Monday, February 28, 2011

Anonymity... Comment by Anonymous

Saturday I wrote about suicide by overeating, the topic at our OA meeting that day. One person commented as follows:

Anonymous said...

"A" meetings are "safe" places where we can go and talk because we are told that "what is said in a meeting, stays in a meeting". We learn to build trust again through these meetings. I think it may have been an oversight on your end that you didn't realize that sharing one word, one sentence, one story is a breach of that trust. You are given a gift at those meetings by people who are as raw and hurting as you are, so a gentle reminder to keep that boundary.

Thanks for the reminder! I wish to apologize to whoever wrote the above comment and give my promise to be more careful in the future. I do value the safe space we have in our meetings to say whatever we need to say. And, yes, of course the atmosphere of safety depends on anonymity.

I guess when I wrote the post (here), it didn't seem likely that anybody could identify any of the members from what I wrote. However, one never knows who might read my post and be able to put two and two together. The post is now edited to remove all specific content from our OA meeting. Hopefully what remains is not in violation of any trust.

Actually, I'd like to know, who are you Anonymous? I'd like to apologize directly to you and understand more completely your interpretation of the OA anonymity policy. If you wish, please contact me by email: WordsPaint[at]gmail[dot]com or directly if you know me. Thanks.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Difficult Subject

We grappled with the difficult subject of suicide in our OA meeting today. Members talked about how serious medical issues are caused by or worsened by overeating, about how both mind and body suffer terribly from a long-term pattern of binging and other compulsive eating disorders, about how it's a slow way of killing ourselves, a passive death.

It's got me thinking about my addiction to alcohol, an extremely active addiction in my 20s and 30s, and how I took so many risks with life then, like passing out with my car running, like driving in total black-out condition or driving fast and recklessly in the early stages of getting drunk. Was that behavior a semi-passive way of attempting suicide? Looking back, it certainly seems possible.

Why? Why would I want to kill myself? I don't know. Except for one broken-hearted occasion, I don't recall consciously thinking, "I want to die." It just seemed like fun, each first drink seeming to be all about having fun. But looking back, each next drink seems increasingly to have invited death to my side. It wasn't that I was unaware of that either. The next morning, I'd realize I'd been driving blacked out... again... and understand what a risk I was to myself and to others. It didn't stop me.

What stopped me with alcohol (and more recently with food) was that someone told me he was an alcoholic. He described his "symptoms" and told me about his AA recovery program. That was 30 years ago. It made a strong impression on me as the light bulb went off about my own compulsive use of alcohol. I quit for good within a year, without the benefit of AA. And now I would have to add, without the benefit of the whole spirituality-based recovery process.

A friend recently told me she considered her life to be a precious gift from God. Her way to repay or return this gift to God is to shepherd herself, to take care of and preserve herself as best she can.

Well that's an interesting thought to me, who's never been religious. Can I think of my life as being a gift? Hmmm, certainly it was a gift from my parents. That I lived through a serious childhood disease is a gift of well-practiced medicine. That I survived years of alcohol abuse is a gift of the universe.

I believe that my parents and doctors had intent behind giving me life. But the universe? Was it just chance? Some people would say not chance. Does it matter? I don't know. But I'm still here. Do I have a purpose and a responsibility because I've been given the gift of life many times over, whether by chance or intent (or a combination of both)?

And how does all this relate to food? Overeating and binging is a way of committing slow suicide, no doubt about it. My whole system... my heart, my joints and possibly most insidiously, my mind... suffers a slow death from overeating. Would I knowingly ingest a small amount of arsenic every day, slowly killing myself? No. Nor would I ever drink alcohol again in my life.

So why would I kill myself with food? I don't know the answer about why. But there is much of me that does want to live. The child within wants to live. I must honor and respect the gift of life.
* * * * * * * * *
Today's gratitude: getting a ride to OA (too much ice and snow for me to drive), quality pens and pencils, coffee, finishing my tax preps last night

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dear Readers...

When I started writing Words Paint nearly a year ago in April, I almost made it a private blog, thinking it would be a way to journal, a way of writing down the bones of my recovery for myself, a way that is faster for me than writing with a pen or pencil and thus sometimes more spontaneous and truthful. My art blog with nearly 700 followers is more of a dialog, a place to write for my readers, a pleasure to be sure and at the same time a responsibility to others.

