Week 5 Food Peace Journey – Patience & Kindness

So week five has come to a close today and I have not turned into a whale. My clothes fit about the same. My jeans feel looser but I have no idea if I lost weight or not because that number no longer matters. The freedom of not weighing myself frequently has only added to my happiness about my choice to give up dieting. Though I will admit, there are times, where I feel panicky as if not knowing that number will somehow harm me. I’m afraid I will wake up and not be able to get into my jeans, so I tried on my size down jeans that are just a little too tight at the moment to wear comfortably and I can still get into them. I wish I did not feel panicked at the thought of getting larger. So I’m still working on peace in that aspect.

I bought the Intuitive Eating Workbook by Evelyn Tripoli and Elyse Resch this week and started into the exercises today. I think a point the authors make in the front of the book is how this doesn’t happen overnight and to be kind with yourself during the journey even if you binge eat, eat too much, eat for comfort etc. That it can take a long time to really master intuitive eating and there will be moments or times when you slip. Diet recovery is what this is. One of the exercises was a table where you chronicled your diet history. I can’t remember every diet I’ve ever been on so I summarized but then I remembered a period in my life during ages 24-25, that I gave up dieting. We had a house fire and lost everything and then moved to Kendallville, Indiana, close to where my first husband worked. We rented this home out on some farmland and tended the owner’s trail horses as well as helped with his business, cattle and horses. I had two small daughters and mid way through my 25th year, I became pregnant.

For whatever reason, maybe just the shock of losing everything material, I forgot about dieting. I was staying at home with my daughters, working on the farm, being active without thinking about it. Doing things I loved, like having a garden and being around animals. We didn’t have a lot of money so I cooked most of our meals with a fast food treat now and again. As far as I can remember, I ate when I was hungry, didn’t worry about what I was eating and other than working on the farm and walking the treadmill I bought at Walmart for Christmas, that was it. When spring came, I needed some cooler clothes. We were doing better money wise at this point, so I decided to start shopping a little bit every pay day to refurbish my lost wardrobe. I remember trying on a dress for Easter and finding that my size was too big. See, I had been living pretty much in sweat pants and loose clothing that I had bought after the fire. Since I wasn’t working outside of the home, these had sufficed. Cheap and comfy but I hadn’t realized I had been tightening the sweat pants draw string. I had somehow gone from a size 18/20 to a 14/16 without even trying.

I still can remember that moment in the dressing room when I tried on the size 20 dress only to have it hang off my body. Then when the size 14 fit, I was practically jumping up and down in the fitting room. After I gave birth to my third daughter, I was a size 16 and started into the diet and working out for exercise routine which eventually ballooned me up to a very uncomfortable size 22. My knees hurt walking up the stairs from my heft. I’d diet, fail, binge, diet, fail, binge. I was really unhappy in my 30’s, and by the time I was 35, I was severely depressed and threatening to run out of clothing sizes. Your body is so efficient at saving you from starvation, you just getting fatter and fatter by dieting.

The authors quoted some interesting studies. Six year study of the Biggest Loser contestants shows that their metabolism had slowed down 500 calories a day. A day! The body fought back and made itself more efficient. They also found the contestants had more lean muscle mass at the beginning than at the end after the weight loss. The body was cannibalizing itself for energy. We think back to years before people were obsessed by dieting which really started in earnest in the 1970’s and we see pictures of normally not overweight people. They say portion sizes were less, people didn’t eat out as much and so on. Which is all true. But they also weren’t dieting as a whole or a way of life.

Here is something else in The Intuitive Eating Workbook that I found interesting. A study with overweight Type 2 diabetes people was done over six years with the control group not being placed on diet and exercise that the test group participated in. At the end of the six years, the dieters had a worse prognosis than those in the control group. Researchers were shocked. A UCLA study found that found that fifty-million people who were overweight or obese per BMI standards were actually healthy otherwise. I’ve always felt that BMI is a load of crap. If you want the study references, send me a message and I’ll point you to them.

Dieting could very possibly making us unhealthier in the long run. That is an interesting concept. But when I think back to some of the times when I was suffering most especially with digestive issues was when I had been dieting frequently or strictly. Maybe restricting your food intake and ignoring your body’s needs causes sickness. I mean it does make sense. Your body is asking for what it needs and you smack it down and say NO!. I wish I could attest to whether or not I feel better or more energetic, but two of the five weeks, I have been fighting a nasty flu. I’ll report back on that at a later time.

On a side note, I found a new body-positive podcast called Fearless Rebelle Radio by Summer Innanen. I haven’t finished Episode #111 – Change Your Relationship to Movement – With Louise Green – author of Big Fit Girl but so far I am loving the whole bigger body – fitness message in this episode. It’s like going to group therapy, with the having to sit in an awkward circle with strangers part. I feel very uplifted listening to podcasts like this that aren’t about getting skinny, but doing movement you love without the purpose of losing weight. Actually, the more physically active I become, the less weight loss I saw anyway as I put on muscle. But normally my measurements would decrease but the idea of giving even that aspect up and just enjoying my favorite fitness pursuits like cycling is so freeing and joyful. Challenging myself to new fitness levels because it makes me feel good and not to lose 10 pounds. Check out Fearless Rebelle Radio for yourself. Summer has a lot of different topics.

So in conclusion, all this is a work in progress but it is getting a bit more automatic. Some days I eat often and other days not much at all. Sometimes I will fix or reheat something only to find I don’t want it so I don’t force myself to eat it. It’s nice to not eat something I don’t really want. I do have a long road to go, probably a lifetime but I am happy that I’ve gone in this direction. I hope others will join me as well, shrugging off the chains of calorie counting and forced gym time. Life is truly so short, eat the cake, if you’re hungry and want it!

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Week 3: Peace With Food Journal – Stay Strong!

