Where the magic happens.

Where the magic happens
What does this image bring up for you? Does it resonate? Do you believe this is true? What kind of magic and miracles are happening in your life as a result of stepping out of your comfort zone?
 
For me, lately stepping out of my comfort zone has been all about acknowledging that I need help, and that it often feels challenging for me to ask for it. So it has been about asking for help, whether from the universe or from someone specific, and then letting go of the outcome and truly trusting that I will be taken care of.
 
Just this morning I realized that there is an area of my life, having to do with my home and income, where I’m feeling stuck and a loss of power, and it’s because I’m scared, so I’m trying to control and manipulate and manage the situation. And instead of being transparent, authentic and open (TAO, from Martha Beck‘s tools) about it, I am being sneaky and avoiding and ignoring it. Because I’m SCARED. Not because there’s something wrong with me.
 
Sneakiness and avoidance are two fabulous tools I developed as a child when I was doing the best I could. Now that I have the more powerful tools of communication and curiosity and compassion and investigation and self-love, I probably don’t need those old buggers anymore. But they’re still around, and it’s a habit of mine to use them, and sometimes I don’t even realize I’m using them because sneaking and avoiding is like creeping around in the dark with a blanket over my head. No light, and not a lot of insight.
 
Cape Pogue hillside
This morning I sat on the hillside in the sunshine overlooking cape pogue and I asked myself, what are the (stressful) thoughts I’m having about this situation? It’s amazing to watch the way my mind now begins to do The Work of Byron Katie even before I finish writing a thought down…already I can see that the thoughts isn’t necessarily true (even though I’ve been relating to it like it is), and I can feel the way I get lighter when I see the possibility of letting it go.  I realize I can absolutely see how the opposite of the thought is just as true. There is so much freedom in this. I’m instantly released from some of the fear, and I can see that what is happening is exactly what is supposed to be happening. How do I know? Because that’s what’s happening. What a relief.
 
This blog post was inspired by the image at the tope (from Lisa Natoli’s 40 day A Course in Miracles program), illustrating that the magic happens outside of our comfort zone. The key, for me, about this idea is that it doesn’t mean I should go around doing everything that scares me or makes me uncomfortable. It’s about identifying the things that, once faced, will give me access to more freedom, power, joy, connection, full self-expression, etc. There are some things that feel scary because that is my body or spirit’s way of letting me know that they aren’t right for me, or it isn’t the right time. So I go slowly, with awareness, and I ask myself, “of these things that feel scary or uncomfortable to do, which would feel worse to do the opposite or to take no action?”  Or, “what is my body drawn to do, even though my mind is resistant?”
I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “do one thing every day that scares you”, and I would like to add, “…the result of which will allow more freedom, power, joy and self-expression in your life.”  If you’re not sure whether it will or not, ask your body.  Imagine the result of taking the action and see if it feels light and delicious, or heavy and yucky.  The path towards the experience of more freedom, power, joy and self-expression includes doing things that help to cultivate feeling that way; things that feel good to our bodies, even if they terrify our mind.  Before you leap into the terrifying unknown next time, take a look below you; do you see a pool of cool, clear deliciousness (or something else that feels inviting) or do you see a yucky swamp full of muck?  And if you can’t quite tell which is down there…would it feel good to take a bit more time to investigate?

a call to rest

I began my resting practice while I was recovering from pneumonia a few years ago. I had very little energy stored up and I found that I couldn’t push myself at all without taking steps backward on my road to health. So I began to pay attention to the signs that my body gave me to let me know I needed to rest.

I noticed that my mood was an amazingly accurate indicator of my energy level.  As my need for rest increased, my mood dropped sharply.  I was surprised to find that my feelings of overwhelm and hopelessness were brought on almost exclusibely by exhaustion, and that all I needed to do to relieve them was to rest.  I also discovered that there wasn’t anything else that worked nearly as well as resting to give me relief from feeling overwhelmed.  Resting, turning on my body’s relaxation response and switching off the stress response, also gave me a sense of groundedness and well-being.

At other periods in my life I had tried taking action (ie: doing as much as I could as fast as I could for as long as I could) as a strategy for dealing with feelings of overwhelm. I thought if I could just get everything on my list taken care of, then I would find peace.  Then I would be able to relax.

