Better & Bolder, the Blog

Pause


Damn it, I woke at 4 am again. 

***

I couldn’t fall back asleep so at 5:00 I surrendered and picked up the book I’d been reading, The Journal of Best Practices. David Finch has Asperger’s Syndrome, and his book chronicles the two years he spent working on improving his self-centered thinking and behaviors. It’s an interesting read, but I skimmed it, really, because the same things that are annoying about his behaviors in real life can be annoying to read about chapter after chapter. What made it fascinating is seeing how his mind works, his intense need for absolute unvarying routine, his lack of empathy or ability to understand a situation from someone else’s point of view. 

One of his insights is to watch what his wife wants to watch on TV instead of what he wants to watch. He discovers that America’s Next Top Model is quite fun, actually, and it becomes their thing to watch the show together. This is Relationship 101: be willing to do what the other person wants to do, and you might end up liking it too. Allow yourself to be influenced. Give in to being changed in order to fit better with someone you love. 

Last night Hugh and I watched About Time, which I thought would be an annoying rom com and turned out to be very sweet and a bit thoughtful. The main character learns to savor life as it’s happening. He is wildly in love with his wife and their children, and he’s deeply loving toward his father and sister. No one argues in this film; the only drama comes from him wanting everything to turn out right. It’s a film about the ordinary and mundane in life, the delicious little moments that make up each day if only we allow them to be so delicious.

This is much the same message as Best Practices. His biggest lesson is to learn to go with the flow enough to have fun. He learns how to enjoy spending time with his kids, whom he loves, of course, but they are constant hurricanes of chaos, disrupting his routine and forcing him to be adaptable and empathetic, both of which are nearly outside of his neurological make up. Nearly, but not entirely, he learns how to do the best with what he has. He’s committed to developing the richest, most engaged, and happiest relationships with his wife and children. 

These are lessons I’m still learning. Let go of control. Do what the other person wants to do, and enjoy doing it. Be in the moment. Be less annoying. Be wildly in love and be deeply loving.

***

I woke at 4 am and began to analyze what that meant. It must be the food I’ve eaten because Crazy Food Lady thinks everything is about the food. Besides, if it’s the food, then I can control the food, and then I control the symptoms, right? AmIright? It’s with a mixture of fear, disappointment and ultimately relief that I remember my health isn’t tied to one meal, or even one week. Just keep eating pretty well and let it go. 

As much as I wish the Perfect Diet would ease all my symptoms, I remember that my body is shifting hormones and that this shift is unavoidable. It is blessedly, purposefully unavoidable, much like adolescence. It’s simply the door we walk through from here to there. I do my best to make that walk as easy as possible but part of the process seems to be that it’s supposed to be a bit difficult. We’re supposed to be changed.

***

Have you seen the Menopausal? We walk as if zombies. 

“I’m tired.” “Yes, me too.” 

“I’m hungry.” 

“I cry, all the time.” 

We try supplements, artificial hormones, acupuncture. We change our diet, cutting calories, upping our cardio, amping our strength training, and still we gain weight. We sweat and we flush. We do not sleep. We take care of our children and our parents and, desperately, ourselves.

Someone pointed out to me that crying, all the time, is much like being premenstrual, which it is, except in the good old days, I could point to the calendar and agree, yes, in a few days, these hormones would shift. Now, I simply wonder. Do the same hormones that make me cry at every sentimental thing also make me want to eat and eat some more? That, too, is much like being premenstrual. 

I have to remember, this is temporary. It’s just not two days and done temporary. It’s a year or two and then done. This particular symptom, these feelings, they won’t last all year, probably. But they might. 

It could be I can do many things to ease the feelings and symptoms (what else to call them? the lack of focus, the lack of sleep, the sentimentality, the hunger, all of it). It could be the only thing to do is to ride it out. Ride it out and stop trying to make it go away. Ride it out and laugh it off. Ride it out and stop punishing myself for having so little focus and too little energy. Does it matter? The bills get paid. Everything that really needs to happen is happening. Plus some. I am holding more babies. I am walking with friends. I am reading books. There’s a life beyond productivity if I’m brave enough to be there.