This week has been about being very mindful of diet mentality and behavior. It has also been about not weighing myself eve though the urge to “check” and see if I’ve made any progress is powerful. But I am afraid if I give in to my urge to step on that damned scale, I turn my intuitive eating lifestyle that I am cultivating into a ‘diet’. All these years of judging myself based on what I weigh and my size is going to take some time to overcome. I wish it was overnight but it’s going to take hard work. I can’t undo years of thinking that my weight and body size define who I am as a person. Smaller = better person & happier. Bigger = Miserable failure.

I reflected over my life and think of all the diets I’ve tried, the millions of magazine articles I’ve read, all the health tips and studies which the next year, they are saying oh never mind, it’s actually okay in moderation. Coffee won’t really give you diabetes or whatever. Or eggs won’t kill you. My great-grandmother, Sadie, always said everything in moderation. She lived to be almost 101 years old. The only thing I remembered she would do is eat a banana and drink orange juice every day to keep her mind in good shape as she aged. It certainly didn’t hurt her. I mean there are some things you don’t want to have ‘just a little’ of such as crack and heroin. But as far as food, unless you have a severe allergy or medical issue forbidding a food, I can’t think of anything that if you just had a bit of it, that it’s going to kill you.

In other words, food isn’t the enemy. Food is our friend and we’ve been villainizing it for years. And then there are the ‘miracle’ foods that I have yet to have experienced a miracle from eating grapefruit 2x’s a day for weeks. Common sense need to take over here. If diets worked, I wouldn’t be fat. If all the drinks and diet aids etc. companies want you to push worked, we wouldn’t be fat and then we wouldn’t need these products. They want you to feel you must be dependent on them and keep buying them because they want their cut of the billions spent in the diet industry. Think of what would happen if we all took the money we spent on diet products/drinks, diet books, programs, gyms we hate, etc. and put toward world hunger? Billions of dollars to feed the starving in our country and other countries.

Billions. Billions. According to Time Magazine, 66.7 BILLION….. What good could we do in the world, in our neighborhood, with that money? Remember the diet industry doesn’t want you to get thin without having to continue on their meetings or products because they want your money. That’s all it is about, the almighty buck. There isn’t some team of corporate board members sitting at the fancy conference table saying, ‘Gee, Bob, I really want to help people who are overweight, let’s find the fix for it and give it out at low-cost without any maintenance products, etc. to keep funneling money into our pockets. We will cure obesity.” I mean maybe there is, but I highly doubt it. Scientifically, this may be happening but they have yet to find the ‘fix’ for obesity just yet. I’m going to find out if my ‘fix’ is just to trust myself and my body for what it wants.

Also, I am working on my ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food labels that are burned into my brain much like the grape jelly the other week. I ate grape jelly and my health did not come to a sweeping halt. Grape jelly isn’t ‘bad’. Yes it has sugar in it and not a lot of nutritional value but it tastes so good. And guess what? I didn’t binge on grape jelly by having it. No giant spoon in the jar taking huge bites of nothing but wiggly dark purple grape jelly. One day at work this week, I had the distinct craving for little cookies that come in the vending machine. So I took a handful of change, wandered down to the break room and studied the offerings. The little vanilla cream sandwich cookies or the tiny choc chip cookies? Chocolate chip won. I took them back to my desk, put down a napkin and opened is so the cookies spilled out the bright blue packaging. Then I slowly enjoyed and savored each cookie. I didn’t shovel them into my mouth like I had to hurry up and eat them before someone saw the fat girl was eating tiny cookies. I debated on whether to go get a second pack. I scanned my body to see what it wanted and one pack was just fine. World didn’t end. I didn’t go up a size. And I was happy.

So essentially this week is just staying strong. Keeping on the path of teaching myself to listen to my body, using intuitive eating. While it’s a simple theory, overcoming years of dieting behavior and judgmental crap makes it more difficult than one would think. The other thing I continue to work on is showing myself kindness and not judging myself. If I eat a little too much at a meal and am overly full, I stop myself from saying things in my mind like “OMG, you just are such a pig” and replacing them with gentle prompts like “I wonder why I ate too much?” I am trying to replace the judgmental with observational kindness. Learning from the moment rather than beating myself up. I wonder if all the beating myself up over the years has contributed to my overeating? I feel bad for eating too much, beat myself up mentally or sometimes even out loud, then I comfort myself with more food. I can see how that could easily be a cycle.

I’ve continued to listen to my podcasts as much as possible as they are much like going to a support group without the awkward circle of chairs and all that sharing. On one of the podcasts, the dietitian suggested to look at pictures of people of larger bodies having fun, and being happy to reprogram ourselves from shying away from these images or in real life. You can follow ‘Be Your Own Beloved” campaign on Instagram as well if you want to do this. I thought this was an interesting point because I never really thought about if I was uncomfortable looking at people with larger bodies including myself. I’m better at looking at myself in the mirror and being less judgmental than ten years ago, but I’m not really completely comfortable with how I look. I rarely post any full body shots of myself on social media perferring headshots as it hides my body. So I think it’s a good project, working on being more comfortable with myself and other people in larger bodies. Cringing at myself in the full length mirror because I have a belly is not accepting myself!

I’ve adopted the mantra ‘stay strong!’ as a reminder to keep following the principles of intuitive eating, to trust my body, to fight my long engrained diet mentality, to let go of judging myself by weight and size. Though, I have to remain vigilant right now just about every waking hour to fight my old habits, I imagine eventually it will become natural for me. Not that I won’t have setbacks or fall back into dieting mentality. One of the podcasts I listened to this week on Love, Food, was where this woman had been doing very well for a few years with intuitive eating and then suddenly had the impulse to go back to dieting because she saw herself in some photos. She didn’t look the way she thought she should look and it was enough to send her back to dieting for awhile. So, I don’t believe that I will just magically be fixed and not have moments where I slip.

