Monday, January 31, 2011

Pat on the Back!

Home after four days away. Took a fun/challenging, 3-day quilting workshop. Catered lunches were supplied, with lavish desserts baked right there in the kitchen adjacent to our classroom, plus fresh-baked cookie snacks in the afternoon and other students sharing their dark-chocolate-coated blueberries. I don't want to write about the desserts! Just let it be known they smelled and looked like the best of the best.

Struggle to maintain my sobriety? Yes, a bit. The class was challenging for me... not my normal approach to art and not my most comfortable medium, lots of new techniques, and most of the students way more advanced both as artists and as makers of art quilts than I am. Did I feel frustrated and inadequate some of the time? Yes, I did, perhaps most of the time. Did I smell the chocolate brownies (oops, I wasn't going to tell...) and want some? Yes, it crossed my mind. Did I watch other women cheerfully devouring snacks and desserts? Yes, I did.

However, ta-dah, did I take a smidgen, a taste, a bite or a serving of any of it? No, I did not! Pat on the back and bravo me! Did I eat a bit too much at meal time? Hmmm. I shall try to be honest here... Yes, a few meals were a bit more than I have at home. Plus, I don't normally eat much at all for breakfast; whereas I did partake of the free hotel breakfast (in a mostly sensible way).

This is a good lesson. The OA approach works for me. Sobriety works for me; it's not as difficult as diets. There was a woman in the class on a diet, who talked rather constantly about what she could and could not eat, what she wanted to eat, what she wished they had provided for us, etc. My experience was different. I didn't think about food, except when they brought out a steaming fresh plate of desserts and announced we could "come and get it." I didn't talk about food at all that I can recall.

Actually, it really wasn't very difficult at all. Back in my days of yo-yo dieting, I had much, MUCH WORSE times trying to limit how many cookies or brownies or candies I ate. I am very grateful to have learned about OA and for all the sources of support keeping me sober!
* * * * *
Today's I'm grateful for: blooming Narcissus and Hellebore, Northern Flickers feeding on our property, safe travels to and from my class, sleeping in my own bed, longer days, good neighbors, silence

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Note to Myself and My Husband

Let's buy a dozen roses
half pink and half yellow
to celebrate our differences

another time
we can celebrate
our sameness
our many common interests
beliefs and values

but for today
let's honor
our differences

you are intrigued
by gardening
by guns and history
battles and ships
and the past

I am delighted
by beads and fabrics
making art
feeling my feelings
and the present

I am cautious
balking at decisions
you are bold
quickly making your choice

You feel free
to spend money
I get nervous
without a sizable chunk
in savings

You want frequent
verbal contact
I want time
by myself

Can we celebrate
these differences today

Can we value and honor
that our differences
bring sparkle
to our together life

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Don't Want to Write About...

fingers hesitating
mind balking at the idea
of writing about
my husband and me
our history
and current conflict
over the telephone

never mind
I'll give it a try

a few times a year
for work or family events
I travel alone
without my husband

sometimes gone a few days
sometimes a week or more

my husband likes it
when I check in daily
by telephone

he likes to give me
island news
even national news
cat doings
his doings

he doesn't like me to call
in the morning
or when I'm not alone
or when he's busy

often it seems he gives
only cursory interest
to what I'm doing
I've learned to
tell him just the headlines

often we get into arguments
some of our worst
are when we're on the phone

most times I call
at the end of my day
I'm tired
and it doesn't go well
we argue
I brood and can't sleep
which makes it worse
the next evening

I begin to dread
the telephone

tonight I told him
I prefer not to call
later this week
when I'll be gone
for three days

he says it means
I don't care enough
about him or our home
to want to check in

he says
I short-change him
on the "we factor"
in our marriage

I feel so foolish
our behaviours so petty
goals one day
squabbles the next

I have this notion
that by now
in our 60's
and married for 10 years
we should have
our relationship ducks
all lined up
in a beautiful straight line

we don't

I'm feeling my feelings
in these words

my dad used to say
damned if you do
damned if you don't

that's how it seems to be
phone or no phone
how will we find a solution
maybe our counselor can help

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Joining Karen at the Goal Post

Karen, inspired by Michele's comment, just wrote a great post about her goals for a healthy lifestyle. After stumbling around a bit for words, she came up with a tidy start, a list that I find quite inspirational and helpful.