Menopause is like adolescence. It’s the second Time to Grow Up call. 

The first time, we learn responsibility. It’s a busy, productive time, those fertile years. 

The second time, we learn the meaning of our lives, and it’s vitally important that we allow this to happen. Why am I obsessing about food? Because I always have. It has been chronic and now is acute. I react to so many foods, or I think that I do, and in the end, besides acupuncture and herbs, I’m learning to manage it by calming the f*ck down. No, really, I want to market the Calm The F*ck Down Diet. I eat and tell myself, “I’ll be fine. I won’t react to this food.” When I have a reaction, I tell myself, “I’ll be fine. It’s temporary. There’s no harm done. I’ll relax and have some tea and feel better later.” I send the signal to my nervous system to go ahead and relax. Digest this wonderful food peacefully.

Why do we gain weight? So we can learn the meaning, or meaninglessness, of it, and we can be prompted to shift into exceptionally good patterns of eating, moving, and resting. We’re tired so we can learn it’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to hang out and be slow. 

Why do we cry so much? So we can embrace the beauty. 

There’s a concept in education called disequilibrium. It’s the imbalance and confusion we feel when we thought we knew something and, in order to learn, we need to let go of what we knew and accommodate this new information. 

I’ve had 51 years to grow a relationship with my body and with food. I’ve been consciously working through this relationship for over a decade. Each year, I add more kindness and more compassion to this work. It’s an incredible challenge to me because I bring analysis, shame, fear, and tension to the process.

I’d like to eat as a normal person does -- you know, get hungry, eat, forget about it -- and that may never be my way. My new mantras (it’s temporary! it’s okay! calm the f*ck down!) remind me to look at the big picture. It’s not about each meal or each day; it’s the overall process  in which I do my best to eat well, move well, and rest well with the intention of gaining greater, sustainable health. Oh, and learn to love myself and my body more fully, more unconditionally, more compassionately and passionately along the way. 

Sometimes, I’m going to mess up. I won’t eat well or even when I think I’m doing my best, I won’t rest well. It’s a darn shame and usually very low consequence. I think of David Finch and his Asperger’s mind, learning which things are just not a big deal and he doesn’t need to flip out about them. We all have our fixations. We all have that one thing that it seems everyone else knows how to do while we’re a few miles behind. Menopause is like catch up time. It’s a good time to get a bit better at some stuff, the stuff that up to now we’ve been too busy up to focus on. 

***

I  have been writing deeply confessional, highly personal blog posts for months now. It’s been one giant Me fest. Part of deep healing is introspection. I’d like to go deeper into that healing. In the past, that’s meant gut-wrenching work. Now, looking forward, I’d like it be more loving and easier. I want to keep praying as I run and maybe, when these symptoms bother me, I’ll pray then, too. I’m going to really enjoy this ride of being highly sentimental and easily brought to tears. I’m going to nurture my powers of compassion, grow them from this seedling into a big tree. I’ve got decades in front of me, years and years in which to watch that tree grow. Like David Finch, and the character in About Time, I’d like to have more fun and enjoy the ride.  


And I’d like to write about something besides me for a while.


Binge

Here’s something you may not know if you are not eating disordered. I’m going to tell you what it’s like to binge eat, and you may be surprised.

A binge is not a delightful overdose of desired foods. It is not an orgasmic indulgence of sweets and treats. It’s really kind of the opposite of that.

During a binge, no food is satisfying. It doesn’t taste great. The food being consumed during a binge is not especially delightful or tasty. First, it’s going in much too quickly. Second, while I’m eating, my mind is saying: this isn’t good enough. Keep eating. Get something more bigger better go go go. And I know that nothing will satisfy me, nothing will be better, and I will keep eating anyway.

What makes a binge compelling is not the food. It is the act of eating, eating, eating.

At some point, mostly because I am too full and cannot stuff in any more, I force myself to stop.  It’s not unusual for me to wait a few hours and then go back for more, same process, stuffing in food that I don’t really want. Eventually, something happens -- say, it’s midnight and time to sleep -- and if I’m lucky, in the morning, I can break the cycle. I’ve had the cycle last for days, though, and it was so sad to see all that marvelous food go down my throat without my enjoying even a bit of it. 