So the bottom line for Week 3:

1. Stay Strong – Keep the faith, stay alert and keep pushing on.

2. Stay Kind – Don’t get upset or angry with yourself. It’s hard sometimes but show yourself love and kindness.

3. Enjoy Food – Eat when you are hungry and only what you want (or the closest you can get to at the time)

4. Stop when Satiated – I’m still learning my cues of when I’m full but noticed this week I wasn’t uncomfortably full but once.

5. Stop and Take Note – If you find yourself overeating or eating when not hungry, stop for a moment and scan what it is you really need, feel or want. Be gentle.

6. You Deserve Love – We are all worthy of love for ourselves as well as love and respect from others no matter what our size. If someone is being disrespectful or harmful to you, you can take charge of the situation. You can’t fix or control their behavior but you can make the choice to speak up for yourself, distance yourself or ignore their stupidity.

That’s it for Week 3. More later. Happy eating! 🙂

Week 2 – Peace With Food Journal

It’s a few days less than a week, but I’m adjusting my ‘week’ so I can publish my blog post on Saturdays when people may have more time to actually sit down and read since most of us work weekdays. I’ve deviated from the daily entries now to sum up my impressions for the week.

Mainly, my diet mentality is strong. As I practice being very mindful of when I am actually hungry, what I truly want to eat and my satiety cues, I realized that I categorize foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as well as ‘make me fat’ and ‘won’t make me fat’. At first, I was angry with myself but I gently reminded my impatient goal-driven brain to be kind with myself, I have many, many years of judging foods and not trusting my body. This is simply a habit I will have to work hard on breaking. There are no “bad” foods, just foods that are more nutritious and less nutritious. I heard this on the Love, Food podcast by Julie Duffy Dillon – Love, Food Podcast. I really recommend her show as it is a very supportive non-diet environment that encourages people to use intuitive eating. Julie is a dietitian as well. I listen to the podcast in the car and at work when I can. One episodes she was talking about how there are no ‘bad’ foods but nutritious and less nutritious foods. In other words, there are no foods off limit but you do want to eat exactly what you want at that moment.

On Wednesday, I made my first big shopping trip since I started my peace with food journey. It was in the evening, the stores were packed because of the upcoming snow storm that hit yesterday with freezing rain and what looks like a few inches of snow from my home office window. I had my list but I also walked through the aisles ignoring the commotion around me as shoppers frantically grabbed supplies (the bread aisle was almost empty). Again, I am fighting the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food ideals I’ve seared into my brain. I took my time, walking up and down most aisles and even the junk food aisle I almost always avoid as if Satan himself will pop up between the chips and pretzels. He will then turn me into a big fat waddling whale. You know what? I didn’t run into Satan and I didn’t make any impulse purchases. I didn’t fill my cart with chips and candy. I walked up and down the junk food aisle twice looking at all the colorful and enticing packaging while asking myself, do I want this? Does this sound good? Do I want giant orange cheese poofs? Hmmm… nope.

I go to two different stores, Kroger for mainly produce and dairy as well as wine and things I can’t get at Wal-Mart. I love Kroger Brand ice cream as well. I did buy ice cream but that was on my list anyway. Since Wednesday, I’ve literally had one small bowl of ice cream. I have not binged on it at all. Because I am allowed to have ice cream so it takes away the urge to woof it down in rebellion. Speaking of binges, Dillion states in her newsletter (she has a free newsletter you can sign up for) that we should be kind to ourselves even when we binge. That it’s okay, it’s our way of coping with something and to soothe ourselves. She has a new podcast relating to this subject this week though I haven’t listened to it yet. Essentially, it comes down to showing ourselves the kindness that we show the people we love and even strangers. Allowing myself any food, to eat when I am hungry and not starving myself until the next meal, even if it means I eat ten times that day, eases that whole “I’ll never get enough” fear in the back of my mind.

Unfortunately, I stepped on a scale this week. And the number really means nothing. It’s roughly the same as the last time. I haven’t lost or gained any weight but I felt disappointed in myself for not losing. Then I felt angry for myself for giving into the urge to weigh. Then I took a deep breath, shook it off and reminded myself, just don’t step on that stupid scale. You don’t have to keep measuring your size or weight. You are free from this constant judgement of your body. Just let go of this mentality. I remind myself if I get bigger it is okay, being bigger doesn’t make me a bad person or a loser or a failure. If I get smaller, I remind myself that this doesn’t make me ‘better’, just a different size. I am not my size. My family and close friends aren’t going to stop caring about me if I go up a size and I won’t get more friends or a magically happy life if I go down sizes. Thin doesn’t make you a better person. Thin doesn’t give you the perfect life. It is just a bigger body or a smaller body.

Trusting my body to know what it wants is hard when you are fighting all your old triggers, diet mentality, fear of getting bigger, fear of not being accepted, fear of people making fun of you and so on. Letting myself eat when hungry and circumventing the strict meal ideals that I shouldn’t eat between meals, has also cut down on any overeating. There was one evening that I found myself just a little bit too full. I took a moment to think about what I did to reach to that point and realized, that I hurriedly ate some dessert immediately after dinner. In addition, I served myself more dessert than I actually wanted and then felt I must eat it all. The next time, I waited until I really wanted dessert even though I had already started the dishwasher. Having a bowl and a spoon in the sink overnight would not end the world. A few nights, I didn’t bother at all with dessert or I ate a couple of mints we keep in a bowl on the kitchen pie safe. That was what I wanted.

We hear a lot of ‘rules’ in our life about how to eat or not eat. Don’t eat after 6 p.m. Brush your teeth and call it a night. Sometimes though, I’m hungry at 9 p.m. I’ve stopped ignoring this cue and asked myself what I wanted to eat. The last time it was just I wanted a banana. I ate the banana and it tasted extra sweet for some reason. I try to eat mindfully instead of shoving the food into my mouth. This really helps you pick up on your own internal cues. I have a lot to learn yet, but I am truly much happier getting off the dieting, food rules, and good/bad food lists merry-go-round. This frees up a lot of time to do other things since I’m not fretting or feeling depressed about my weight. Trusting your body = freedom & a happier existence.

