Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Courage to Change the Things I Can

     I've decided not to be concerned that sometimes my writing wells up from an angry place.
Usually I'm doing something very ordinary; washing dishes, for example. Folding laundry. A sentence fragment winds itself around the hard core of a feeling, a white hot sense of urgency. And so it spins itself into a whole sentence, usually something from the middle of the stack of thoughts. I have to work backwards and forwards to work it into the weft. Intelligently. Usefully. And I worry. Always worry that whatever comes out is too intense, too much like the fevered scribbles in the pages of a journal with a wraparound lock, something I'd write in with a foolish pen, cotton candy pink or with a big plastic daisy on top. He likes me. He doesn't like me. I memorized his schedule so I could pass him in the hall. It is hard to know when your writing stops smelling of rollerball lipgloss and hormone driven urgencies and starts making sense, being real. Or maybe it is all real, and 14 year old real is just as valid as 43 year old real.
What purpose does it serve? I ask that question not with the desperate fear that maybe the answer is "None at all", but because I really don't know. Truly don't. Only that sometimes it is anger and failure and frustration that turns the machine, starts the shower of sparks.
     I am considering the possibility that I am an addict. And I use that word carefully, gingerly, not wanting to grasp the corner of a flag I don't have the right to fly. Being a sugar addict isn't the same as being addicted to something that could kill me outright. Its legal. Hell, its everywhere. And I only use the term in response to the degree to which it is humiliating and frustrating not to have mastery over something that, for most people, isn't even a thing. Isn't even an issue. But when you want something very badly and that want paces your thoughts, talking endlessly, accusing, bargaining, pleading, interrupting your peace, making threats, I think it is fair use. Addiction. Okay.
     I walked that narrow road for a good few months where I kept it away. And didn't miss it. And acknowledged that it was best left elsewhere and not in my house. Then I let it back in through a series of sneaky compromises. And before I knew it, the "When this is gone I'll just...." negotiations started. And hey, something occurred to me.

Changing the things I can is a real bitch.

I think I have paid really close attention to the first part. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." because that focuses the whole business on making things okay, dealing with what needs dealt with. Legitimate enterprise. Absolutely necessary. Acceptance seems like something that will eventually happen if you wait the right way. Maybe it will steal over you while you sit around a particularly poignant and introspective campfire. One day you find you have the calluses and muscles necessary to grasp and carry the Things that Cannot Change.

But even if that is true (and I suspect that it is not), that's only a third of the way home. When I ask for 'the courage to change the things I can' the implication is that I intend to make use of that courage and actually change things.


It is the things in this category I'm having to confront right now. A big ol' pile of Things. Behavior I can't engage in. Ways of dealing with stress and frustration and intensity and hurt that don't work and never did. And it seems so stupid that this can be as simple as things I can no longer eat and drink. I am realizing that, for me, there is no 'treat yourself', there is no 'once in a while' with some things. And that has to be okay. Because the only way to stop negotiations with that internal liar, that endless compromise, is to call it out, call it what it is no matter how foolish and humiliating it might be, and deal with it accordingly. The courage to change the things I can.  Not just most of the time', but all the time.

The wisdom to know the difference. Wisdom is a good thing to ask for. Solomon asked for wisdom and as a result, pretty much got everything else he needed. We get it when we ask also. Sometimes there's a little gap between the wisdom and the place we need to land.

I have to believe I can make the jump.

Monday, September 23, 2013

One Year

Well, here we are. 
This photo was taken on Friday, September 20th, 2013, exactly one year after I cleaned out my pantry and went wheat free. As of this writing, I am 85 pounds lighter than I was on September 20th, 2012, and I have been consistently free of the laundry list of ailments and general unpleasantness I have previously catalogued. Right here is a good place to be. For now.
     Reaching this point is a little like sitting on a bench on a long and demanding hiking trail. Sure, I'm a long way from the park office. The view is great. But I have just as far to go to the top. So while the halfway point is nothing to sneeze at, I don't want to linger here too long.
    I won't diminish for a minute how awesome I feel right now. I'm pain free, I have tons of energy, I can do things with ease and without a second thought that I couldn't do at all a year ago. There is peace and relief in knowing what I needed to get out of my system to stop the systemic inflammation that was making it a massive effort just to drag myself through the day. So, yaay on all accounts.
     The second half of the journey is a little different. Because now we're in completely new territory. Now we are firmly on the path of "things I've never ever done before". And its a little scary.