I envisioned Words Paint to be by me, for me. I decided not to encourage readers and not to get into the entertainment or education business with it at all.

My purpose remains pretty much the same, but my feelings have changed. And so, dear readers, today I'm here to thank you for your support. Those of you who write comments have an uncanny, generous, loving way of making me think more deeply. My gratitude for this is huge. Also, I know a number of people who do not have blogs or blogging IDs are reading Words Paint on a regular basis. Sometimes they email me or talk to me about one of my posts. You know who you are. I appreciate that you've let me know you're here.

You are my witnesses. You help to keep me focused, clean (mostly) and sober simply by the good thoughts I know you hold for me. Thank you!

Just for fun, here are some pictures taken today and last week.

cow and pig, life-size plastic animals

Island cow and pig.
These two lovely beasts
live for celebrations.
They take all special occasions to heart!

cow and pig, valentine celebration
Did I say heart?

Lake Briggs, San Juan Island
Last week the weather was spring-like,
chilly yet holding promise.
This lake is the water reservoir
for Roche Harbor Resort.

snowdrops wild flowers
our earliest wildflowers,
are already blooming.

daffodils and snow
Today, though, is a different story.
These daffodils may not be too happy
about the weather reversal.

black-capped chickadees at feeder in snow storm
Black-capped chickadees
are wishing we'd get out there
and put more feed in the tube.

black-capped chickadees at feeders
We more than met their demands,
filling a second feeder for them.

mailbox and snow on trees, San Juan Island
I love how the snow looks on the trees!

late day sun on snow-covered tree tops
Late afternoon sun
peeking through the clouds,
lighting the snow in the tree tops.

Today's gratitude:
Thank you again for being here!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Throwing Food Away

One of the topics at our OA meeting this morning was "throwing food away," how most of us regard food as precious, something not to be wasted. Certainly that's how I was raised and how I've continued to live my life.

The discussion began when one of the members told us about how at breakfast this morning, he had two sausages, the perfect amount for him and his food plan. His wife, who also served herself two sausages, not wanting to eat her second, passed it over to his plate. Silently he told himself he'd just leave it there on the plate, that he'd had enough and was satisfied with two. But somehow, by the time he finished his breakfast coffee, he'd eaten it.

Lots of places to go with that story, including:

-- asking people close to us to help us by not offering us their unwanted portions
-- maintaining mindfulness as we eat
-- childhood patterns and parental influences about eating
-- the preciousness of food and the money it takes to buy it
-- prayer and being spiritually fit

I've been thinking about how it's never been OK to throw food away, about the guilt that always besets me when I clean spoiled foods (particularly left-overs) from the refrigerator. If I cook more than is needed for a meal and it's not enough for a whole meal later on, my habit is to eat it, even if I am already full.

I tell myself it won't keep; I'll never remember to eat it later; it's too good to waste; think of all the starving people in the world; I shouldn't add to the world's garbage; if I throw it away, fruit flies or other pests will get into it; it cost hard-earned money to buy it.... etc. etc. etc.

It's all nonsense! Food is doomed (or thrown away) the minute the animal/fish is killed or the fruit/vegetable/grain is picked. Once harvested, whether it passes through my body's processing system or not, it is already headed toward decomposition. Yes, it may be delicious and nutritious, but it is only food. I can throw it away. I can waste it, not waist it.

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Today's gratitude: time this afternoon to sew, sunshine, community/neighborhood, my fellow OA members

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Takes More Than Abstinence

Day 139 of abstinence today, close to 5 months with no chocolate, candy, cookies, cake, pie, ice cream or pastries, not even a smidgen or a taste. These days have gone by well:

-- I don't feel deprived
-- The voices, the internal dialogs about having treats, are gone
-- I feel pretty good physically
-- I'm getting better at feeling my feelings
-- Mutual friendship and respect are improving with my husband
-- I'm starting to trust in OA, enough to give away my quality "fat clothes"
-- Little by little I am developing faith in a higher power

Apparently, however, it takes more than abstinence from binge foods to go from size 12 down to size 10 jeans. I've been wearing 12's for about 4 months... tight at first, then comfortable, then holding steady for a long time. I've stopped getting smaller.

