Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Peachy Keen

I was getting ready to start typing this post when I decided to try one of the donut peaches my husband picked yesterday at a nearby orchard. I took a bite and proceeded to have peach juice squirt down my leg and on the plastic mat at my desk, and I had to run to the restroom to get paper towels to clean up!

Donut peaches are by far my favorite peach, and unfortunately they're the most expensive. I don't buy them in the grocery stores because I can't justify paying almost a dollar each for these things. But when we can get them at the orchard, hmmm boy, talk about a little piece of heaven! They're called donut because they're flatter than the typical peach and indented in the middle, just like a donut. They are so sweet and fragrant and just the right size for a quick little snack.

I notice I haven't been posting daily and have been down to every other day. I could use the excuse that Hubby was doing the final layers of Varathane on the foyer floor yesterday and I couldn't access the computer again, but I really couldn't think of anything important to relate. I worked on the counted cross stitch, played with the dogs, took Mabel to gymnastics. Normal everyday things.

Things just aren't bothering me as much. I suppose that's the medicine doing its magic. I'm not worrying myself to death about what I weigh, I'm not spazzing over my eating and I'm not driven to binge. But the sad thing is, I almost miss some of my over-reaction because it does get me motivated. When I freak out over the house being messy, it propels me to clean it thoroughly. Now it's like, "Oh well, I'll get to it eventually." I guess there's a fine line between letting things be and apathy, and I've got to fine tune that balance.

For example, last week I only walked once, and while I felt a little bad about not exercising, I didn't beat myself up about it. I guess it was because in my mind I knew I'd get back to it, because I honestly enjoy it. Now that my sister-in-law is on vacation I don't have to get up quite as early, so it's not so hard to pry myself out of bed. There's something about exploring my little town at sunrise by foot and being outside that makes me feel more connected to the world. The rest of the morning I feel more energized and awake when I take that time to get my body moving and my heart pumping after a night of rest. So there was really no point in smacking myself around for taking a week off.

As for the food? Well, I do kind of play Mother with myself sometimes when I see what food choices I've been making lately. But I've been permissive with myself and letting myself work through this legalization phase of Intuitive Eating. And as I suspected, I'm not permanently craving cookies and cake. On Sunday I made a beeline for the strawberries and blueberries, and of course today I'm having my love affair with donut peaches. I know I have to work through this period where I'm still dealing with thoughts of deprivation and need to allow myself to have what I want, and with enough time and patience my love of all kinds of food, healthy and not-as-healthy, will balance out.

I should find contentment in things being peachy keen right now and not wish for my old drama. It sure is a lot easier living this way.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Taking Care of Business

So much for back to business.

I couldn't get to the computer for the majority of the day because my husband is working on our foyer floor. After he stains it we can't go upstairs for hours, so I was kept away until bed time. And then I was just too tired!

It's going to happen again today, so I'm trying to get some kind of posting done before I'm barred again.

The seminar was interesting. We spent the majority of the day talking about confidence, assertiveness and communication. The instructor explained the difference between passive, aggressive, and passive-aggressive behavior in very easy to understand win and lose terms.
(When you're passive, you lose and the other person wins; when you're aggressive, you win and the other person loses; when you're passive-aggressive, you both lose) Of course, assertiveness was the preferred method of being (with a little tact and compromise both people win) and the instructor gave us lots of tips on how to phrase requests to get the best impact.

The greatest part of the day was when she illustrated cognitive behavioral therapy on her overhead projector. I had to suppress a smile because it's so odd how this seminar on being a better administrative assistant tied in almost completely to my work with Intuitive Eating and conscious living.

I had a doctor's appointment on Friday morning to check on my new medicine. Of course I had to get on the scale again, and I was up a couple pounds from the last time I was there, which was no shock, really. I've been overeating quite a bit this week and can definitely feel it in my midsection. But I was glad to see that I'm still staying within a 5-pound range. The other good news is that my blood pressure was at an all-time low -- 110/60 -- which pleased me to no end. All that walking must be doing some good!

The doctor has increased my Lexapro from 10 mg to 20 mg, which is supposedly the standard dose. She said my side effects shouldn't increase, but I do seem to be getting a little drowsier again. But nothing terrible.

I do need to address the eating I've been doing the past few days. It's been some mindless eating, snacking out of the box kind of thing, as well as eating past the point of comfortably full. Some of it might be hormonal, some of it might be coping with the extra-hectic week. I know on Thursday and Friday I was quite irritable and snapping at my poor family members, so I do think there were stress issues there.

The good news is I've been able to be in an observational kind of mode as I look at this and not in the judgmental mode. Because of this I feel my need to eat like this slowly waning and not getting worse because I'm not adding to my stress by bashing myself and calling my behavior "bad" or "failing." It's a phase, one of those "cycles" I mentioned in an earlier post, and it will run its course and pass.

I think I'm caught up now. I've started another counted cross stitch project; actually, it's one I started years ago and decided to try to finish. I went up to the attic this week to find my old needlework supplies and found several projects I started and never finished. So I decided not to buy another blessed thing until these are finally completed.

That seems to be the theme of my life right now: finally tackling things I've let lie around for years. Seems like a good thing.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stupified by Potter

I meant to write a nice big post today about my seminar yesterday and how what I learned not only related to my job, but to my personal life, too.

But Hubby bought the 7th and final Harry Potter book, and I couldn't pry myself away from it until it was done. I was so wrapped up in it that I didn't do my housework; I forgot to do something I had told someone I would do (and I'll probably get in trouble for it, too!); and I was darn near rude to my mother in my distracted responses when she called me in the middle of it.

While part of me feels like an irresponsible layabout for all of that, isn't it wonderful when a book can do that to you? The rest of the world fades way and you're so swept up in the action your eyes are racing across the pages. I haven't felt so absorbed and involved in a book for a long, long time.

Now that the series is done I feel a sense of sadness; J.K. Rowling's wizarding world became so real, the characters so alive, that it's hard to see it come to an end. But like the other great works of fiction, these volumes will live on for my daughter, her children, and so on down the generations.

As a some-time writer, I admire Rowling's ability to make this story so universally loved by people of all ages. It's a feat I only dream of attaining. As for today, I'm unfortunately short on words because my other beloved British fictional character, Doctor Who, will be on the telly in about 20 minutes. I'll get back to business tomorrow, I swear!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Busy Day

I am going to a seminar today, then have to meet my family for dinner to see my uncle who's in from out of town. But I can't stay long, because then I have to take Mabel to her Vacation Bible School finale.

Phew. I'm tired already!

I'll be back tomorrow!

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Ride of Negativity

Yesterday Hubby and I took Mabel and her friend to Idelwild Park. It's one of the oldest amusement parks in the country, apparently, at 130 years old. We had beautiful weather for the first half of our stay, then dealt with a little rain and some thunder and lightening at the end of the day. The girls still managed to get in a lot of fun with rides, water slides and games.

I will confess to you my goal for this trip was to get my favorite treat, a funnel cake with ice cream and strawberries on top. Usually when I get this I clean my plate, but this year I didn't finish it -- I got to my satisfaction point and felt quite okay with throwing the rest away. A sign of progress, I think.

On the way home we stopped at a little diner for supper, and I was really torn about what to get. I wound up ordering a Reuben sandwich with a side of onion rings and ate it all. This morning I paid the consequences for that salty corned beef and sauerkraut -- water retention.

It's amazing how a little bloat can trigger a flood of negative thinking. I started thinking that I'm not eating "healthy" and will start gaining more weight. Add that to the fact that I haven't gone on my morning walks the last two mornings, and the negative diet mentality thoughts only escalated.

But I notice that I catch myself being negative a lot quicker than I used to; I am more conscious of this behavior and can quickly realize it does me no good. So I find myself able to shake myself out of this attitude before it can evolve into depression, self-loathing or disordered eating. And fortunately, this conveniently ties in to some of the notes I took on "The Power of Now" before I took it back to the library.

"All inner resistance is experienced as negativity, in one form or another. All negativity is resistance. In this context, the two words are almost synonymous. Negativity ranges from irritation or impatience to fierce anger, from a depressed mood or sullen resentment to suicidal despair. Sometimes the resistance triggers the emotional pain-body, in which case even a minor situation may produce intense negativity, such as anger, depression, or deep grief."

And in my case, anxiety attacks or binges. Eckhart Tolle also delves into why it's so hard for many of us to let go of this resistance, which leads to negativity and the subsequent dysfunctional behavior:

"Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry, or hard-done-by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane."