I remember vividly standing in the middle of the dreary yet spacious kitchen in my third floor apartment in Portland, Maine when I truly understood that there was no way I would ever get it all done.  I realized that if I thought I needed to cross out everything on my (never-ending) “to-do” list in order to be able to stop and relax, to rest and take a break, and to feel satisfied and happy, then I was screwed.  I felt this reality deep in my dog-tired bones.

It was with that awareness that I began the search for a different motivation for my life.  I was 26 at the time, and after living for that long in a culture that operated around the belief that the keys to the kingdom were hard work and productivity, it took a while for me to truly let go of the idea that “getting it all done” was my key to happiness and satisfaction.

One milestone on this journey occurred the day I realized that in any typical 24-hour period, I was only ever truly “on-task”, checking off things on my list, for about three hours.  Usually more like two, and occasionally as many as four or five.  The rest of my waking hours were typically spent taking care of my basic needs and possibly attempting to motivate myself to “get some work done!”, or alternately, distracting myself from what I thought I should be doing with what is sometimes called, “procrastination” (I now call this, “it’s not time yet”, and it causes me much less stress as I sort out why I am not doing the things on my to-do list.  Sometimes it’s because fear.  And sometimes it just “ain’t time yet”).  This discovery, my relative lack of productivity, was a huge eye-opener for me, and at first it was a bit of a let-down. I thought, how will I ever get anywhere in my life if I’m only productive for 2-4 hours a day?

And then I realized that the only thing inherently wrong with the situation was that my expectations did not match my reality.

For years and years I had been putting enough things on my daily to-do list to occupy me for every single waking hour of every day, if not triple that amount of time. And for many years, with high hopes for success (read: productivity and accomplishment), I would jump out of bed most days and “get to work” on my lists.  Or, on the other days, I would stay in bed in a fetal position and try to ignore the voices in my head that were screaming at me about how much there was to do, and how lazy I was, and how I would never get it all done if I didn’t get up right now, and I was already so behind and I was just “making it worse by staying in bed”. Those “fetal position” days would go one of a few ways: Sometimes I would get out of bed with a sinking feeling of dread in my stomach, and haltingly force myself to start taking action.  Though what action to take was always another huge issue for me, as every item on the to-do list called out to me; I often couldn’t decide whether it was more important to cut my toenails, or to do my homework.  I wondered, was I supposed to sit down and pay the bills, or clean my room?  Was it more important to write a thank you note to my aunt for my birthday present, or to go outside and water the garden?  This deliberation was often paralyzing; “what is most important?”, I would shout internally.  Finally I would find myself just doing something, anything, and often it was something not even on the list, but it got me in motion, and then I would continue on into my day.

Or, I would stay in bed and feel numb and try to ignore the voices and the sick feeling in my belly until I finally had to pee, or I got so hungry that I would pop out of bed and roll on into the kitchen where food would take my mind off my hopeless situation.  Or my alarm would go off for the third time and I would concede that if I didn’t get out of bed “right now!”, I would not make it to work on time and I might lose my job.  I would drag myself out of bed, and feeling slightly ill and ungrounded I would dress and feed myself, and head out the door.  On the walk to work I would often find my center, my groundedness. I would re-inhabit my body, and I would get out of my head where all the to-do lists lived, along with the beliefs that I will never be enough, I will never succeed, I am worthless and a failure unless I prove myself in my life by being perfect and productive. Ouch.  My mind was not very kind, and I found that it was not a safe place to spend time alone.

When I began to understand that no matter what good intentions I had for being productive, in my life as a self-employed business woman I was truly only ever “on-task”, working away at my lists, for a few hours a day, I began to get a clue.  Somehow I went from incessantly smacking the whip on myself to looking at what was actually happening, and I realized that it was insane to argue with reality any longer.  Slowly I reigned in my expectations, at least on the days I was home or doing errands with unstructured time.  I still scheduled myself up to five massages a day on some days and then I would find myself exhausted by the end of the day.  If only my revelation at that time had been this:  “Holy Shit!  If I only ever spend 2-4 hours of my day being productive, whether I like it or not, that means I have a helluva lot more time available for playing and resting than I thought!”  I took me a couple more years before I made this leap.  I was no longer beating myself up so much, but I didn’t yet comprehend the joy and freedom that was actually available to me.