The other thing I noticed this week is my internal self-talk when I walk by a mirror. I notice my rounded belly and start to think OMG it’s so big. Again, here is another item that I have to work on. Chiding myself for how I look isn’t showing myself kindness. When I catch myself doing this, I make myself say out loud something I love about my body or looks. Such as “I have pretty eyes” or “my thighs are really strong”. Retraining my thought patterns. Funny, I thought I had eliminated my negative self-talk but it’s still there to a smaller degree but in the background.

So what I’ve learned this week is this journey isn’t simple or easy but it does feel joyful and gives you a sense of freedom. It won’t be overnight and could take several years so I must be patient . I have to pay attention to my tendency to use good/bad food labels. I need to continue listening to my hunger cues and what I want to eat, when I am hungry and stop when I am just satisfied so I don’t feel grossly over full. It just doesn’t feel good when your stomach is the equivalent of a lead balloon. I still need to work on negative self-talk and stay off the scale. Maybe do some meditation on letting go of a bigger body = bad and smaller body = good mentality. I am not my size. I am allowed to leave food on my plate. I also noticed I don’t drink a lot of fluids so I am going to focus on using my fancy glass water bottle I bought this summer and drinking more. I am going to take my vitamin supplements more often. Maybe add in some omega 3 & 6 after reading an article in Psychology Today about how our moods may be affected by our nutrition. Did you know your intestines carry two pounds of gene material? Yes, I’m a nerd, I love reading this stuff.

So this weekend and coming week, just be kind to yourself. Listen to your hunger cues and eat whatever the hell your body tells you it wants. Maybe put the scale away and give yourself a hug. Life won’t end if you’re a size 18 and not a size 8. You are wonderful and beautiful and amazing no matter what. Yes, you are. Don’t argue with me because I’m right! :-). Hugs and love as well as peace with your body and food. xoxoxo

The Quiet Foe

When I decided to ditch any of my metric collecting apps and electronics in the name of living a freer, more spontaneous life, I didn’t realize that these items were motivators that kept away the quiet foe I have fought for most of my life. Without goals like riding 50 miles a week (or near that), walking several miles a week, tracking my food intake, I slipped under the murky waters that I fight every day of my life.

Thanks to my genetics, my traumatic past and who knows what else, this quiet foe is simply chronic depression but it has a way of sneaking up on me. While at first, I felt freer and happier not tracking my steps, miles and calories, I didn’t know that these were indeed motivators that kept depression at bay. Left to my own devices, as depression started winning again without me noticing, I stopped riding my bike as much, stopped walking and hiking, stopped paying attention to what I’m eating. At first I thought that oh, it’s just peri-menopause so I rested more. I was taking care of myself, listening to my body. Except I didn’t realize I was slipping under again. Depression feels so normal to me, it’s so hard for me to detect until I’m almost drowning.

So, I can’t just be what I consider normal. I can’t trust my body or mind to tell me what I really need because without consistent exercise or eating healthy, I get swept back under the current of apathy, disinterest, fatigue and agitation from sleeping less than my usual nights. I can’t trust my body to tell me what I should eat because the depression has me seeking sugar as if it is my only life force. Without healthy food, I further compound my issues especially lack of energy. Without my weekly fitness goals, I lack energy and motivation to get outside, to ride, to hike and do yoga which counteracts my depression. My body just slips deeper into a ‘lazy’ pattern as I lose interest in things I enjoy. I just stop caring about doing these things.

Without forcing myself out to ride, walk, hike and so on, I just will not exercise. Or I make a half-hearted attempt at whatever I chose to do. It’s the curse of the depression. Once I have the goal set in my head and I’ve started into my first minutes of the activity, I find myself enjoying it but sometimes the hardest thing is just putting on my shoes or riding gear or driving to where I am going to perform the activity. Just starting can seem so overwhelming, I end up on the couch or lying in bed reading. Which if I do this often enough, it becomes the norm which lets my quiet foe sneak up on me and drag me down under the surface again.

It isn’t an easy thing to accept, that I can’t just trust my body or my mind to tell me the best things for me because it is so easy for me to slip into behaviors that make my depression worse because it is tiring always having to force yourself out to exercise. The benefit of this though is, the more I do it, the harder I work out, the easier it becomes to get myself started. The less depression has a hold on me. The happier I am. I wish I could just trust my inner judgment but the truth is, depression has skewed my perceptions of what is ‘good’ for me. Lying around all the time is not good for me. Lying around reading after I rode 20 miles isn’t the same. I’ve worked out, I’ve been outside, I’ve taken the sword and struck at the depression monster again pushing him back into his dark cave. The cave that he insists on dragging me back into with him. When I become complacent, he gains ground and when I fight (keep on the fitness, eating well path), I gain ground. The tug of war is so slight, so quiet that it happens without me knowing.

So bottom line, I have reinstalled my apps, I will clip my cyclocomputer back on my bike, I will reset my goals and keep fighting the good fight. This is what I need to do to live well and live happy. Maybe it’s a bit of a burden, maybe it ties me to my electronics and apps a bit, but the tradeoff is greater. The tradeoff is feeling alive, feeling happier and more alert. Goals aren’t a bad thing. Trying to go through day-to-day without any motivation, anything specific to work toward is like walking around blind at times. This has been an interesting manifestation of my theory of taking care of myself meant unburdening my life of everything that motivated me. As it backfired. Big time.

Taking care of myself means having these fitness goals to keep me moving. Otherwise, the quiet foe wins.

