Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

Oh, You’re Over Fifty? You Don’t Need ANY Food

no foodDo you know how LITTLE food I am supposed to eat? No wonder I’m not losing any weight.

Yesterday, I downloaded the Lose It! app for my tablet, which keeps track of calories, exercise, etc. Then I started entering everything I ate. Correction: I entered everything I WANTED to eat. When I saw the horrifying total, I deleted items like crazy to keep under my daily allotment.

As I looked at the pittance alloted to me, I couldn’t help wondering if the program was just trying to eliminate women who were no longer actively contributing to the propogation of the species. “Oh, you’re over fifty? You don’t need ANY food. Quit wasting resources. Oh, all right. Here. Eat a few fruits and nuts. Quit whining. You’re lucky I give you anything at all.”

The good news is, exercise will help. An hour of bike riding uses about 200 calories (at the pace I’m able to manage.) That will boost my calorie count above 1000 calories a day. (I’ve entered a 2-lb a week weight loss goal.) It’s not going to be easy – or fun – but I think I can manage it for a while.

The program assures me I’ll be at my target weight by September 5. Two months. I can do this for two months.

Maybe.

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Writing My Way Out

Any serious writer’s work is nothing more nor less than their own self turned inside out and exposed to all. You can’t hide your unflattering bits, because if you try to avoid those dark little corners, your writing becomes oblate, uninspired, and worst of all, unread. Maybe that’s why so many famous authors take their lives by bottle or by gun. It’s not easy to look that deeply into one’s own soul.

This week, I’m attending a writer’s workshop at my graduate alma mater, Pacific University. This morning, I listened to a lecture given by author Carolyn Coman. She is primarily known as a young adult writer. She theorized that perhaps the reason many writers avoided writing about teen years is because “it conjures up a time that was unbearably painful, and they don’t want to revisit it.”

Of course, the internal places we don’t want to go are EXACTLY where our deepest emotion – and therefore, most fruitful writing – can be found. I thought about my darkest corner. I pictured writing about my late husband’s suicide. I imagined writing a whole novel from his perspective, from the point of view of his pain. No. Even after all these years, I can’t. I mean, I really can’t.

OK, I thought, from whose perspective COULD I write? I knew the answer immediately: the standpoint of his mother, a woman with Alzheimer’s, who knew that someone had died tragically but never understood who. Her point of view would provide a whisper’s breath of distance from the event itself, give myself and the reader the ability to look at it clearly for a moment or two, and then lapse back into forgetfulness. It might just be possible.

But it takes years to write a novel. Do I want to spend that much time in such a painful place? I called my friend Neil and asked his opinion. He was quiet, then said, “Perhaps the question isn’t whether you want to spend years there. Perhaps the real question is, how many MORE years you want to spend there? You’re never going to leave that place, not for good, until you write your way out.”

Ouch.

Why the hell do I call my friends, anyway? I know they’re just going speak painful truth. You’d think I would learn.

But perhaps this is the choice every writer faces. Drinking. Suicide. Or writing our way out.

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Taking My Life Into My Own Hands

bikeweb

My beloved bike. It has a special seat that doesn’t smash my lady parts.

It’s been a blessing to have my son Nick and his soon-to-be-wife Hanna move back to Oregon. Last Saturday, Nick fixed up my bike and we all went riding. I’d forgotten how much I love it, because I quit riding when helmets became standard equipment about fifteen years ago.

I hate helmets. There were no bike helmets when I was growing up, and most of us made it just fine into adulthood.

In fact, bike helmets weren’t around when my oldest two were born. I regularly placed 2-1/2 year-old Gabriel in the kiddie seat on my Schwinn three-speed, strapped him in with a flimsy plastic strap, then placed 6-month-old Ariel on his lap, said ‘hold the baby’ (he dutifully wrapped his chubby toddler arms around her) and then belted them together with one of my husband’s leather belts.

After stuffing a blanket and a picnic lunch into the front basket, we toodled around town, happy and helmet-less. I’d be arrested for child endangerment these days, but back then, even the cops smiled and waved.

