Letting Go… Time to Move on

Recently I listened to J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy via audiobook through my online public library.  While my family doesn’t really fall into the ‘hillbilly’ category, it does fall into the substance abuse realm which is what Vance dealt with his mom.  His mom had grown up with her father being an alcoholic.  Much of his descriptions about his life really hit home with me on this realm.  Except it was my father not my mother.

I have another blog that is completely anonymous, I don’t post it to my social media, I don’t put in any identifying items that it could be tied back to me.  I’ve used it to write about my painful past, especially growing up with a schizophrenic, alcoholic father without upsetting my family or having people feel sorry for me.  The purpose was to reach others in my situation so that maybe in some small way, I could help them.

Recently, a visit with a maternal aunt revealed that after my parents divorced, my dad had gone off the deep end.  So much so, that he was phoning in bomb threats to my mom’s work which threatened her job.  He’d call everyone he knew and act like he was in Vietnam (he never served overseas) and all this batshit crazy stuff.  My maternal grandmother grew so tired of it and being from Youngstown, Ohio, she considered hiring a hit man to rid us all of his shit.  If you know my grandmother, you’d not even blink an eye at this.  I was in my mid-teens when this was happening and my dad died seventeen years ago yesterday, June 2.  So from say age 14 till I was thirty-two, and really all the years before, my dad created havoc in lives all around him.  He cheated on my mom at least after my sister was born and maybe before.  He did crazy shit like get drunk and karate chop a priest at a family member’s wedding reception.

Essentially, my dad needed to be institutionalized.  He should have never been allowed to live among polite society acting so god damned crazy and it’s amazing he didn’t hurt or kill someone else in one of his paranoid phases.  My dad could have easily been one of those people who had procured an automatic weapon and shot up a crowd.  And no, it wouldn’t have been the gun’s fault, it would have been my crazy ass f’ing father’s fault.  That and the lack of mental health care.  When your ex-mother-in-law is considering hiring a hit man, you are a burden on society.  Part of me, when I learned this little historic tidbit, sat and thought about how much easier all our lives would have been without my father running lose.  I realize that may seem insensitive or cruel but my dad didnt’ want to get better, he wanted to live in his victim mentality disrupting everyone’s lives because he had been enabled his entire life to act like a freaking idiot.   People tried to help him.  I don’t know how many times he had been in and out of programs.  He was given medication for his mental illness but refused to stay on it.  Because if he did, he would have had to been a responsible adult like the rest of us and he wanted to be special, even if it meant hurting the people he claimed to love.

My paternal cousin, Chad, whose mother was my dad’s sister, lived the same hell I did and even more because he had to live with his alcoholic parent even past her divorcing his father.  We’ve become close over the past few years, helping each other through our healing process which has been eerily similar.  He’s more my brother than cousin.  He mentioned how the neighboring dairy farm had bought our paternal grandparents small dairy farm after my grandmother moved into town.  Recently, someone built a beautiful home on their old homesite.  This farm served as a safe haven for my cousin and I where many of our happiest childhood memories reside.  At first, it seemed sad that someone built there but then when I thought about it, I’m glad someone loved the little hill they lived on enough to build a nice home there.  The family that bought the land were always kind to us, which makes it even better.  But my father had been bitter about the sale of ‘the home place’ and for the longest time, I mirrored his feeling and now I just think, well if you wanted it so damned bad, you should have worked to get better, get a job and buy it.

Vance in his Hillbilly Elegy book laid out his crazy family’s skeletons for all to see but he rose above his upbringing with the help and encouragement of his hillbilly grandmother.  But mainly, he brought to light how his relationship with his mother had to be distant, and while he tried to help her, he stopped being pulled into her drama.  He made sure to put his well-being and family first.  At one point, he called out his mother by telling her what a ‘shitty mother’ she had been.  But the best point was how his mother’s brother and sister both chose to live better lives while his mom went the route of drug and alcohol abuse.  He doesn’t sugar coat the fact that his mother made that choice and that he came to the point he was done suffering because of those choices.  That he went beyond where he was from, the tough circumstances he lived to go to Yale law school.  He could have chosen to stay in Middletown, Ohio, and work in a dying factory.  But he didn’t.

Yesterday, we attended my cousin’s daughter’s high school graduation party.  I was sitting there surrounded by family, watching the excitement of his daughter at graduating high school, when it hit me.  I have everything in life I could ever want.  My daughters are happy and healthy as well as responsible members of society.  I live in my ‘dream’ house which is modest compared to what most consider their dream homes.  But my closest neighbor is a quarter of a mile away, I have views of rolling country side and can walk out any of my doors without having neighbors disturb my peace.  I own everything material I could ever want or more.  My health is good (knock on wood), I have a wonderful husband and a great job.  I have great friends, supportive family and so on.  Why do I choose to keep dredging up my past?  Yeah it was tough, but it’s over.