You could say negative emotions can deliver a message -- a signal from our body that something's wrong, that something needs to change. In the past this negativity would have been a signal to me that I needed to get "back on track" and be stricter with my diet and exercise. But I've learned that there's so much more behind it besides the "eat less, move more" solution, and Tolle agrees:

"Yes, recurring negative emotions do sometimes contain a message, as do illnesses. But any changes that you make, whether they have to do with your work, your relationships or your surroundings, are ultimately only cosmetic unless they arise out of a change in your level of consciousness. And as far as that is concerned, it can only mean one thing: becoming more present. When you have reached a certain degree of presence, you don't need negativity anymore to tell you what is needed in your life situation. But as long as negativity is there, use it. Use it as a kind of signal that reminds you to be more present.

He even gives some advice on how to stop negativity:

"Whenever you notice that some form of negativity has arisen within you, look on it not as a failure, but as a helpful signal that is telling you: 'Wake up. Get out of your mind. Be present.'

"...whenever you feel negativity arising within you, whether caused by an external factor, a thought, or even nothing in particular that you are aware of, look on it as a voice saying 'Attention. Here and Now. Wake up.' Even the slightest irritation is significant and needs to be acknowledged and looked at; otherwise, there will be a cumulative build-up of unobserved reactions. As I said before, you may be able to just drop it once you realize that you don't want to have this energy field inside you and that it serves no purpose. But then make sure that you drop it completely. If you cannot drop it, just accept that it is there and take your attention into the feeling, as I pointed out earlier.

"As an alternative to dropping a negative reaction, you can make it disappear by imagining yourself becoming transparent to the external cause of the reaction... Feel yourself becoming transparent, as it were, without the solidity of a material to pass right through you. It is no longer hitting a solid 'wall' inside you... practice with little things first. The car alarm, the dog barking, the children screaming, the traffic jam. Instead of having a wall of resistance inside you that gets constantly and painfully hit by things that "shouldn't be happening," let everything pass through you.

"Somebody says something to you that is rude or designed to hurt. Instead of going into unconscious reaction and negativity, such as attack, defense, or withdrawal, you let it pass right through you. Offer no resistance. It is as if there is nobody there to get hurt anymore. That is forgiveness. In this way, you become invulnerable. You can still tell that person that his or her behavior is unacceptable, if that is what you choose to do. But that person no longer has the power to control your inner state. You are then in your power -- not in someone else's, nor are you run by your mind. Whether it is a car alarm, a rude person, a flood, an earthquake, or the loss of all your possessions, the resistance mechanism is the same."

This is great to remember when someone you know says something hurtful or rude, but even more important when the perpetrator is yourself.

So, instead of falling into diet mentality, these negative thoughts remind me to be more conscious, to stay the course with Intuitive Eating. I keep myself from falling back into the restrict/binge cycle, which just leads to more negative thinking, and on and on it goes, like an amusement park ride.

Cycles, Judgment and Joy

I have to return "The Power of Now" to the library today. So I'm trying to get some last-minute tidbits of wisdom from it before I take it back. (I have a copy ordered, but it's going to be a while until I get it because it's being shipped with something I pre-ordered that won't be available until September.)

Wouldn't you know, I found something that directly related to my previous post about my lack of energy and need to be productive:

"Your physical energy is also subject to cycles. It cannot always be at a peak. There will be times of low as well as high energy. There will be periods when you are highly active and creative, but there may also be times when everything seems stagnant, when it seems that you are not getting anywhere, not achieving anything. A cycle can last for anything from a few hours to a few years. There are large cycles and small cycles within these large ones. Many illnesses are created through fighting against the cycles of low energy, which are vital for regeneration. The compulsion to do, and the tendency to derive your sense of self-worth and identity from external factors such as achievement, is an inevitable illusion as long as you are identified with the mind. This makes it hard or impossible for you to accept the low cycles and allow them to be. Thus, the intelligence of the organism may take over as a self-protective measure and create an illness in order to force you to stop, so that the necessary regeneration can take place."

While some of this fatigue is probably a side effect of the medication, I do think it's my body telling me it's time to rest, to recuperate and regenerate from ... everything. I shouldn't fight it, let it be, and let the cycle run its course.

The weekend was interesting as far as food went. Saturday night we went out for dinner and I ordered eggplant Parmesan, which came with a side of spaghetti, a salad and bread. I ate all of my salad and one piece of bread, then my entree came. It was very good and I was really enjoying it, but halfway through I just knew I was done. I hit that satisfaction point where I felt good: not hungry anymore, but not stuffed, either. I knew I could pack the rest of it up and eat it later. I'm still at the stage that finding that moment is a shocking realization to me. I'm hopeful that it will eventually become an everyday occurrence.

Sunday morning went well, too. I had the same thing for breakfast that I ate Saturday, but I found myself very content with half the amount I had the day before. The problem came in the afternoon. I got an attack of the "snackies" and had more than my share of sweet and salty snacks. My feelings of fullness went dead on me and I had to consciously stop eating because my body wasn't sending a strong enough signal, or else my brain wasn't getting the signal. It wasn't until an hour later or so that it caught up with me, but by then my family wanted supper so I cooked our meal. I could have easily skipped that meal, but I went ahead and ate anyway. Then our neighbors invited us over and they had this incredible homemade cake with mandarin oranges in the cake and fresh blueberries in the layers and on top. I ate a piece, then my SIL, who was also there, and I picked at a piece that had fallen apart on the serving dish.

Last night I really felt like I had overeaten and wasn't thrilled about it. The good news is, instead of falling into binge mentality and thinking, "Well, since I've already blown it today, I might as well go all the way," I didn't eat anything else. I could have easily broken into my stash of candy bars (that I bought a week ago and haven't touched) and sucked them all down in a combination of self-pity and self-hatred. But there was no need to empty my cupboards, and there was no point in punishing myself.

This all comes down to that "good" and "bad" mentality, that all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to eating and especially dieting. Eckhart Tolle once again discusses this in "The Power of Now:"

"As long as a condition is judged as 'good' by your mind, whether it be a relationship, a possession, a social role, a place, or your physical body, the mind attaches itself to it and identifies with it. It makes you happy, makes you feel good about yourself, and it may become part of who you are or think you are. But nothing lasts in this dimension where moth and rust consume. Either it ends or it changes, or it may undergo a polarity shift: The same condition that was good yesterday or last year has suddenly or gradually turned into bad. The same condition that made you happy, then makes you unhappy. The prosperity of today becomes the empty consumerism of tomorrow. The happy wedding and honeymoon becomes the unhappy divorce or the unhappy coexistence. Or a condition disappears, so its absence makes you unhappy. When a condition or situation that the mind has attached itself to and identified with changes or disappears, the mind cannot accept it. It will cling to the disappearing condition and resist the change. It is almost as if a limb were being torn off your body. "

The problem with judging things as good or giving you happiness is that it inevitably leads to its opposite, the bad and unhappy. "What comes up must come down," the old saying goes. When we merely accept things as they are, to accept what simply is, there's no opposite, no downside. We don't experience happiness or unhappiness, but peace.

"Through allowing the 'isness' of all things," Tolle says, "a deeper dimension underneath the play of opposites reveals itself to you as an abiding presence, an unchanging deep stillness, an uncaused joy beyond good and bad. This is the joy of Being, the peace of God."

So, in looking back at my weekend, what good does it do to judge my eating as "good" Saturday and "bad" Sunday? If I just view both events as inevitable cycles, it eliminates the emotional ups and downs that I feel about my "performance." There will be days that I will be in tune with my body's hunger and fullness signals, and there will be days that I won't. It doesn't make me a good or bad person. It just is, and I am simply Being.

This means I need to surrender and accept the good with the bad. Because the minute I begin to seek happiness from one behavior, I am also taking in the inseparable unhappiness that accompanies it. This doesn't mean I should give up or shouldn't still strive to learn healthier behaviors. Tolle writes about this, too:

"This is not being negative. It is simply recognizing the nature of things, so that you don't pursue an illusion for the rest of your life. Nor is it saying that you should no longer appreciate pleasant or beautiful things or conditions. But to seek something through them that they cannot give -- an identity, a sense of permanency and fulfilment -- is a recipe for frustration and suffering... The more you seek happiness in this way, the more it will elude you. Nothing out there will ever satisfy you except temporarily and superficially, but you may need to experience many disillusionments before you realize the truth. Things and conditions can give you pleasure, but they cannot give you joy. Nothing can give you joy. Joy is uncaused and arises from within as the joy of Being. It is an essential part of the inner state of peace, the state that has been called the peace of God. It is your natural state, not something that you need to work hard for struggle to attain."

