Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ten Good Things about Me

After reading my last post, coral-seas commented that she'd like me to write a list of ten good things about me. Seems like a good challenge, so guess I'll try it.

Oh, yeah, and I'll curb my instinct to be flippant or shallow about it. Ten good things about me, Peacefulbird:
  1. I tend to be a peace-maker in my family, with neighbors, among friends. I value peace over being right and try to help others see peaceful solutions and compromises when they are in conflict.
  2. I trust most people most of the time. I believe their intent is good and that that they are honest.
  3. I like most people and most animals.
  4. Although I can sometimes make harsh judgements about people, I'm open to changing my mind, willing to give them the benefit of the doubt long enough to find reasons for reversing my negative opinion.
  5. I can be trusted with secrets and rarely gossip about others.
  6. I respect differences. Different styles, tastes, appearances, opinions, histories, countries are of interest to me. I have always liked learning about and exchanging ideas with people who live differently than I do.
  7. I am a loyal friend to my inner-circle of close friends and family members.
  8. I am generous with my time and knowledge.
  9. I love to laugh and am a good foil for people who know how to be funny, like my husband and many of my friends.
  10. I am adventurous by nature, intrepid about just doing it, whatever it is.
OK! I didn't know if I could do this or not, but it wasn't as difficult as I imagined. Thanks to coral-seas for suggesting this.

* * * * * * * * * *
Gratitude for today: Rain filling our cisterns, beautiful beads from far away places, having what I need when I want to make something, bunnies, Julie and Lunnette (both sent me bunny cards in the mail that came today).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When I'm Stuck...

Off and on, for about 20 years, I've been writing morning pages... well, sort of like morning pages. Technically speaking, according to Julia Cameron in the Artist's Way, we need to write every day (did for a few months, rarely since then), in the morning (rarely), three full pages (often four) and in longhand (half the time on my computer). The only part I do consistently is write from my stream of consciousness, uncensored... whatever comes along gets written.

When I get stuck, I often write, "What am I blocking; what don't I want to write?" And that seems to bring forth whatever it is.

Tonight when I signed in, I realized I haven't posted here for four days. Stuck. What am I blocking; what don't I want to write? I don't want to write about failures. I don't want to write about how it feels like I'm slipping in so many areas. I don't want to write about how I get insights about how to live more mindfully, with more gratitude, with less clutter, with more honesty and above all with less overeating. I have a moment or two of compliance.

Then I slip, slop, slide down the hill into my old ways.

My sister-in-law is in a mindfulness group, learning how to eat mindfully among other things. She takes time before eating to smell her foods and to look at them with appreciation. She takes time to give thanks to every growing/living thing that contributed to her meal. She swallows every bite completely before putting more in her mouth.

What a great way to eat, eh? Yes! I remembered to eat like that only one time. I don't want to write about all the times I start a program that obviously will benefit me, then fall away from it. I don't want to write about how falling away from one thing contributes to falling away from others.

I don't want to write about how much I need to embrace imperfection. I guess there's a part of me, maybe even a big part of me, that wants to be perfect. A dear OA friend gave me a book on that subject*... maybe it will help. I seem to be in a critical, judgmental mood tonight. Antidote: list 10 things I'm grateful for...
  1. sunshine today
  2. my two quilting-beading-stitching buddies
  3. shooting star flowers
  4. all the beautiful colors and textures of moss
  5. people who work diligently, carefully and cleanly
  6. our cat
  7. people I don't even know who support my artistic process
  8. morning pages
  9. a book on embracing imperfection
  10. my husband
In case my husband is reading this, these are not in any particular order ;>)

I'm still feeling stuck and critical, but maybe a little less so.

*The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. One thing she says that makes a lot of sense to me is that "shame loves secrecy." Maybe that's part of the reason why both an AA-based program and blogging help me. I can't live in hiding, in a state of shame, so much when I blog and go to meetings.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Just ONE Little Degree...

Baby steps.
Often, a course change of just one degree is all it takes for significant results.

I'm thinking about a ship sailing from Seattle to Singapore. This ship has a compass course that it must follow. A one degree change in course would not be significant or noticeable in one hour of sailing. It might not even be noticeable in a half a day of sailing. But keep on that course for several days, and you'd be sailing toward some other destination.