Now it’s my turn to make a choice, and today I closed out my anonymous blog with a final post.  I chose to leave that past behind me and embrace today.   My tumultuous upbringing wasn’t fair nor was it a safe, loving environment at times but I survived.  Yesterday was seventeen years since my father died on June 2, 2002.  I think today is a good day to move on.

I chose to let it all go and not be defined by my past.  I chose to be happy and to live in today.  I chose happiness over perfection.  I chose gratitude over self-pity.  I am a survivor and I am also very blessed.  I am letting it go….

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Empty Nester – The Roller Coaster from Hell

Being the parent of adult “children” is equivocal to being locked into a roller coaster from hell.  While that may sound dramatic, there is a lot they don’t tell you about being the parent of adult kids.  Probably if they did tell us, no one would want to have kids.  But let me explain what I mean by roller coaster from hell:

  1. You’re stuck like Chuck on this thing.  Locked down tight, no escape on this journey of wonderful highs and screaming, scary ass fast traverses down that big hill.  In other words, you’re job as parent is over in the hands on sense.  You can offer suggestions, give advice, help out if asked but mainly you’re a helpless slob tied to a roller coaster you can’t control or stop.  Unless you disown your children or have some magical way to disconnect from worrying about them, it’s a powerless, scary and exciting ride.  Not all of it is negative of course.  Actually the positives usually outweigh the bad shit but it’s impossible for me to not worry especially if the weather is bad or your oldest is taking off for France for a month with her girlfriend who is working on a contract job.
  2. It’s a delicate balancing act, you’re always teetering on the edge of what to do and what not to do.  Or say.  You’re speeding toward a hair pin turn and you have to stay on track and not go off the fine line or you’re going to crash and break into a million pieces.  It’s hard to let go of wanting to guide them, protect them and keep them safe.  They have to live their lives and make their own mistakes, have their own adventures.  We get to be the bystander with no control, no real say just trust that your parenting has given them a good solid base and you always just have to let go.  Even when everything inside of you is terrified, you have to just cross your arms tight against your body and hug yourself.  You find yourself saying “please, please, please…” in your head a lot.
  3. Screaming in terror is only allowed when you’re on the coaster without the ‘kids’ around.  When they are present, you have to STFU, nod a lot, say “that’s cool” or “I’m so excited for you”.  You have to put aside your parental fears and concerns so you can be supportive of their dreams and adventures.  It gets exhausting.  I wish I could find a better way to let go but I think the instinct to protect your child is so deeply rooted in your DNA by then, it’s fighting nature.  This shit is hard.  Some of the hardest things I have had to do as a parent is to just keep my big ass mouth shut.  I have to really focus on how I would want my parent to act.  Put myself in my kid’s shoes.  Some days, all I want to do is crawl into bed and pull the quilt up over my head.  I’m getting better at this, but letting go even if your oldest is now 28 years old, is tough.  You’re still terrified of losing them.  That NEVER goes away.
  4. You feel like a dick because of everything you put your own parent(s) through.  You know they are laughing behind your back thinking, serves you right.  But then again, they are on the ride with you, these are their grandbabies.
  5. Some days you’re on the gentle kiddie coaster where life is calm and just going along at a reasonable pace with rolling hills.  Then there are days, you’re on the biggest baddest muther roller coaster in the world.  This coming Sunday, I drop my oldest off at the airport for her to start an exciting adventure in France for a month and I’m going to be crying the whole way home.  Actually, I probably won’t even get out of the airport.  Who knew there was so much crying in being the parent of adult kids?  Wasn’t this supposed to stop once they graduated high school or college?  Nope.  I’m excited for her, I really am.  This is a dream of hers to travel overseas and I’m proud of her for grasping the opportunity full force.  She’s braver than me.  At her age, I would have been worried about so much stuff that I would have talked myself out of the entire opportunity.  I’m grateful she has the balls to do something I wouldn’t.
  6. This ride doesn’t end until you die.  I don’t think you ever stop worrying.  My mom worried about me up until her last day.  I have a feeling she’s probably worrying about me in heaven too.
  7. Like everything in life that is worth having or living for, it isn’t easy.  It’s intense, scary, joyful, fun, rewarding, full of love and fear all at the same time.  It’s not all bad.  It’s probably most of the time a very fun ride.  But those lows seem to be very low as a parent.  There may not even be anything negative happening to your child but there you are, locked and loaded, riding along screaming or laughing depending on the moment.

Parenting no matter what stage you are in is not for the weak of spirit and heart.  Though I rarely see much written to parents of adult children so here is a bit for you.  The great part is there is a whole bunch of us strapped into the same coaster, we just need to reach out to one another for support and to know we aren’t alone.  I’m here, I’m listening and yeah it’s one crazy ride.   Say a prayer for me this next month that I don’t go all crazy and such.  I’ll be happy when March 30th arrives and my baby is back home but until then, I’m holding on for dear life.  Au revoir!