Goals have always been a nemesis for me, saying or writing them even more than having them. Maybe it's fear, some sort of goal-jinx syndrome, I don't know, but somehow, Karen's first goal post gave me the courage to face the same question and actually write my own list.

Here then, is my first draft, my first attempt...
My Goals for a Healthy Lifestyle

I want to accept that I do not now, and never will, have a so-called “normal relationship” with food. My nature is to have an addictive relationship with food, to binge and to overeat. To try to control my nature is to fail and feel crazy.

I want to continue abstinence from my binge foods, one day at a time.

I want to develop the habit of stopping, breathing and feeling my feelings at the very moment I notice myself overeating or grazing.

I want to wear size 10 jeans and size medium shirts.

I want to establish and hold to a routine of walking about two miles on the average of 6 days/week; also to make arm and toning exercises a part of every day chores, like brushing my teeth.

I want to continue to enhance my spiritual awareness, opening myself more to trust, hope and love; letting go of fear, resentment, shame, blame and control.
Gratitude for the day: cat on my lap and her deliciously sweet purr, PJ's candid blog, beads and fabric, my old computer and even older, nearly defunct and soon-to-be-replaced HP printer (in constant, even abusively frequent, service since 2001).

PS. I've not been blogging a lot because I've been obsessively (my husband's word) quilting; if you'd like to see, take a look here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

If-then thinking... It works!

Been quilting up a storm... made 105 blocks in past two weeks, which will become two throw-sized quilts in the near future. Plus I'm hand quilting a big reproduction bed quilt. And I'm back to my beading. Ergo... not so much time for blogging.

But tonight I just had to get a concept that's been working for me into words.

End of Dec. I wrote a post about some thoughts/wishes for the year ahead (here). One of them was:
I might want to be kind to my body
daily arm toning
daily clam shells to strengthen hips
I distinctly recall thinking, "fat chance... might want, but won't do." Plus in the week of snow and ice that followed, I wasn't even walking. No exercise at all on most days. Not so good.... What can a gal who doesn't like exercise do about this?

Well, help comes from unexpected places. Open the January issue of the Costco members' magazine (the one you automatically get as a member and probably recycle unread most months) to page 29. It's an article about Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.

Here's the part that grabbed me and changed my response to exercise, hopefully forever!
Halvorson solution is to use "if-then" planning, and explains how she used it to conquer her own struggles with losing her "baby weight."

Halvorson says she hates to exercise and "will hate it forever." In the past she would promise herself to work out three times a week, but kept putting it off.

Finally, she says, "I came to terms with the fact that my willpower was not going to be up to the task of keeping me from impulsively eating or making good decisions. So I started using if-then plans. If it is Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 9 o'clock, then I'm going to work out. If I'm hungry, then I'm going to have a vegetable. And it was remarkable." (She's lost 50 pounds in a year.)
If-then! Why not, I thought. If I'm making my morning coffee, then I'm also doing my arm toning exercises. If I'm watching TV, then I'm also doing my toe/arch exercises. So far, it's working like a charm... almost effortlessly. I make coffee and I do the arm things. Takes 15 minutes. When I'm finished, I mark an A on my calendar. Missed only one day since I started two weeks ago. Makes me want to buy Heidi's book....

Now I need an "if" to go with "then I'll do 12 clam shell exercises on each side." Maybe I could try, "if I'm headed to the computer room to check email, then I'll lay on the bed and do clamshells on the way." OK, good idea. I'll give it a try. (Read more about if-then planning here.)

* * * * * * * * *
Today's gratitude: Heidi Grant Halvorson, fabric and beads, tasty dinner in good company of my husband at Jimmy's Paradise Cafe, Lunnette and Christy, the sound of a fully contented purrrrr, gentle rains, Muddy Waters, Johnny Lee Hooker.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Singin the Snow n Ice Blues

Been quite chilly, temps at or below freezing, around here... for about a hundred years it seems. But I don't mind that so much. We keep a good fire going and wool sweaters layered over a hoodie keep me warm enough. It's the snow and ice that get me down. Slip-sliding on our trails, not walking much because I fear falling, not driving because I fear sliding off the road (as I did two winters ago, totaling my car and any small winter bravado I may have had).

