Friday, June 25, 2010
In this moment all is well. I am following my food plan and doing what I have to do. I am sane and sober.
But I feel insecurity creeping toward me. Will writing help? I don't want my journal to read like true confessions, even though it is for me and for my healing.... I'm waffling about this.
So, guess I'll write the outline... the part that is more or less factual... the part that isn't so much about my feelings.
About 30 years ago I was in Eastern Europe, then under Communist control, and met a family, who were members of an ethnic minority group in the country where they lived. Their ethnic group suffered much persecution. The father (I'll call him J) wanted to get his two children out of that country and raise them in a politically free country.
I helped by getting information for them and by raising money to pay for bribes and expenses (getting the family out of the country was very tricky). For a while, they lived in a limbo status in another country. I visited them there a few times.
After a couple of years living hand to mouth, moving frequently, trying to get into Western Europe but not succeeding, they finally found an opportunity to get into Denmark as political refugees. There they settled, learning Danish, adjusting to a very different culture and eventually becoming citizens.
When they first went to Denmark, they knew nobody. J and his wife were worried about what would happen to the kids if anything should happen to them. I agreed in writing to take full responsibility for the two children if it were ever necessary.
I had four extended visits with the family in Denmark. The last time I saw them as a family of four was 17 years ago. The daughter came to visit me in the USA the year after that. And J came to my home for a brief visit 8 years ago.
In 9 hours J is arriving here for a second visit. My husband, J and I are going on a 4-day motorcycle ride. J will be here for 6 days.
What does all this have to do with my recovery? Well there's the obvious... Have guest = eat more, richer foods. Travel = eat more, get hungrier. Stress = eat more. That's the surface challenge about the week ahead. I know how to deal with that type of challenge... I have my plan and my talisman!
However, under the obvious there's a more significant challenge. When I met J and got to know him over periodic visits to the family in Europe, I greatly admired his strength of character, daring and determination. I began to really love this amazing person. Actually, that was part of it. The other part was that I developed a ginornous crush on him.
My addictions (in addition to the mother addiction of overeating and certain foods) include tobacco (3 packs Pall Mall every day, quit in 1968), alcohol (sober since 1985) and love. Love addiction is the strangest thing... For me it was not sex addiction, even though sex is often desirable as proof of love. It wasn't sex I wanted at all; it was to be loved.
My love addiction manifested itself as crushes, mostly on unavailable or uninterested men. I would constantly obsess about a man on whom I had a crush. Sometimes I would almost stalk the person, hound them with notes/letters.
Poor J. He was very fond of me. But he was also married and totally in love with his wife. For me, it was very confusing. I loved and admired the whole family, including his wife, in a healthy and reasonable way. But at the same time, he was the object of my passionate obsession for a long time, maybe 10 years.
Because of my lust for J, I broke up with my steady boyfriend/partner of 13 years. I only wanted J.
Then some things changed. I began writing poetry with a group of recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and one sex addict. For the first time, I began to see my crushes for what they really were... an addiction to love... obsessive and compulsive attachments that were not reality-based. I awakened to the fact that I could love J as a friend and let go of the notion that he could (0r ever would) be a romantic partner.
After that, I met my husband (1997) and consider myself happily married. No more crushes. J was the last. Not even a hint of it in the 13 years I've been with my husband. Even when J called to tell me his wife had suddenly died of a brain tumor, I did not give more than idle thought to the fact that he was now available.
J and I are close friends. I've stood next to him through many important life changes. We have a strong bond, an emotional and intellectual connection similar to my relationship with two of my brothers and my husband.
So now J is coming here. His visit brings up the past for me... reminds me of my addiction to love. I've been having memory flash-backs about those days when I adored him in such an unhealthy, odd way. We did not have an affair, although at one point I would have if the circumstances had been different. I am ashamed about that. I wonder if I want to talk with him about it? I wonder if there is some way I can make amends. Most of all I want the impossible... to apologize to his wife for the lust I carried for J. But to him as well. It could not have been easy to be my friend.