Empty Nest – #1 – Second Season

My youngest daughter graduated college a few months ago and yesterday she left to spend an extended period at her boyfriend’s apartment almost an hour away. They are doing a test run of living together, which when compared to me, is way more thoughtful and smart than anything I did when it came to relationships. But it has brought on a serious case of empty nest for me. The end of an era, twenty-seven years of having kids living with me. Granted she hasn’t moved out yet, but it’s soon and I’m a preparer, I need to figure out how I will handle the quieter home, the next or second season of my life.

They don’t really tell you that sometimes being a parent really sucks. They don’t have a good way to prepare you for life after the kids move out. The advice is all the same, pursue that career you always wanted (not applicable for me), take up a new hobby (I have a ton already), travel (can’t do that every day), take classes (maybe if I can find something I like) and so on and so forth. The thing is, I didn’t really put my life on hold when I was raising my daughters, especially the last ten or so years. I don’t believe you should give up your entire person to raise kids. Granted I had less time for hobbies and such back then when we were full on into school activities, etc. but I still kept time for me. I believed had I done that, lost myself to raise my kids, this moment would had totally crushed me since the majority of my identity would be wrapped up in being a mom. I’m still a mom, but it’s different and in some ways, it’s better because it’s a sense of freedom not being responsible for them and our relationship becomes more like friends.

So while I’m grateful I kept my own life while raising my daughters, I’m still a bit shell-shocked on this ‘second season’ (or whatever you wish to call it but I feel empty nest seems to be a negative term). I’ve been sitting here in my bed this morning, trying to sort out my feelings and thoughts when I decided to put them into my blog. Maybe someone else needs to hear this as well.

I am choosing to look at today as the start of my next chapter or season or whatever. Today is the first day of the rest of your life attitude. So lets start with my assets being 48-years old:

1. I’ve raised my family and am in awe of my daughters and their successes. They have done so much better for themselves at their ages than I did. Goal accomplished.

2. I own my home, need little materialistically. Household established. Live in my “dream’ home (though I am a bit of a simple person so I’m happy even without Italian marble floors). I have everything I could ever want and more. Very blessed.

3. My retirement is on track so I can retire at 67 and live comfortably barring any catastrophes

4. Have a good job with flexibility and excellent benefits. Pays well, not my ‘dream’ job but I believe in our mission, enjoy the people I work with for the most part, some are like family to me. Career – check. (PS – I have no idea what my ‘dream’ job is anyway)

5. Health – Could improve a bit, but overall good health. Very important.

6. Family and friends – Don’t have a huge family or friend group but I am close to my ‘tribe’ as they call it. I’m an introvert for the most part so this is exactly my style. I have a lot of love in my life and am very loved. Again, very blessed.

7. Hobbies – I have a lot of different ones. Interests – I pursue what I am interested in. I have the resources to take on new hobbies if I wanted them.

Reading that list, I am one very blessed individual. Granted, some of it is luck but most of it is hard work. Even with all the stupid decisions I’ve made in my life, I survived. And thrived. I am going to sit with that knowledge for a moment, soak it in. Sometimes we forget to stop and enjoy the moment, the present. I’m really bad about that. I always want to push forward to the next thing.

And maybe that is part of my problem. I’m always pushing for what’s next. What would happen if I just stopped that tendency and just live in the moment? Why do I feel like now that this ‘job’ as a parent is done, that I have to rush out and immerse myself in something new? Why not just stop and enjoy life? Why not just work on my writing when I want. I’ve been considering just self-publishing my last novel as is and then starting a new, fresh project. I’ve been trying to rewrite this novel for 6-7 times and frankly I’m tired of it. Who says it has to be some art of perfection? What if I just did what I wanted for once? Instead of always pushing myself toward some expectation from where I have no idea it came from.

What if I just stopped and allowed myself to breathe? What if I stopped expecting myself to have some ‘great, fabulous’ goal? Would the world end? Deep inhale, full exhale. Repeat. Let go. Just let go of all my self-imposed ideas of what I am supposed to be doing and let’s make a list of things I have to do at this stage in my life (I love lists can you tell?):

1. Feed and take care of myself. Aim to be more healthy – physically, mentally, etc.

2. Feed and take care of my two pets: Baron and Lexington

3. Go to work, make money – pay bills/ taxes

4. Take care of home/yard

5. Spend time with husband and family and friends. Be a better wife, mother and friend.

Really, just the basics of living are left. Is that such a bad place to be in? I don’t think so.