I know what the problem is. I haven't stuck to my food plan. Bringing it out, dusting it off, here it is: three meals a day, nothing between meals, no seconds, no more per meal than will fit on one plate or in one bowl. This is a simple meal plan. And it works. In my first 5 months of OA (prior to the current 139 days of abstinence), I went from extremely tight size 18 jeans to loose size 14 jeans. In those months, I pretty much stuck to the food plan.

Since then, binge-food abstinence has been perfect, but I gradually ramped up the amount of food I was eating for meals, plus I added nibbling and then outright eating between meals.

Wake up, peaceful bird! This is overeating! Do I want to continue overeating? NO! Do I want to wear size 10 jeans and take an additional load off my knees and feet? YES! I need help to get back on and then to stick with the plan. HELP! I can not seem to do this by myself. I ask my higher power to take over here. I surrender my will.

* * * * * * *

Gratitude for today: Lake Briggs (serene, beautiful, quiet) and the good people who built the trails so we could go there

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Stuff That's Under Everything Else

I've been writing about clutter, about how there's fear of forgetting under my procrastination about clutter, about how at the very bottom of each pile there's fear of tossing away bits of myself, as if both the bits and the remainder are insignificant. Thus fear of being insignificant, of not counting for anything, of being small, unimportant and weak is really what's at the bottom of everything else, at the bottom of every pile and stack of clutter.

Yesterday and today I've been contemplating that fear and asking myself what to do about it.

I could take a rational look at these feelings, which probably wouldn't seem very rational under close scrutiny. Yet I don't want to deny or criticize my feelings. They are what they are. However, they get in the way of clearing clutter, which I've already determined is very important to do. So now what?

In OA, the answer is: turn it all over to my higher power. In other words, let go of fear and give up trying to control.

I want to control my mind, to make it remember EVERYTHING, every detail, every person, every thing that happens, every thing I've ever learned. Well, we know that's not possible, not even a little. I need to consciously let go of the notion that if only I do x, y and z I'll be able to remember everything, surrender the notion that surrounding myself with piles of stuff will keep the memories alive for me.

I need to experience and acknowledge the losses, loss of memory, loss of tangible reminders, even loss of self, and then let go of the fear, let God take care of my fears and any other stuff that's under the piles.

Being mindful of letting go and daily progress at eliminating the clutter are my goals. I made some progress yesterday and will give it another hour or so this evening. Yay.

* * * * * * * *
Today's gratitude: spring weather, going to the dump with my husband, no clutter around my computer, selling my old (and possibly collectible) bicycle to somebody who will enjoy fixing it up.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fear of Forgetting

Yesterday I wrote about clutter, about de-cluttering my physical space and mental space. I agreed to clear four piles from my computer workspace last evening. Here's what happened.

First, and not unexpectedly, I found that I could get a dozen or so things checked off my to-do list, even things that have been on it for a long time, in order to avoid the piles of clutter. Big avoidance. In the past I would have baked cookies or apple crisp or a delicious pie first and felt entitled to eat myself silly prior to starting the de-clutter job. How could de-cluttering be so odious and why???? With pie and cookies off the option list and all the doable to-do things done, by midnight last night there was nothing for it but to begin with the first pile.

Resistance. What is behind the resistance? As I was working with that first pile, I noticed myself getting somewhat anxious (fearful) about tossing things. Here's a partial list of some of the things I was reluctant to toss:

-- business cards, especially artists from whom I've bought things
-- the original copy of a poem I wrote
-- several greeting cards from acquaintances or customers
-- magazine articles
-- invoices from long ago purchases
-- a picture given to me by my husband
-- several poems (not by me)
-- several small gifts from blogging friends
-- maps and brochures from places I've been

Well, there were other things, but this list is somewhat representative. Gifts and cards were the most difficult. Truth be told, I still have almost all of them. Why? Yes they mean something to me as symbols of the fondness people have for me. But why do I need the symbols? I know these people care.

I think I know what it is. I think it's fear of forgetting... forgetting the person, none of whom (except my husband) are in my immediate circle of friends, some of whom I've never met... forgetting who sold me something I might want to buy again... forgetting where I filed the typed version of a poem I wrote... forgetting the information I learned from an article in a magazine... forgetting poems I read a few times and liked.