So the challenge ahead is to feel my feelings, accept my memories of who I was back then, forgive myself for my mistakes and my addictions, and pray for guidance in matters of making amends with J. That's it. That's the challenge I face right now.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
That got me thinking about the differences between WW and OA from the perspective of my experiences so far.
I've done WW several times. Twenty five years ago, I lost 65 pounds in WW, got to my goal weight and stayed there for more than a year. Then I gained it all back, plus more. Five years later I repeated the same cycle, only didn't quite make it to goal before starting to climb again.
Several more times I re-joined WW, lost a few pounds and quit. Two years ago, I joined WW on line and lost 32 pounds, at which point I hit a psychological wall. I kept paying $16 per month, but was only intermittently keeping track of my food. I re-applied all 32 pounds to my poor body over the next 18 months (and paid $288 more dollars while gaining).
During all my WW experiences, I ate cookies, cake, candy, pastries... When I was being "good," I counted the points. When I was being "bad," I simply "cheated." I was more successful losing weight (and keeping it off) in WW than I have been in the other weight-loss programs I've tried.
My OA experience began 67 days ago. I have not been on the scale. I have not eaten any cookies, cake, candy or pastries... not even a bite. 67 days ago, I was wearing a snug size 18 jeans; now I'm fairly comfortable in size 14. I feel better, more stable, more even-keeled than I have in many decades. It's a start.
Could it turn around? Could the cookies call too loudly for me to resist? Could I quit again? Yes, you bet.
Too bad I can't format columns here... I'd like to list the two programs side by side to easily compare their features (as I've experienced them). I'll have to do it item by item:
WW - about losing weight, learning healthy food choices
OA - about recovery from food addictions
WW - diet driven - count points
OA - spirituality driven - maintain abstinence, stick to food plan
WW - self monitoring, track points, rewards, weigh-in meetings
OA - higher power, group meetings and personal sponsor provide support
WW - weekly fee
OA - free
WW - will power
OA - higher power
WW - bad habits got me to this place of being overweight
OA - I have an incurable disease of addiction to overeating and certain foods
WW - anything in moderation, as long as I count the points
OA - abstinence from certain foods
WW - get to goal weight
OA - experience sanity one day at a time
These two programs are not mutually exclusive. A person could choose WW for their OA food plan.
For me, being abstinent on certain foods is a huge relief. Some part of me must have known that eating one or two WW chocolate brownies every day (in a highly addictive way) was eventually going to snowball into binging and weight gain. Yet, consciously, I had no real clue about addiction.
Holy Hunger by Margaret Bullitt-Jonas is the catalyst that opened my eyes, finally, to addiction... to my need for more than weight loss... to my need for spiritual recovery and abstinence. I will be forever grateful to her for writing her personal journey in such a deep and honest way.
My recovery journey will have its share of bumps, no doubt. I came into the program as an agnostic who is critical of all organized religions. Finding trust and belief in a higher power, surrendering control, and feeling my feelings are the challenges right now. The weight loss is a by-product... good, but not the focus.
OA is right for me because I finally admit, understand and accept that I am powerless over my habit of overeating and my addiction to certain foods. When dieting, I have power for some length of time. But over and over again my power shuts down or isn't adequate. I accept this about myself and am seeking help from a power greater than my own.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
What serendipity! He gave me a remarkable suggestion, saying that in situations like that he likes to carry a talisman in his pocket... something he can touch and hold to remind and help him with sobriety. Ah-ha! Instantly I knew that would work for me too.
With yet another half hour before my ferry departed, I went to a little souvenir shop by the ferry dock to see what talisman-angel I could find. My hands touched rocks, shells, a little glass ladybug and a ceramic frog. None of these things seemed to have any positive energy for me. Finally, I spied a basket of carved stones (probably from China) on the bottom shelf in the back of the store. My hand immediately went to a reddish stone with a primitive carving of a shore bird. My bird. My workshop helper-talisman!