Breathe in, breathe out, let go. That’s what I am going to work on right now. Letting go of the urgency to find the next big thing now that I have raised my kids. Allow myself to decompress, get off the hamster wheel, and just live in the moment. I will admit, this idea of letting go the need to always be achieving something makes me incredibly anxious. It feels as if I stop this track, I will fall apart and I don’t know why I feel that way. Old habits, old expectations, or being busy is my way of coping with hard things? Probably the latter.

I have a hard time just sitting with my uncomfortable or sad feelings. I’m learning to be able to do this and have found that each time I do, I feel better in the long run even if it does feel like I will drown in my emotions or feelings when I experience them. Considering the fact that I am still breathing, still here to write this blog, that’s an overreaction on my part. I have not drowned from experiencing my feelings. No matter how yucky it feels, I will survive by facing them down, by feeling them, by allowing them to pass through and go on their way rather than holding them inside, stewing on them for years. Not good.

The bottom line is, I’ll be fine. I just need to let go.

Stop with the Red Herrings

Red Herring – Something that leads or distracts from the plot or the main issue.

For me, red herrings are what I put up in front of myself to distract from the real goal or issue. Obstacles I use to keep from following my passion(s) so that I don’t have to what, face my fears, fail, etc. Lately, red herrings have been exploring other ideas and goals that honestly, I don’t have but maybe I should have.

Being in the empty nest (mostly) stage now, I had been preparing for this for over seven years. Asking myself, what’s next? If you read my blog, you already know this information. What I need to accept about myself though came to me last night as I walked the dog along the lake admiring the beautiful evening. If I truly wanted something, I do it. That all this searching for ‘the next big thing’ in my life has been essentially, a red herring, thrown in the bushes to throw me off the scent of my true passion. This fear of missing out or missing something in my life is ridiculous because with my personality, when I want something, I go after it. It took me ten years of stopping and starting online classes, not to mention quitting probably at least ten times (in my mind) before I finally finished my last semester and got my degree.

My latest red herring was this idea to learn fine woodworking and build my own furniture to sell. I went to the library, found three books and settled into study them such as one would study a college course. I took notes, I sketched a few rough drawing of my own furniture designs and dreamt of building a shop on our property. Then about a week later, it fizzled out. I lost interest. I berated myself for not being committed. Except, it’s not what I truly want. Furniture building while interesting was not my passion.

So what did that do? It distracted me from my real passion, writing. Why do I do this? I have no idea. Maybe because writing seems more frivolous? That it’s not necessarily a viable way to make an income (so what!) or who knows. I think much of it is a fear that I’m missing out or not exploring options. Except I need to trust myself. Trusting myself seems to be a key theme in my life. Trust to know if it is something I truly want, I will stick with it until it is achieved. Even if I quit ten times, I will return until I finish or achieve whatever it is I want. Trust myself. Stop trying to force things into my life just because I think, well, I don’t know what I think sometimes.

Last night, I pulled out my Ipad, made myself a comfy place on my front porch, brought out my notes, a snack and a drink then set to work finish writing my Chapter 3 rewrite. It took me about ten minutes to really get back into my story but once I did, I got so wrapped up in creating the next scene I completely forgot about my drink and snack until I typed the last word of the last paragraph. I don’t even know how much time passed, but the sun was quite a bit lower at that point. See? My passion. Why do I fight it so?

I closed my Ipad after printing and saving Chapter 3. I sat in my chair for a long time thinking about all the obstacles, red herrings, I throw up in my own way. Why don’t I just write, write what I love with no expectations, no high reaching goals of making a zillion dollars, etc.? Just write what I truly love and enjoy is the writing process. Everything after that is not that important. Shoot it off to potential agents and publishers but don’t lock myself into a contract (if I were so lucky to get one), etc. I think my biggest fear is that some entity will come in and I’ll suddenly have deadlines and book deals. While that is the goal of many writers, I know it would destroy my creativity. I don’t write for fame or for money or for attention. I write because I love to write.

So Laura, stop with the red herrings, stop complicating your life, stop looking for that kipper in the bushes, trust yourself, believe that you are already doing what you want to do and you are right where you want to be. Let go.

Food Peace Journal – Week 10 – For the Love of a Zebra Cake

Holy Swiss rolls, I’m 2.5 months into this bad boy of Intuitive Eating. Am I thinner? Nope. That’s not the point and honestly, I’ve been overeating a bit so my jeans are a little tighter. Intuitive eating is something I am definitely still learning. I don’t believe it’s something you automatically pick up if you haven’t been eating this way most of your life. There are so many ‘rules’ that have been embedded into your mind and psyche, that it take time to retrain yourself and how you eat.

Coming out of a dieting mindset and realizing that you can eat whatever you want is much like being a kid locked in a candy store overnight. There is a bonanza of foods that you can suddenly eat again or maybe for the first time. Starting Intuitive Eating is scary, and it feels like walking out of a dark, dank prison cell and into the sunlight of freedom. Don’t be surprised if you go through a period where you actually grow a little bigger (get off that scale!) because you’re indulging in all the deliciousness you had been forbidden for years. Then you remember, hmm, I’m only supposed to eat until I’m just satisfied but but lately, I have been eating past that point, quite a bit. Your first instinct will be to start restricting your food intake and what you eat. STOP! Do not do this.