My mother has dementia, rather seriously, which began when she was about my age. She covered it well for many years, but as she reached her 80s, it became more and more obvious as she'd grope for words, make up stories and flat out admit that she could not recall. I've noticed a slow progression in that direction in myself as well, starting when I was about 50, when I became increasingly unable to recall dates, times, numbers.

I don't want to forget about the people in my life. And there have been a lavish of them as I've traveled all over the country to teach and developed many precious and lasting but distant friendships with students and other artists. Then there are blog friends, hundreds of beaders, quilters and other types of artists with whom I've shared so much. I don't want to forget any of them. I don't WANT to forget anything. Yet it happens every day.

Perhaps my reluctance to deal with the piles has something to do with fear of forgetting some of these people and things. If I clear the clutter by filing these reminders in boxes in the attic, they'll be as good as forgotten, for I know I'll never look in the boxes again. I know this because there are already boxes like that in the attic. They came when I moved here 13 years ago and have never been opened. Therefore, my choice seems to be: either throw away these things or leave them in piles of clutter in my living space.

Either way, my fear is reality based. Alas, I will forget some of them whether or not I keep the physical reminders.

After two hours, the four stacks of stuff around my computer was reduced to one small pile. Many things were tossed or put in recycle. A few things got moved to existing piles in other rooms for attention later. It feels great to sit here typing at my computer with empty counter space and the chair nearby which is no longer a "shelf" holding a 2 ft. pile of papers.

I didn't do any more de-cluttering today in the physical world. But this post will help me in the future, let's say tomorrow as I attack the clutter on and under the kitchen table.

* * * * * *
Today's gratitude: wool sweaters, chickens, good neighbors, doing home improvement projects with my husband

Thursday, February 10, 2011


It strikes me that there could be a strong correlation between cutter in my house and clutter in my home, house being the physical place where I live and home being the emotional place where I live, my soul or my psyche. Maybe one feeds the other. Maybe the clutter, the piles and stacks of stuff around my computer, for example, are more than a metaphor for the piles and stacks of resentments, blames and losses in my mind. Maybe the physical clutter actually contributes, makes higher (or deeper), the mental clutter. Maybe the reverse is true as well.

For years decades I've been saying I want to de-clutter (get rid of the physical stuff in my house). Once in a while I take on a surface or a shelf, clearing it. Feels good when I do, although it's hard to get started and often I simply re-locate the stuff where I don't see it. But most of the time, I continue to dig through the clutter when I need something, fuss about how it looks, gripe about the time it takes to try to find anything, and berate myself for procrastinating.

Today I want to get to the bottom of procrastination and fix it. Our marriage counselor talks about ego, the part of my personality that resists change, that wants to keep everything just like it is, both physically and emotionally. She tells us we must reach deep into a different place in order to change, a place that begins in compassion, respect, gentleness and love. The ego will resist all change, requiring a conscious effort to put it aside. I'm wondering if her wisdom about changing our attitudes and behaviors toward one another might be useful with clutter procrastination.

If clutter procrastination with the physical stuff in my house IS inter-related with procrastination of clearing emotional clutter, then maybe I could improve my odds of enjoying my marriage by getting rid of physical clutter, one day at a time, one pile at a time. Duh... sounds like a no-brainer to me.

To that end, the Costco magazine again proves useful with an article in the current issue about De-Cluttering (pg 43). I especially like the list of 5 questions to ask when deciding whether to keep or not to keep any specific item:

-- When was the item last used?
-- When might I use it again?
-- Does the object enhance or hinder my life?
-- Has it affected the quality of the life I'm living or want to live?
-- Is it replaceable?

That makes sense. Once the decision about keeping is made, it's important to physically move the item, to put it away if keeping it, or to put it into a specific container destined for the thrift store, dump, recycle, donate, give or sell.

I know from experience that I have to be very wary of the sell option. I procrastinate on that too. I have many boxes of things that people might buy, that I could try to sell on eBay, that are somewhat collectible. Do I do anything about selling them? No. Is it because of the ego wanting to hold on or is it just because I'm not fond of selling? Who knows, maybe both. I need to let go of these things. They are millstones around my neck.

Am I willing to make a commitment right here and now? Oooooh, I feel the resistance... the little voice is saying, "You need to work on your art and catch up on blogging and take your walk... that's enough for one day... you can start de-cluttering later, some other day." I say no to the voice and yes to de-cluttering, one day at a time... starting today.