In other words, very small alterations in course, over the long haul can make a significant difference. Case in point is my daily, 12-minute arm-toning routine, which I do holding socks filled with rolls of pennies. It seems almost too insignificant to count, so unimportant that it hardly matters if I do it or not. NOT true! After some months, I notice my arms are looking much less flabby, in fact, one might even say not bad for a woman my age and weight. It was only a one degree course change, yet the new destination is lookin' good!

What this proves to me is that I don't need to make huge changes in behavior, attitudes or habits. Consistency of a very minor adjustment over a period of time will result in significant progress. I like knowing this!!!

* * * * * * * * * * *
my neighbor's chickens and roosters robbing a bird feeder in her yard
Gratitude for today: my neighbor's hens and rooster, eggs, women friends, not having to wear a jacket when I walked today, two fantastic workers who are building us a garden fence and pads for our horse trough garden beds.

Jack hammering bedrock to make level pads for beds
getting the fence posts up
fence gate made and hung; leveling poured concrete for pads
four pads are poured and drying; our initials in one of them!
I added our initials using beads to one of the pads!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Gazillion Lies About Food

Still on the subject of telling lies. Thinking about some of the lies I've told about food... to people I don't know, to store clerks, to close friends, to family, to myself. Just for fun, here are a couple of them...

Lie told to a very close woman friend about 2 years ago

On my way to her house to have a pot-luck lunch with a couple of my quilting friends, I stopped at the grocery store to buy a roasted chicken. Cookies there calling me loudly. Like home-made and only $1.00 for three of the lovelies with macadamia nuts and white chocolate. So I bought a dozen. Got in my car with cookies and chicken, opened cookie bag, chowed one down. Ate another while driving. Was almost to friend's house, but wanted to eat a couple more (this was becoming an uncontrollable binge). Parked my car by the side of the road, ducked my head down, and ate cookies, one after another.

Meanwhile, my friend, driving from a work errand in town, passed my car and recognized it. With 6 remaining cookies, I arrived a few minutes later at her house. "What were you doing parked by the side of the road?" she asked. "Wasn't me." I replied. "Looked like your car," she said. "Nope, guess there are a lot of blue Honda Civics, huh." Flat out lie.

Since starting OA, I told her about that lie and apologized. Feel better about it now.

One of many lies I've told my husband about me and food

Because of having a family that has suffered greatly from alcohol abuse, my husband understands about addiction. When we met 14 years ago, long before OA, I knew I was addicted to chocolate. At times I would go abstinent on chocolate and when I met him was one of those times. We shared that we were both abstinent on alcohol and for me, also chocolate. This was a good bond for us.

A couple years later, I slipped on the chocolate. I thought I could have it just one time, at one special occasion, which of course set me off rolling down the slope of more and more chocolate, more and more binging. But I didn't tell my husband. First lie... lie of omission.

In order to maintain that lie, I had to sneak my chocolate. I had to tell many lies to hide my daily chocolate fixes. One time we were waiting for the ferry and I HAD to have a fix. Standing at the vendor, paying for a bag of M & Ms, my husband walked in, surprising me and catching me in the act. "I'm buying these for you! And they were supposed to be a surprise," I said, covering for my irritated attitude at being caught.

It's a fact...

I have a history of telling a lot of lies concerning my behavior around food, little lies and big whoppers. It makes me feel creepy when I do it; and it makes me feel creepy now to admit it, to write about it, to remember some of them.

I prefer to think of myself as a fundamentally honest person. Honesty is something our parents and teachers encouraged. Honesty is something I admire in others.

So, what's under the lies? What do they have in common? Mostly, I think, I lie to conceal behaviors for which I feel shame. I have a great deal of shame around not being normal about food, about not being able to control what and how much I eat, and around my weight, about my size and shape and at times obesity.

Shame is under the lies. What is under shame? Is it fear? I think so. Fear of not being loveable, fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of being wrong, fear of ultimate failure as a human being.

Today, I accept the fear. It is real and it is part of me. I accept.

Gratitude: shooting stars just starting to bloom, quilting friends, OA

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Little Lies

Been stuck for about 8 months. Not gaining weight, but no loss either. In OA, very aware of the 12-step recovery program, yet not getting past the 3rd step, thinking about the fourth step, but not really doing it. Maybe I'm afraid of what I'll find when I start taking an honest look at my defects of character. Maybe I'm stuck because I want to do it "right."

