Saturday, April 12, 2008

Your own half acre

I'm in the middle of reading another Geneen Roth book. (Okay, I'm addicted. But in my defense, she truly is an amazing writer!)

Once again there are so many passages that move me from all the books that I've read by her (so far) and someday, I'll share them all with you. But for now, I'll leave you with this one from "The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It: Over the edge and back with my dad, my cat, and me." (New York: Harmony Books, 2004.)

"My friend Annie once told me that not everyone wants life to be a mountaintop experience. She said that we all get our emotional half acres to tend while we are alive. Some people grow potatoes, and some grow roses, but it's not our business what someone else does with their half acre." page 114

When my husband and I owned a house and an almost acre of land, I eventually started a garden. I carved out a section from the semi-wilderness that was once the former owner's garden (specifically, the length and width of one roll of black plastic.) I turned the soil by hand. (Talk about therapeutic... this was in the early days of my recovery.) I planted the already started plants and watched them grow.

My philosophy was this - I won't plant/grow anything that I couldn't eat. Flowers (except for the bulbs that the former owner had planted) had to be edible. So I didn't have many flowers for beauty sake.

Looking back, it makes a lot more sense.

I was beginning my (very long) road through recovery. ED still had me in his grip and some of the first issues I dealt with (needed to deal with) were my beliefs about me. At the time, I didn't think I deserved anything. I needed to earn everything - burn each calorie I wanted to eat, work for every dollar I spent. Feed others first, provide for their needs, and reluctantly take the scraps for myself.

It makes sense that the plants in my garden needed to be useful to be wanted. Because that was what I believed was true for me. I needed to be useful to be wanted, to be given what I needed in life.

The next year, my garden changed a little. I planted a few sundrops (yellow flowers that I was told would grow like made in the shady spot I wanted to fill.)
You can't eat sundrops. I planted them anyway. And on Father's Day, I plucked a bunch as a centerpiece for the dinner I made my husband. (First course, salad from the swiss chard and basil I grew in my garden.)

And guess what? My mindset about myself had changed a little, too. I was beginning to see that everyone deserves to have her needs filled. Needs are just that - necessities without which we can not live. I was beginning to understand that food, water, air were not the only necessities in life. I started to see that love was a big necessity - one that a person should not need to earn to receive.

Three years have passed since I last prepared a garden for spring. My hubby and I (blissfully) no longer have land to maintain. (Hurray for apartment life!) But if I did have a garden this year, I think I would plant my favorite veggies (a variety of tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, sweet cherry and banana peppers, swiss chard and spinach, and pumpkins,) a healthy crop of herbs (basil and parsley, dill and spearmint,) and a bounty of flowers - some for cutting and bringing indoors, some for the beauty they provide outside.

Beauty is the embodiment of love. In nature, it can be the vibrant color of a violet, the brightness of a cherry blossom, the gentle ripple on a lake. Even the violent crash of lightning which illuminates the sky for a split second or two. Like air, we need to breathe it in, let it saturate every cell in our body. We need to allow ourselves to enjoy it wherever and whenever we are.

After five years of journeying through the land of recovery, I still need reminders to stop and smell the roses. But at least my garden has them now.

So what is in your half acre?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Breaking free...

I've been reading Geneen Roth books for a few weeks now.

I had been digging my heels in for too long over it. Many people along my journey have recommended her books to me, but I demured. "I'm not a binge-eater, so how would her books help me??"

But I had a coupon to an online used bookstore. Four of her books were $4 each, so I took the plunge and splurged.

The first one I read was "When Food Is Love." Next, I picked up "Appetites." So many passages of both books spoke to me. Someday, I'll share them with you (along with the whys.) But the reason I bring this up today is due to a discussion I had this morning with a friend/co-worker (will call him Touchdown.)

Touchdown has been on and off Weight Watchers for years. Losing weight, then gaining back more. You know the cycle. For the past year or so, Touchdown has worked out with the same trainer I have; he's also taken many of the fitness classes offered at my work.

To my eyes, he looks healthy and fit.

He still wants to lose I forget how many pounds. (He was/is one of the ringleaders in the Biggest Loser contests at work.)