I have binged on salad, eating more and more because it was there and because I could and because I had to. This most recent binge - gosh, I don’t even know how I could have avoided it, what I could have done to slow it down, how I could have removed the charge. It began with dinner, eaten too quickly and without satisfaction. After dinner, I started in on nuts and seeds and goji berries and cacao. I know. It wasn’t chocolate cake. That’s because you still think a binge is about eating forbidden sweet foods. You think a binge is about delight. It’s not. It’s about compulsion. It’s the act of eating, not the food itself, and the food itself barely matters.

As with all parts of my eating journey, I’m a bit fascinated by this. I am both in it and observing it. I can look back through my whole day and see what had been upsetting me and what was beyond my ability to manage. I can see what were my stressors. I can sense the effects of my hormones, my age. All this knowledge, all this awareness, and in the end, the compulsion wins out. 

I was talking on the phone with my daughter in the evening and blah blah blahing about all those stressors. I didn’t mention the one that I think did me in, and it was this. I took a Nia class in the morning, and Julie, our instructor, asked us to dance like 6 year olds, with delight, and that was fine; I could do that. She said, “Remember what it felt like when you danced this way when you were six.” I suddenly remembered. 

I remembered that I didn’t dance with abandon.  I didn’t giggle and bump and rub. I don’t know if I danced at all. I --  just -- oh. To remember that broke my heart. 

There are lots of Nia teachers who say, “Oh, I’ve always been a dancer” or “My mother says I came out of the womb dancing.” I was holding Olivia on Saturday. She’s not quite three weeks old, and she smiles, yes, she really does, and I can see her enjoying being in her body. She is the most embodied, sensuous, happy baby. 

I don’t think I was that baby, though maybe I was. Maybe my mother would say, sure, I always danced, but I couldn’t get myself to ask her. No, the story was that I just talked and talked and talked - can you imagine that? The story is that we were on a long car ride, and I was going on and on until finally my older sister asked, “Doesn’t she ever shut up?” I paused, for a moment, and then I was off again. Who knows what I had to say at that age. 

Being 51 is a peculiar thing. I can’t really even remember being six years old, yet I can feel the strand from then to now, how some things are still carried within me, how some stories still hold their power. Menopause makes me incredibly teary. It affects my energy and I don’t know whether to fight it with every supplement I can find or just surrender to it and figure if I can eat well, move well, and sleep well, eventually I’ll feel better again. It’s a weird trick of menopause that I am reflecting on these strands of my life. I want to un-strangle. I don’t want to go into the next decade still being tethered to whatever fears, unhappinesses, and traumas I have carried with me from then to now. I’m not saying I want to forget. I’m saying I don’t want to be a prisoner.

I’d like to be a normal eater. I’d like to never, ever binge again. I honestly think at this point that the best I can hope for is that I get through more quickly. That instead of bingeing for days it’s just one day. Instead of one day, it’s just one night. Instead of one night, it’s just one meal. 

If you’ve never felt compelled, if you’ve never done something and watched yourself doing it, maybe horrified and unable to stop it in the moment, then you probably can’t imagine the mix of dread and helplessness. I feel lucky. It’s not drugs or alcohol. I feel lucky it’s not 24/7 and that my mix of eating healthful foods most of the time and keeping my body moving means binges are more infrequent than not. 

I feel shame, too, though not enough shame to not publish this (almost, but not quite). I try to convince myself it’s not shameful. It’s just another part of life. It’s just a stupid human trick, and we all have them; we all have something. But the shame isn’t about eating or bingeing or even being out of control (almost, but not quite). The shame is about having been forced to eat someone else’s guilt, and I did, and I made it my own and grew it big. You know what else shames me? I can’t shut up. I just keep talking. The binge flows out instead of in. Here! See me? See me? Listen! Listen! I can’t shut up.

Judgmental


I’ve lost weight.

I feel good at this weight. It feels natural, normal, right. Most of my life, I’ve been heavier than this weight.

The T word came out again recently. Someone called me “tiny.” It used to bug the heck out of me. Now, I’m like, whatever. That’s how I appear to someone else. It doesn’t matter. 