I can still strive to be an intuitive eater, but doing that will not solve all the problems in my life. It will not give me joy. Only living consciously, accepting what is and not resisting the natural cycles of life, will give me peace from judgment and unhappiness. Now the trick is to actually do it!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Getting Productive

This is part of the reason why I didn't post yesterday. I finished this just a few minutes ago, although I did a lot of work on it yesterday.

I need to get this framed now, along with the tomato and pepper ones I did eons ago. I hope I can find a framer who won't cost an arm and a leg.

This wasn't the only reason I didn't post yesterday. Other than this and a few household chores, I was feeling really lazy, tired and sluggish. After my usual 2.5-mile walk with my SIL, I felt so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. I couldn't muster any oomph to get online and write, so I skipped it. I also noticed I felt really hungry several times and ate more than I have in the last couple weeks; not compulsive binge eating, but definitely some overeating with snacks in the afternoon and the evening.

I suppose after the last couple weeks I'm allowed a day to be sluggish and eat a little more than usual. I know since starting the Lexapro I haven't been eating near as much as I had been, so maybe my body was just letting me know that it was a little depleted, both in energy and calories. Today I'm feeling a little better, a little more energy and motivation. I've had two rather big meals so far today, but nothing extraordinary, and no urge to binge, either.

This lack of energy thing is beginning to get a little tiresome. I hope this side effect will soon pass and I'll have more get-up-and-go soon. I'm still trying to figure out the best time to take this Lexapro, too. I thought taking it in the evening day would make me less tired in the day time, but it doesn't seem to be working at all the last two days. So I may go back to early evening/late afternoon and see how that works.

I know I'm still in the very early stages of this medication and it will take time to get regulated-- where have I heard that before? As usual, there's no overnight cure, no instant gratification. You think I'd get used to that by now.

I should go and get productive around the house -- Hubby has been working like a maniac sanding our foyer floor so he can then stain and varnish it. It's made me feel like even more of a layabout, so I need to make myself useful somewhere. I know I've got laundry to put away and a kitchen to clean. There's always something.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Signs of Progress

My husband has been complaining for some time about our bathroom scale. It is a digital scale, and apparently the battery is dying, because the weight measurements are wildly off.

I got on this morning to see for myself. My first weight was way too high, 30 to 40 pounds higher than I expected. Then I got on again and it was fluctuating somewhere between 90-100 pounds. Um, yeah, time to change the battery!

After putting in a new 9-volt battery, I tried the scale again. After seeing the reading, I tried it one more time, just to make sure it was accurate again. I noted that I've lost about 4 to 5 pounds from my post-vacation high.

While this was good news, I was pleased that I didn't go into squeals of delight and dance around the house the rest of the morning. I don't want to get into that losing weight "high" that led me into the diet/binge cycle. I took it as a sign that my body is slowly beginning to self-regulate now that I'm not binge eating, and I'm trying not to attach anything else to it.

I had my first therapy session in a month yesterday, and I was trying to explain to her how this medicine has seemingly turned off a lot of the compulsive thoughts that had taken over my brain. Here's an example: last night after Mabel's gymnastics practice, she was hungry, so we stopped at the grocery store nearby. She picked out some chocolate chip cookies from the bakery and we each had one on the way home. We both were satisfied after the one, although I had to think about it a little bit. The habit, the old behavior would have been to eat two, three or four because the sensations of eating are so pleasurable. But I realized that eating more would not make the experience any better, just longer. So I let it go and I was okay with that.

I was at work for a few hours this morning when I realized I completely forgot about the cookies in the house. Last night I had thought about bringing one or two in the office with me for a snack, but today their presence in my home totally slipped my mind. The old compulsive me would have had those things calling to me all night. Now I can't even remember where I put them!

For years I've always wished that I could be nonchalant about food, one of those people who forget to eat a meal or can shrug off typical tempting foods like cake, cookies, etc. I can't imagine not remembering to eat, but I do seem to be letting go of some of my obsessiveness with both food and my weight.

But who knows? Maybe someday I'll realize I haven't binged or weighed myself in six months or more. But I can't focus on the future; I'm in recovery now, the signs of progress are all around me, and that's the important thing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Apathy or Spiritual Enlightenment?

I'm having trouble coming up with some big pressing issue to write about here today. I normally have some little drama, some problem that I expound upon or allude to here and try to break it down until I can make sense of it or find a way to work on it.

Nothing's really striking me as pressing today. I still have some irritations (another dog diarrhea incident this morning, but fortunately it was contained on linoleum), some family issues that are fluttering around like some pesty flies, but nothing has me fired up.

The IE continues to go well. At supper time I was feeling a little nauseated again (I'm slowly moving my medication time from morning to evening to try to counteract these side effects), so I ate a very light supper. Before, in diet mode, because it was meal time I 'd stuff myself with as many vegetables as I could because it was "guilt-free" food and a permissible time to eat. Later I made Mabel a little ice cream cone and decided to make one for myself, too. It tasted great, and although it was much smaller than anything I'd get at an ice cream stand, it was just as satisfying. It all felt incredibly normal.

My first reaction is that it has to be the medicine. I told my SIL this morning on our walk about something that came up yesterday. I said if it had happened the week before I'd be seething, but today I'm just shrugging my shoulders and thinking, "Oh well, there's no point worrying about it now; I'll address it when it actually happens."

I keep thinking about Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now" and his idea of people incorrectly identifying themselves with their problems. I caught myself almost feeling disappointed that my anxiety and urges to binge are vanishing so quickly with this medicine, because there was a part of my mind that was identifying with these problems and wanted to cling to them for a while longer, whether it be for sympathy or to be treated with kid gloves by my family for a while.

He writes about it very well here:

"To suddenly see that you are or have been attached to your pain can be a quite shocking realization. The moment you realize this, you have broken the attachment. The pain-body is an energy field, almost like an entity, that has become temporarily lodged in your inner space. It is life energy that has become trapped, energy that is no longer flowing. Of course, the pain-body is there because of certain things that happened in the past. It is the living past in you, and if you identify with it, you identify with the past. A victim identity is the belief that the past is more powerful than the present, which is the opposite of the truth. It is the belief that other people and what they did to you are responsible for who you are now, for your emotional pain or your inability to be your true self. The truth is that the only power there is, is contained within this moment: It is the power of your presence. Once you know that, you also realize that you are responsible for your inner space now -- nobody else is -- and that the past cannot prevail against the power of the Now."

This is pretty shocking for me. It's like my brain is going, "Uh oh. If I can't identify myself with Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Binge Eating Disorder, I have to be my true self. And what is that?"

On my walk yesterday I was by myself and listening to my Sirius satellite radio. I was flipping through the channels and came across Janis Joplin singing "Me and Bobby McGee." In this song (written by Kris Kristofferson) she sings "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose," and that's how I'm feeling right now. I'm being freed from the compulsive thoughts that lead me to anxiety and bingeing, and I'm feeling at loose ends.

When I have these aggravating moments now and I don't (over) react, I actually worry that I'm being lulled into a drugged apathy, a zombified state. But read this excerpt from "The Power of Now:"

"Do you resent what you are doing? It may be your job, or may have agreed to do something and are doing it, but part of you resents and resists it. Are you carrying unspoken resentment toward a person close to you? Do you realize that the energy you thus emanate is so harmful in its effects that you are in fact contaminating yourself as well as those around you?...

"Maybe you are being taken advantage of, maybe the activity you are engaged in is tedious, maybe someone close to you is dishonest, irritating, or unconscious, but all this is irrelevant. Whether your thoughts and emotions about this situation are justified or not makes no difference. The fact is that you are resisting what is. You are making the present moment into an enemy. You are creating unhappiness...

"Either stop doing what you are doing, speak to the person concerned and express fully what you feel, or drop the negativity that your mind has created around the situation and that serves no purpose whatsoever except to strengthen a false sense of self."

He then explains in simple terms how to drop the negativity:

"How do you drop a piece of hot coal that you are holding in your hand? How do you drop some heavy and useless baggage that you are carrying? By recognizing that you don't want to suffer the pain or carry the burden anymore and then letting go of it."

Later in the book Tolle elaborates on people creating drama in their lives and what happens when you let go of it:

"When you feel sorry for yourself, that's drama. When you feel guilty or anxious, that's drama. When you let the past or future obscure the present, you are creating time, psychological time -- the stuff out of which drama is made. Whenever you are not honoring the present moment by allowing it to be, you are creating drama.

"Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. Even their -- usually unsuccessful -- search for an answer, a solution, or for healing becomes part of it. What they fear and resist most is the end of their drama. As long as they are their mind, what they fear and resist most is their own awakening.