Original image from here.

     I'm preparing for the second half of the journey.  I have no idea what it will look like. I believe I have the tools to navigate it, but it is a constant effort to make sure my focus is health, not appearance, and as such, the length of time it takes is irrelevant. And it has to be irrelevant, because I suspect the trail from here is steeper and those ever present (yet uninvited) companions Complacency and Fear start yammering a little more than they have already when the walk gets harder. But this is the nature of the Difficult Things. Difficult Things are Difficult. That isn't the same as saying they are impossible. They only become impossible when we decide that a thousand petty wants are more desirable than one true goal that is reached by climbing a ladder made of small sacrifices. If I've learned one thing this year, it is that those sacrifices DO get easier to make, but only if you keep making them. You can't think or shame yourself into the right course of action for have to decide what it is and then take it every day, and stop worrying about how messy and imperfect it is, until those decisions become your very nature. Stop wasting energy engineering compromises. (I need to post that somewhere so I can see it every day, myself.)
     Year Two has begun. Let's go.

Monday, August 26, 2013


This afternoon when I woke up, I was looking for something I'd misplaced when I was out of town last week. I pulled a box out from under my bed where I keep things I don't need often, thinking I'd inadvertently put what I was looking for in there when I put away my bathing suit. 
     This box is full of race shirts. Back in 2003, during a fervent but short lived (because it was, frankly, unsustainable) effort to be healthier, I competed in about 17 5k races, bike ride challenges, etc. I did all of these at a weight that earned me a lot of encouragement from other competitors that was well meaning, if a bit patronizing. Invariably I'd bring home an XL shirt that didn't really fit and it would go in the pile with the others. I saved them all, though, because they were hard earned, and that's what I do. 
     I pulled them all out. Then I opened my drawers. I made a pile of 2X and 3X t-shirts that I've been wearing, just sort of flapping around with extra material hanging and short sleeved shirts that are anything but. These went in a bag for Goodwill. All my race shirts went in the drawer. I repeated the process with my closet. 3x, 4x, Size 30 pants, they all went in the bag. The bags went by the front door. Then I had to sit down.
      This process was panic-inducing. How strange is that? The fantasy that is sold is that weight loss is fabulous, liberating, empowering. It is those things, to a degree. I feel good, I can move better than I could before, I can do things I couldn't do before. My health has measurably improved. And all those things are good. What I didn't expect is this curious backwash of emotions, uncertainty, fear. You change and you notice being treated differently . Magical powers of invisibility disappear. You both enjoy and resent this. (And that is a weird mix, let me tell you.) Every article of clothing shoved in a bag felt like I was peeling away another layer of protection. 
     From what? This weird feeling of disconnection steals over me from time to time. Who am I now? Who am I becoming? Am I evolving at the fundamental center of my being because my outward appearance is changing? I'm not even certain what my own expectations are. I'm going to my 25th high school reunion nearly 100 pounds lighter than I was a year ago. That sounds like the sort of "I'll show them" revenge fantasy I would have entertained back in the days when my sense of self worth was abysmal and I was feeling particularly invisible. At age 43 I suspect very strongly that in all likelihood nobody really cares. And that is entirely legitimate. I am beginning to think that what really matters is the mind renewal, the spirit renewal, the transformation that is bringing peace, gratitude, and energy to my life, and that the physical renewal is kind of a nice bonus. But not, ultimately, the point. Or the thing my identity should be tied up in.     
      For too long I've let how I feel about myself determine whether or not to engage. Maybe the panic will subside when I let go of letting the body I walk around in dictate (hinder?) the way I relate to the world. Some days I have this locked. Other days I'm not so sure. But I do know this....

Its all a lot more complicated than wearing a different shirt.