Acceptance

So much to catch up on! I am now relatively settled into my new home, and am having a house warming party this Thursday. I have two kittens, who are adorable, but I currently want to throttle them because they have a very bad habit of pooping on the carpet in the basement. My mind has been a whirlwind of trying to figure out how I’m going to stop this, while feeling bad that they’re now locked in the bathroom, while worrying about my sis and her husband coming to stay and having to use said smelly bathroom, while worrying about how I’m going to make the house look “perfect” in time for Thursday’s party.

Yikes. That’s a lot of weight on my shoulders. And the silly thing is, none of it is necessary weight. I read the following paragraph from a story in the AA Big Book this a.m.:

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation for being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism [compulsive overeating/perfectionism], I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

Now, even if you want to strike the words “in God’s world” depending on your spiritual beliefs, this paragraph makes a whole lotta sense to me. It’s such a good reminder that I can’t worry myself into having two perfectly behaved cats. No amount of frustration will fix this, and unless I’m willing to give them back to the shelter, I better just do my best to follow suggestions from the internet research I’ve done on how to solve the problem.

This is a small scale example, but it easily applies to the layoffs at work, the fact that my best friend from high school just got engaged even though I’m still completely single, and my other friend from high school who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer at 28. Oh, and of course, my body image that tells me I should have lost 60 lbs yesterday…

slipping through my fingers

I identified an important fear yesterday. The feeling that life/control is slipping through my fingers. I panic. I try to fix things. In the words of Brene Brown, I hustle for worthiness and approval.

I had a dream two nights ago that I was on a sailboat with my boyfriend (who was Alexander from So You Think You Can Dance – random:)), my mom and my sister. One day Alex was incredibly into me, and the next he was pulling away. He became distant and angry at me for little things.

The feelings of panic and despair that I felt were familiar. I wanted desperately to rewind time back to the day that he loved me and couldn’t stand to be away from me. I felt helpless. I tried to do anything that I thought would make him feel that way again. I tried to hide what was going on from my mom and my sister.

A few years ago, I went on a camping trip with my sister, her boyfriend, my boyfriend and another couple. My boyfriend and I were fine when we were hanging out at the campfire, but the minute we climbed tiredly into our tent, I started overanalyzing everything. Why wasn’t he wanting to stay up and talk? Why didn’t he want to have sex? Why wasn’t he putting his arms around me? So I did what I always did, and asked him in a teary voice what was going on. He said nothing, which just freaked me out even more. I felt like something was going on, and I MUST figure out what it was so that I could “fix” his feelings for me.

This is why I can’t be in a relationship. I lack the faith that the other person could truly love me, and that I don’t have to constantly monitor their actions for underlying hints of what they feel for me. I can’t help but take every little thing personally. I’m working on this. It’s one of the things I need to work on in therapy and talk about in my 12-step meetings.

This fear of something slipping through my fingers came up because my mom told me that her and my dad are talking about getting a divorce again. They divorced my freshmen year of high school, then started falling back in love my junior year, and finally re-married my freshman year of college. The first few years were great. But things have been crumbling over the past few years.

I have always been the caretaker, the sensitive one in my family. My caretaking alarm is set off by this new possibility of divorce, and I feel really sad that my parents have to go through more pain. Selfishly, I’m afraid of them being alone, because then I’ll worry about them more since they live in Montana. Yesterday, I was having visions of one of them having a heart attack while living alone, and no one would be there to call for help. How morbid is that?

So it’s not a surprise that I’m feeling those feelings of panic and despair. I want to fix them, fix their relationship. I can’t do either of these things. I’m trying hard to sit on my hands and let them work their own damn issues out. I’ve got more than enough of my own!

M.I.A. (Meditation in Action)

Wow, it’s been a month since my last post! So much has been going on that it just felt like too much effort to sit down and write. Too much to catch up on, too many other things I could be doing. But none of those other things connect me with this online community that gives me so much inspiration. When I have bad body image days, I look at blogs like Medicinal Marzipan or Stop Hating Your Body, and remember that I’m not the only one who feels like this and there are many ways to combat these feelings.

So, my classic “I’ve failed and should just give up” won’t work because I’m not willing to give up this community. Instead, I’ll just catch you up on all that’s been going on! Well first of all, I bought a townhome! Very exciting! That cliche about all the other offers not working out because they’re not the house that’s meant for you? Turns out it’s true! Who knew?? I <3 my new home!