"When you live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life. Nobody can even have an argument with you, no matter how hard he or she tries. You cannot have an argument with a fully conscious person. An argument implies identification with your mind and a mental position, as well as resistance and reaction to the other person's position. The result is that the polar opposites become mutually energized. These are the mechanics of unconsciousness. You can still make your point clearly and firmly, but there will be no reactive force behind it, no defense or attack. So it won't turn into drama. When you are fully conscious, you cease to be in conflict. 'No one who is at one with himself can even conceive of conflict,' states A Course in Miracles. This refers not only to conflict with other people but more fundamentally to conflict within you, which ceases when there is no longer any clash between the demands and expectations of your mind and what is."

It wasn't too long ago that I was wishing to achieve a state like this. Now that I'm beginning to get it, I'm questioning it. Am I in a drugged stupor, or is the medicine a tool that's helping me to stop resisting what is and stop creating unnecessary unhappiness for myself? Am I apathetic or enlightened?

I need to quit doubting or second-guessing this gift I'm receiving, whether it's drug-induced or not. I'm becoming more conscious, I'm becoming less resistant to what is and creating less drama in my life. These are all good things. Whether I'm ready for it or not, my life drama is coming to an end. I need to learn to accept it and be at peace with it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Stitch in Time

According to Urban Dictionary, "a stitch in time saves nine" means "that it is better to deal with problems immediately rather than later as things will worsen and take longer to amend."

Hmm, tackle a problem now instead of letting things build and grow worse... doesn't seem to apply to me at all...

Enough sarcasm. On Sunday I started a counted cross stitch project that has been sitting around collecting dust for years. It's part of a set of three pictures of garden vegetables that will match my kitchen nicely. The other two pictures (of tomatoes and peppers) have been completed and sitting in a shirt box for ... holy crap, 9 or 10 years! Once I get this final project, the artichoke, done, I plan on getting all three framed and will hang in my kitchen.

I can't believe it's been 10 years since I seriously cranked out any needlework. Actually, it was 15 years ago this summer that I learned how to do it.

On July 14, 1992, my dad, my sister and I were in Alaska on a rare (in fact, only) father-daughter trip to salmon fish the Kvichak River. Dad got a call from home and came to us later to inform us that his dad, my Grandpa Harold, collapsed at his favorite diner that morning and was life flighted to Pittsburgh with a ruptured aorta. Despite their attempts to save him, the damage was too severe and he passed away.

A few days ago my mother and I were talking about this 15th anniversary and how this event was really a major turning point in our family, or should I say the eventual dissolution of our extended family. Grandpa Harold was a quiet man who sometimes came off as gruff, but he was truly the keystone of our family, the stable, solid presence who kept everyone civil and smoothed over ruffled feathers. Without him, the petty bickering, old resentments and festering issues that he managed to keep in check went out of control.

For me personally it was also a watershed moment. The day of his funeral was the day I finally realized that my father would never be able to be there for me emotionally in any capacity. I don't know what I cried over more: the loss of my grandfather or the death of my dreams of having a close, loving, supportive relationship with my father.

I don't hold any bitterness or anger about my father's actions during that time. He was under a massive amount of stress and trauma, and for a person who always avoided confrontation and unpleasantness when he could, this was unbearable. His method of coping was running away from us, which isn't that unusual, and turning to his coping device, alcohol. How many of us run away from our problems or escape into some kind of substance? I've certainly had my drug of choice all these years.

I've written a little about my dad before, but if you're new, this moment of realization actually helped me. Once I let go of those old expectations of what I wanted from my father, I learned to accept what he could give me. Since that time our relationship has actually improved because I know his limits and don't set myself up for disappointment like I used to.

Anyway, back to the needlework. I was home from college that summer, and after the funeral I moved in to my grandmother's house and lived with her until the fall semester began. My Grandma Kate and I had a lot in common -- to this day people tell me I look like her and have her caring nature. She was such a well-loved person in our little town and to this day I catch myself wanting to emulate her.

Grandma was famous for her prolific needlework. In the spring she would have us grandchildren go through her catalogs and pick out projects we liked, and that Christmas we would get it as a gift. My house is filled with beautiful needlepoint pillows, framed pictures and a foot stool, among other things. She was also part of our church's needlepoint group and contributed a large part to the altar paraments and the Christmas Nativity set. She also contributed to a plastic canvas reproduction of our Main Street district from the turn of the century.

Up until the last year of her life Grandma was dedicated to her needlepoint. After supper she would sit on her sofa and stitch away through the 6 o'clock news, Wheel of Fortune and all the prime time shows, then finally finish up for the night with the 11 o'clock news. I have stacks of photographs of all the pictures she took of each project before she gave them away; it's amazing how much she produced.

That summer, the summer she lost her husband of more than 50 years, she taught me how to do needlepoint. I remember sitting on her back porch working on plastic canvas bookends (you put bricks inside them before stitching them shut) and a tissue box cover that looked like a goldfish bowl. Before long I graduated from plastic to fabric backed projects which were much more intricate and detailed.

Then one afternoon Grandma took me to her friend's house. Mary was a counted cross stitcher, and she gave me a little starter project of a little owl. After that I still did some needlepoint, but after that I veered more and more toward counted cross stitch projects. Part of it was because I knew Grandma would be making me a needlepoint project each year, so it freed me up to do something else.

I remember being so proud when I gave Grandma a framed counted cross stitch picture of a cardinal on a snowy lamp post as a Christmas present. Grandma loved cardinals and often wore a sweater with the red bird embroidered on it. It felt wonderful to be able to give her something made by my hand, after all the years of giving to us.

But the gift she gave me continued throughout the years. I loved doing needlework. I would get so absorbed by a project I'd stay up half the night stitching away. When I lived with my ex-boyfriend some of our best Sunday afternoons were spent on the couch watching football games while I worked on some cross stitch.

As I've mentioned before, I quit doing needlework when Mabel came into my life. It was hard to concentrate on a project when I had a toddler who needed constant supervision, and I couldn't afford to stay up half the night when I needed all the sleep I could get.

Even now, as I'm beginning this new project, I feel like I should be doing something else around the house: cleaning, organizing, etc. I've allowed my life to get so hectic and stressful with things that need to be done, not necessarily what I want to do.

But, as my daughter is fond of saying lately, "How's that working for ya?" Obviously, not very well.

So I'm paying attention to the old idiom "a stitch in time saves nine." I'm resurrecting what was once a very pleasurable, stress relieving, and non-food recreation for me, and I'm enjoying it greatly. I'm not waiting when I have more time, or when my home office is finally organized. I'm doing it Now.

Better yet, Mabel is interested in it, and I've started her on a latch hook project. But she's already got her sights on needlepoint and counted cross stitch, too. If my grandmother is able to, she must be smiling as she looks down at me and my daughter as we work on our projects together. It's a tradition being handed down to another generation, and it's me putting conscious living into action.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Noises Off*

In my last post Katcha made a comment about my current progress with Intuitive Eating and my question of whether my new medication is part of the reason:

"For whatever reason, this is wonderful progress. If it is the medication 'assisting' you, then I say its helping you to settle into IE so bravo! I think its really all YOU and when not driven by whatever demons beset you in the immediate past, you are able to find that YES you can do this, all to your own credit too."

I focused on the word demons. Not because I feel like I've been possessed by the devil or his minions. But I do feel like a switch has been flipped and someone has turned off the constant voices in my head.

These are the voices that during a meal are already planning for the next eating opportunity. The voices that point out every restaurant and food vendor that I drive past and make me think about stopping and getting something. The voices that encourage me to clean my plate even if I'm full or the food doesn't taste that good. The voices that encourage me to sneak away to eat where no one can see me.

It isn't all about the food, though. I have been on an emotional runaway train lately. As I barrelled downhill I kept gathering speed and less control with each new layer of stress and each new irritating incident. When I did hit bottom last week it was the tiniest thing that derailed me, something that I would have shrugged off and laughed about normally. And when I derailed, I definitely crashed, and hard. But even though the cars were in a crumpled heap, the engine was still running at full throttle.

That engine has been stopped now, and it's a relief. I don't feel that constant tension inside of me that felt like it was ready to explode at any moment. Now when something annoying or aggravating happens it doesn't feel like a 50-pound weight dumped on my back; I notice it, but it slides off now. The good news is, I'm not turning into a zombie; it's actually helping me to react to things in a calm, rational way. Before, when my Hubby left the newspaper on the bathroom floor for the 40th time, I'd silently rail and rant in my head about the lack of help I was getting around the house. On Sunday I simply went to him and asked him to please pick up his papers when he's done with them.

This morning, when I woke up to discover that our dogs escaped their kitchen abode and Pearl had diarrhea in three different rooms in our house, I didn't freak out and boil over in fury. I wasn't happy, but a week ago this would have sent me over the edge. It was nice to be able to simply deal with it without going crazy.