It totally worked! I made commitments to my husband, readers, another person in the workshop and myself that I would stick with my program. But the talisman in my pocket is the most important reason I was able to do it. When the going got rough, I put my hand in my pocket and fondled my little bird rock. It comforted me and enabled me to resist the many temptations... the chocolate cookies passed around, the bowl of red licorice, the spread of deserts at lunch time and the urge to snack at night in my room. Yay!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
So I need a plan. Well, I have a food plan. Three meals a day. No snacks. No binge foods. Only one plate or bowl per meal. I can do this at home. I can even factor in eating out once in a while. Can I maintain my plan at the workshop? Will I maintain my plan at the workshop?
With 57 days invested in abstinence so far, I certainly don't want to re-set the counter... nor do I want to slide again into the binge foods abyss. Ten things that might help me stay on course:
- take sugar-free gum... several flavors
- take a good supply of bottled water and a few cans of diet soda
- don't worry (or even think) about the second challenge until this one is behind me
- pray (something I rarely do; hardly know how to do)
- walk rather than eat; when temptation strikes, take a quick walk around the building or down the street and back
- tell the student(s) next to me what I am doing; make a verbal commitment to them about my food plan each day
- make a commitment about sticking to my food plan here on my blog and report at the end of the workshop (probably no access to Internet while there)
- remember that I'm there to PLAY and learn; my work does not have to be good or perfect or pretty or remarkable in any way
- make a verbal commitment about sticking to my food plan to my husband and call him every night to report
- ask if any readers have other suggestions... maybe things that have worked for them
To my readers... Yes, I do commit to sticking to my food plan and will report when I return. And yes, I do welcome any suggestions you have.
No, thanks to the above list, I'm not going to write about the second challenge happening one week later... Time for that when I return from the workshop. Posting will probably be sparse, but I'll be baaaack!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
A friend "closed the door" on me. She's not the female confidant type, but has always been friendly and as warm with me as she seems to get with anybody. Several months ago, we started a little business sewing a line of beaded kitchen angels, tea towels and potholders to sell at our local farmers market. We had a number of fun sewing days and started selling our line in April. She's not much for phone calls, so mostly we made arrangements in person or by email.
All seemed to be going well with both friendship and business relationship until two weeks ago, when she declined to come to my studio of a pre-arranged sew-day and ceased to respond to my emails. I tried the telephone... she didn't return my call. Today was our 4th scheduled farmer's market and I didn't even know if she would be there.
All week this troubled me. I wondered, "Did I do/say something to offend her and if so, what? Is she ill?" I called a mutual quilting friend to ask about that. No, she didn't think so.
So, this morning I went to my OA meeting (prior to the market) full of anxiety. When it was my turn, I spoke of the situation and told how it made me want to eat sweets all week (my old way of dealing with things like this). Then I heard myself saying (from some rarely heard wise-woman place inside), "The child in me has been abandoned again. She feels frightened and anxious and sad and angry and confused and most of all she feels lost. I need to help her."
Thus it's NOT about fixing the friendship... NOT about fixing whatever is amiss between me and my friend. It IS about fixing what is amiss between me and the child within (Little PB). On the way to the market, I reassured her that my husband will not abandon her, that my best friend (L) will not abandon her, that my quilting and beading buddies will not abandon her and most of all, that I will not abandon her. I told her I understand how she feels, especially given her loss of Daddy and Mommy.
I had been concerned about eating pastries at the market, but after talking with Little PB, a weight was lifted and there was no significant challenge to avoid food.
My friend/business partner did show up. We were business-like and cordial, but did not discuss our relationship at all. Without the insight about abandonment, I would have been trying to fix it and pushing her to discuss what went wrong between us. Who knows, I don't close that door... maybe someday we'll fix our friendship.... maybe not. In the meantime, I feel a whole lot better!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Ring of truth here... false modesty be darned, I might as well give it a try.Right now, say it out loud: “I’m so proud of myself.” The rush of strength and expansiveness that comes from declaring this honestly is the antidote to paralysis and the beginning of wonderful adventures, and each time you choose that, instead of shame, you really should be proud.
Ten I'm-Proud-of-Myself Things:
- I am proud of myself for passing up the free samples of funnel cake and cinnamon rolls at the grocery store again today.
- I am proud of myself for 52 days of abstaining from cake, cookies, ice cream, chocolate, pastries, pie and candy.
- I am proud of myself for 52 days of abstaining from overeating until I am beyond full.