It's the snow n ice blues that make me eat, she says, tongue in cheek. And I seem powerless to resist. Am I surprised? Well, no. When did I ever have power over my eating habits? Haven't touched any of my binge foods, so I'm keepin' my abstinence number (102 days as of today!).

However, the way I've been nibbling this n that, I might should add a few things to my binge foods list, like peanut butter, all nuts for that matter, like potato chips, all chips for that matter, like bread and maybe even cheese. These are things I can have around and eat only in moderation. Except now, when I'm singin' the snow n ice blues and cruising the kitchen on a regular basis.

Ice and snow. It's winter. It happens. Get busy, missy! Clean the house! Bead a piece about the blues! Write morning pages! Just do it! And accept. Accept weakness and powerlessness. Weather happens and you can't do a thing to change it. Think serenity rather than food.

Well, there! I guess I told myself a thing or two!

* * * * *

Today's gratitude: fabric (again), dry fire wood, heat tape on our pipes, not having to drive anywhere today.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Emergency Rations

My husband and I are very different in how we deal with uncertainty and concerns for our welfare in the future.

I assume: we're both resourceful and resilient; whatever happens, we'll figure out what to do; we have what we need. To me it makes little sense to prepare for unknown and unlikely misfortune.

My husband assumes: we need to be super-prepared for calamity no matter how unlikely (and probably it's more likely than we think).

Based on his thinking, we have: a boss-new, super-quiet, super-efficient generator; a stock-pile of basic foods (12 + large boxes full) and a list of more to be purchased soon; a 20-day supply of military field-rations (MREs); an assortment of fuels; a few guns; and more that I won't mention here. All that is in addition to regular "back-up" stuff.

Based on my thinking, we would have enough food on hand to get us through a bad snow storm and a lantern for when the power goes out.

Our water needs are met because we collect rain water (4 large cisterns full of it, thousands of gallons), our only water source. Our heat needs are met because when trees/branches fall, we chop them up for fire wood, currently with more than a 3-year supply ready to use.

Why am I writing this? I don't know... just thinking out loud about our differences, trying to accept both ways of thinking as valid, part of me being grateful to him for providing this level of security, part of me feeling a bit guilty for not getting more involved with his emergency preparedness efforts.


Gratitude for the day: time to talk on the phone with my long-time bestest friend, popcorn and a good movie with my husband and our cat, fabric

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Few More Thoughts about Happiness

I'm still trying to sort through and process my thoughts about happiness, thinking about how it's always seemed important that I be happy, upbeat, optimistic and cheerful. (Interesting that the operative word there is "be" not "feel.")

Where does the pressure to be happy come from? Probably in part from our society. We are so sensitive to depression that we jump on pills, cures, happy lights, vitamin D, anything to not feel down. Why our society is that way, I really don't know. My mom felt the pressure too and was always very critical of herself for any and all of her "negative thoughts and feelings."

Closer to home is the pressure I get from my husband, who doesn't like it when I'm not happy. First he tries to jolly me out of it, joking or offering absurd solutions. Then he might make a few reasonable suggestions, something to fix whatever is making me tired, sad, worried, pissy, etc. If I don't respond, don't follow his suggested cures, don't snap out of it, he starts to develop an irritation which can lead to resentment and sometimes nasty arguments between us.

Earlier this evening, sensing I was a bit down, he asked if I was excited about a quilting class I'm taking on Saturday. He wanted me to respond with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" Bless him, he just wants me to be happy; to fix it when I'm not.

What I want is to have it be OK with me and OK with him when I'm not happy. I want us both to acknowledge and accept that fear, boredom, weariness, sadness, worry and even anger (the one my husband dislikes the most) need not be ignored, cancelled (fixed) or covered over.