And this weekend I was able to laugh and really enjoy my time with my friends. So the good emotions are still there, too.

This sounds like a fairy tale, but here's the reality: I am dealing with some side effects. I've got the most common ones -- nausea and drowsiness -- plus some restless sleep at night. The doctor and the web site for the medicine both claim these side effects fade with use. Since I'm just in the first week, I'm hoping these side effects will go away soon.

But right now these complaints pale in comparison to the benefits I've had when it comes to stress and eating. Yes, I slept a lot yesterday, but I didn't get much sleep the last couple nights since I had to get up early for all our activities. And it's almost a given you should be able to take a nap or two on a Sunday! I was a little nauseated, but it kept me much more in tune with my body and my appetite. And it kept me from overeating, which is something I usually do when I have a busy weekend like this. None of it is bad enough to consider stopping the medicine.

*In theatrical stage directions, the term "noises off" specifies sounds that are meant to be heard from offstage, such as crowd noises or gunshots. There is also a a famous play/movie with this title. (Thanks to Wikipedia for this info)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Observation Mode

It's been a very social 24 hours with lots of eating and food, yet I've been doing okay.

I went out with the gang again for one of our wing nights. As usual, it was the cheese fries, the fried breaded zucchini, of course the chicken wings, washed down with soda or beer, then followed by a trip to another restaurant for dessert.

I found myself in observation mode a lot during the meal, able to consider the food and my appetite very well and not under siege by the usual concerns of "how many calories is that," "how can I resist eating it all," or "poor me, I can't eat like they do." I found myself easily resisting the requests of several people (of course the thinnest ones there) to help them eat their food. That's another oddity I hadn't noticed before -- the thinnest people there ordered the most food; in fact I was thunderstruck by the one couple who came, the most physically fit of the whole group, who usually don't come with us. They ordered two dozen wings as an appetizer, then also had a huge calzone and an enormous fried fish sandwich as their entrees. I didn't notice if they ate it all, but I was astounded at the pile of food surrounding them.

I ordered six wings, ate one piece of fried zucchini, and probably about a dozen of the fries. And about 1/3 of a glass of beer (they ordered a pitcher). This sounds like a lot of food, but compared to everyone else it must not have been, because I was done before everyone else. I was able to sit there feeling pleasantly full (I could tell by the last wing that I didn't want to eat anymore) and didn't feel the urge to pick at things out of nervousness or boredom.

As for the dessert run, Hubby and I both agreed that we weren't hungry, and Mabel was tired and wanted to go home, so we were naughty and called one of the gang on the cell phone and told them Mabel was asleep, so we wouldn't be joining them. Hubby and I didn't want to sit there and order nothing while everyone was slurping down their ice cream or pie, and since Mabel wasn't in the mood either it was an easy decision to skip it. Instead of feeling deprived, it actually felt like a relief.

This morning we were out bright and early to meet four of my friends, two from around here and two from out of town who are staying at our house tonight. We went to this little town in our county that is predominately Amish and Mennonite for their weekly Farmer's Market. First we went to the little country store nearby the market, which is famous for its doughnuts. I personally don't like them and didn't get any, but instead found my favorite cookies this store makes, orange with orange icing with real orange zest. Thank goodness they didn't have any of the orange sweet rolls in stock, because they are one of my big binge foods. It has the same icing as the cookies, but for some reason the rolls are more addictive to me. I also got my favorite trail mix combination, called Banana Split, but decided to go with the single serving bag instead of the multi-serving bag.

The Farmer's Market was loaded with Amish and Mennonite as well as us "English" vendors selling all kinds of things: fresh produce, baked goods, crafts, toys, antiques, and even hunting accessories. Mabel found a great deal on a Boyds Bear, and I bought my mom some of the little figurines you can get from the Red Rose Tea company that she doesn't have yet.

One disturbing find during our travels in the flea market section of the market: some guy had amongst his antiques a collar and shackles used by a slave trade company in Virginia in 1854. My one friend, ever the skeptic, wondered if they were knock-offs, because something like that should be in some museum somewhere, not at some little country farmer's market. Whether these items were real or reproductions, I couldn't imagine displaying something so inhumane and a sad reminder of a terrible part of our past.

Anyway, after our bargain shopping, we went off to breakfast. We went to this quaint Mennonite restaurant/inn that my grandma used to take me to when I was little. Mabel and I ordered the breakfast buffet, while the rest of our friends ordered off the menu. My daughter always does better when she can get little tastes of a lot of different things, and I've discovered I am getting more like her. We both got small portions of a variety of different things, and what we liked we ate, and what we didn't we left behind.

Again, I found it easy to keep tabs on myself during this meal; I found myself getting to a point where I was starting to fill up and began to figure out in my head what to leave behind so I could have a few bites of something else. I ate what I considered to be the "best bites" of each item and left the rest alone.

So, you may be asking yourself, as I am, if this relative ease is due to the new medication. It might be. I know I'm feeling calmer, despite a few twinges of anxiety here and there throughout the day. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

Gotta' go. My friends have arrived and I have to get ready for dinner.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Funny Friday the 13th

How funny is it that today's Friday the 13th? Thirteen is a lucky number in my husband's family, and in our case we met on a Friday the 13th and were then engaged on another 13th. The wedding didn't work out that way -- it was on the 23rd -- but my BIL's birthday is on a 13th and he and my SIL did get married on a 13th. So there's a lot of it going around.

This morning I felt another wave of anxiety building, and I was really afraid of having another full-blown attack. I got online and read some blogs, wrote some emails, and tried to distract myself.

The problem was, I knew I had to address a problem and was procrastinating about it. The more I avoided and waited for the right moment, the more the anxiety was building.

So this morning I finally took the leap and dealt with it.

It helped that I had gone over the discussion I needed to have in my mind and had responses ready for several things I figured I would encounter. I'm a much better writer than I am an off-the-cuff speaker, especially in a tense or upsetting situation. I get tongue-tied, flustered and tend to shut down. So having some replies and comments already there and ready to use were a big help to me.

There were a few uncomfortable moments where I could sense the other person was starting to get defensive and throwing up the shields, but I managed to talk this person down and get them to stay calm and not feel blamed or accused of anything.

I am pleased to say that for the first time I really feel like I've made some major headway with this person. For the first time I feel I got some real honesty about some things that are going on, and for once I felt like this person finally understood where I was coming from.

What a relief. This has been a situation that has been going on for some time, and at times I didn't think I would ever be able to make any progress. The actual problem will not be going away any time soon, but I think for the first time I've really gotten through to this person how important it is to me that we deal with it together.

I wish I could say this has made me feel 100% better and I'm completely cured. But it's not so easy. I tackled one source of stress that has piled up on me lately, and while it's progress, I've still got a lot of work ahead of me.

But for today, I can be content with the fact that I fought my fears of confrontation, anger and rejection, and everything came out okay. I don't know if I consider myself lucky, but I don't think this Friday the 13th will be so bad.

P.S. Another thing I can celebrate is that throughout all of this, there has been no bingeing!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Go Ask Alice

Even though this is a personal blog and I'm here to write about my personal experiences, my feelings and reflections on life, I have to admit I do a bit of censoring. Because this is out there on the World Wide Web and I don't know exactly who is reading this, I keep some things private: my daughter's and husband's first names or faces, our last name, exactly where we go to work or to school. I really don't want that personal information out their for people to access.

But I've also been keeping some issues off of this blog. I've alluded to them from time to time, but because it involves other people I don't go into details. It's really not for the public domain, and I don't want anything I say here coming back to haunt me.

However, these issues (along with the ones I do mention openly here) have been getting worse lately, as you can tell from my Saturday run-away-from-home freak-out. Since then my nerves have been shot; every little minuscule irritation has been a major event, and every time I think I can get through a day without some incident setting me off, I seem to get sandbagged when I least expect it. Then came this morning.

It's been several years since I had a full-blown anxiety attack. But I recognized it oh so well; the shaking hands, the racing pulse, the panicky thoughts and feelings of helplessness and being overwhelmed by everything. It's a scary thing.

And it made me realize that yep, today, July 12, I have hit the wall. I have been doing everything I can to get me through these issues: the talk therapy, the cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback involved in Intuitive Eating; relaxation techniques and meditation; journal writing here on the blog and reaching out to others in online IE groups. But despite all of this, I seem to be spiraling into this vortex of stress and anxiety and can't seem to find a way out.

So I picked up the telephone with my shaky hands and called my doctor's office. They had an appointment open this afternoon, and I took it.

I had two surprises when I went to the appointment. Number one, despite what felt like a horribly racing pulse, my blood pressure was 130/80. A little high, but much lower than I expected with as wired as I felt.