Then came the helmet days. Since I had young children, I needed to set a good example. But I hate hats, much less styrofoam eggshells strapped tightly to my head. I felt like I was choking. I couldn’t do it. My bike days were over.

Now my kids are grown, and I don’t have to set a good example. Besides, half of Portland cycles around without miniature inverted canoes perched on their heads. So I’m back on my bike, sans helmet. And I’m ecstatic.

I removed a barrier to movement. Yes, I increased my risk of injury. But my risk of health issues from a sedentary lifestyle are higher. I choose to move.

Walking. Yoga. Dancing. Now bicycling. What’s next?

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Oops – You Weren’t Supposed to See That

textConfession time:

The motivating force behind Seeking My Best Self – behind my recent quest for optimal health (and looks) – was a series of texts that were accidentally shared, ones I was never supposed to see. The content? A quite unflattering conversation about me. I was devastated. It undermined the relationship I had with this person. It still does.

Worse, it colored my view of myself and my other relationships. If one friend could speak so poorly of me, what did others say? I knew it wasn’t healthy, that I needed to just let it go. The problem was, I didn’t know how. How could I ‘move on’ when I felt betrayed, unloved, unlovable?

So I embarked upon a journey of radical self-improvement to ‘prove’ to them and to myself that I was better than their opinion of me.

So now you know. But while that was my original motivation, it isn’t my current one – well, not as much. You see, I’ve discovered that my friend is not the enemy. I am. Their unkind words affected me so deeply because I’ve been negligent in self-nurture, falsely naming it ‘self-indulgence’. I’m not alone – it’s a pervasive attitude in our society. I discussed this in an earlier post: It isn’t Virtue, it’s Addiction.

Self nurture is not narcissism. It’s my job to seek and to be my best self. To know myself and be grounded, so that when another person is unkind, I am unmoved. (Though probably still a little hurt. Let’s be real.)

I’m not trying to eliminate all my faults: that’s impossible. Even the Christ had a temper. What I am trying to do is to own myself. What others think of me is not my concern. What I think of me is.

This was driven home by a recent article in the New York Times. Essayist Tim Kreider wrote an article about an experience that mirrored mine: about an email accidentally shared, and the emotional fall-out that ensued. I loved his perspective:

“This makes us embarrassed and angry and damn our betrayers as vicious two-faced hypocrites. Which, in fact, we all are. We all make fun of one another behind one another’s backs, even the people we love. Of course we do — they’re ridiculous. Anyone worth knowing is inevitably also going to be exasperating.”

Read his post, I Know What You Think of Me. It helped me to forgive my friend. To forgive myself.

But I still want to lose 20 lbs and be firm and strong. Weight, weight go away! Don’t come back ANY day!

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Fermented Drinks and Spoiled Relationships

kombucha

Courtesy of Everyday Paleo. http://www.everydaypaleo.com

I promised I’d share recipes for kombucha and probiotic lemonade. They are both really easy!

I get great satisfaction from making my own healthy foods.  Hey, I get great satisfaction from making my own unhealthy foods. Truth is, I’ve had a love affair with my kitchen since age seventeen, when I moved into a tiny studio apartment in downtown Portland (on the third floor of a building, no elevator, with a shared bathroom down the hall.)

For the first time, I was free to explore the culinary arts. Growing up, my mother barely allowed me in the kitchen, except to clean. I certainly wasn’t allowed to cook. She was obsessed with the fear that I would ‘make a mess’. In fact, that was pretty much her focus for my entire childhood – that something (including me) might be dirty or disheveled.

Five years ago, I suddenly realized that my mom has obsessive-compulsive disorder. I mentioned it to my sister-in-law, who rolled her eyes and said, “Well, duh.” It wasn’t ‘duh’ to me. Until that ah-ha moment, it felt normal – just Mom being negative and unreasonable. My relationship with her has improved markedly since. I don’t take her actions and comments to heart. It’s not me, it’s her. And she can’t help it.

In fact, it’s helped my relationships with everyone. It’s not just my mom who can’t help it. We all can’t help it.  I find it much easier to be patient with people’s quirks, including my own.