The exact wording of the 4th step is: 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Reading the AA "Big Book" and some OA guides, I see there are various ways to approach the inventory, all having in common that it should be written. Most suggest that we look at the problem areas in our lives and identify things we do that get us into trouble. I guess there are probably as many diverse ways to approach step 4 as there are people doing it. That's the key to getting past being stuck: just do it.

OK, so I've started writing about lies, about me telling fibs or lies.

For example, I've always lied about my weight. Never once have I told the correct weight when I've renewed my driver's license, always at least 20 pounds less than my actual weight. Never have I given my true weight when arranging a flight in a small plane. While this is probably common, especially among people who are overweight, it bothers me that I do it. It's being deceitful to myself and contributes to double shame, first that I am overweight and second that I lie about it.

Another example is telling lies to exaggerate, to make a better sounding story or to make myself seem better, more important, wiser. These are little twists of truth, starting with a kernel of truth, but get bigger and/or better than the actual truth, just a little embellishment here or there. Well, I don't like that about myself. Sometimes, hearing myself telling fibs of exaggeration, part of me wants to run away and hide from embarrassment.

A third example is telling lies to cover up mistakes, especially when I'm late or have not responded to an outside contact in a timely manner, in other words, to cover my procrastination. Some months ago, I was writing a delayed response to an email. A fib started rolling out about why it was taking me so long to respond. I paused thinking, "No! I don't have to make excuses. I only need to apologize for my tardiness." Since then, I've been telling cover-up lies much less often.

These are the little lies. There are a few big ones in my past. I'm going to write about them too, only not publicly on my blog. This is my 4th step starting point. I see a great deal of comfort and satisfaction down the road in not telling big or little lies anymore, because to stop means I will have to accept myself the way I am and be willing to be imperfect, to make mistakes and forgive myself.

* * * * * * * *
Gratitude for today: my husband, riding my motorcycle, sunshine

Friday, April 15, 2011

Embrace the Tension of Opposites

At the end of our marriage counseling session today, our counselor gave us a pearl!

Mostly we talked about how to handle the times when we have strongly different opinions on something that requires action. These are the times of our worst arguments, the times when both of us start thinking about leaving our marriage. How can we have our differences and come to a resolution without resentments, anger and hurt?

We had discussed a recent episode between us, what we did that worked, how we might have done some things differently. We had talked about approaching differences as a team, a team with solid affiliation working together to solve a problem.

Then at the very end, reaching out her two hands, palms up, hands cupped as though holding something, she told us to embrace our differences, to hold onto the tension of our polarities because out of them can come a new place, a new, transcendent thought or solution born of our opposing differences.

Her suggestion, a practical application of Carl Jung's transcendent function, seems like an important key for us. I think we've always tried to get rid of the opposition, to destroy one or the other position as soon as possible. In the destruction of one of the positions, the other takes over, the holder becoming the winner, the other the resentful and angry looser.

So the way I understand her words is that if we can hold the tension, allow it the freedom to exist, shuffle back and forth between the opposites for long enough, we'll transcend both positions in favor of creating a new and jointly acceptable position. I wonder, did Jung really get it? Worth a try!

* * * * * * * * * *
Gratitude for the day: spring rain, good counselors, a call from my dearest friend, walking with the pups during a sun-break, health, bumble bees, blooming hellebore

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thoughts on Being Connected

Our telephone line has been out all day. No dial tone. No way to call anybody or receive calls. Cell phones don't work on the island, except in town (6 miles one way) or at the resort (6 miles the other way). When we have a phone problem, which is frequently, it generally affects our whole neighborhood community as well. So we can't use the neighbor's phone to report the problem. Eventually one of us goes to town and calls the phone company, which responds (in their own sloooow good time) by sending a technician to repair something in the main relay box by the fire department sub-station.

For a day or two (sometimes more), we have no phone. During these times, I notice restless and uneasy feelings set in. I used to worry that someone in my family might be trying to reach me about my mom. Now I just worry.