I also spent a long weekend at a silent meditation retreat at Cloud Mountain. It was amazing. The retreat center grounds are like a rainforest, and the retreat that I attended was a lovingkindness-focused retreat. I discovered that spending three days wishing myself and others happiness & peace makes a world of difference in my mood. It was so peaceful to be in a beautiful setting with 20 other women, but not have to worry about getting to know them or making conversation. The weekend was all about me. Very much needed. This was the main part of the metta (lovingkindness) meditation that our teacher gave us:

~~~~~

May I be happy & peaceful.

May I be healthy & strong.

May I be safe, and free,

and able to care for myself with ease & love.

~~~~~

Beautiful, huh? I felt so calm and accepting by the time the weekend was done. Of course, that feeling only lasts so long, but I have managed to make a habit of listening to an 8 minute metta meditation every morning while I’m riding the bus to work. Great way to start my day and lift my mood before I head into a world that can often bring me down. I’ve tried to share it with as many people as possible, because I believe we could all benefit from a world full of people who are sending these thoughts out into the universe.

Do you have any other mantras/meditations that help you stay calm/happy/peaceful/confident during your day? I’d love to hear them!

values. from letting go to cultivating, and everything in between.

Values. Such a tiny word with so many big meanings. I’ve listed out my values several different times over the past few years (you can’t have a life coach sister and avoid this) but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally had an “ah-ha” moment around them.

I was at the Brilliant Women Salon listening to Amy Kessel speak about values, when she mentioned solitude. My first thought was, “Huh?! I thought isolation was bad. How can I value something negative?” I mulled this over for the next few days and realized 1) solitude ≠ isolation; and 2) values are subjective. What is “bad” or negative for someone else, may be exactly what I need.

I’ve been so afraid of being lame, anti-social and lonely that I was terrified of the thought that it could be ok to actually value solitude. But as an introvert, I need solitude to recharge and juice up the smile behind my eyes that helps me to connect with people around me. If I don’t have downtime, it’s too easy for me to let my inner raging bitch out of her cage (because, yes, we all one of those)!

Ok, so now that I know values are subjective, I had to look at another thing that confused me about them. Every time I was writing my lists of values, I had trouble with the distinction between what I value vs. what I spend my time & energy on. It’s easy to say I value gratitude, but if I never take a minute to be grateful for the little things, am I really living this value? Conversely, if I look honestly at my daily attitudes & actions, it would appear that I value perfectionism, control and fear. I certainly spend a hell of a lot of time & brain power on them!

So this time when I took another look at my values, I started breaking them up into groups: values I’d like to let go of, values in my present life that I’d like to keep, and values I want to cultivate.

When I make values lists, I write down value after value that resonate with me, and then I go back through the list several times until I have a manageable list(s). Too many and I will dilute their power and mask the clarity that I had been hoping to gain when I first sat down to make the lists.

Looking at these lists, I have to let go of any judgment around what I “should” value (huh?!) and ask myself if I feel excited about trying to live these values on a daily basis. Do they get my blood pumping or do they make me want to hide under the covers and procrastinate?

As soon as I finalize my lists, I’ll post them on here. In the meantime, what values are you living? Which ones do you want to let go of? If you envision your ideal future, what values are there that aren’t currently part of your daily living?

disappointed.

Lately I’ve been trying to draft my posts before I publish them here. I feel like writing them down on paper, letting them “marinate” and then coming back to refine and adjust them helps me to better organize my thoughts. This in turn leads me to be more authentic, more me. But tonight I’m going with my gut and just writing, because I don’t want to lose the sharpness of my current feelings.

I’m disappointed. Very disappointed. I’ve been condo shopping since February, and have “lost” two condos that I’ve made offers on. The first was a short sale, which took five weeks to find out that the seller wasn’t approved for hardship, and therefore the bank wouldn’t even consider my offer. When I found this out, I was disappointed, yes, but had a good outlook of, “Well, it just means it wasn’t the right one. There’s something better out there for me.” {Side note – Even though I am still figuring out what I believe spiritually, one of my favorite quotes I heard at a 12-Step meeting is “Your Higher Power never says no. It says yes, not yet, or I’ve got something better.”}

A few days ago, I put another offer on a condo (smaller and more expensive than the first) and found out the next day that the seller was countering my offer. Not totally unexpected since she was close to being upside-down on her loan and we knew she probably couldn’t wiggle much on the price.

So here’s the thing: I accepted her price. I accepted her title company. I even accepted her request to keep her curtains. But I decided that I didn’t want to accept her request to stay in the condo for an extra 24 hours after we closed. We were supposed to close Memorial Day weekend, and I wanted to have the full weekend to move. I am going to Greece in mid-June, and wanted to make sure I was settled by the time we left.