New Blog Series – Memories of Mom – Introduction

I've been tooling around the idea of capturing memories of my mother who passed away in 3/2014 in a blog series, mostly to capture them for later use and I've found as I get older, I tend to forget more and more details. I had considered just putting them down into a Word document journal fashion but this way I can share these memories (good and bad) with other people who loved my mom, like my daughters, other family and close friends. The posts won't be in any chronological order and I will probably be guessing at the general date of occurrence and honestly, our memories aren't the most reliable so it may not be exactly accurate but simply the way I remember things occurring.

My mom's name was Anita Marie and she was born on Christmas Day 1941. After 8 years of bravely fighting cancer, she went to Jesus as they say, at age 72 just shortly after my daughters, husband and I's birthdays in February 2014. In 1970 she gave birth to me, the fabulous oldest child and in 1972, to my sister who ruined my only child gig (just kidding). My parents were married in Washington DC, the city in which they met, on February 18, 1966, and they split up in early 1983 following years of abuse due to my father's raging alcoholism and what I believe was mental illness stemming into paranoia schizophrenia later in his life. My father passed away in 2002. The divorce was final in 1984 and my mother never received any child support from Dad. So she ended up working long, long hours to barely support us.

Her parents helped us out from time to time financially and such, but only when my mother was desperate because she hated asking them for help. I'm sure knowing my grandmother, it was held over her for marrying such a worthless piece of trash (my grandmother's words) not realizing my mother had been more than punished for her choice. My mom wouldn't have had any idea my dad would end up being an alcoholic when they got married. He was handsome and very charming. The thing was, when the pressure of life came down on him, he couldn't cope and turned to alcohol. Maybe this was part of his growing mental illness.

Back in the 1970's, you didn't get a divorce, it was shameful and against her faith. Though had she divorced him early on when the drinking and abuse started, I think maybe she wouldn't have killed herself working so hard and maybe met another man who treated her better. By the time she got away from him, she was done with marriage and close romantic relationships. If she dated, she kept it quiet for the most part. She was just too afraid that she'd make a wrong choice and someone else would make her life a living hell. She never deserved what my father did to her regardless of the reason.

I get some religions' idea of the sanctity of marriage and you should stay married since this was done in the eyes of God, but I don't get why it would be upheld in the face of physical, mental, verbal and emotional abuse. Why weren't these men (and women in some cases) held accountable for their actions instead of excused back then? I have a hard time believing God would condone that kind of treatment of anyone and I'd think he'd given my mom a pass. As I think back, people excused my father's alcoholism, trying to hide it because it was embarrassing as if they didn't call attention to it, then it would go away but it only got worse. Using religion to trap women into horrific marriages was criminal.

Oh, poor, Larry, he struggles so much. Oh bullshit, he should have been held accountable for his actions. I loved my dad but I think he should have been in jail for the physical violence and domestic abuse to my mom and also to my sister and I on a smaller level. Unfortunately, this all happened before the domestic violence laws were established. Even today, it happens all the time. Don't stay, get the hell out and get safe. This person may love you and you love them but you don't deserve that kind of terror, pain and abuse. It is their responsibility for getting well and if they refuse to do it, then you don't have to stay with them and be a victim. Stop this shit! And honestly, some people just can't get well or we don't have the ability yet to treat whatever is going on with them which I believe many times stems from mental illness that has just now started to come into the light.

Anyway, my mom's life wasn't always easy and she spent 29 years working herself into the grave essentially with all the stress and long hours. The problem with the way she coped with the stress, was by smoking and drinking too much (until she quit smoking in 2000), and her health took a serious hit. People wonder why I don't want to rush into a high pressure job because I could easily be good at more than what I do for a living, this is why. Life is too damned short and I don't want to make it shorter if I can help it. I still may get hit by a bus crossing the street, but I just saw how unhappy my mom was in the midst of all that stress and I just could never bring myself to go there. I think my husband would be happier if I made more money and worked some high-powered job but I wouldn't be happy at all. I'd rather do with less than kill myself the way my mom did.

On a happier note, my mom was resilient and she found joy in many things especially her three granddaughters. Though I regretted my first marriage and having kids so young, it worked out the best because they had more time with their grandmother. My mom was always a survivor, a fighter and she always wanted to see you do your best and get what made you happy. She spoiled the girls, with the kind of Christmases she couldn't give my sister and I when we were younger. She had a strict work ethic and liked to do things by the book so her job in quality assurance kept with her personality. She loved Tennessee and while she only lived in Knoxville for a few years before my dad's alcoholism forced us to move to Missouri near his parents in the late 1970's, we returned most years starting in 1997 for spring break vacations which gave us many happy memories.

Mom and Corrinne on 1997 Tennessee Trip

My mom lived modestly even though she could afford a more lavish life because she was terrified of being poor again. She sunk back literally almost a million dollars in 30 years in investments which would have been more if not for that market downturn. I've always regretted she didn't spend more of her money on herself but she did what she wanted to do, which was pass on a safety net to my sister, my daughters and I. She didn't want us to ever have to live off of cases of Campbell's chicken noodle soup my grandparents brought to help us get through the leanest times right after her divorce.

Though growing up in the 1980's where designer jeans and such were the metric in which your worth was determined in school (and I fell way short because I didn't have most of these things), I never felt poor. We had enough to eat, we had the three of us (my mom, my sister and I) and we were making it day by day. Actually it was a source of pride for me. I was 13 when my parents split up and I had long been taking care of myself admist the chaos of dysfunction but once my dad left, it quieted down considerably and I stepped up to do what I could to help my mom. When we had plumbing issues in our rental house and the landlord couldn't get to it right away, I found my dad's toolbox and fixed it myself.