I’m at this point right now and I know the panic you might just be feeling. I’m getting fat (or fatter)! I have to stop, control and restrict before I blow up into a Macy’s parade balloon. Take a breath, a deep and calming breath and remember you’re okay (I just did this yesterday). Think about why you are eating more than you want (or whatever is going on). It’s not about what you are eating but why you are eating. This is a hard thing to decipher at times especially if it is something you’ve done for years. Be kind with yourself, remember that this takes baby steps and it’s a learning experience. You’re undoing years of dieting behavior. Years of emotional eating, though you’ll always have times that you emotionally eat, as much as we want, it’s impossible to be perfect and it’s okay that food provides comfort at times. Deep breath, calming thoughts, its all okay. It’s even okay if you get bigger, we are more than our bodies – I am using this mantra a lot lately.

Being patient with yourself is so hard especially when you have a fear of being ‘too fat’. I know my odd is a little bigger right now than a few weeks ago and since I pursue athletic pastimes like hiking and cycling, I am freaking out inside that I will not be able to do activities I love because I am getting bigger. I don’t want my size to limit my life. So I had to stop my momentary freak out and remind myself that I’m fine just as I am, I just need to look at the fact that I’m eating a lot of times when I am not hungry and figure out why. Maybe it is because I’m stressed at work, maybe it’s because the four-year anniversary of my mom’s passing is close or maybe I feel lonely or bored. Therein is where the hard work comes up, the reason(s) behind the ‘why’ when I emotionally eat. My body is telling me one important thing, I”m feeding it more than it wants, so I need to figure out why I am ignoring my hunger cues. It is a simple theory but not always so simple to figure out. It gives me something to work toward though.

That aside, I have a little story of a hike that I took over a week ago. I took my dog and drove to one of my favorite, closer parks. The sun was out though it was still cold but the wind was calm. I needed some gas so I stopped at a gas station about a mile from the park entrance. While I was pumping gas, I realized, I’m hungry so I went inside for a drink and a snack. I’m asking myself what I might want. What sounds good to me, I pick up a pack of trail mix, nah, on to the next idea. Out of habit I walk by the endcap full of Little Debbie snacks. Little Debbie’s have been forbidden fruit for a long time. I rarely eat one or even buy them. I stop halfway up the next aisle of snacks and realize I want a Zebra cake. White icing with brown stripes over some kind of white cake with cream filling. When was the last time that I actually ate one? No clue. I bought the cake and a tea.

The park is closed to auto traffic right now which is a big bonus to me, the lover of solitude. I packed up my coat with my key lanyard, my cell phone, my tiny notebook and pencil in case I wanted to write or sketch and the Zebra cake. Bundling up and grabbing the dog’s leash, I took to the wooded trails rather than the paved ones today as the mud was minimal. I did one trail, cross the paved road for the nature trail which partially runs along the river. Out of habit I had started a route with my Map My Walk app. Standing a few feet into the woods, I realized I had been walking fast and not paying a bit of attention to my surroundings. I pulled out my phone and deleted all my fitness apps. I can always put them back on if I want but I continued without thinking about speed or steps or calories burned.

Do you know what happens when you aren’t trying to walk to fast and burn calories? The world comes back to you. When you get out of the ‘training’ mode and just enjoy your surroundings, it’s a completely different experience. I would have walked right by the path down to the river because I had to go fast. I would have missed the fact that across the river where the bank was higher, where the trees’ roots anchored the soil and my oldest daughter had recreated in her first college art print, the trees had fallen after all the rain and crashed down right beside where I stood on the trail. A bit of melancholy for a special place to my daughters and I. Looking around, I found several sycamore branches that I picked up to take home. When it warms up, I will clean up the jagged ends and clear coat them for decorations. I would have missed the way the sun felt on my face when I just stopped, closed my eyes and turned my face to the sun, the sounds of the rushing river soothing my soul.

On the way back to the car, I traipsed the same trail I had quickly walked through before I had deleted my fitness apps. I passed the covered bridge and settled into the woods again until I came to a bench in the sun. My stomach was growling a little so I thought it was a great moment to eat my snack. I tied the dog’s leash to the bench as he is so impatient and pulled out the slightly mushed cake. Opening the cellophane, I broke off a piece of cake and tasted it. Granted, this is not the mecca of baked goods but it brings back happy memories of my childhood. In a way, it felt like I was a bit of a kid again, especially when I realized I was swinging my leg like kids do when they are happy. I slipped out my notebook and sketched the woods and covered bridge. Sketch, take a bite, pause, just be. It was the perfect afternoon. Quiet, simple, unrushed, like the summers of my youth. Why do we get so busy doing, achieving, improving and so on? I had forgotten to slow down. Well I’ve told myself I had slowed down but I was still walking too fast to enjoy what was right around me.

