Sunday, January 30, 2011

Women and Food

For the last four years, I've participated in a group I started called Women and Money. Feeling tentative in my relationship with money, I sought support from other women who too wanted to change their relationship to financial issues, preferably from fear and anxiety to comfort and capability. That group is ongoing and although the membership changes as people reach their goals and move on and are replaced, the support I find to stay in the conversation and make change is important to me.

Today, I called together five other women willing to explore the possibility of a similar support gathering around Women and Food. We spent 90 minutes today talking about our relationships with food and how we each would like to find peace in that relationship rather than guilt, anger, and anxiety. Among is a wealth of knowledge of nutrition, dieting, weight loss and regain, low self-esteem, body image issues although none of us is a professional in any of these fields. We bring to bear the decades of experience, including memberships in Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers, and stacks of books that we have weathered in a culture of overabundant food, obsession with thinness, and an addiction to dissatisfaction.

Although we were tempted at times to shift into our histories with struggling with food, our collective intention is to invest in solution rather than problem, the yearning for something different rather than the obstacles that have kept us stuck. We spent some time writing about what we would like to see happen and how we might get there, including goofy and wacky ways to make change. We then each took on a small change we were willing to explore this next month.

I don't know if the amazing successes we've seen in the Women and Money group can be replicated with food. The issues are different and yet surprisingly similar. Lack in the face of abundance, fear in the face of plenty. But I want to keep moving forward in my explorations and am glad to have some others as companions on the journey.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finding ways to express my feelings I


Sometimes it’s a turtle of an old man,
shrunken back into his clothes,
which provide no protection at all.
Sometimes it’s a girl,
a coltish magpie with bits of silver in beak and claw,
boots clipping on the pavement.

The sign, the lie: “Anything helps.”
Is there apology in an apple? Dignity in a dollar?

I wish them well but cannot face them.
The weight of introversion on my shoulders shames me.
I can no more speak to these faces
than to the well-dressed woman
who offers to spray me with scent at Macys.

But the man, the girl, they don’t know this.
I fear they see my shyness as indifference
and that shames me more.
I want my own sign.
“Driver with a generous heart. Too shy to speak to strangers.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How the universe is responding

It's been 3+ weeks since I set my intention to live spaciously this year. Since that time, things have been unfolding in a whole different way. First instead of work coming in big impossible packages, it's been steady with plenty of time between projects. Second, using the 3-item to-do list has made an amazing difference in my day.

I still have a big master list but each morning, I choose 3 feasible items (or parts of projects) to be on my work list and I include, some days, my creative activities so that those get prioritized as well , rather than relegated to leftover time, of which there used to be precious little. Here's what my list looked like today;

Edit pages 77-150 of the Fery project
Write two poems
Send out three invoices and two estimates

Write my two blogs
Go to the spa and use Gretchen's gift certificate

Before I would have looked at my master list, started doing things, and hoped I could cram in a lot. Instead, I'm practicing figuring out how much time things will take and giving myself no more than 8 hours of activity for both work and self-care, preferably less. 

On the weekends, I'm not making a list though I am welcome to pick something from the master list IF I want to.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have always been overly responsible and feeling responsible for my whole to-do list has been overwhelming. While I acknowlege that my to-do list is ultimately my responsibility, it isn't today. Only the items on today's list are today's responsibility. I can't tell you how freeing this is. One day at a time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How do I meet this moment?

My old boy is fading. A few months from 19, he has been with me since a tiny kitten of fur and eyes and purr. Yesterday a good day. Hearty appetite, tossed the toy mouse around for a moment or two. Last night, up and up again and up again. I despair at soothing him. Today he's worse. Eating little, restless and weary. I brush him gently, try to tempt him with treats.

Is it time to call the vet to come and release him? Does he want instead to do it on his own? Is he in pain? Disoriented? Or just old and fading?

I am very sad. Some cats are familiars, some not. He is one. We have had much joy in each other's company and he has seen me through good and bad times. I do my best to listen carefully but I am not sure how to meet this moment.

Today I wrote poems again. Here are two, from each to the other:

Ash Street Nocturne: Jill

Heart racing, restless deep
In the bones
He wakes me hour upon hour
For one bite of food or two
Then calls again and again
In the ghostly voice, his chords as
Wasted as the muscles of his back

I stand with him on the carpet in the deep darkness
I run my hand over the once sleek coat
Now gone to shaggy clumps
No will left to preen

I soothe with words he cannot hear
Hoping my eyes carry the deep love I feel
And trusting that the weight of 18 years together
Can anchor us to each other for whatever remains

Ash Street Nocturne: Reinie

Pull of the full moon through the cherry tree
Across the courtyard, around by the garages,
And down the concrete corridor
Scent of raccoon, bird droppings, the kibble left out on the porch
Memory, dream, awakening
Two yards, four feet fast now in some strange slow place

The earth moves. Her footsteps on the old floor
I was sleeping or maybe not
Stretched out on the carpet or curled in the basket
I pull the carpet up and let it fall, put my nose on her cheek
She rises.