- I am proud of myself for walking 2.2 miles on most of the 52 days since joining OA.
- I am proud of myself for starting a daily arm exercise program.
- I am proud of myself for my efforts at staying honest and true in writing this blog.
- I am proud of myself for attempting to feel my feeling and for telling my best friend she didn't need to fix my sadness yesterday.
- I am proud of myself for asking my husband for help with this list.
- I am proud of myself for making an "excellent dinner and then doing the dishes on top of that." (My husband's suggestion...)
- I'm so proud of (and shocked at) myself for writing this list and posting it.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
To surrender is to acceptThese are words by Marion Woodman from Coming Home to Myself, a gift from a friend who understands the mysteries of change better than I.
life as it is:
winter today, spring tomorrow;
cruelty with beauty;
aloneness after love.
I do not easily surrender, nor often. I want control. My mind knows when I use my determination to stop a leak in the wall of control surrounding me, another leak will soon begin at my back. My mind knows my thin wall of control can easily crumble allowing a flood to rush over me. I am afraid I won't be able to swim. So, despite what my mind knows, I white-knuckle to maintain control.... over what I eat, over my surroundings, sometimes over my friends and family.
I don't want to admit that last week I tried to control a friend. I wanted her to come to my studio for a "sewing day." She said she didn't feel well. I wheedled and whined. She said, "You're twisting my arm." I said, "Yes, but I really want you to come." She didn't. And she hasn't replied to my email messages, including one where I acknowledged my fault and apologized.
I also don't want to admit that last week I tried to influence my sister to do something. She said she was tired. I pushed. She didn't do it.
Ten Things I Can't Control
- my genetic makeup
- my past experiences
- my eating
- the weather
- the world's population growth
- my husband
- my sister
- my friends
- everything else
Is to surrender to have no influence? To surrender must I allow the flood and the dark to push me down? What if I cannot surface again? Nature knows all about control and surrender. The dog rolls over and shows his belly. The flooded river recedes. Must I then surrender my will? And if so, how?
Let go. Breathe. Stay in the moment. Someone said, "Be where your hands are." Breathe. Let go. Trust. Forgive. Breathe.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
It wasn't always easy... I recall taking workshops where the teachers rotated the dancers. It seemed that each time I rotated to a new partner, I saw on his face a look that said, "Oh no, here we go... She's a big one... She won't be a good partner... She must weigh twice as much as me... Maybe I should take a break right now..." Some did take a break. Some discovered that I can dance. Some even sought me out later as a partner. I learned to take the bad with the good, stick with it, keep smiling and above all, enjoy the dance.
For several years, I performed with a Hungarian folk dance group, eventually becoming one of the group's primary choreographers. Performing was tough. The first time on stage, my knees were shaking so much that my dear partner literally had to hold me up. Eventually, I came to enjoy performing very much.
During those two decades, I formed romantic attachments to two different men who were dancers, one which lasted 13 years. He was a big guy, overweight like me. He was/is a great dancer and always in demand as a partner. Guys can be overweight, sweaty, choreography-impaired, humorless, you name it... If they're willing to try, they will always have a dance partner. For us gals, it's a bit more difficult. When I started ballroom dancing, I got used to asking men to dance with me, which was a bit tough on the ego, but which got me on the dance floor.
I look back on those 20 years of dance as a primary focus in my life and am thankful for the courage and serendipitous circumstances that helped me to take baby steps out of hibernation. That phase of my life ended when I met my husband (who will not/does not dance) and moved to an island where there really isn't any venue for dancing. It's OK. I'm willing to trade dance for my marriage... and I still dance by myself sometimes, especially in my studio.
Going back to the start of Part 1, I wrote: "I guess if I'm ever going to recover (as they put it in OA), I have to face the D word... Dance." I've told the stories. Now what is it I need to face?
I think it's my bitterness and anger about what happened and about being overweight and large. Perhaps a 10-things list is in order. OK... Ten Things I'm Willing to Forgive and Leave Behind:
- I forgive you, Mr. Andahazi, Mr. Russian ballet master. You taught me body carriage and how to move in time to music. I'm sure you did not intend to harm me when you told my parents I was not suited to ballet. You were right... I am not.