The other thing was the weight. Granted, I'm not thrilled with 224, about 10 pounds higher than what I was maintaining before my vacation, but I have maintained that weight ever since, which is better than continuing to gain.

The doctor came in and asked what was up, and I wished I had this blog to hand to her and say, "Here, read this." But I gave her the five-minute summary and let her know about the binge eating, the intuitive eating approach and my escalating stress and anxiety. I think she was impressed when I brought up my Internet reading on medications for anxiety in combination with eating disorders and the common use of SSRI drugs for treatment. These include Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, among others.

After some discussion of my symptoms, both with the General Anxiety Disorder (oh joy, another label) and the Binge Eating Disorder, it was agreed that I would try Lexapro. Apparently this drug is supposed to have less side effects and is tolerated better than some of the other SSRIs. She gave me a three-week sample, and I'm to go back in two weeks to see how I'm doing.

My doctor commented twice that she was impressed with my "insight" and thought I was on the right track with the methods I'm taking to recover.

I'm trying not to see this as defeat, but rather taking care of myself the best way I know how. Yes, I've hit a low point emotionally, but I was able to recognize immediately when it was getting beyond my capabilities to handle alone and when I needed some help. And maybe this is what I need to do to get me through what is becoming the most difficult challenge of my life.

I don't expect any magic results from this or any other pill. I don't expect my anxiety or urges to binge to miraculously disappear. But if this medicine can take the edge off my frazzled nerves and help me work through what's causing the anxiety and urges to binge, then it can be a tool in my growing bag of tricks to beat this thing.

Thanks to Lori for not only helping to get me through this harrowing day, but for giving me the title for today's post. Mabel and I just watched "Alice in Wonderland" a few days ago, so when Lori gave me this title, it made me smile and remember just how wacky that book and movie is. And of course I can't forget the killer song by Jefferson Airplane.

Today wasn't great. It could have been worse. Things will get better.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Detour from the Road to Bingeville

It's a rainy afternoon here. Mabel spent the night at a friend's house and is still there until I pick her up in an hour. Hubby's outside with his dad working on our new porch. My mom was here for a few minutes to visit and has just left. I have the house to myself and can do anything I want.

So why do I want to eat?

I'm not hungry -- for lunch I had half a sandwich that was left over from last night's supper, then half a brownie (probably a 2"x2" square) and just a few minutes ago I had a candy bar. The candy bar was bordering on excessive, but I was still hungry, so I let myself have it.

So now I'm pleasantly full, yet in my mind the urge to sneak off and stuff myself is lurking there like a shady character under a lamp post. Ominous but not quite an immediate threat.

And here I am, the Watcher, looking down from my window at this scene, and I can't help but wonder why. This is a reoccurring theme for me -- I get some time by myself, and the urge to binge arises. It's not that I'm lonely -- good Lord I've been so inundated with people lately that I'm been eager for an afternoon like this. I'm not stressed out or angry today -- work was calm and quiet with my Pastor still on vacation. It is that time of the month, but I feel fine.

Someone, and I can't remember who now, figured this situation out on their own blog, and I knew she had gotten me pegged, too. This comes down to the old food for comfort syndrome. I get some time to myself, I want to "treat" myself, and the first response is food.

This isn't anything out of the ordinary. We comfort and treat ourselves with food all the time. As a kid, after a victorious baseball or soccer game the team goes out for ice cream. As an adult, you get a promotion and celebrate with a fancy dinner. As a kid, you scrape your knee and your mom gives you a cookie. As an adult, we have a rough day at work and treat ourselves by stopping at the grocery store on the way home and picking up our favorite comfort food. When someone dies, the family gets trays of food from friends and neighbors.

But when that comforting gets excessive, when it becomes a compulsion instead of a treat, it's time to learn different ways of taking care of ourselves. My first thought was to come here and write about it, to make myself blatantly conscious of what was going on and to separate myself from the old thoughts and behaviors that lead me down the road to Bingeville.

Now the trick is to find something else to do that will be satisfying enough to not make me feel deprived because I'm not giving in to these thoughts.

But you know what? Just writing about it here, lifting myself out of that mind set before the momentum kicked in, has made the urge less intense, less important. I'm not identifying with it, so it has lost its power over me. It's still there under the lamp post, but it's slowly withdrawing out of the halo of light and back into the darkness.

I think the best thing I can do for myself right now is to take 15 or 20 minutes to meditate. Then I'll go pick up Mabel from her friend's house and get on with the rest of my day.

Thank goodness I was willing and able to take this detour from the Road to Bingeville. It's a different path than the one I'm used to, but the scenery's a whole lot nicer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Love/Hate Relationship

The great thing about "The Power of Now" is that even though it isn't a book about eating disorders or Intuitive Eating, a lot of the concepts and ideas in the book can be related to these issues. In the chapter "Enlightened Relationships," Eckhart Tolle writes about love/hate relationships, and as I read the following excerpt, I could help substituting love/hate with dieting/bingeing (I'm adding my substitutions below in brackets):

"Unless and until you access the consciousness frequency of presence, all relationships [diets]... are deeply flawed and ultimately dysfunctional. They may seem perfect for a while, such as when you are 'in love' [losing weight], but invariably that apparent perfection gets disrupted as arguments, conflicts, dissatisfaction, and emotional or even physical violence [deprivation, setbacks, plateaus, or even bingeing] occur with increasing frequency. It seems that most 'love relationships' become love/hate relationships before long... When a balance between the positive/negative polarities is lost and the negative, destructive [binge] cycles occur with increasing frequency and intensity, which tends to happen sooner or later, then it will not be long before the relationship [diet] finally collapses."

That's what happened to me. At first I was in love with losing weight, with counting calories, cutting out unhealthy foods and getting in as much exercise as possible. Then the feelings of deprivation started. A setback or plateau would start negative thoughts, not to mention the guilt and self-loathing caused by a binge. Then the drama would start all over again as I "kicked myself back into gear" and went back on the diet. Before long the destructive parts -- deprivation, bingeing, negative thoughts -- became more and more prevalent, and the emotional roller coaster never seemed to slow down.

The next section of the book validated for me why I had to give up dieting:

"It may appear that if you could only eliminate the negative or destructive cycles [bingeing], then all would be well and the relationship [diet] would flower beautifully -- but alas, this is not possible. The polarities are mutually interdependent. You cannot have one without the other. The positive [dieting] already contains within itself the as yet unmanifested negative [bingeing]. Both are in fact different aspects of the same dysfunction."

The next section of the chapter is how we become addicted to another person or relationship, but again, it's very easy to substitute here with my disordered eating:

"Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to -- alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, a person -- you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain. That is why, after the initial euphoria has passed, there is so much unhappiness, so much pain in intimate relationships. They do not cause pain and unhappiness. The bring out the pain and unhappiness that is already in you. Every addiction does that. Every addiction reaches a point where it does not work for you anymore, and then you feel the pain more intensely than ever."

This is where I was in April, when I seemed to hit bottom and could no longer take the up/down turmoil of the dieting and bingeing. And I think that's why I've been dealing with so much anxiety and I have these overly emotional days. Now that the bingeing isn't working for me anymore, I'm forced to face and move through my pain. Tolle addresses this as well:

"This is one reason why most people are always trying to escape from the present moment and are seeking some kind of salvation in the future. The first thing they might encounter if they focused their attention on the Now is their own pain, and this is what they fear. If they only knew how easy it is to access in the Now the power of presence that dissolves the past and its pain, the reality that dissolves the illusion. If they only knew how close they are to their own reality, how close to God."

Yes, taking the Path of Intuitive Eating and trying to give up the diet/binge roller coaster has forced me to face fears I've been avoiding. It hasn't always been pleasant, and I haven't always been able to fight the old, familiar habit of escaping into food. But when I do manage to ride it out, to stick with those feelings, I find out I don't break down into a pile of jelly. I don't burst into tears and cry for days. I don't curl up in bed under the sheets for a week. I may be miserable and not fun to be with for a day, but no one hates me, no relationships come to an end because I've let my unpleasant feelings show.

In fact, it happens much like Tolle describes above. Once I push past my fears of the bogey man and force myself to look under the bed, there's nothing there. Because in the Now, there is nothing to fear. The emotions I'm holding in are reactions from the past, and once I let them loose, they quickly dissolve because they have nothing to do with the present. It's like placing a lit match in a vacuum -- without a source of oxygen, the flame quickly dies out.

When I keep myself aware of these things -- when I don't let the anxiety and fear of my emotions take over, when I don't immediately give in to the easy way out (food) -- it suddenly doesn't seem so hard to fight what was once uncontrollable and compulsive.