Looking back, I can see that maybe the 24 hours wasn’t a good enough reason to put the deal in jeopardy by countering. But on the other hand, I don’t feel like I was asking for the world. Anyway, long story at least a little shorter, the seller went silent for all of yesterday and this morning, and it wasn’t until this afternoon that I found out she had accepted another offer that she received this morning. Without even giving me a chance to respond. Ugh.

I cried, and I sat with my disappointment, wondering why I feel so much more upset about this one than the last. I mean, it’s smaller AND more expensive! Shouldn’t I have the same “what will be, will be” attitude?! And then I realized. It feels harder because I feel like I did something wrong. I made a mistake. My head tells me, “It serves me right for being so greedy and selfish and wanting the extra 24 hours.” I should have settled for what was good enough rather than asking for what I wanted.

And the thing is, I don’t know what the right answer is. I don’t know if I should have taken the seller’s counter offer as is. Or maybe I didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s a shady move on the seller’s part. Either way, it’s pretty interesting/depressing for me to see how much crappier I feel when something goes wrong and there’s the possibility that I caused it. Damn, I’m hard on myself.

It’s time to remind myself that I’m ok. I’m lovable even if I make a mistake. And most importantly, I think I better make a gratitude list before I go to bed because I have a LOT of stuff to be thankful for. It’s easy to get wrapped up in my “poor me” routine, but a quick dose of “oh yeah, I have the money to buy a condo” usually clears that right up. So, thanks for listening. I’m still disappointed. I still feel shame. But I appreciate having a place to share.

shine a spotlight on fear

A lot of the time the fears in my head just run around in frantic circles, and if I ever actually stop to listen to them, they’re basically gibberish. A few years ago, I was taking classes for my HR certificate, working full-time, attending OA meetings, and trying to keep my social life afloat. It was *not* sustainable. Something had to give.

My sponsor at the time suggested that I take two, rather than three, night classes for the winter term. My gut reaction was, “Are you crazy?! I could NEVER do that! I wouldn’t graduate in the spring!” I quickly dismissed her idea and continued to trudge through each day, never having enough energy to fully give myself to any of the things in my life.

A few weeks later, I had another breakdown about the unmanageability of my life, and I realized that maybe I actually needed to consider my sponsor’s suggestion. I decided to figure out why I was so afraid of not taking the third course and not graduating in the spring.

Being the nerd that I am, I created an Excel spreadsheet to chart out my fears. I listed both of my options: 1)taking three classes and graduating in the spring or 2)taking only two classes and not graduating until the next winter. Fears for option #1 included:

  • more mental breakdowns
  • being way too busy to have a social life, and therefore alienating all my friends
  • failing one of my classes because I couldn’t keep up
  • not working my OA program or not dedicating enough time to my spiritual development

On the other hand, fears for option #2 looked like this:

  • not getting a raise at midyear because I didn’t have my degree
  • never finishing the HR certificate program because I would have a six-month break until I could take my last class
  • “failing” by not finishing when I said I would (uhhh…who cared about this but me??)

There were many more fears related (and not related at all!) to each option, but, ultimately, one thing became clear when I had it all laid out on paper Excel spreadsheet: Taking three classes (option #1) could result in the loss of my mental & emotional sanity, as well as my support circles like my friends and 12-step program. Conversely, my fears around taking only two classes (option #2) were materialistic, egocentric and mostly based around wanting my way on my schedule.

I also realized that option #2 didn’t mean I wouldn’t ever get a raise or graduate, but if I tried to beat my life into submission by sheer determination and self-will (aka option #1), there was probably a very good chance that it would all fall apart. I mean, it would be very hard to get a raise or graduate when I was babbling incomprehensibly, hiding under the covers, and alienating all the special people from my life.

I’m happy to report that I only signed up for two classes that term, took a wonderful six-month break from school, and then went back the next winter to leisurely finish my last class. I have my sanity (usually), my friends, my HR Generalist certificate, and I even got that raise I was worried about!

brilliant women salon & the 10 rules

Last Thursday I attended the fantastically inspiring Brilliant Women Salon. Lynn Baldwin Rhoades of Power Chicks moderated a panel of three wonderful coaches (Molly Mahar, Tara Mohr and Amy Kessel) centered around Tara’s 10 Rules for Brilliant Women. It was amazing to simply be in the company of almost 40 other women who cared enough about being brilliant to show up for two hours on a Thursday night. The energy buzzing around the Northwest Worklofts was palpable.