We wonder where the joy and fun of childhood escapes as we age but we push it away with all our responsibilities, to-do lists and constant need to be achieving something. We can’t eat a snack cake because it’s unhealthy and will make you fat. But I wasn’t fat as a kid. I ate plenty of them. I just ate when I was hungry normally. I finished my sketch, adding the date to the bottom. I stuck the wrapper in my pocket to discard in a trash can and set back to my car. I don’t know how far I walked or how fast I walked nor do I know how many steps I took. Tracking all that stuff never made me thin anyway and I’m not training for any events. I just felt that I should do that kind of metrics. Why? What is the point? To suck all the joy out of the little things in my life? Oh track your exercise and it will force you to burn more calories. Maybe it does but again, I’m not thin still. I may never be thin and it”s hard to accept that possibility and live with it but I am working on it.

When I went home, I didn’t stop and buy a box of Zebra cakes to binge on. I was happy and contented with one. The knowledge that I can have one whenever I wanted keeps me from wanting to binge on them. It is only when they are forbidden do I feel the need to scarf them down like I may never have another meal. It’s simple psychology when you think about it.

Sometimes when I’m feeling a little down, I pull out my notebook with the sketch and look at it. The memory makes me happy, makes me smile. For the love of a Zebra cake and letting go of achieving every moment of every day.

Food Peace Journal – Empowerment & Self-Discovery

I can’t believe I’m already 9 weeks into this journey. Have I lost weight? I have no freaking idea! Not knowing what I weigh, not caring about what I weight, is like shrugging off heavy log chains that have been wrapped around my body. The empowerment and freedom that comes with not caring anymore about what I weigh, policing what I eat and giving up diet culture completely, is so amazing. I feel happier in general. I’m not thinner, my clothes fit about the same, but no one goes to a funeral and says, “Oh, I really admired her for her weight”. In the grand scheme of living, weight doesn’t matter. Body size doesn’t matter. F all that.

Occasionally, I have what I call a check-in session with my therapist. The recent appointment was spurred when I thought I wanted to go to this writer’s group meeting and at the last minute changed my mind. The group looks fun, it is very supportive and it’s not a critique group. Instead, I ended up at my fave coffee shop in the opposite direction writing in my journal alone. So I started to wonder, is there something wrong with me? I asked this of my therapist and she peppered me with questions. Then she sat back in her chair and said, “I just don’t think you enjoy group things. That you are a private person who enjoys her own company.” Bam! I sat back and let that sink in. Why didn’t I think of that? Why did I think I was weird because I don’t want to do what everyone else does?

I’ve always been a bit of an outsider. Sometimes pushed there because I didn’t fit in but mostly because I am very private. When I think back, I have never stuck with group activities very long. I would sign up for classes at the Y to only go a few times. When I mention this, she said you don’t like all your time structured. You are very creative and this just isn’t your jam more or less. Well she used better terms than ‘jam’ but you get my point. Then to solidify her deductions, a memory popped up in FaceBook where I had taken the Jung-Briggs personality test. I took it again just out of curiosity that it may have changed. Nope. INFJ-A – The Advocate. Less than 1% of the population has my personality type according to the test. Well no wonder I felt a bit of an outsider. The description is very much me – creative, private, sensitive, perfectionist (not as much now), definitive, passionate about things I love, and so on. The private thing hadn’t clicked with me last year though.

This was the first time I had walked out of my therapist’s office feeling excited and happy. Free and empowered again. She’s always been helpful but this really clicked. I’m okay as I am. I am no longer dieting. I don’t have to keep trying to change myself to fit in, to be what I think society wants me to be. I can keep learning about myself and whatever I find is okay. I don’t have to join groups, I don’t have to lose 50 lbs, I don’t have to let snarky people upset me, or morons ruin my day with their crap. I can live my life the way I want it for the most part. Granted, we all have responsiblities but for the first time in my life, mine are minimal compared to five years ago. I have the opportunity to figure out myself some more, try out new hats, have new adventures and learn to fully relax.

I have been ‘on’ so much in my life, I find it hard to relax. This is the next thing I am going to work on. Case in point, I had time to take a nap after work yesterday as I haven’t been sleeping well for the longest time (hot flashes at night). I laid there but couldn’t relax enough to sleep. Time to fix that. Not sure how but I’ll figure it out. I think I have to give myself permission to not always be doing something, accomplishing something, cleaning something.