So this morning, we had a meeting over a project that I pawned off on his boss who then assigned it to him. So after we discussed our next actions with the project, he asks me if I've ever seen the weight-loss guy on TLC. "I Can Make You Thin."

I reply that I've never watched it. I try not to watch those things (although that's like trying not to watch a plane crash in front of you.) I ask him to tell me more about it.

He explains that the premise of Paul McKenna is that you can eat whatever you want when you're hungry, but you need to take a bite, put down the fork, and enjoy it. Then, before taking another bite, you need to assess your satiety/fullness.

I said to Touchdown that it sounded just like Geneen Roth and that I've been trying to do that for a long time now. But for me, it's taking me a lot longer to get the hang of it because of the connection that food and emotions have in my life. (aka - eating disorder.)

So he's been on the "program" for a few days and he is amazed at how little food it takes to satisfy him. He mentioned how he used to eat 2 turkey subs with mustard and veggies (not because he particularly likes turkey subs with mustard, but because it was "healthy" and "good.") One day (after implementing his new philosophy,) he goes to the same sub shop. He listened to his body which told him that he really wanted an Italian sub with hot pepper oil. So he ordered one. And (low and behold), he was satisfied with only half the sub. When he was hungry again later, he finished it.

I said that it was wonderful! But the philosophy, the "program" has been around for ages. I showed him the Geneen Roth book that I'm currently reading ("Why Weight?") and said that Geneen has been around since the late 80s - saying almost the exact same things (only she called it "Breaking Free.")

I also mentioned that the premise is similiar to "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guilano who talks about setting your table, sitting down to eat, and enjoying each bite as if you were trying to describe the taste, texture, feel to someone else.

He was amazed that these programs/philosophies haven't gotten more press.*

So I told him that these programs/philosophies/approaches/premises are truly wonderful and they do work. For most people.

For me though, I need to be careful.

Because when I am in the throes of my eating disorder, ED using these tactics against me. [See an earlier post] I told Touchdown about how I used these same tactics to "savor" one container of yogurt or "enjoy" one cucumber slice. It can be quite dangerous for me, if I don't remember that the other premise of these authors is that you eat until you are full.

For a few weeks, I was playing the numbers game with myself (counting calories, weighing myself almost every day, obsessing over it.) Always eating the minimum amounts (set by my nutritionist) at least, but berating myself for eating more. As with every time I slip, emotions played a huge part. Specifically not wanting to feel them.

Last week, I met with a new therapist for the second time. All sorts of feelings were unleashed. My first reaction was to leash them back up (by controlling/obsessing over what I eat.) But I was tired of doing that. I was tired of the constant beatings because I wanted an extra serving of this or one of those.

I had finished all of "When Food Is Love" and most of "Appetites." Through these books, I remembered that controlling food is only delaying the inevitable. Being "good" and only eating enough to stay alive will not win me love. Being thinner will not help me heal.

So, I broke free. Starting eating everything I wanted, whenever I wanted. I was frightened that I'd never stop. For the first few days, I'd have one serving of an item I craved, feel satisfied with it, then then move on to the next craving. Craving after craving after craving. I was petrified!!

But not once throughout this whole week, have I felt stuffed to the gills sick.
Because once I was full/satisfied, I stopped.

Feeling full is frightening for me. Incredibly so.

Because feeling full is admitting to myself that I deserve nourishment. That I deserve to take care of myself. That I deserve to be loved.

Being full reminds me that there is a part of me not quite full yet. The part of me that is wounded, still. That needs to heal. That still feels pain and suffering. That part that is not at peace.

I don't like being reminded of that part. This is the part that I've spent decades trying to deny existed. Because it wasn't supposed to exist. Not in my life. Not in my family.

But it did.

And still does.

But I can change that.

Just like I am teaching myself to be okay with feeling full after eating my stomach's desires, I can teach myself to feel and be okay with feeling full of feelings.

Just like I am breaking free of controlling food, I will break free of controlling emotions.

Someday, I will eat, feel, live freely.

*The more I think about it, the more I'm not amazed. The diet/weight loss industry is too huge and controls a LOT of advertising dollars, from which TV shows, magazines and newspapers covet.