Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stepping into small responsibilities

When my mother died in 1997, my father vowed to honor her memory by making someone smile every day. He lived another 8 years and when I last checked with him a few weeks before his rather sudden death, he had lived into that vow.

My father never saw saving the world as his responsibility. I knew him as a man of considerable integrity who treated employees generously and fairly and loved his family deeply and lived his life providing a good home and college education for his four kids. He was a man who grew kinder and more liberal as he aged but he didn't take on big causes.

I thought of him this morning when I came across a sentence scribbled into my creativity notebook.

I've had any number of conversations with friends about our nagging guilt about not solving the world's problems.The guilt comes, for my part anyway, from living a very privileged life. I am American, white, highly educated, skilled, have enough money, a comfortable home, more than enough of everything and way more than most people on the planet. Surely, all that abundance comes with big responsibilities to take care of others. Yet I am also introverted, need a lot of solitude, and smart enough to know that our global problems are just that: global. It will take more than me and more than a village to fix them. So I am learning to be content to make the efforts I can.

And then I found this quote: "The purpose of life is to help others live slightly less hard lives." What an amazing purpose to have for one's life! That means that my contributing to the food bank and the humane society, my volunteering, my voting, my petting of stray cats--it all adds up to helping others live slightly less hard lives. A responsibility I can easily step into.

Like my dad with his smiles.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

a very thoughtful commentary

This is from How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, a very funny and insightful memoir by a British woman.  It was sent to me by my good friend Pam Stringer. Enjoy!

Why is being fat treated as a cross between terrible shame and utter tragedy? Something that—for a woman—is treated as somewhere in between sustaining a sizable facial scar and sleeping with the Nazis? Why will women happy boast-moan about spending too much…drinking too much…and working too hard…but never, ever about eating too much? Why is unhappy eating the most pointlessly secret—it’s not like you can hide a six-KitKats-a-day habit for very long—of miseries?

There’s a pecking order of unhappiness. The heroin addicts look down on the coke addicts. The coke addicts look down on the alcoholics. And everyone thinks the people with eating disorders—fat or thin—are scum. Of all the overwhelming compulsions you can be ruined by, all of them have some potential for some perverted, self-destructive fascination—except eating.

Overeating, or comfort eating, is the cheap, meek option for self-satisfaction, and self-obliteration. You get all the temporary release of drinking, fucking, or taking drugs, but without—and I think this is the important bit—ever being left in a state where you can’t remain responsible and cogent. In a nutshell, then by choosing food as your drug—sugar highs, or the deep soporific calm of carbs, the Valium of the working classes—you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, pop in on your mum, and then stay up all night with an ill five-year-old—something that is not an option if you’re caning off a gigantic bag of skunk or regularly climbing into the cupboard under the stairs and knocking back quarts of Scotch.

Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that’s why it’s come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. It’s a way of fucking yourself up while still remaining fully functional, because you have to. Fat people aren’t indulging in the “luxury” of their addiction making them useless, chaotic, or a burden. Instead, they are slowly self-destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. And that’s why it’s so often a woman’s addiction of choice. All the quietly eating mums. All the KitKats in office drawers. All the unhappy moments, late at night, caught only in the fridge light.

I sometimes wonder if the only way we’ll ever get around to properly considering overeating is if it does come to take on the same perverse rock ‘n’ roll cool of other addictions. Perhaps it’s time for women to finally stop being secretive about their vices and start treating them like all other addicts treat their habits instead. Coming into the office looking rattled, sighing, “Man, I was on the shepherd’s pie last night like you wouldn’t believe. I had, like MASH in my EYEBROWS by 10 p.m. I was on a total mince rush!”

23 years

Today is my sobriety anniversary. 23 years since I last picked up a drink. 8,395 days one at a time.

It's an astonishing amount of time for someone who was a daily drinker, who could not go more than 4 hours without a drink, who was drunk all day every day for months at a time.

In some ways, it seems like that life happened to another person. In other ways, I am so conscious of that struggling part of myself, who comes back around from time to time with questions and concerns.

AA saved my life, saved my sanity, perhaps saved my soul. I am inexpressibly thankful for the life I have now, one I could never have imagined in those early days. I am full of gratitude today.

If you are struggling to stay sober when you read this, hang in there. It is so worth it!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Missing feelings, not flavors

Today is the 11th day free of my beloved banana Popsicles. On Labor Day, I was able to eat the last ones and make a commitment to not purchasing or eating any until Oct 1 or beyond. So far it hasn't been bad. I was away for 5 days with family and we ate well and healthy and I just didn't need them. Home again, I've been able to eat other, healthier snacks when needed and go without snacks some of the time.

I enjoyed them but I was being to eat them really mindlessly so maybe it's not surprising that I don't miss the taste of them. But I do miss the idea of them and the way that idea made me feel. That may sound funny, to crave an idea or a feeling but I do.

When I would come back from the store with a half-dozen boxes of Frut Stix, I would feel very secure, very happy, and almost excited. I had plenty. I wasn't going to run out, I could eat all I wanted, I was safe and satisfaction was waiting for me right there in the freezer.

There's a distinct experience of anxiety for me when I don't have what I need and enough of it. And a feeling of contentment when I do. I had that sense of contentment and enough-ness when I had enough alcohol, especially on a Friday night. Or after I got sober, when I had enough chocolate or enough ice cream or enough sweets. Or lately enough banana Frut Stix.

I miss that sense of contentment, of anticipation of satisfaction, of enough-ness. It's Friday night and I just have to be with not having that. I feel very sad.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Taking the leap--or at least one leap

Monday I ate my last banana popsicles. Over the weekend I became ready to let them go and decided I would abstain from buying and eating them until October 1. It seems a good incremental leap to make as it's the one food that is driving the addictive part of overeating for me.

Changing my eating habits and preferences are not as simple as abstaining from one particular food or even a group of foods like dessert. I have learned over these years to eat more than I need, to prefer feeling stuffed to having just enough, to eat an overabundance of carbs, to dislike being hungry, to deal with anxiety by feeding myself, to couple relaxing with TV or a novel with food.

I don't expect all of these habits of mind and body to resolve themselves by deciding to not eat Frut Stix obsessively. But it's a start. And it's the most obviously troublesome symptom. So I'm starting there.