Wasn't always like this. I used to go back-country hiking nearly every weekend and never give a thought to not being connected to the rest of the world. My world was smaller then. I had my parents across the country in Minnesota and talked to them on the phone every other month or so. At Christmas I called my parents when I knew my brothers would be there and talked to each of them for a few minutes... my once a year contact. I had a couple of close friends, colleagues at work and dance friends. That's about it. No Facebook. No email. No blogging friends. Rare long-distance phone calls to keep me connected with my family.

Was it better? I don't really know. Easier and more simple? Yes, I think so. Certainly I wouldn't have gone into worry-mode if the phone wasn't working.

A blogging acquaintance, someone I've never met or talked with in person, wrote that she thinks we'd be better off dropping Facebook and all our Internet connections in order to dedicate ourselves to a few, important, deeper relationships. That's an interesting thought. But could it ever be a two-way deal? Isn't nearly everyone glued to their cyber-connections and phones these days?

One of my husband's issues with me, as stated in counseling, is that I spend a lot of time with my back to him.... that is... on the computer... blogging, playing cards, emailing. Is it just possible that the blessing in our current phone disconnect is all about deeper connections, turning my attention away from the phone and toward him?

* * * * * * * * *
Gratitude for the day: beautiful batik fabrics, the smell of baking potatoes, the fire in our wood stove, Susan's stories about Bhutan

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Year in OA and Hoarding Stuff

Two topics on my mind tonight...

A Year in Overeaters Anonymous

I've been going to OA for a year now, though it seems like lots less than that. I've never been to a meeting that didn't help me, contribute to my newly developing sense of inner harmony and peace of mind, make me feel accepted. Like they say, "Welcome to Overeaters Anonymous; welcome home." Always somebody says something that clarifies an attitude, an action, or a reaction for me. My gratitude for each person in my small group is immense.

My abstinence program regarding certain foods (cake, candy, chocolate, cookies, pie, ice cream and pastries) is solid. 194 days of perfect abstinence on that score! No regrets. No misgivings. Rarely tempted. Not feeling deprived. Happy to not eat any of it, ever! This was a 360 degree change from 60 years of binging on chocolate and the rest of them every chance I could get (not an exaggeration).

My abstinence program regarding my meal plan is not going so well. In fact, not going well at all. In the past few months, I've observed a steady increase in both portion size and snacking. I think the way to get back on track is to work the OA steps. I'm hung up on the 4th step. Maybe I need to return to the first 3 and then approach step 4 in a refreshed state of mind. My spiritual recovery is stagnate. I'll try to write more about that in my next post.

So, looking at the year as a whole, I see a much thinner, much happier me, who is now needing to take new pathways into the program.

Hoarding Stuff

I'm currently reading a very interesting book called, Stuff, Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee. Bringing a clinical psychology background to their ten-year study of compulsive hoarding, the authors present case histories and their personal impressions about this problem that may affect more people than we realize. While we all keep stuff we don't need or use, the authors say it's only a problem if it makes us miserable, if it "causes substantial distress or interference in every-day living."

The book is a good read, well-written, sensitive, courageous. I saw it in a bookstore and paid full retail because I couldn't wait to get it through Amazon. Why? Because I hoard stuff, stuff I don't need or use or want. Always it bothers me. Always I wish I could give or throw it away. Do I have stacks reaching the ceiling? Only in my closets. Do I have a warehouse full of stuff? No. Have I filed bankruptcy because I overspend my income? No. Has my husband threatened divorce because of my clutter? No; at least not yet.

But (and this is a BIG BUT), what I do have bothers me A LOT). I'm looking for a little help from this book. The authors say that fixing the problem takes "heroic effort." Three ideas regarding a fix are helping me already:

1. I am practicing a total shift in my decision-making process in reaction to the sight of a desired possession. Rather than narrow and focus my attention on the thing, I expand my attention to consider how this object "fits into the fabric" of my life. Expand rather than narrow my attention... that's an important key I think.

2. This one again involves the desire to acquire new stuff. Each time an opportunity to acquire stuff comes along, I ask myself "When will I use it? Do I have anything like it already?" and "Do I have a place to put it?"