I took over being the 'housewife' because my mom had to work such long hours to support us. A lot of times I did the cooking and cleaning, making sure we were all fed. This gave me a sense of accomplishment that I never resented. No I didn't have much of a childhood and was bitter and angry about it for many years until I realized it helped make me who I am today. There isn't much I can't do or learn to do. I can take care of myself and I've passed this down to my daughters who are also very independent. My mom and I became this team, even working together for about 13 years until she retired. I also looked after her during her cancer (along with my daughters and husband) fights. I was there beside her when she passed, holding her hand. My mom was not only my parent, but my best friend. And when she got more sick, the tables turned and I took on the role almost of parent to her, though god knows, she fought me on damned near everything until the last few weeks.

Losing her was the most devastating thing in my life so far. She was so influential (good and bad) in my life. I walk around some days still, pretty lost, wishing I could call her or go over to her house, to sit on the couch and eat some dinner she put together. Though I hate shopping, I'd give anything to have her drag me around the mall and Kohls for long hours again thinking how bad my feet hurt. Or when I went to her house when she was still working in that jungle of her gardens, to have her walk me around her yard to show me what she weeded or what flowers were blooming. I notice when I visit my oldest daughter's house, we do this as well. Walk around to see what she's planted or is blooming and vice versa when she visits me. But this seems to be a family tradition, because all the women on my mom's side of the family garden and we all walk around the beds admiring their handiwork.

My mom was tough but she loved even tougher. She was always in my corner even though I made two poor marriage choices and divorces. She looked out for my girls, being more a parent to them than a grandparent. They spent their school years walking to Grandma's house after school because her house was closer to the different school buildings especially once my oldest daughter was of age to watch them and we no longer needed a sitter. She'd buy snacks to keep in the house for them as they huddled up at her house doing homework, playing video games and watching tv, until we came home from work together. Sometimes we would stay and eat dinner together at her house. I'm grateful my girls have so many wonderful memories and had so much time with their grandmother. She helped shape them into the amazing women they are today.

So in closing, I look forward to bringing different memories of my mom to my blog. My mom was so influential and so much a part of our lives, that this is a way for me to feel closer to her. It's always a good way to get these memories down before I forget them. I can't think of the times I wished when my family had told me stories, I had jotted them down because you do forget. Not all of the stories will be positive, but life isn't all good. Though I think I will dwell more on the positive than negative. I prefer to keep the happy memories close and let the painful ones drift into oblivion of the forgotten. Though the good times wouldn't have been so important without the bad times. C'est la vie.

Midlife Realignment…

Instead of ‘mid-life crisis’ maybe we should call it ‘mid-life realignment’.   Most people don’t go off the deep end during this period and divorce their spouse to marry someone younger than their own children.  The majority of us just step back and look at the path we are on and start wondering, do I really want to travel in this direction?  This is a time to pause, reevaluate and well, realign.  You start sensing what isn’t working as your life may be changing dramatically from being a full-time parent or a caretaker for your own parent.  This is such a time of dynamic changes that it is hard to keep your head on straight.

Mid-life is so frowned upon, joked about and dreaded.  I am not quite sure why.  This is a time when I am quite comfortable in my own skin and don’t feel the need to impress people as I once did.  Actually outside of my daughters and my husband along with a few of my closest friends, I could give a rat’s ass less about what people think of me or about me.  That in itself is very freeing.  When you stop the craziness of trying to be ‘somebody’ for no other reason than you want to feel like you’ve ‘made it’ for the next class reunion or to finally make your parents proud of you.

Empowering.  This time in my life feels exactly that.  My children are adults and need me a little here and there so essentially I’ve completed my task of raising them.  I read on social media almost daily where my friends are dreading their kids growing up.  Once I was in their position and truthfully, when they do grow up, it’s a very big adjustment. You will most likely grieve their childhood and your active role as a parent.  Depending on the person this may be a month or a few years.  Eventually though, this period stops feeling like the end of the world and you find you have the opportunity to return to yourself and your goals or in my case, discovering what those goals or dreams really are now at this point in my life.  Of course, this is also the time for some people, you start becoming the caretaker of your own parent(s) which in and of itself if probably much more difficult than raising your own children.

One of the things I have spent most of my life being in my mind and what I have bragged to others is that I am “an aspiring writer who has been published on the small-scale.”  This was a source of pride and identity for me.  It made me ‘somebody’ at least in my eyes as I am not sure it really impressed anyone.  For the longest time, I imagined my name printed in bold letters on a beautifully illustrated hard back book as the celebrated author of a wonderful best seller that reached many people and touched their lives.  Except my dream was more based on becoming ‘somebody’ and being ‘someone important’ to soothe my inner delinquencies from growing up in a dysfunctional family where I never felt like I was worth much of anything.  I was trying to prove to them, myself and the world that I mattered.

The beauty of therapy and all the self-work I’ve done as well as reaching mid-life, I have resolved my need to impress anyone other than myself.  Now when I find myself participating in this behavior, I find my whole psyche and self fight the attempt and I end up stalled in whatever I was trying to do.  In other words, I was stopping myself from fruitless behavior that has never worked for me anyway.   For the last few weeks, I have been trying to write the next chapter of a novel that is about 50% finished as far as word count that I need.  It is in rough draft, I have rewritten it 5-6 times over the past few years .  Initially, I started writing it as a way to deal with something painful from my deep past.  The beauty of writing is you can make the story turn out any way you want and you can make the characters into whomever you want.  Mostly it was a good avenue for me to safely express and explore long suppressed feelings about some difficult past events in my youth.

The manuscript is a decent story, with some cleaning up, I could probably sell it to someone.  It’s not best-seller material but I believe it’s good enough for publishing.  Actually the fact I believe this and it’s not a piece of crappy garbage is a big step for my self-critical nature.  I used to read my own writing and destroy everything I wrote because I believed it to be inferior and deserved to die.  So there is that at least, the fact I do not wish to delete the file and never look at it again.  But like I mentioned, I have not made any progress on it either lately.