We dance to the kitchen
Hungry, thirsty
Yes, no, not that, maybe that

Sometimes I hang on, doesn’t she know?
Sometimes I let go, and nothing moves me
And always just now. It’s just now.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Feeling safe: Is it an inside job?

Yesterday, at Monday Muses, a monthly creativity group, we got into a conversation about money. About having enough money to pay for art supplies, having enough money to have some leisure, having enough money to travel now or when we retire. The conversation moved rather inevitably to how much is enough and our acknowledgement that in a culture focused on scarcity, it's really hard to know when enough is enough. Double what we have now? Three times? Two million dollars?

Then last night a friend called. She's wanting to lose some weight. She has a tremendous knowledge of nutrition and fitness, works with a trainer, watches what she eats. And the last 20 pounds of loss continue to elude her. We talked about many things but over the course of our conversation, what struck me was her underlying hesitancy to lose the weight for fear of being unsafe somehow in her body. And I got to thinking about how I always wanted a man to find me attractive but not all men. I didn't want the attentions of men on the street; I just wanted to be desired by the man I wanted.

An hour later, I had a conversation with my sister about the poem I posted here on Sunday. And after we hung up, I realized that I had let go of the long-standing relationships with two women friends because I no longer felt safe with them; whether that fear came from inside me or from them, I don't know, but I didn't feel safe to say what I thought or feel my feelings in their company.

Three conversations in the space of 5 hours that hinged around safety. Of course, the conversation with the friend about weight loss made me think of my own many extra pounds and whether they make me feel safer. I don't think my relationship with food is that simple, or rather that singular in focus. I overeat because when I eat enough, I get numb, I get sated, and I don't care that I don't feel safe. The food doesn't make me feel safer, it makes me not care.

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I had a great body--I was tall, thin enough, well-proportioned. It drew a lot of men to me. I wasn't happy with any of them for very long, and they didn't make me feel safe. In some ways, I have felt safer (emotionally) on my own these last 20 years. But the underlying safety issue remains.

If one doesn't feel safe as a child in one's home, can one ever feel safe again? If one doesn't feel safe in one's country, in one's culture, in one's body, how do we find peace?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A poem I wrote about what's going on with me lately

The Partial Explanation

Falling out, falling away
old friends struggle to know me.
The terrain of shared experience that we built on slides away like a hillside in Haiti.

The truth pops out of me now like a hand from the mud,
unexpected, reaching, frightening
to hear from one who has long held her peace.

I draw the line at their pressure.
My resistance is new,
their resistance illuminates a path into their center
but I turn away. Conversations about me swirl around
like so many dry leaves past their potency.
Two friends are eager to share perceptions and unsolicited advice.
No one asks me what is happening;
no one is interested in even a partial explanation.

I leave the village, led on by the faint lantern of the inner voice.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The 3-item to-do list and being less responsible

Since I stepped back into my regular life after retreat, I've been trying out the idea of the 3-item to-do list. A friend is also doing it and each morning we email each other with items on our list. Yesterday, mine looked like this:

Work: Send off an estimate on the ringmaster edit project
           Do at least one newsletter intro for Greg
           Teach my writing group in the evening

Self-care: Gym, grocery shopping, lunch with Scot

While I maintain both a written and mental master list of many more things, choosing only 3 to be responsible for each day is a huge relief. It's, of course, a way of priotizing--focusing on what is most urgent or time-sensitive or politically important. It also keeps me focused. Other things that call for my attention (an inquiry from a prospective client, a tax issue, the arrival of a big project) must wait their turn as I've already made a commitment of my time.

Another benefit is that I consciously set boundaries around the amount of time I am going to work on a particular day. The group in the evening would take about 3.5 hours to prep and teach. The sample edit and estimate would take 30 minutes. The newsletter intro for Greg was a bit tougher to estimate but I'd done some before in about 90 minutes. So I was committing 5.5 hours to my work day.

Before, I would seen my work day "assignment" as getting as much done as possible for Greg (there are 8 pieces to write and they all would have been looming there over me), working as long as I could tolerate (most of the day), then teaching my course. I would have seen the lunch with Scot and grocery shopping as interruptions rather than me taking care of myself.

This new practice is helping me feel less responsible for everything I have to do. Each day I am responsible for a reasonable amount, that I set myself and commit to via email. It feels much more spacious.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Post-retreat letdown

Yesterday my friend Bridget and I were congratulating ourselves on escaping the post-retreat letdown we've experienced in the past. Then this morning as I sat writing in my journal and felt like crying and couldn't bear the thought of anything that was on my schedule, I started to laugh. There it was.