3. Already the above have made a difference in my level of new acquisitions. However, disposing of the stuff I already have is an entirely different and much more difficult matter. I find that like more serious hoarders, I attach great value to my stuff. I think of it as potential, exciting and worthwhile, things I can use to make my art, things that I can do or learn from someday. To my eyes, my stuff also has sentimental meaning. Like many hoarders, I seem to derive a sense of self from my stuff, my collections, my supplies, and my piles of inspiration. Gaining a better understanding of this from the book may help me to let some of it go, to find potential and value in myself rather than my stuff.

Each chapter begins with a quote. Here's one I like a lot by William James:
It is clear that between what a man calls me and what he simply calls mine the line is difficult to draw. We feel and act about certain things that are ours very much as we feel and act about ourselves.

* * * * *
Gratitude for today: longer days, my special surrogate-granddaughter, my husband, red roses

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Parts of Me

Ready to flow back into the world again, at least mostly. Looking forward to reading other blogs, catching up a little, after I write this post. Working in my studio again, making progress on a couple of old projects. Back to walking with my neighbor and her dogs. Worked in our yard for a while with my husband today. Lip surgery healing well, my face no longer an embarrassment of bruises.

In other words, I'm baaaaaack.


Part of me is still holding onto Mama, still trying to grasp the finality of our physical separation, still catching myself in the fantasy that she's right there in Minnesota at the nursing home waiting for me to come visit her for a week next month. Part of me thinks about her most of my waking hours, remembering, noticing mannerisms we have in common, thinking what she might say to me about things I say or do. This part of me isn't always sad. Sometimes it feels really good to see her face in my mind. Sometimes I have to chuckle when I do something for which I've criticized her in the past.

The bigger part of me, however, is headed into spring, longer-warmer-sunnier days, with eager anticipation. All parts of me are able to look at food a little more sensibly now. I have a new if-then goal: If I'm staring at the cupboard shelf or into the refrigerator and it's not about preparing a scheduled meal or doing inventory for grocery shopping, then I'm drinking a full glass of water and leaving the kitchen. Nice, huh!

Gratitude for the day: my friends Liz, Cathy, Christy and Lunnette; shooting stars, mosses and lichens

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Need Help

Funny thing how vain I am about my face... hair too, I guess. Last Thursday I had an odd (and fairly fast growing) mole removed from my lower lip and sent for biopsy (no results yet). It's taking a huge amount of will to post the picture that I took today of my lips.

Looking at myself from the perspective of an acquaintance, I see a woman who is struggling with grief over her mother's death, holding it inside, nodding and outwardly saying things like, "Well, she was 94 and lived a good, productive life... Our love and mutual respect was solid as a rock," while inwardly feeling lost, abandoned, stricken.

I see a woman who is eating her heart out, big plates heaped with food, seconds, between meal snacks, reverting to old habits for comfort, not asking her friends for help.

And here's a big one. I see a woman who did not go to her OA meeting on Saturday, even though it's a place where she always finds comfort and support, a place where just maybe she can open the door to her feelings. Why? Because of vanity. Plain and simple. I did not want to show my face.

It's OK. I'm not beating myself up about this. I suspect it's a pretty normal thing. Being aware of how important my face is makes me much more sympathetic to people who have birth defects, scars or other deformities of the face. It makes me more sympathetic to women who have face lifts and cosmetic surgery. It makes me want to contribute money to the Drs. who donate their time to do cleft palette surgeries on children from other countries. In the meantime, I am feeling the results of three weeks of overeating in the way my jeans fit. It's time for me to admit that I need help.

Help me, dear universe,
to feel rather than feed my feelings.
Let me cry and rage.
Let me curl up in a little ball and moan.
Let me turn toward friends
and away from food.
Let me write and speak my truth
rather than the deception of "it's all OK, really."
Let me breathe in healing energy.

Here's a picture of Mom, taken by my sister-in-law last fall, a time when she was feeling pretty chipper.

She loved to go to my brother's house, and especially their garden, every Sunday for dinner. There she would have a glass of wine and delicious food, very different from her regular nursing home meals. She's wearing Karen's gardening hat to keep the sun from her sensitive eyes and holding her arm up so she can wave for the picture. Absolutely a sweetheart! (See a couple more pictures here.)

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Gratitude for today: my husband, having had 68 darn good years with my mom, signs of spring, all three of my sisters-in-law.