Tara kicked off the night by walking us through her 10 rules. Lots of head-nodding and knowing laughter. You can read the full article by following the link above, but I thought I would also share my take on some of my favorites. “#1 Make a pact. No one else is going to build the life you want for you.” So true. And I got the warm fuzzy feeling because I knew that each of us in the room that night had taken the first step in that direction. Simply by showing up to the Salon, we were demonstrating that we weren’t willing to settle for anything less than an authentically brilliant life. Go us!

#4 Get a thick skin. Get used to wins and losses, praise and pans, getting a call back and being ignored. Work on letting go of needing to be liked and needing to be universally known as ‘a nice person.’” This one is a great reminder for me. It is too easy for me to go home with my tail between my legs if I receive negative feedback. Since joining Twitter, I’ve had to resist the feeling that unless someone retweets my post, I’m a complete failure. Getting a thick skin will help me to be my own person, and spend less time wondering what everyone else thinks about what I’m doing.

#9 Recover and restore. …you are going to be stretching out of our comfort zone–a lot. Regularly do things that feel safe, cozy, and restorative. Vent to friends when you need to. Acknowledge the steps you’ve taken.” YES! Self-care is a huge part of my recovery, and to start with, I had to figure out what these “restorative and cozy” things were for me.  So far I’ve come up with coloring in coloring books, doing puzzles, going to 12-step meetings and listening to NPR. Equally important, I had to learn how to leave out the draining activities that I thought I “should” do. Things like going out to the bars, dating, networking and Crossfit.

I highly recommend that you take the time to read the full article. It gets you thinking about how many of the rules you’re following, and how to make a better effort at the ones you’re having trouble fitting into your life. And why would you want to try to follow these rules? You’ll have to come up with your own reasons, but in my experience, every time I take a baby step closer to living my life in this authentically brilliant way, I see a tenfold payout.

fear, the shame monster and the power of secrets

I’ve had a lot of fear these past few days as more people have started visiting my blog. I know that, ultimately, that’s what I want them to do, right? But it’s scaring the crap out of me because the minute someone lands on my home page, they see a picture of a girl bingeing and they are able to read all my dirtiest food secrets. SHIT. I’ve had the fight the urge to pull it all down and hide. Go back into my silent world of isolation.

Luckily, there’s been enough encouragement from other people who relate, that I can remember why I’m speaking up and voicing my worst fears. Those parts of me that the shame monster just loooves to throw in my face. I think I must have heard of the shame monster from someone like Brene Brown, but now I can’t find a reference to it. Anyway, in my world, the shame monster rears its ugly head on a minute-by-minute basis during my day. Every little thing I do is fair game for the shame monster to hold up and say, “I can’t believe you just did/said that! No one is ever going to actually want to be your friend or love you! You’re just kidding yourself if you think you’re ok at this weight!”

Shame is a VERY powerful concept. HealthyGirl’s “Why Don’t More People Talk About Binge Eating?” post yesterday reminded me of a lot of the reasons I want to battle shame, especially as it’s connected to binge eating. Growing up, I used to secretly be jealous of bulimics and anorexics. I mean, at least they got to look good while they fought their eating disorder, right?! Oh my god, how messed up is that thinking?!! When I joined OA, I remember being afraid to tell people that I went to the meetings – not necessarily because of the disorder itself, but because I had to admit that I walked into a room where overeating (i.e. powerless, lack of control, bad, shameful) was the topic, rather than something glamorous like alcoholism or gambling or drugs. (Sunny, I’ve always used the same crazy word “glamorous” to describe that as well.) To this day, I can only tell people I’m a compulsive overeater by leading with the phrase, “Well, my doctor finally diagnosed me with an eating disorder about three years ago…” Because that makes it sound a lot more serious and justified…

I can only laugh as I write this down. That’s the thing about shame and fear. Openness and honesty are their kryptonite. The more I write my crazy head thoughts down and share them with you, the louder I hear my shame and fear yell, “I’m melting, MELTING!” from the corner. So who’s with me? Let’s talk about our deepest, darkest, shameful fears and see if we can’t use the group power to kill a few more of them. Off with your head, shame monster!

{photo credit: BlueRobot}

the “art” of bingeing

I’ve been a compulsive overeater for a long, long time. It’s hard for me to admit this in a place that may be seen by people who I know well, but don’t know about the crazy things I’ve done with food. But I’ve come to peace with the fact that it is as much of a disorder as anorexia or bulimia. It’s time it gets talked about more. Joining Overeaters Anonymous almost three years ago has helped me to recognize that there are a lot of other people out there dealing with the same issue.