It didn't take me long to recognize it (perhaps because of the conversation with Bridget), and I let myself relax into the missing of the serenity and single focus (writing) of my life on retreat. Up there I am able to let go of most of my worries and concerns about the world (we get no news), about my aging cat (now waking me up 5-6 times a night as he moves closer to death), about my own concerns about changing relationships, eating issues, money worries--the "real" life stuff that goes on hold. Life is simpler on retreat, a sort of easier, softer way as we term it in AA.

Instead I've been back a week now. I see how Reinie is deteriorating rapidly and how a hard decision about his welfare is looming straight ahead, how I'm back to eating in front of the TV, how paid work seems a little light for this time of year, how some long-time significant relationships are changing as I change and there's a lot of discomfort and some farewells coming up.

So I can resolve to be even kinder to myself, seek wise counsel, exercise, rest during the day to compensate for the lack of sleep, and keep spaciousness front and center in my desires.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Living spaciously

As most of you know, my intention for 2011 is to live spaciously. Here are some of my ideas for manifesting that.

1. Make my daily to-do list short (no more than 3 items).
2. Practice saying no.
3. Have a regular mind-clearing practice.
4. Reduce visual clutter in home and office.
5. Guard my time jealously.
6. Trust that opportunities will come again if they're right for me.
7. Take a weekly sabbath.
8. Do nothing for at least a brief while each day.
9. Only do something if it makes my heart sing.
10. Eliminate "I'll try"; be clear with yeses and nos.
11. Stand by my new calendar policy.
12. Breathe deeply often.
13. Do less and do it mindfully.
14. Work on one thing at a time.
15. Learn from my cats.
16. Eat slowly.

I'm curious to know if any readers set intentions. If so, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What is a commitment?

My friend Carole commented yesterday on the posting about chocolate in the mail by saying that she was in awe of my commitment and in some despair about her inability to stick to her resolves (Carole, I hope I'm pararphrasing you correctly). So today and yesterday I've been thinking about some of the things that might be contributing to my commitment to not eating dessert.

First, I did a lot of deep personal work to get to this place. I'd been in this conversation with my spiritual director for about three years. It wasn't as if I just got disgusted one day and swore off dessert. I learned many things in my deep conversations with Anna. And I gave up my true love, ice cream, about 6 months earlier. So I prepared myself sort of bit by bit and addressed some of the deep emotional reasons for my behavior. I don't know if I would have had this kind of success without all of that work.

Second, I knew I was ready. I didn't have to talk myself into anything. I didn't do it from a "should" but rather from a "want to." The "want to" was not "I want to not eat sugar"--the "want to" was "I want to not live in shame and guilt around what I'm eating." The shame and guilt I felt around the quantity of unhealthy sweet foods I was eating was eating me, and I wanted that to stop.

Third, I knew there was emotional and spiritual healing that could happen if I could get sugar out of the way. I'd have to let go of the rest of my numbing behaviors to create space for that all to happen, and sugar was the most immediate first step.

Fourth, I have more than 20 years of 12-step work around abstinence under my belt. That has given me some very valuable tools.

I don't know if my path is helpful to others. I just know that this is what has worked for me so far.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chocolate in the mail

I got home from my retreat today to a good-sized pile of mail. A couple of checks, a couple of bills, some catalogs, and a package from my old friend Ingrid in Germany. I was concerned that whatever she had sent had broken as I could feel multiple loose pieces within the package, so I opened it gingerly. Out poured a dozen pieces of gourmet German and Italian chocolate, as well as a nice winter sachet.

The devil of craving sat on my shoulder for about 5 minutes. "Never tried these," he said. "There aren't very many and they'd be quickly eaten and forgotten."

I didn't listen. I thought about bagging them up and giving them to my neighbor or taking them to the gym in the morning. But neither of those felt safe. So I opened them up, dropped them in the garbage, and covered them with the chrysanthemums that had gone to stinky brown in the vase while I was away at the retreat.

I so appreciated the sweetness of Ingrid's gift and her remembering that I prefer milk chocolate to dark. And I appreciated even more my commitment to leave them alone.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Setting my intention for 2011

At our New Year's Eve ritual, we answerd five questions: What are you happy to have experienced, created, or accomplished in 2010? What would you like to have experienced, created, or accomplished in 2011? What are you willing to let go of as the New Year begins? What challenges do you foresee and what support do you need? What one intention would be of most help in the New Year?

In 2008, my intention was to never be in a hurry again.
In 2009, it was to be more rested.
And in 2010, I decided just to continue to practice those first two intentions.

Before we sat down in circle, I didn't know what my intention would be. I hadn't thought about it in advance or made a list of things I wanted to change. That seemed too much like New Year's resolutions. I was willing to just wait and see what would come

And something did. My intention for 2011 is to live spaciously. I want a spacious relationship with time, with my home, with my dreams, with my creativity, with my spirituality. It feels really right.

My next step will be to decide how I can support myself in manifesting that. Stay tuned!