If she wants to stay the same or lose just a few pounds, she needs to eat regularly. She mentioned having gained 5 pounds and feeling tempted to skip dinner the previous night. That is not the way to do it!

I suggested she give her body time to adapt. If she has been dieting and going up and down — ever so slightly — for the past few years, then her body isn’t quite sure what the deal is. It will need time to adjust. I urged her to not weigh herself, not think about it, but just eat regularly, get some exercise, and give her body a few to six months to get used to regular maintenance.

She complained: “Six months seems so long! I’ll go crazy!” I told her I don’t really remember how long it took, and maybe she shouldn’t think about the six months, but just be willing to give her body the time it needs to adjust. Up until now she hasn’t gotten regular exercise, so I assured her that by stepping up activity, her metabolism will change and burn things up better. It just takes time.

The main thing to remember is: This is not a short-term exercise in self-control. To eat regularly and normally and maintain one’s weight, “all” you have to do is have some kind of REALISTIC schedule and stick to it. And there’s nothing like long-term practice to get used to it. After a while, you won’t even think about it anymore. Or maybe like me, just around Christmas time you might notice that your pants are a bit tighter from the Christmas goodies, and consciously cut back just a bit. Not cut OUT just BACK. There’s nothing like deprivation to set off a binge, so don’t do it! Eating is about life, and that means no deprivation — unless you happen to be among the one billion people on this planet who have no choice about it.

I cannot emphasize it enough. Food is fuel. It is a delightful, sensuous way to keep us alive and functioning. It is not an enemy. It gives us the energy to live, work, be creative, love, have children, play, and do whatever we do. Our bodies are also not the enemy. The body is a sacred vessel, a temple, and it carries us along and allows us to live our lives. That is quite a wonderful thing. If you can really get that, you’re one step closer to recovery. But believe me, I know it doesn’t happen over night. To change one’s attitude takes a long time and lots of practice. However, it does eventually become a habit, an integral part of your life. Trust me!

October 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

Bulimia, smoking and drinking

Bulimics tend to have addictive personalities, and frequently have more than one addiction. I smoked, drank a lot, and was bulimic. Each issue individually was quite a handful, and all three simply bowled me over. (Although, with the alcohol, I never considered it a problem. I just couldn’t stop drinking once I got started!)

One mistake I made in the early days was to believe that I could give up more than one addiction at a time. So I would eat “normally” and keep the food down for a week, and the next week I would try to stop smoking. It usually ended in disaster.

When I was finally ready for recovery, I decided to focus only on the bulimia and food issues, and to allow myself to continue drinking and smoking. I wasn’t drunk all the time, but I did drink a good amount when I went out on the weekends. By “good amount” I mean more than necessary. Generally I was in bed with a hangover the following day. I smoked between 10 and 20 cigarettes a day.

Thus I focussed only on the food, and I got it in order — one day at a time, one step at a time. Four years later, when I was pregnant with my first child, I stopped drinking and smoking. It wasn’t terribly difficult, as I wanted a healthy baby. My issue with smoking was that it had to do with freedom and rebellion. My husband didn’t want me to smoke, so I would stop now and then in order to please him. Meanwhile, I resented his power over me.

This issue with my husband complicated things. I stopped and started smoking a few times — stopped for pregnancy and breastfeeding, started again when the babysitter came and I resumed my studies at a nearby café. It wasn’t until I really wanted to stop smoking that I actually succeeded. I stopped because of the effect on my voice and breathing. I wanted to sing better. After smoking on and off for 23 years, I quit five years ago. But I finished my degree first! I decided it would be silly to try to quit smoking during a stressful time in my life. The day after the last final, I quit smoking. Just like with the food: Because I wanted to stop FOR ME, I did, and I didn’t miss it.

I never considered alcohol to be a problem, but when I decided just for the hell of it to give up alcohol one lent five or six years ago, I was amazed at how clear my head was! And when I afterwards took just a few sips of wine, I was quickly buzzed. I still drink now, but have cut back considerably. No more hangovers. A glass or two (sometimes three) of wine is enough, spread out over a long evening. It means more to me to be in good shape the following day, as there are things I want to do!

That is related to getting older. I see that I don’t have the energy I had twenty years ago, and it takes me longer to get over a late night out. So I have become more selective about what I do, how much I consume, and how late I go home. Sure, sometimes it still happens. But you won’t catch me socializing just to be “nice” if I’m not in the mood. That is generally a waste of time. I have learned to nicely and politely refuse invitations.

Getting over a problem/addiction is a personal issue. You do it for yourself. You have to really want it. And when you are ready, you will succeed. One day at a time. There’s a lot you have to work through. It’s about progress, not perfection. That’s what life is about. Be patient with yourself! You’re doing fine!

October 23, 2008 at 10:53 am 7 comments

Autumnal Agony?

The fall colors are spectacular — both here and in the Hudson Valley, where I grew up. But the cold, foggy days of fall are here as well. Both images suit my mood swings, which are enhanced by the events in the world around me and far away.

This morning I received the October issue of “The Queen’s Chronicles” by Donna Henes (, an urban shaman whom I had the privilege to meet this past summer. And the lead article gave me a real boost. She reminds us of the power of our thoughts, the power of positive thinking, and encourages us to do what we can in our immediate environment. No individual can take on the world, but we can do a world of good in the neighborhood.

The journey of life offers some interesting twists and turns along the way, and we meet the most fascinating people, who can enrich our lives, encourage us, and expand our perception in helpful ways.

What I read this morning reminded me of how important it is to treat everyone with respect, and to reach out to everyone — not just the selected few whom we deem to be on our wavelength. (Yes, I tend to be guilty of that. Quite arrogant, if you ask me!) When I have been open and communicative, there have been wonderfully uplifting exchanges with sales clerks, auto mechanics, dental technicians.

Today I will keep my eyes open and be aware. We are all here together on this planet. Everyone and every encounter is a matter of consequence, as the Little Prince would say. After a few decades, I took that book off the shelf and find it just as delightful as I did back then. The past few days I have been pondering my own perceived matters of consequence, and settling these into a better perspective as well.

So, rather than slipping into an autumnal depression due to events and sensations both inside and out, I will focus on the positive aspects and reach out a bit further to promote peace and understanding.

October 22, 2008 at 8:17 am Leave a comment

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