In the spring of 2011, at least four years after the kitchen, never-gonna-get-it-all-done revelation, I was healing from a case of pneumonia I’d had in the winter; I was following a strict diet to control the levels of yeast in my body, and I gave up all stimulants in an attempt to help my body to heal on a deeper level.  I hadn’t ever been a big coffee drinker, or stimulant user, or so I thought…until I gave up caffeine and sugar completely and I got to accurately feel my body’s energy levels.  I was shocked to find that I needed so much more rest than I thought a normal person should need.  I felt like a baby.  I needed to nap every afternoon and most mornings as well or else I would find myself falling down the slippery slope of overwhelm, hopelessness, and self-flagellation.

I was flabbergasted at how little energy I had.  I had used up all of my energy reserves living life in the my version of the fast lane, playing the productivity game, and my adrenal glands were shot.

Then summer came and I was beginning to feel better. As I had for the last few years, I booked myself a full schedule of massages. Then I had a reality check.  I couldn’t actually do four or five massages in a day without feeling completely wasted; I literally felt like I wanted to die.  I would say that to myself and I had never remembered hearing that kind of self-talk from me before.  And yet, I continued to book my schedule full because that is what I thought I needed to do to be successful and ultimately to survive.

I found that I couldn’t stick to my healing diet while I was working that much.   I had gone back to eating sugar and chocolate because I couldn’t figure out how to make my life work any other way.  I would get so sleepy in the afternoons, and would take a nap in my car between massages, but I literally felt I would not be able to move, much less give a massage, with out the help of some chocolate or sugar to get me going. I don’t remember if it even occurred to me to work less.  At the end of that summer I realized I had made an admirable attempt to move my life in the direction I knew it needed to go, but I was still “far from home”.

The following summer I felt committed to taking it easier.  I stopped doing as many house calls; I lived near my office so I could walk home for lunch and take a nap between sessions, and I continued to heal my body.  Along with healing my body, I realized that I needed to heal my mind.

I had recently graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as a certified holistic health coach, and as I began to work with clients I was able to see how strict I was with myself.  I saw the high ideals that I held myself to, and found there was not much room for self-love.  I remembered a conversation I’d had with a friend the year before.  She told me that she was feeling really judged by me; she felt like I judged everything she did and it was making her uncomfortable.  That helped me begin to see that not only was I judging her, I was judging myself…all the time.

I began to pay attention to the way I treated myself.

After watching an interview with Dr. Christiane Northrup, a hero of mine, in which she said that the most important thing anyone can do for their health is to truly love themselves, I posted a reminder on my bathroom mirror and ever day I would tell myself, “I love you and I accept you”.  This practice began to shift my relationship with myself.

I continue to listen and feel for what my body is asking for, and I make choices in my life by noticing what feels good, what makes my body happy.  I have slowed my drive for productivity and loosened my attachment to achievement.  As I learn to love and accept myself, I am able to commit to taking care of myself. I am learning how to rest.

in the morning

Sometimes in the morning, it takes me a long time to get out of bed. Or rather, I find the time of day that I throw back the covers and hop out into the chilly air is later in the day than when many people get out of bed. This may have to do with the fact that sometime last year, I decided that I wouldn’t get out of bed until I was compelled…internally. This may sound like a rather bizarre way to do things, and there are probably some people who would respond that they would NEVER get out of bed if they gave themselves permission to wait until they were ready to rise. To this I would respond: 

Do you truly believe that you wouldn’t ever want to get out of bed if you were allowed to have as much rest as you need?  I have found, for me, that this is not true.  Instead, what I get from resting as much as I need to, is the ability to be joyful and present in my life.  I find that instead of missing out on my life, I get to experience so much more.

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Blueberry Cottage after the first real blizzard of 2014…during which I did A LOT of resting.

 

my choice cold

Do you remember the last time you had a cold?  Were you just a bit miserable? Today I have a cold, or rather I have the symptoms that most people associate with having a cold: I have very little energy, I’m a bit achy, my nose is running and it feels like my head is full of snot.  I can’t taste much and can’t breathe through my nose without a whole lot of effort.  I don’t feel well.  And yet, this may be the “best” cold I’ve ever had.  I’m not suffering.  Even though I have some discomfort, I am, in fact, grateful.