- I forgive you, Mom and Dad. You did not understand how important it was to me that you see our modern dance performance. You tried to make it up to me later by traveling all the way across the country to see me perform folk dance on several occasions. You were kind and attentive to my needs in countless ways.
- I forgive you, stage helpers, for the mix-up about our costumes.
- I forgive you, Mrs. Kane, for pushing me back on stage. Although I was humiliated at the time, it was the right thing to do. Maybe it's partly the reason why I was able to perform later in life. So thank you!
- I forgive myself for holding this anger and shame inside for all these years.
- I forgive myself for all the years I overate and binged, especially for how doing so continually hampered me from blossoming as a dancer.
- I forgive myself for any erroneous assumptions I may have made regarding male dance teachers, choreographers and partners. I assumed the worst, that they all dreaded working with me. I admit it's possible that some of them didn't have any negative feelings at all.
- I forgive those men who have a preference for dancing with small, attractive women even if they aren't really very good dancers.
- I forgive myself for hibernating, shyness and holding back.
- I forgive myself for limiting my own potential in dance by holding onto shame, fear and resentments from the past.
Ooooh, that felt good!!!! Now I can let the subject of dance rest for a while. The only other thing to do is to put my word-arms around Little Peacefulbird, hug her tightly, rock her gently and tell her I understand how wounded she was and how proud I am of her for allowing dance to emerge again and even flourish after many years of hiding.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Oh joy, I was dancing again. Toward the end of the year, our teacher choreographed "Alice in Wonderland" for us to perform. Oh ecstacy, I got a part in a duet! I was Tweedle Dum and my neighbor, Kathy, was Tweedle Dee. She was very short and pole thin. I was quite a bit taller and much rounder. We had circle skirt costumes.
Performance day came and two things went very wrong. My parents had some sort of concert tickets that evening and so declined to come to my performance. (Baaaaaad Mommy and Daddy!) At least they didn't see our embarassing duet....
For our duet, Kathy and I were to enter from opposite sides of the stage. But somebody had mixed up our costumes. On her side, a helper wrapped my too long skirt around her tiny waist twice and safety pinned it in place. On my side, a helper broke the zipper trying to get her skirt over my shoulders and then tied it around my waist with a cord, which made it so short that it barely covered my crotch.
When we entered, the audience broke into laughter at the sight of our odd, bedraggled-looking costumes. Kathy stood and waited for the laughter to subside. I fled the stage in humiliation. Our dance teacher pushed me back on. The audience laughter increased and again I fled. Meanwhile the music started and Kathy began to dance her part. When Mrs. Kane pushed me on the stage again, I finally figured out where in the choreography we were supposed to be and began to dance.
Although the audience clapped for us, that was the end of dancing for me for a very long time. After that third grade fiasco, I knew, 100%, absolutely I could not be a dancer. I avoided dances and dancing all through my school years. In high school and college, if I went to a dance at all, it was always hugely terrifying and stressful. I'd act out, gossip with the girls, drink (college) and leave early.
I wanted (more than anything!) to dance. I envied the slender, pretty girls dancing close with their boyfriends. I loved the music. My inner body would move, in a way I hoped nobody would notice, to the music. I was trapped in a mind that constantly trumped with one old ballet card and two old modern dance cards.
There's more to discover about me and dance.... next post.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
At 67 years old and somewhere around 190 pounds, I still have a dancer inside me... All my life... a dancer in me with no outlet, an inner dancer who has only rarely been public, an overweight, sometimes obese, girl/woman hiding a lithe and passionate dancer inside.
I just watched episode 2 of So You Think You Can Dance, which makes me feel my feelings, with tears of joy. I've loved this program and watched every episode since it began. Even my husband, who does not dance and has not ever danced, has developed an interest in seeing young dancers working with excellent choreographers to learn and perform different styles of dance.
What is it about dance? Movement... the body speaking the heart's truth when the mouth is only mute?