Today I will de-clutter four piles of stuff in the immediate vicinity of my computer... put away, throw away and recycle all of it. I will ask the five questions and make decisions based on my answers.

Tomorrow I will file a report here and also write more about this subject, about how my 68-year-old memory is cluttered and about how I hold onto stuff, memorabilia, because I'm afraid I'll forget.

* * * * * *
Today's gratitude list: cottage cheese 'n' home-made applesauce, sunshine, signs of spring, people who take the time to read and write blogs.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mom & Me

A while ago, Karen of Waisting Time mentioned her son, speculating about what he might notice and/or think about her weight struggles. That got me thinking about my mom.

I recall nothing about Mom and food until I was about 9 or 10. The family was sitting on the floor of our living room playing a game of Monopoly. Mom was kneeling and I noticed that her knees were really large, like big ships on the ocean. Looking at my knees and comparing them to hers I felt some sort of amazement that hers could be so large. I don't remember being critical or embarrassed about her knees, just in awe of them.

Our body types are just alike. We carry weight all over our bodies and tend to have heavy legs even when we are not overweight by medical standards. We tend to retain a waist even at our heaviest. Medical people always raise an eyebrow when they see our weight on the charts... "You don't look that heavy... Must have heavy bones..." Ah yes, heavy bones.

Looking back to my early school years, I never thought of Mom as overweight. However, she probably weighed about what I do now, possibly 20 pounds more. She didn't talk about food or her weight that I remember, not until much later. But she did hide the chocolate chips and the cookies. I always thought she was hiding them from me. But maybe she was trying to put them out of her own temptation sight-lines as well.

Later, when I was in high school, Mom took the two of us to a "diet doctor," who put us both on a pill to ramp up our metabolism. Yikes! I recall the jitters and anxiety experienced while on the pill diet. Mom and I both lost weight. We both gained it back the next year and never talked of it again. Until now, I always thought she went with me out of solidarity, that SHE didn't need a diet, that she went on it with me to help me.

Mom didn't like to chide her kids, at least not very directly. Sometimes that was a good thing. All five of us grew up pretty free to develop our own pathway. She is/was also a very private person. She didn't discuss her problems and she didn't seem keen on discussing mine. She never talked about her weight with me, although once in a while, when I was into queen sizes, she'd find some tactful way to mention a new diet she'd read about. I think we both tried the grapefruit and eggs diet at the same time (during my college years), although we didn't share our experiences with it.

The pill diet was the only time we openly discussed diet or overeating until about 25 years ago when empty-nested, she got into an exercise program and began, in her words, to eat more healthy foods. Her idea at the time was to help Dad slim down a bit. They quit eating snacks, relegated the peanut butter to the back of the top shelf, concentrated on fresh vegetables and smaller portions.

Over about a year's time, Mom went from (I'm guessing here) large or extra-large sized to small or medium sized clothing. She never gained it back. Dad did. After they moved into assisted living, he regained his extra chins and a bit of a pot belly. But Mom stays slim.

When I visit her (she's in Minnesota and age 94 now), I often sit with her while she eats. I watch what she eats. She tries to eat all the fruit and vegetables, picks at the meat, skips most of the bread/potatoes, and only eats dessert if it's really a good one. This is pretty much unconscious on her part (I think).

The change in her eating habits, starting when she was about 70, is now so ingrained that even tempted by sweets for breakfast and desserts for every lunch and every dinner at the nursing home, she maintains her slimness.

Next time I visit her, I'll see if she's willing to talk about her life-time issues with weight. Did she struggle? Did she have self-image problems because of it? Did she binge? Did she look at me and worry about the 240 pounds I carried around most of the time? Was she even aware of it? Certainly I was rarely and barely aware of it with her.

I don't want to weigh 240 again in my life. But it's not so much because I feel ugly or even that it's unhealthy for my heart, feet, back, knees, etc. to carry around so much weight. The main reason is binging. To get to that weight always involves a steady increase in binging with a resulting aura of self-loathing and sense of being crazy. Thanks to abstinence and OA, this is a thing I'm not facing right now.

* * * * * *
Today's gratitude: Mom, Dad, family times together reading out loud and playing board games, everyone in my OA group and recovery bloggers who share so much, rain, our marriage counselor