I’m also more bold about withdrawing from those whose traits I find damaging. My no-go is people who back-stab, bully, yell and swear at others. No matter what wonderful qualities a friend or family member might also possess, hostile behavior is a relationship deal-killer. Bottom line: while I may love that person, I also love myself.

So I draw my boundaries. Explain them. Give multiple chances. If the objectionable behaviors continue, I withdraw. I understand that they can’t help themselves. I hope they understand that I can’t help myself, either. There are some things I just can’t tolerate. Call me quirky.

While bubbling, fermenting relationships might be bad, fermented drinks are good. (Smoothest segue you’ve ever seen, right?) I promised you recipes. Here are links:

KombuchaHow to Make Kombucha, by Katie of Wellness Mama. Try a beer brewing supply store for the SCOBY. That’s where I found my starter. Then prepare to share yours. That mother grows BIG!  Recerntly, I started a continuous brewing system. The how-to is here: Cultures for Health

Probiotic Lemonade:  Fresh, Natural, Healthy Lemonade, by Kristen of Food Renegade. Note: Because I don’t have a cup of whey on top of my yogurt, I just add some of the runny yogurt. It seems to work fine)

PS: Psychology Today recently had a great article about identifying and dealing with those who are difficult. You can read it here: The High Art of Handling Problem People.

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Starvation Works

Well, starvation works. At least, I think it does. The scale refuses to budge, damn scale. But I can SEE the difference, and my clothing notices it, too.

I’m not really starving myself. Hello. I’m a writer. You won’t keep reading if I don’t get your attention. Right now, you’re either filled with curiosity (does it really work? should I try it, too?) or righteous indignation (she’s going to hurt herself, and worse yet, others will try it, too!)

I’m also not lying. My calorie count is ridiculously low – 750 calories a day, tops. But I’m not being unhealthy. My diet consists of kombucha and probiotic lemonade (both homemade – recipes to follow in a future post); fresh fruit: apricots, berries, cherries, grapes; a tiny handful of raw nuts and/or seeds; a small portion of protein; a tiny portion of complex carbo; lots and LOTS of water. Oh, and coffee. I gotta have my coffee in the morning.

As you see, low calorie doesn’t mean low nutrition. I’m looking at these few days as a cleanse, a detox, a not-quite-fast designed to reset my system.

Friday and Saturday were rest days – no exercise, except walking. Yesterday, I awoke full of energy, so I exercised (toning/strengthening) danced and walked. Ditto today.

My goal is to shrink my stomach and my mental expectations about food intake. ‘Eat all you want’ diets are folly. We’re overweight because we eat too much. Eating huge amounts of low calorie foods won’t work in the long run – the high calorie foods taste too good to avoid forever. We’ve got to eat less – much less, and we need to increase the nutrition density of what we DO eat.

Notice how I switched from ‘me’ to ‘us’ in the last paragraph? Tricky, huh? Actually, I’m not trying to be. The reason I’m writing this in a public forum is because I think many of us are in the same boat. We want to be healthy. We want to be trim. We want to be strong. But we can’t muster the motivation or the willpower. We can’t seem to find the magic’key’ – that understanding of ourselves that will allow us to stay the path.

I thought that perhaps if someone who seemingly has it ‘all together’ would step forward and be transparent about her struggle, then perhaps we all could struggle together instead of hiding behind our smiles.

At the very least, I can provide some amusement. 🙂

 

 

 

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Pushing Past the Plateau

tarot

I’m tired of this <gesturing at my mid-section> – how does this even HAPPEN? And why won’t it go away?

Liquid diet. Today it’s going to be a liquid diet. Yesterday, the Tarot cards said it was time for a vacation and for detoxification. Relaxation and detox it is.

Yes, I read Tarot cards. I have for three decades. I don’t talk about it much, because my credibility goes down several notches with people when they find out. Like, if I shuffle and interpret cards, my veracity with photography or mathematics or baseball or curing diaper rash is suddenly suspect.

Really? What do YOU do in the privacy of your own home? Don’t answer. I might not be able to believe your legal, medical, technical, or practical advice anymore.

Honestly,  I was skeptical about Tarot for many years, yet I found them irresistable – and uncannily accurate.