Yesterday I was able to eat half a candy bar. I tore it in half, wrapped the remainder in the wrapper and set it aside. And it's still sitting there now. This is absolutely revolutionary for me. Yet it didn't seem bizarre when I did it. I wasn't shaking and craving it like a junkie, didn't hear it calling my name the rest of the night.

While it's unheard of behavior from me, I know this is an every day occurrence with my daughter. And the last few days I've almost felt like a little kid again, especially since I got my bicycle out of retirement. Mabel and I rode around town again yesterday, then managed to get ourselves invited to swim at a friend's house, which was wonderful in our current heat wave. It was a great, calm, fun summer day like the ones I had as a kid.

And I feel especially childish (in a good way!) the last two days since I've been riding my bike to work. My neighbor, who was putting his garbage out Monday morning, caught me going to work, and I said I was doing my part to be "green" by not driving my vehicle. But that was a lie. I'm doing it because it's fun. Suddenly going to work is a mini-adventure, the world around me somehow seems new and more alive when I'm not looking at it from behind a windshield or in a rear view mirror.

Is it possible to be in love with a bicycle? I jest: I know that this piece of metal and rubber is a tool that's allowing me to be more in the Now. And I'm loving every minute of it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Salvation is Here and Now

It's Monday, back to the work week, so I ought to get back to work on processing "The Power of Now." I read this section last week during my trip to the woods, and it really spoke to me, especially now after this past weekend and the subject of taking up hobbies:

"Most people pursue physical pleasures or various forms of psychological gratification because they believe that those things will make them happy or free them from a feeling of fear or lack. Happiness may be perceived as a heightened sense of aliveness attained through physical pleasure, or a more secure and more complete sense of self attained through some form of psychological gratification. This is the search for salvation from a state of unsatisfactoriness or insufficiency. Invariably, any satisfaction that they obtain is short-lived, so the condition of satisfaction of fulfillment is usually projected once again onto an imaginary point away from the here and now. 'When I obtain this or am free of that -- then I will be okay.' This is the unconscious mind-set that creates the illusion of salvation in the future.

"True salvation is fulfillment, peace, life in all its fullness. It is so be who you are, to feel within you the good that has no opposite, the joy of Being that depends on nothing outside itself. It is felt not as a passing experience but as an abiding presence. In theistic language, it is to "know God" -- not as something outside you but as your own innermost essence. True salvation is to know yourself as an inseparable part of the timeless and formless One Life from which all that exists derives its being.

"True salvation is a state of freedom -- from fear, from suffering, from a perceived state of lack and insufficiency and therefore from all wanting, needing, grasping and clinging. It is freedom from compulsive thinking, from negativity, and above all from past and future as a psychological need. Your mind is telling you that you cannot get there from here. Something needs to happen, or you need to become this or that before you can be free and fulfilled. It is saying, in fact, that you need time -- that you need to find out, sort out, do, achieve, acquire, become, or understand something before you can be free of complete. You see time as the means to salvation, whereas in truth it is the greatest obstacle to salvation. You think that you can't get there from where and who you are at this moment because you are not yet complete or good enough, but the truth is that here and now is the only point from where you can get there. You 'get' there by realizing that you are there already. You find God the moment you realize that you don't need to seek God. So there is no only way to salvation: Any condition can be used, but no particular condition is needed. However, there is only one point of access: the Now. There can be no salvation away from this moment. You are lonely and without a partner? Enter the Now from there. You are in a relationship? Enter the Now from there."

This is such an important thing for me to remember. I can take up all the hobbies in the world, but not one of them is going to give me happiness. Doing them may bring out the happiness that is already within me, but they won't provide it. Finishing my novel will not give me inner peace; completing a cross-stitch project will not make me a better person.

On the other side of the coin, I need to quit saying "When I finally get the house organized I'll get back to needlework again, " or "I'll get back to writing once Mabel heads off to college." This is just like saying "I won't dance in public until I'm a size 8" or "I can't wear a sleeveless shirt until I work out and make my upper arms firmer." All we have is Now. If I want to do something, this moment is the only one I have.

Can I tell you how wonderful it was to ride my bicycle yesterday? What an exercise in staying conscious and present: you have to stay constantly in the moment, watching for traffic and potholes, staying balanced, leaning into the turns, judging which gear to be in as I'm pedalling uphill. And it enables me to be in my body and appreciate what it can do; I feel the burn in my legs, my lungs taking in more air as I increase my pedalling.

Best of all, my daughter is in seventh heaven that she can go bike riding with me. We took two bike trips yesterday, the second at her request. With me at her side she could go down streets and into neighborhoods she's not been allowed to go down before.

"We should do this every day!" she exclaimed as we rode down one tree-lined street, and that moment still makes me so very happy. See? The bike riding itself wasn't making the happiness; it was being in the present, sharing a moment with my daughter that didn't involve the distractions of a blaring TV set, computer game or CD player. It was enjoying the Now.

On the surface this post doesn't have much to do with food or eating issues. But then, that's the whole point of this journey: I'm finding my happiness in the Now, not using food and eating to gratify me, console me over past hurts or numb myself so I don't worry about the future. When I allow myself to be in the Now I am free from compulsive eating and negative thinking. That freedom is salvation, and that salvation is here and now.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Get A Hobby

For once my husband was right. Yes, I'm admitting it here for the world to know.

Last night, after my harrowing day, we talked for a while in bed about what was going on with me and why I was such a mental case. I tried to explain it to him this way: I'm doing this Intuitive Eating thing, which means I'm eating what I want, but it also means I'm trying to find ways to stop using food in negative ways: numbing, punishing, or treating myself. The more work I do with this, the more I realize I have to become a more conscious person, and I'm becoming more and more aware of my need for silence and meditation.

I explained to him that this hectic, go-go-go lifestyle, this constant noise and togetherness is exhausting me mentally. I described myself as a cell phone whose battery reading is on its last bar. With everyone home this summer and so little alone time, it's like putting that phone on the charger for five minutes and expecting the battery to be at full strength again. It just isn't working. But I don't know how to solve it.

At first my husband's response to this felt way off, but the more I thought about it, I realized he had really hit on something I've been letting slide.

"We do so much to please other people all the time," he said to me. "You need to do something for yourself. When I think about it, is there anything, other than reading or blogging a little, that you do that you really enjoy? I think you need to get a hobby."

Get a hobby. When I first heard this I wanted to punch him! Hobby?!? I'm going through major mental issues here, my plate is already overflowing with family and work responsibilities and he wants me to load on some more things to do? How about some of our family members get some hobbies so we don't have to do so much with them and keep them entertained? Oh, here's a hobby for me -- how about husband smacking?

But the more we talked, the more I realized he was right. I told him I used to do needlework (needlepoint and counted cross stitch) and worked for years on a novel, but once I got Mabel those past times fell by the wayside when all my free time became dominated with baby things, chasing a toddler around then chauffeuring my busy bee to her lessons and meetings.

I told him how I've been thinking a lot about finding a yoga class in our area, and that every summer I bemoan the fact that I never get around to finding my bicycle and getting out on the Allegheny Highlands Trail.

"Well, now you can," he said. "I'm here to help with Mabel. Do some of these things."

So guess what. This morning I was in the mood for waffles and was in the middle of putting them together when I realized I was out of oil. I called my mom, who had some, and I just happened to ask her if my bike was out at her place. Yes, it was.

I was out there in a few minutes' time, and before long we had my bike hauled out of her garage. I felt so bad -- it was filthy from being forgotten for two years, and some rust had begun to spread here and there. Mom assured me it would clean up fine with some soap and a little steel wool.

After filling the tires with air I took it home (yes, my independent, self-sufficient mother has an air compressor in her garage), and this morning after my waffles, I scrubbed it down and was thrilled to see that nearly all of the rust came off with a little scrubbing. After it dried I oiled up the gears and I took it for a ride around the neighborhood.

I bought this bike back in 2003, when I was still in the 290-300 range. I was in the very early stages of getting physically active, and I decided this sounded fun. The main selling point of this specific bike was its big seat, for my big seat. I had done enough work at the gym by that point that I could actually do pretty well on the bike, even at that size. The hills were tough and my quads screamed with the effort, but I could still do it. Then I met my fiance, got married, and since then my bike has been lodged away in my mom's barn, gathering dust and collecting hay in the tire spokes. But no more. I need to buy another helmet, and I have to remember how to work my bike rack, but otherwise, I am ready, to paraphrase the words of Freddy Mercury in the AFG anthem "Fat Bottomed Girls,"
"Get on my bike and ride!"

Pretty Mental Saturday (Alternate Title: Food Is Not the Answer)

As the title above suggests, I had a rough PMS day yesterday.