So I decided maybe I am burned out on the story.  I’ve been working on it so long maybe I am just weary of it.  So I started brainstorming ideas for a new story or novel.  I came up with a bunch of ideas but nothing spoke to my heart or sparked my desire.  After spending a restless night sleeping, I woke up this morning with the very definite question coming to my mind:

“What if I don’t really want to write?”

Hmmm.  Not what I expected when I woke up this morning.  Most of my life since mid-teens has been with the identity of ‘aspiring writer who has published on a small scale’.  Am I really an aspiring writer.  Maybe I’m just a writer who has the wrong goal.  Maybe I don’t care about being ‘a best selling novelist’.  I’ve worked through my self-critical stage that crippled my writing.  I no longer need to impress anyone.  Even though it seems like I should have some lofty writing goal, my heart and soul really isn’t in that outcome.  If my heart was in it, I would have achieved it by now.  Or at the very least put way more effort into trying and submitted manuscripts multiple times and places.  I don’t ever get past the writing part of the equation.  I finished a novel once, rough draft, just to say I wrote a complete book.  I figured I would go back and then edit it except I didn’t.  It’s been sitting there for years collecting figurative dust sitting in the cloud where I store my files.

Here is an example of mid-life realignment.  Deciding if what you thought you wanted is really what you truly want now.  I like writing.  I love writing my blog even if only 2 people read it.  Sometimes, when I write about something particularly difficult, I will get multiple comments from people happy that I have written something that they too are experiencing.  I think people are more transparent today than they were 10 years ago thanks to social media outlets and just a new attitude that no one is perfect.  Think of the outcry to stop photo-shopping models in magazines so that young girls and well, grown women, don’t kill themselves trying to reach for an impossible state of perfection.  I think the general population has grown weary of trying to live up to something no one can really be and are wanting to relate on a ‘real’ level.  Hence maybe all the ‘reality’ shows.  You know, the ones that are made up to look real.

Mid-life realignment is also a chance to be ‘real’ and find your authentic self.  Or just to be authentic.  I am way more happy when I am just myself.  Trying to pretend I am something I am not is just miserable.  Be real people.  If someone doesn’t like the real you, then screw them.  You didn’t need them anyway.  Don’t dread or feel bad about being mid-life.  This is actually an exciting time to take the wisdom you have gained the hard way and put it to use.  This is the time to look at your life and think, nah, I really hate being a banker, I think I want to own a pottery shop in an artsy town.  Maybe you hate all the trappings of being successful you have acquired like a big house and expensive car.  If you peel back the layers of impressing people and being ‘successful’, you just might find you want to live in a cozy log cabin in the mountains and raise sheep.  Who knows what you may discover about yourself and even if it sounds crazy, if your heart soars when you imagine this new life, maybe it is worth exploring the possibilities.

Granted, we can’t all just up and quit our jobs to move to the mountains but maybe you can transition over a few year’s time.  Just because it doesn’t seem immediately feasible, doesn’t mean you should give up.  You may find a way to make your dream a reality or maybe it will require a few adjustments to be similar but not the same in the end.  If you are happy with the result, then that is what matters.  Of course, you may have a spouse who isn’t on board so there may have to be some compromise and in the end you find an even happier result.  Maybe your spouse ends up loving the mountains and sheep or you end up raising Shih Zu instead.

I have no idea what my life has in store for me.  The only thing I know for certain is that I need to rethink my path and considering the question my subconscious brought forth today ‘What if I don’t really want to be a writer?’, it is a sign to really look at what I do want to do.  Explore different options, explore things I never considered and really listen to what my heart and my soul are telling me.  I’m good for ignoring them and plodding along the wrong path until I hit a concrete wall.  I’m not much for the delicacy of small cues.  Well I’m a bit clueless really unless you hit me over the head with a ball bat but I’m working on that as well.

Maybe for you the path is very clear.  You want to go back to college to be a doctor or you want to open a curiosity shop.  I envy the fact that you know in your heart the path you should take.  Me, I have some thinking and exploring yet to do.  I imagine when my path does become clear, I will smack my own head because it was right there all along and I kept looking the other direction.  I do that sometimes.  Okay a lot of times.  I ignore the elephant in the room and walk right around it because I am stubborn and only see what I want or think I should see.

You don’t have to be mid-life either to reach this point.  My oldest daughter has reached a point in her life where she is asking many of the same questions.  I think it is a bit disconcerting to her after having a clear path for the first twenty-five years.  School then more school and then maybe more school, but maybe not that last bit of school.  Okay, so now what if there isn’t more school?  She is searching as well.  Asking what do I want to be when I grow up?  But maybe it shouldn’t be ‘be’ but ‘do’.  What should I do when I grow up?  I think we are probably fine just the way we are.  Do we need to change and ‘be’ something or someone else.  We link our identity to a job or profession or like with me, I linked it to a dream I thought was right for me, being a best-selling author, only to find out that isn’t who I am after all.

I should just be Laura.  My identity doesn’t rest on my work or my job or publishing a book.  I am fine just as I am today.  I should think of it more in the lines of what do I want to try or do?  What would make me happy?  Rather than hanging who I am as a person on a profession or achieving a goal.  We are multi-faceted just by being alive.  I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, a friend, an employee, a neighbor, a woman, and the list goes on and on just by existing.  Labels are a bit over rated anyway.  That is probably where I am getting hung up anyway.  I want to recreate myself for the purpose of?  I don’t know.  I used to feel I needed to compete with other people but for what?  I don’t know.  Now I find I just compete with myself.  To ride a little longer or faster, to hike further and to be a kinderr person in general.  I have no one to impress.  I just want to live my life and be happy.  For the most part, I am very happy.