It’s empowering to be able to eat what you want as well. I find the longer I practice intuitive eating, the less I am overeating. I leave food on my plate more often. I will only eat half an orange then put the other half in the frig for later. I have never just eaten half an orange at least as an adult. I’d finish it even if I didn’t want it all. Why? Because I was raised you had to eat everything you take or were served. But that is bullshit. I have a half of a fudge bar in a freezer baggie in there too. If it’s still good when I go to eat it, then fine and if not, I’ll throw it away. The world will not end if I throw away a half of a fudge bar. Giving yourself permission to eat what you want, only as much as you truly want is powerful stuff. It’s like getting out of jail free. Food jail that is.

The more I let my body tell me what it wants, the more I find I don’t eat the same anymore. Some nights I barely eat at all. Other nights, I eat as if I came out of the jungle after 40 days. All I do is listen and pay attention to my hunger cues. Your body doesn’t necessarily want 3 meals a day with a few snacks. It may not want 6 small meals. It may want a shit ton of food at breakfast and a little here and there the rest of the day. I know my daily caloric intake fluctuates quite a bit. So following a specific calorie count each day probably isn’t as healthy as they want you to believe. Unless you have a specific medical condition that requires such intake. Each day your body has specific needs and it will tell you if you listen.

Speaking of listening to hunger cues, my body is telling me it’s time to wrap up this post and go find some sustenance. Life is short… eat the cake! Or whatever your body wants.

Food Peace Journal – Joyful Movement & Panic Mode

I got out my calendar to look up how many weeks it’s been that I’ve been on this new journey, six weeks! It feels like six months! Truly I was surprised when it was only six weeks though I honestly can’t tell you why it seems longer. Maybe because so much has happened in a short time for me. No, I haven’t lost weight during this six weeks. I don’t know what what I weigh. It doesn’t matter what I weigh as my quality of life does not hinge on this number. Am I bigger or smaller? I don’t know. I feel a little bigger but not enough my clothes aren’t fitting. But enough I’m edging into panic mode. My fear of getting fatter is edging more to the forefront as I give up more and more control over my body by not dieting or weighing myself.

Panic mode means I am not trusting my body to do it’s job and I’m letting the diet culture and mentality take back over. Also, when you think about how long term off and on dieting affects your metabolism, when you suddenly start eating when you are hungry again, I think you will get a little more rounder for a bit. First of all, suddenly you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. This is a bit like being a kid locked into a candy store overnight, you’re going to overindulge for awhile until you and your body figure out that you are no longer starving it. I feel my moods have improved somewhat, I feel more level. Maybe because I’m not experiencing blood sugar fluctuations so badly? My jeans feel a bit more tight. Not enough that I will need a larger size but in the back of my mind red flashing lights and warning sirens are going off. ‘Stop! Stop! Stop what you are doing! You’re going to get fatter!’. This is so hard to deal with at times. These thoughts put me in panic mode and suddenly I want to go dig out the scale, reload the food journal app and throw out anything not ‘healthy’ or ‘fattening’.

Then I stop myself and look at my body. All that diet culture paraphernalia did not make me thin, it probably made me heavier than what is natural for me by fighting my body’s own natural instincts and defense mechanisms. I am living proof diets only work temporarily and you just get bigger. The more I dieted, the bigger I got. Deep breath, Laura. I am ok, if I have to go to a size 20, so be it. I must be kind and gentle in this process, love myself and my body and the wonderful machine it is. I’ve fucked with my body’s natural processes for years, six weeks is not enough to undo literally 37 years of dieting and restricting and exercising until I drop. This is where patience (something I lack) is my friend. I have to let my body do what it needs to do to heal and get back into a natural rhythm. Plus I am also still learning about listening to the cues when I’m hungry and when I’m full. I find in the evening, I tend to overeat feeling anxious as if I may never get to eat again. I am not sure what this is about as I have a fully stocked kitchen, a grocery store within ten miles and plenty of money to buy food. There is no shortage. Maybe evenings are just an anxious time for me.

Also, being able to eat whatever you want, you’re going to indulge in all those foods you restricted. So I probably am getting a tad bit bigger as I reprogram my mind to not freak out when these formally ‘forbidden’ foods are in my grasp. Case in point is chocolate. I’ve eating a f*ck ton of chocolate in the last six weeks. I’ve received and bought 3 candy hearts over the last few weeks due to Valentine’s Day. The first candy heart, I literally plowed through, the second one was small – only three pieces – devoured in one sitting. The last one was from my husband and it’s the same as the first except 3x’s the size. By now, I will eat one or two pieces and be like wow, that’s sweet and two pieces are plenty. My husband asked me if there was something wrong with the candy he bought me because I wasn’t shoveling it in like normal. Nope, it was fine, it’s just I’ve eaten so much candy lately, I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. When you can have it and have as much as you want of it, suddenly you find that you will not want it so much. Also you’re focusing on your hunger and satiety cues at the same time. You start noticing at one point that you aren’t hungry when you pull out the box of delicious chocolates so you may only eat one or even none, waiting until you are hungry again.