For example, years ago, a friend threw a party and asked me to bring my cards. That evening, I did a reading for a stranger, and it was the worst throw I’d ever seen. I look for the positive, even in challenging readings, because I want people to feel encouraged, not depressed. But it was next to impossible to say ANYTHING that wouldn’t be….bad. So I mumbled some generalized words, and stumbled to a halt.

Turns out, her husband was standing nearby, listening to what I had to say. He sneered, “That’s so general! It could apply to anyone. This is just a bunch of fucking bullshit.” And off he swaggered (or stumbled. It had been quite the party, and none of us were walking straight by this time. My inebriation *might* have played a role in what came next.)

Well, the gauntlet had been thrown. I grabbed it up (literary license, you understand), excused myself from his wife and followed him into the kitchen. Once we were out of sight, I grabbed him by the collar, banged his head up against the refrigerator (yes, I really did) and hissed, “So you want to know what the cards said. Here it is: they said you’re having an affair, or are about to, and the results of it might cause you to leave her. They say she’s teetering on the edge of financial and emotional ruin, and there’s not a damn thing she can do to affect the outcome, she can only sit and wait on your sorry ass. Would you have preferred I tell her all that?”

“Holy fuck,” he whispered. “It really told you all that?”

It really did. So don’t mock me about my Tarot reading – at least, not when we’ve been drinking. 

Where was I? (I like to think I’m much more interesting now that my brain has started popping and fizzing with age – in my younger years, I would have stayed on topic and you never would have known I am capable of such…force.) Oh, yes. Detoxification. Liquid diet.

I’m going to stick to a liquid diet for a day or two – see if I can’t keep my calorie count ridiculously low, and push myself past this plateau. Details on the detox next time. For now…

…P-U-S-H-I-N-G. 

 

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Mondo Moodiness

snarlYou know, I like to think of myself as Zen. Centered. Passionate but serene. And I often maintain said serenity for minutes at a time.

Then there are the other days when everything annoys me, causes my lip to curl up at the corner, results in the spitty start of a snarl.

The whole of last week was *one of those days*. So, I did the only thing I could do: I made incessant fun of myself. You see, when I’m in a mood, I know I’m being impossible. I also know I won’t be able to stop. But at least I can mock myself. It makes Bryan laugh, and it keeps him from tossing me in the pond.

This week I’m feeling better. Unfortunately, Bryan will not reap the benefit of my improved mood, because he left this morning, and will be gone for the whole month (National Guard annual training.) I’m not happy about that. At all. It hits my abandonment button. No, it stomps the Pasodoble on that button. And yes, fellow armchair psychologists, I suspect that might have had something to do with my foul mood last week.

The positive side of being a temporary army widow is, it gives me a chance to focus on ME. To recenter. It was so much easier to remain Zen when I was single. Then, I wasn’t part of a double-sun system, where, even when I’m perfectly balanced, the presence of the other causes a wobble in my orbit. Don’t get me wrong. I love my life with Bryan. It is MY life, no compromises. We are totally sympatico in our goals and lifestyle choices. I’m just saying it’s complicated to live intimately with another human.

But even when I was single, I wasn’t, not really. No human is – or tree or squirrel or rock, for that matter. We’re all interconnected. No, I’m not going to spontaneously break into a verse of Kum-ba-ya. (Hmmm. I think I need to retire that reference. It really dates me.) Ahem. Take two. No, I’m not going to spontaneously break into a verse of The Circle of Life. (Damn. I just looked it up. That’s twenty years old. Still an old geezer allusion. So, readers, to which contemporary song should I refer to convey that false over-connectedy-ness that makes many of us uncomfortable?)

Moving on. I’m not trying to get aery-faery, but it’s true. We ARE influenced by everything around us. And that’s OK. No, that’s wonderful. What isn’t wonderful clinging to the illusion of separateness. If we think we can only be centered once we ditch all outside influences, we set ourselves up for mondo moodiness. Wisdom is learning to center in the midst of the maelstrom. I know this: I wrote about it on Ariyawen.

Having said all that, we do need hermit times. This month will be that for me, and I will focus on centering. But I will also focus on connecting, because balance makes a meet life.

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