I'm not sure why it happens exactly, but once in a while I have a lethal combination of hormones and pressing issues that come together like vinegar and baking soda. I really felt as if I was on the breaking point and would explode into a thousand tiny pieces.

Every irritation seemed amplified. Every little annoyance in my life was collecting into an ever growing snowball and heading for the peaceful little village in the valley of my being.

It finally got so bad I ran away from home. Yes, I bolted and didn't tell anyone where I was going. I had to get away from the husband, the kid, the dogs, the in-laws, my mother, all the noise and questions and demands.

When I told my husband where I went later that evening, he told me it was "morbid." I drove a few miles out of town to a little village and parked at the country cemetery there. I walked around for about 20 minutes or so, looking at the gravestones, marveling at how old some of them were (for American standards). I was impressed at how many Revolutionary War Veterans were buried there, and I looked at the tombstones written in German and wished I could read them. Some of the people I knew, I found my great-uncle's stone, and I thought it was a little sad that some of the stones were so old and worn that all of the writing on them was gone and you had no idea whose remains rested there.

I'm not turning Goth, I swear. But I couldn't think of another place to go that was more peaceful and quiet. This cemetery is on top of a hill that overlooks the surrounding countryside, and the view is really a sight to behold. My dad's family farm borders this cemetery; in fact, he donated a piece of the land to the cemetery association, and I've been looking into getting a lot of my own so I can be planted there too someday.

After walking around there for a while, listening to the corn stalks rustling in the breeze, realizing how life can be both temporary and eternal at the same time, I was able to catch my breath for the first time all day. My freight train of a brain finally slowed down, and I felt like I was finally sane enough to go home again.

Unfortunately this tranquility didn't last too long; on the car ride home Hubby was calling to see where in the hell I'd run off to, and once I did get home I dealt with the starving child, the bored dogs, the family all calling to coordinate yet another trip to see fireworks. Before long I was knee deep in anxiety and misery again.

I am going to confess here that I did something I almost never do: I poured myself a drink. Yes, I mean alcohol. Now I know some of you may be thinking-- "Red flag! She's transferring her food compulsions to alcohol!" -- but I'm just a little too self-aware for that. I grew up with two parents who turned to alcohol to cope with life, and I know it doesn't work. But at that point I didn't have any Valium in the house, and I figured one drink wasn't going to send me over the deep end.

In fact, it helped a lot in the fact that it dampened the anxiety just enough that I could handle it in more beneficial ways. I pulled out one of my Wayne Dyer books (which has very similar information to Eckhart Tolle's "The Power of Now," now having read both authors), then spent some time in some relaxation techniques and even managed to meditate a little.

Believe me, this downing a shot of booze is not going to become a regular event. But desperate times called for desperate measures, and in this case I was able to come to the realization that nothing was so bad in my life that I needed all this anxiety; no one feeling I was experiencing could not be tolerated and survived. I wasn't thrilled about having to go out with the extended family yet again (the second time that day!), but since there was nothing I could do about it I had to just accept it and find some sense of peace within myself.

I will say that by the time we went for fireworks I was pretty much shut down. I couldn't really gather up the energy to participate in any engaging conversation, so I just sat back and laid low. My good friend and SIL picked up on this and asked me what was wrong, but we both knew we couldn't get into any details with everyone around. So I figure she'll be grilling me on our morning walk Monday morning.

Here's the thing about this Pretty Mental Saturday: even though I felt awful most of the day, there was never one moment that bingeing seemed like a viable solution. Not once. And maybe that was part of what made the day so harrowing! My old stand-by was gone and I had to find alternate methods of coping! In the very few instances that I did think about food, I remember this one phrase coming to me again and again: "Food is not the answer."

However, I did have to deal with one more incident before the night was through. After the fireworks Mabel was starving, as 8 year-olds are want to do, and the only thing she wanted was McD's and one of their Crappy Meals. Hubby relented to her whining and drove there, and the drive-thru lane was packed with other fireworks attendees, so he pulled in and went inside to order. Before he went in he asked everyone in the car if they wanted anything. In-laws said no, and I said no.

So what does Hubby do? He comes back with a Crappy Meal for Mabel, an order of fries for his mother, and two (2!!!) baked fruit pies for me! MIL is all atwitter and happy with her surprise present of fries fresh out of the fryer, all hot and greasy and salty. I looked at the pies in horror.

"What's this?"
"Pies," Hubby replied, "I know they're your favorite."

How I didn't throw the damn things out the window in a fury is still a mystery to me. How long have I been battling, first with losing weight, and now with the binge eating? How many times have I told him that doing this to me is like bringing a bottle of vodka to an alcoholic? Yes, I've told him I'm doing Intuitive Eating now and I'm trying to legalize all foods, but I've also told him that in addition I'm learning to not use food to cope with problems and numb myself from my emotions.

I know I've told him these things, but apparently he hasn't really heard me. I know he didn't do it to be mean, I know he was worried about me all day and was beside himself trying to figure out what to do to make me feel better. In his mind, in his family's tradition, food is always the answer to the bad day, to the crushed ego, to help you forget about the boo-boo. He was only doing what comes naturally.

But, here it comes again, FOOD IS NOT THE ANSWER! (Sorry to yell.) It would have been one thing if I had asked for the pies, if I had been craving them and actually wanted them. But I didn't! I had actually had a fleeting thought of getting a small vanilla cone, but after an internal scan (what, am I on Star Trek now?) I knew I wasn't hungry for it. I told him no, I wasn't hungry, and I really meant it. So why can't that be respected?

Those pies are still sitting on the kitchen counter, by the way. I haven't been able to bring myself to throw them away, because in the back of my mind I figure I might be hungry for them later. Something tells me they're like the rest of McD's food -- they taste great when they're piping hot, but once they cool down it's just nasty -- especially those nuggets!

But yes, I survived my Pretty Mental Saturday, and without a binge. I think I may need a medal for surviving this battle.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Time And Relative Dimensions In Space

I didn't post yesterday. I went online a couple times, but I just couldn't find anything to write about yesterday, and didn't feel like sitting down with my notes from "The Power of Now" and copying/analyzing them here.

It wasn't due to laziness -- I did my morning walk, and I got a lot of housework and laundry done, too. I did get caught up in a "Doctor Who" marathon running on the Sci Fi Channel, but I managed to fold laundry and get things done during the show and the commercials. Last night was the American premiere of the newest season, so I had my evening plans set.

I adore "Doctor Who," at least the last three series with the newest Doctors, Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. Americans may know Eccleston as Claude the Invisible Man on the NBC show "Heroes," and Tennant as bad guy Bartie Crouch Jr. in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." My friend SS got me and Mabel into the show, and now we can hardly imagine life without it.

The Doctor is a Time Lord who can travel through space and time in his spaceship the TARDIS, which stands for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. It looks like an innocent British police call box (like a phone booth for us Americans) but it contains a very large space craft that has incredible power. As I'm thinking about it today, I can see a correlation to the TARDIS and Doctor Who to the work I'm doing with conscious living. In some ways I'm striving to be a little like the Doctor -- he's living in his own time, his own Now, and the past and future cannot hold him down. The TARDIS can also be a representation of ourselves and our identities. On the outside we may look ordinary, even dumpy, but our true selves, contained within our exterior coverings, is so vast, beautiful and powerful.

I think I didn't post yesterday because I was finally taking some of what I've been learning and applying it. I was living consciously, working on the immediate tasks in front of me and not worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. I didn't want to analyze, didn't want to fret about things. I was simply in the moment, Being.

And my eating reflected that. Once in a while I'd get these pangs that I should eat something. But unless I could immediately pinpoint exactly what I wanted to eat, I pushed it away, because it wasn't real hunger to me. It was my old behaviors wanting to engage (it's my day off from work, let's "treat" myself by eating lots of crap), and I wasn't having it. Once I could determine exactly what I was hungry for, I ate it, hence my lunch of a PB&J with a glass of milk for lunch.

It wasn't a perfect day -- I ate to the upper end of my full feeling at supper -- but I know now I had gone too long without eating, making myself extra hungry. I am happy that I recognized the exact moment that if I ate another bite, I would move from full to stuffed and be a miserable person indeed. And I'm equally thrilled that I was able to stop at that moment, while everyone else was still eating, and didn't feel driven to keep picking at things I wasn't hungry for anymore. And besides, I'm not aiming for perfect, am I?
What I am aiming for is traveling through my life like I'm in the TARDIS -- I'm not held down by the past or waiting for something to happen in the future. If I want to do something, I've got to do it now, because the Now is the only place where I exist, just like Doctor Who. Pretty cool!