This journey is a bit of a roller coaster. I love jalapeno kettle-style potato chips. So last night at the grocery I bought a bag. I even opened them and ate a few in the car tough they recommend you eat sitting at a table, focusing on your food so you don’t mindlessly shove half a bag of potato chips in your gullet. I spent the evening grazing on them. I’d put them away, get them out, put them away get them out. I even ate them with the nice roast dinner I made. I ate half the bag and still am suffering from their effects this morning. My stomach is burning, my acid reflux is kicked up. So in this case, I am thinking maybe if I get the craving for these chips, I go and buy the small bag even if it means going to a gas station. Or do I just buy the big bag and eat until I realize I can have these whenever I want? This is one of those ‘forbidden foods’ so naturally since it’s the first time I’ve bought them this year, I’m going to overindulge. I think I should just buy the big bag because if I buy the small bag at the gas station, I am in a way restricting myself. Which means I may overeat them a few times and suffer horribly a few times until my brain figures out these chips are no longer ‘forbidden’ and therefore I do not need to eat a half a bag of them in an evening.

Being aware of why and when I overeat is key for me to reverse this behavior. Deep breath, I will be okay. If I get bigger for awhile, then I get bigger. The key remains, eat when I am hungry and just until I’m satisfied, not feeling stuffed and sick. This seems so simple but after not listening to your body for almost 80% of your life, it isn’t going to happen in a few weeks.

Raise your hand if you only exercised to lose weight? ME! ME! Well I like to exercise but my focus has always been calorie burning. Intervals for more calorie burn, longer rides to burn more calories, pedaling until you’re ready to puke to burn off that big lunch. ‘Joyful movement’ is a term I hear frequently on the podcasts and in the books I’ve been immersing myself in this year. Joyful movement is simply doing physical activity you love without any consideration to burning calories or losing weight. It means cancelling the gym membership if you hate going to the gym. Or keeping it if you love going but changing the activities you do and your mindset. You love Zumba class and now you just go to this class because you love the movement and camaraderie of your class mates. Or you put on music and dance around the house. Take your dog for a walk where you actually enjoy the process rather than trying to walk as fast as you can for thirty minutes. You stop worrying about the number of calories burned and you start focusing on the simple joy of moving your body.

Case in point – I am going to list my cycling rollers today for sale. I’ve tried and tried to do stationary riding in the winter on my road bike. I hate it. I get bored in the first few minutes and just want to stop. I’ve tried different methods to no avail. Yes it is a way to add miles to your yearly cycling goal but I can’t stand it. I might as well sell them to someone who will actually use them. I love to dance way back from the school dances and clubs. I’m not very good at it, I’m a typical white girl when it comes to dancing. I’ve never taken a dance lesson in my life but I like more the non-choreographed kind of thing anyway. We have an old Wii and a few Just Dance games. Nothing is more awkward than a fat girl prancing around in her basement, that is until she turns the full length mirror resting on the wall around and forgets about how she may look.

The other night, no one was home and I went down in the basement in a sports bra, shorts and socks and fired up the game. At first I’m a little self-conscious but it’s only the cat and dog watching. Without thinking about calorie burn or time elapsed, I just enjoyed the different dances and trying to do them. Before I know it, I’m covered in sweat and over an hour has passed. Without even thinking about it, I got in an hour of exercise without staring at a clock because I was doing something fun, something I enjoyed. I was wearing my phone to count steps (I do this just for fun) and I amassed about 3000 steps just prancing around in my basement. My bike and rollers just sat there across the way, leaning against the wall. I would have had to force myself to finish 20 minutes of riding on that set up. I would have had 0 fun. The whole dance experience put me in a great mood as well. Joyful movement, those words suddenly made perfect sense.

I love to ride my bike but not inside. Time to sell the rollers. I’ve been holding onto them for several years just convinced this was the year I’d really make use of them. The bottom line is I hate riding in place. So it’s time to honor the idea of joyful movement and bring back fun rather than torture myself to burn calories. No wonder people hate exercise so much. We don’t do it the right way or for the right reasons. I love, love riding my bike on the bike path or my mountain bike on the trails. I will be smiling ear to ear while doing so. But put me on my bike in the basement on training rollers and I’m no longer enjoying the ride. I’m annoyed, frustrated and impatient to get the time over with. If you dread the exercise, it feels like torture.

Pick something you love, make it spontaneous, don’t time yourself or worry about calories burned. There are so many things you can do to move. The majority of us aren’t training for athletic events anyway. I imagine once you start doing things you love for the sheer pleasure of moving, you’ll find yourself much more active in general. I’m going to see if I can buy some used Just Dance games just to have new dances to try because it’s fun!

Until next time, happy eating and joyful moving!