I’ve done pretty much all the things it talks about in OA literature: I’ve eaten food off the ground, from the garbage can, food that was stale, spoiled, dirty or just plain gross. All in the name of stuffing myself so full that I didn’t have to think about the rest of the shit that was going on in my world.

Not only do I eat food that’s unfit for eating, I tend to sneak food so that no one else can see how much I’m eating. I remember sneaking around my house when I was little, secretly making hot rolls drenched in butter, pretending that my mother wouldn’t notice if we went through the whole bag in a few days. I learned how to remove the lid from the cookie jar in a way that didn’t make noise, and I perfected the art of making bags look more full than they actually were, so that no one would suspect I’d been sneaking chips/cereal/fill-in-the-blank of any bagged food. You know how most teenagers refill their parents’ booze bottles with water? Well, that was me with the food. Always analyzing, always calculating – how much can I eat but still avoid the shame of getting “caught”.

It only got worse when my parents got divorced, my sister went off to college, and I had a car all to myself. My mom and I had opposite schedules so that we were never able to eat meals together. I lived 20 minutes away from the town where I went to high school, ran cross country, and worked at the mall. So, naturally, it was only logical that I would eat all my dinners at restaurants in town. Only it stopped be logical when I became so obsessed with finding the “perfect” meal. What could I eat that night that would make me feel better? My decision-making skills quickly failed me, and soon I was stopping at two different restaurants because I couldn’t decide. I lied to my co-workers at the mall so that I could go to the food court by myself and buy an extra order of fries, stuff them down my throat in the bathroom, and return to work with a normally portioned meal.

Cross country kept a lot of the weight off, but soon even that didn’t work. My mom and I joined Weight Watchers my senior year of high school — little did I know that it would be the first of at least 25 times I would join the weight loss group. I hoped to get skinny (aka lovable) by the time I went off to college. My senior year was spent with a long distance boyfriend, who I was emotionally, and even slightly physically, cheating on in an effort to like myself more, to feel more desirable.

College came and went. Always the over-achiever, I gained the Freshman Forty instead of the Freshman Fifteen. My relationships were miserable, my weight went up and down, and all through it I binged. Binged and binged and binged. Looking back, I’m so very grateful that the few times I tried to make myself throw up, I was unsuccessful. I never thought I would be glad that I’m “only” an overeater, but my heart goes out to my fellow OAers who fight both the bulimia (or anorexia) and compulsive overeating.

After college, I moved up to Seattle to be closer to my sister. More bingeing, more dieting, many more promises to “start fresh tomorrow” or “get my act together” on Monday/next month/after the holidays, etc. I’d been in Seattle for almost two years before I finally started seeing a therapist. She was the first one to ever officially diagnose me with binge-eating disorder.

There’s a lot more to say about my history with this disease, and a lot more to say about the journey I’ve been on since identifying that maybe, just maybe, I’m not some completely psycho, crazed girl who doesn’t deserve to be seen in public because of how much she eats, the way she can’t stop thinking about food, or for how much her stomach sticks out. If you’ve been on a similar journey, or think you might be one of us, I’d love to hear from you. Because you know what? We’re not alone anymore.

{photo credit: chrisie.b}

perfectionism, avoidance and the black hole in my chest

I’ll be honest. I’ve been avoiding posting because I don’t feel like I have the time or the desire to put a perfect/inspiring blog post together. So in my (old) world, that means if you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do anything at all. [Where the hell did I learn this flawed lesson?!]

So I’m here today to do this imperfectly. To babble about how I don’t know what to write about. Which is actually not true. A lot has been going on for me. This morning I wrote a letter to God/my Higher Power/the Universe/whatever you want to call it, and I thought I’d share it here. Maybe God likes blogs more than letters anyway…

Dear HP [or fill-in-the-blank],

There’s a big, empty feeling in my chest that won’t go away. I’m madly scrambling around, trying to figure out what will fix it, but anytime I pause, it’s still there. It feels mostly like fear. A little confusion. Sadness. Loneliness. It’s like if I focus on it, it feels hard to breathe. It tries to stop me from staring at it by putting the spotlight on my stomach or my weight in general. It’s so afraid of being swallowed up, that it pretends it’s not part of me. Acts as though it has marked it’s territory and is ready to fight. It’s friends with my ego. My ego helps distract while it grows bigger, stronger. How do I make friends with this fear and invite it to be a loved piece of me rather than the enemy? Please help my mind to stay in the present – MY present – instead of fast forwarding to what’s next or criticizing what’s going on based on what I think others will think.

Please help me to surrender and lay down this fight.

{photo credit: Martin Neuhof}

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