I’ve always strived to be ‘better’.  Better at what, you may ask.  I don’t know again.  I thought I did but now none of it really makes sense or matters.  Sure, the work I put into myself to be more accepting of who I am, to love myself and like myself was time well spent.  Maybe that sounds egotistical but really it is not.  It is about saying “I am okay just as I am.  I am right where I am supposed to be.”  Striving for things that don’t matter like a number on a scale or to impress someone else with your education or station in life is fruitless.  Sure for a moment you feel superior or accomplished but that feeling is usually fleeting.  Then you are striving again for something else to impress whomever or feel good about yourself.  If you can just stop the motion and stand still then realize hey, I’m okay just like I am, you give yourself freedom.  The freedom to live your life and enjoy your life as well as the people who matter most to you.

The question my subconscious posed this morning, “What if I don’t really want to be a writer?” could have scared me and shook me to the core but really it was just further confirmation that I need to step back and realign that part of my life.  It’s the universe telling me, hey, um, yeah, this really isn’t what you want so why do you keep banging your head on the wall when you aren’t able to write that best-selling novel?

Message heard, universe.  Laura, over and out.

Empty Nest – Sorta…

I don’t technically have an “empty nest” by definition.  All three of my daughters are still living at home though they live their own lives.  Two of them work a second shift full time job so I don’t see much of them and the youngest is going to the local college full time and working with an active social life so I don’t see her much either.  Which is how it should be.  This is what we parents train them for, going out and getting on with their own life.  What they don’t really tell you is how that is going to affect you.  When I say something about it to people who haven’t gone through it, they roll their eyes and say well you knew they were going to grow up or something equally as helpful.  I always think in the back of my mind, well, you will be here one day too and I will offer you the same grand advice and sympathy.  Okay, I’m a little vindictive at times, I’ll admit it.  

Recently it has become more acute for me because my middle daughter who worked with me went to the second shift job at the place where her older sister worked.  It was a great move for her, better pay and opportunity for her to advance.  As much as I was excited for her, I dreaded the fact that my “buddy” wouldn’t be around to keep me company because she’s more a homebody than I am.  So essentially it was rare I was alone in the house with all the different shifts and people coming and going.  Until now.  

Add in the fact my husband works a swing shift, I’m finding myself home alone much more frequently and not really sure of how I feel about it.  One moment I am ecstatic I can hog the tv, the couch and play my piano as loud as I want.  The next moment, I look around and think, this is weird.  Where is everyone?  For ten years of my life, I lived with seven people in my family.  You were never alone and you never were in the bathroom alone.  There were days I couldn’t wait for this day when I had the house to myself and could pee without an audience.  Now it’s here, I stand in the silence of this house and I am not really sure what to do with myself.  

What I’ve read about empty nest from experts and people that have been through it, we all feel somewhat the same.  I’ve been lucky because it’s been a lot more slow process than some of my friends where it has been very abrupt.  But much of the advice I read, falls short with me.  Volunteer.  Get a hobby.  Travel.  All good suggestions but I am finding myself wanting more purpose than that though volunteering is a great thing.  I often feel like the girl interrupted.  My life went in a completely different direction than I had hoped.  Almost hijacked by narcisstic husbands and poor choices on my part but it’s straighten out.  The chaos and craziness those relationships provided were like white noise that I did not have to face my own life and what I wanted to do.  If you are too busy surviving, then you don’t have time to think about your dreams and hopes or your life purpose.  

My oldest daughter is twenty-five and she is at a similiar cross roads.  She had hoped to get into grad school and further forgo having to choose a direction for her life.  As she said, much of her life has been orchestrated.  You go to school, graduate high school, go on to college and then get out and get a job.  She had taken a hiatus after my mom’s death Becuase we were all pretty shell shocked and needed time to heal.   A little like me, she is asking the question, what does she want to be when she grows up because the old things just doen’t seem right to her.  She is starting to look in directions and for paths she had never considered.    

However, she still has most of her life ahead of her.  She may marry and/ or raise a family.  I’ve done that part.  So check, family done.   I try to imagine myself back in high school when counselors, teachers and parents are asking me what I want to do after I graduate.  The biggest difference is I am established in life and when you become middle-aged, you start feeling that it is really important that you don’t fritter your life away.  But the problem with that line of thinking is that you forget to enjoy life because you are too worried about making a difference, reaching that goal because you feel like you only have so much time.  The flip side is you can become so concerned about making the wrong choice, you make no choice at all so you are stuck in limbo.  Which is where I think I am at times.  

When I was younger, early 20’s, I had a million ideas for businesses and actually had the balls to even go for a few of them. Now I come up with 100000 reasons why I shouldn’t do something.  In a way, youth has the upper hand here because ou are more likely to take risks, even if they are stupid.  The older you get, the more you learn and the more you think, I have to be crazy.  I could lose my house, investments, savings, cars and the like.  When you are just starting out, you have much less to lose usually.  On the other hand, if I don’t ever try or reach for my dreams, I will regret it on my death bed.  I feel much like I am frozen, paralyzed.  

At the end of last year, I wrote down several goals and have achieved several of them or am on the verge of achieving them.  Going back to school has given me a sense of purpose I did not have before and has also eaten up a lot of my free time.  Now I am less than two weeks away from finishing and I am thinking, okay, now what?  Having a goal and a purpose felt good.  I was doing something for myself, just as if I was much younger without a family.   This tells me that after graduation, it will be time to sit down and think up my next moves in life.  In a way, this is daunting and exciting at the same time.  Learning to spend more time alone is different but not a bad thing.  It is much like being single and living alone when you start out, something I didn’t really experience. 

Sure, my life is slowly changing and there are times I’m excited and other times I am sad or dread the change.  Just like anything in life, any real change, there is positive and negatives but middle-age isn’t the end of the world.  I will learn to adjust to this time, just as I learned to adjust to all the other times of my life.  Some easier and others harder, but I always come out just fine.

In some ways, “empty nest” is like being given a second chance to find your path in life, your new path.