A critical part of me, reading what I just wrote, thinks I'm just asking for license to be crazy*, that I SHOULD ALWAYS at least TRY to be happy, to look at the positive side of everything, glass half full, find the silver lining. A more accepting part of me is saying I've been there, done that, at the expense of pretense and a fractured sense of being.

Sometimes, inspired by Mary Oliver's poem, The Wild Geese, I write the following in my journal: I do not have to be perfect, I do not have to be thin, I do not have to be happy, I do not have to be intelligent, I do not have to be good. It always calms me to write these words, takes the pressure off, makes it OK to be human, to have weaknesses.
*See? Here I am equating not happy with crazy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year - Take 2

Oh dear, now I'm on backtrack mode about the happy new year thing from my previous post. It seems my husband and other readers took it that I don't like to say or hear "Happy new year," like the Grinch who stole goodness away from the whole year and slapped hands for even thinking about pleasure and happiness. Erg! My fault; I wasn't very clear.

Actually, I don't mind saying or hearing that friendly, well-wishing greeting at all. In fact, I say it a lot, like when I answer the phone or shopping at the store, buying a coffee, on blogs. And I mean it. For everyone (myself included) I wish for good times ahead, a year where love, peace, joy, good health, and happy times flow amply. Positive thinking is a good thing and greetings like this are likely to contribute to more happiness in the world through psychology's concept of self-fulfilling prophecy or the ripple effect.

So when I wrote: I've been slightly bothered by the phrase "Happy new year," I didn't mean bothered as in irritated or annoyed, rather more in the sense of perplexed. Saying and hearing it so often at this time of year makes me think about happiness in general and the pursuit of it.

This seems to be a good opportunity to look at my own need to be happy and what I do to get there. Ten things I did in pursuit of happiness in the past (and with a few exceptions in the present as well):
  1. Eat sweets, especially chocolate.
  2. Shop for shoes or clothes.
  3. Call a friend.
  4. Buy art supplies.
  5. Write morning pages.
  6. Cook a special, fancy dinner; maybe invite friends.
  7. Go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner with my husband or a friend.
  8. Call my parents or sibling.
  9. Bake cookies, cake, sweet bread, etc.
  10. Play card games on my computer.
Huh! A bunch of these things have to do with food. Well, that's no surprise. Using food to medicate is a life-long habit. Just thinking with my keyboard here...

what's under my behaviours
avoidance of
loneliness, boredom, grief, despair

and what's under my avoidance
maybe a sense of entitlement
a sense that I deserve to be happy

and what's under my sense of entitlement
maybe it's ego, a strength of will
seeking control

shall I look at
avoidance, entitlement and control
from a different perspective
shall I say instead
a whole me
notices what is
and accepts lack of control

what if I let myself feel despair
stop trying to push it away
invite it into my heart
allow it to be a part of me

and despair is just one
shame, anger, loneliness, sadness and fear
are her sisters
I push them all away
maybe in small part
because of some intrinsic belief
that I need always to be happy

maybe if I don't run
from anti-happiness
maybe then
happy will be all the brighter
when it's with me

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hello 2011

For as long as I can remember, I've been slightly bothered by the phrase "Happy new year." "Happy birthday" I can handle just fine, as birthdays seem well suited to a day of celebration and being happy. But a whole year?

As American citizens we are granted a constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness. And so we feel entitled, maybe even pushed into ever ongoing attempts to find, seek, make, discover and live in a state of rapture. Here's what I think happens. Sometimes seeking pleasure and happiness gets in the way of experiencing it... the seeking itself takes over and becomes the goal. (Duh ~ I am more mindful of that trap now, more open to seeing simply what IS with delight.)

Another possible downside to continual pursuit of happiness may be a decreased ability to function emotionally, physically and spiritually during the inevitable hard times. If we stop chasing and stop fighting, relaxing into what is, noticing a wide range of feelings, perhaps then we will actually experience our lives as having wholeness.

I'm sure there are many philosophers who have given great thought and good words to the concept of happiness while I simply scrape at the surface. Yet, entering 2011, I wish anyone who is reading this and myself a "whole new year!" May we take it all in, experience all of it fully, the happy and the unhappy, the delightful and the boring, the fun and the drudgery. May we open ourselves to all of it.