A friend worried I’d lost too much weight. I gain and lose weight all the time, so I’ve been there and done that one, too. Some people think I look great, and some people think I look frail. Great, tiny, frail. 

I grew up in So Cal. There are two weights there, thin and fat. Underweight = thin and everything else is still-needs-to-lose weight. Sorry not sorry but I don’t think I’m thin. I think I’m not fat.

Growing up in So Cal, I was fat. Not fat fat but So Cal fat. I weighed about 20 pounds more than I do today. At one point, I think I may have weighed another 15 pounds more than that. I thought being fat was a sin against God. Really. It was very dramatic.

I care a shit ton about my weight. I feel happier when my weight is lower than when it’s higher. I am embarrassed to care but there it is: I care. It is terribly shallow to feel happier at one weight than at another. That’s the pleasant thing about shame; there’s always enough to go around. I am ashamed when I weigh too much and ashamed when I’m happy that I weigh less. I have designed this perfectly so that I can always, always be ashamed of my relationship with my body. 

Here’s what I like about how I’m eating now. It’s highly restricted and that works perfectly for me. I like not being so full that I’m uncomfortable. I really really like that. I like not feeling driven by cravings, feeling driven to eat, feeling overwhelmed by a compulsion. I really really really like that. My diet is exceptionally nurturing. I’m eating so much organic produce that my shit is green. I don’t miss the sweetened stuff, and I like not missing it. I feel free. My diet is highly restricted, and I feel free. I really really really really like that. 

Some people are vegan. Some are paleo. Some eat only raw food. I have had judgements about other people’s diets, except that lately, I don’t. If you’ve found a way to eat that’s enjoyable for you, a way that helps you maintain a weight that makes you happy, and this way of eating keeps you healthy, you keep rocking that special diet. 

Our digestion is not the result of food in, food out. Our digestion is affected by everything in our lives: our hormones, our activities, our thoughts, our feelings. Recently, my digestion was uneasy. I panicked -- oh no! I must be eating something that’s upsetting my digestion! oh no! what is it? what should I not be eating? Oh no! 

I decided it probably was a supplement I’d been taking. I stopped taking it, and my digestion got better. But maybe it wasn’t the supplement. Maybe it was thoughts I was having, or my sleep, or my hormones, or the sum total of all those factors. 

If I want good digestion, if I want to feel happily fueled, if I want to feel nurtured, it’s going to take more than restricting which foods I eat. It’s going to take expanding my life to include more ease and kindness. I need to eat forgiveness.


part II


Last night, I caught myself being judgmental and mean. I quickly apologized, and my apology was quickly and graciously accepted. The person I had slammed noted she felt it happened a lot, and my first thought was: no, I don’t do that. My second thought was: shit, I totally do that. 

I’m not slap a puppy mean. I’m not cruel, either, and I’m capable of being warm and supportive. But, there’s something about me, something keen and sharp, something judgmental, that can make others a bit afraid of me. 

As I write that, I feel the pain of it. It sticks in my throat and the tears come. I am so sorry.

I would like for others to view me more warmly. I’d like to receive fewer negative judgments from others. Let’s be real: I’d like to stop being a bitch. 

Some people really own their inner bitch. They like being assertive in that way. It used to serve me, I guess. The thing is that the inner bitch often is turned inward, and I give myself a hell of a time. I judge everything I do and say. I am relentless.

You think when I’m talking about my weight that I’m talking about my weight. I’m not. I’m talking about this unrelenting judgment, turned inward, turned outward, this pre-emptive strike. 

When I talk about healing, I go to the basics: good food, good rest, good support. Good choices. Deep reflection. I’m talking about touching on my core shame and letting some of that go. I’m talking about the layers I put on top of that shame to hide the shame. I’m talking about the ways I learned to be to defend myself. You know why I eat such a crazy diet? My whole life, that’s why. I don’t mind. I don’t mind the crazy, restrictive diet, really. But this being judgmental to others? That shit has got to go. 

If I want others to stop hating on me, I have to stop projecting my judgements outward. If I want to stop hating on myself, I’m going to have to make a habit of not being a hater.