As a child my parents took me to The Ballet Russes. Seeing the beautiful grace and electric energy of these dancers at about 4+ years old is still a vivid memory. I felt myself transported into their bodies, my heart into theirs. I wanted to be a dancer, a ballet dancer.
I poured over the performance program and a ballet picture book, practicing the positions in my bedroom with the door closed. My brother and I made crepe paper ballet costumes for the kids in our neighborhood. We showed them how to dance and staged a show for our families on the sidewalk in front of our house.
When I was 8, I finally persuaded my parents to enroll me in ballet lessons. Here is a poem I wrote 15 years ago about those lessons...
You Were Wrong, Mr. AndahaziAt that time, I thought I'd banished the demons. But tonight, watching my favorite dance show, I felt them tugging on me again. There's more... more dance and self-image and weight stuff... I hope to deal with it in another post or two...
I call you back, Mr. Andahazi,
Mr. Russian ballet master,
with spindly legs
and equally spindly heart.
I call you back and place you
in front of a child
who will speak to you now.You talked to my parentsI call you back, Mr. Andahazi,
in my presence
as though I wasn’t there
as though I were
the family puppy –
Look at those feet!
She’s gonna be a big one!
Well, maybe you’re a hot-shot
Russian ballet master, but
you were dead wrong about me.
It wasn’t a waste, Mr. Andahazi,
of my parent’s money
to pay for my dance lessons.
You could see only
the future, the lights,
the stage, the barely fleshed
skeletons of delicate women
held high over the heads
of small men, like you.
Paying money today
to realize an outcome
so many years down the road.
She’s going to be too big
and too tall, you said,
a waste of your money,
no man will be able
to dance with her, you said,
take her away,
off with her head.
I pity you, Mr. Andahazi.
You did not see the pure joy
in my heart. You did not
notice or feel or enjoy
the radiance of my love
for those weekly lessons
right there in your studio.
Little girls, you know,
take words like yours
to heart and turn them
into demons which can
prevent us from knowing
our worth and following our bliss.
I wonder if you care?
It doesn’t matter anymore.
You were wrong.
I have always been a dancer.
That is all I have to say.
Mr. Russian ballet master
with spindly legs
and equally spindly heart.
I call you back and place you
over there, against the wall
to witness the dancer
you tried to squelch
to watch her twirl gracefully
around the dance floor
like Isadora’s scarves
floating and waving in the breeze.
I call you back to notice,
to comprehend your lack of power
over us, the child and me.
You will stand there
and watch me dancing,
behold my pleasure, my delight,
time after time after time.
But I do not see you.
I do not recognize you.
I do not even remember you.
You are not here anymore.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Forty-six days ago I would have had one or two samples of each type on my way into the store (rear entrance from the parking lot). Then, I would have done some of my shopping and wandered by the deli again for seconds. If they were especially good cookies, I might have returned again for thirds. After paying for my groceries (at the front of the store), I would have swung past the deli again for a final handful of cookie samples on my way out of Dodge.
Did the deli clerks recognize me each time? Did they make judgments about me? I always wondered about that... But it didn't stop me.
In fact, the beginning of the end of my recent Weight Watchers victory began with eating those tasty little temptations. Late last fall, our newly-remodeled grocery store was being very generous with samples. Every day the bakery and deli featured at three or more sample platters. Nearly every day I'd find some excuse to hit the platters.
I'm just having a few little bites. It won't matter. I'll eat a little less at dinner. I don't know how to count the points, so I'll just ignore them. Chocolate too... there were samples of chocolate decadence cake, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate biscotti...
I'd been chocolate-abstinent for two years, but eating little chocolate samples was all it took to start bingeing on it again. Eating little everything samples was all it took to start buying bakery treats, eating deserts at restaurants and a return to the whole crazy, food-dependent, weight-gaining way of life again.
Today, thank the universe, I walked right by the platters. Yes, I noticed them. Yes, the samples looked as tasty as always. Yes, there was a moment of temptation when the voice in my head said, Shall we? Just one?
Something is much different now. No tricky point or calorie-count manipulations. No arguing with the voice in my head. No exceptions. There is comfort in abstinence. I feel joy and satisfaction knowing that, one day at a time, I do not eat food samples in the grocery store.