For the last couple of weeks, I have had an insatiable evening appetite.  The kind of “hunger” I have when I am feeling a whole lot of emotional emptiness and not a whole lot of passion about anything. This state is something I am really uncomfortable with.  Along with it goes the feelings of being unsure, and maybe even a little vulnerable.  The evenings found me in my kitchen, creating all sorts of interesting (and sometimes not so interesting) culinary concoctions.  Sometimes I was eating because I was hungry.  Mostly I was eating because I couldn’t bear to sit with this feeling of emptiness and not-knowing.  It’s a feeling I’m pretty familiar with, actually.  One I have been alternately doing battle with, or attempting to make friends with, for as long as I can remember.  This month the empty, uncertain feeling has been particularly present for me.

I had gotten to the point last week where I was pretty much resigned to eating anything in my kitchen that was remotely comforting…until it was all gone…and then I just wouldn’t restock it.  Chocolate, nuts, nut butters, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, dried fruit, jam, oatmeal, popcorn, etc.  At the time I didn’t really see any other choice.  I have thought about joining a group like Overeater’s Anonymous but what I know about myself is that I detest being told what to do, and although I am sure that I would probably be introduced to many useful tools, not to mention the support provided in a group like that, I also have the sense that I would rebel.  So, I tried a different tactic. I did an experiment where I simply did my best to love myself…to be with my evening-eating-adventuring self with as much ruthless compassion as I could muster.  I celebrated the interesting eats I created (like Lily’s “3AM North Star” popcorn), and I did NOT beat myself up for this behavior.  I knew that there was a reason it was supposed to be happening…because it was.  Here I was, eating myself full, if not fully sick.  Going to bed with an extended belly, waking up feeling groggy and without an appetite for hours.  And how did I know it was what was supposed to be happening?  Because it was.  How did I know it was OK to simply love myself? Because any other option felt even worse.

In the last few years, I have been playing around with Byron Katie’s simple process inquiry of questioning stressful thoughts.  One of her books is called Loving What Is, and the questions and ideas that she presents have given me a whole different way of looking at and relating to my life.  I was already in doubt of the utility of value judgements such as “right or wrong”, and “good or bad”.  So I was open to the idea that there wasn’t anything “wrong” with what was happening…not matter what it was.  I was willing to consider the possibility that everything that was happening was supposed to be happening.  I began to explore the possibility that I wasn’t necessarily the best judge of what should or shouldn’t be happening to me.  In fact, I also began to question the idea that anything was happening to me at all.  What if, in fact, it was all happening for me?

As a teenager I was introduced to the idea of “pronoia” by a friend of my dad’s.  Pronoia, opposite of paranoia, is the belief that everything in the world is conspiring for your benefit.  Not necessarily that I will always “get what I want”, but that there is a way that everything that happens in my life can be seen as a blessing or a necessary element in the journey of my right life, my destined life.  Sometimes this takes my awhile; sometimes I have a hard time seeing how it could possibly be part of my right life to find myself doing something like stuffing myself sick, night after night.  Sometimes the reason is simply so that I can help other people learn to also love themselves.

I feel pretty clear that life itself has no inherent meaning.  I believe that life has whatever meaning we give it.  While there are many ways to interpret what is happening at any given moment in my life, I like to choose, as often as I can, to apply a meaning that makes me feel…well, good.  There a few different reasons for this, the simplest being the fact that I like to feel this way.  It’s nicer than feeling not-good.  It’s expansive and light and free feeling.  As opposed to heavy and tight and trapped feeling.  So when I remember that I have a choice, I take it.

A few days ago I noticed that I had a bit of a scratchy throat.  There was a time when this would have sent me into a downward spiral, knowing that a cold was coming on.  I would have made myself feel guilty, saying things to myself like, “really, you are getting ANOTHER cold?” “Gosh Lily, why did you eat so much sugar?” “Why have you been pushing yourself so hard?” “You should have taken better care of yourself, then you wouldn’t be sick!” “Will you ever learn? Don’t you know that you will get a cold if you eat sugar and don’t get enough rest?!” “Oh, this is such a bad time for a cold.” “Oh no, I don’t have TIME for a cold right now!”.  Instead, I thought, “THANK THE LORD!”.

Thank you God, for giving me the support I need to shift the habit I had created of stuffing myself full of food late at night.  I had really been feeling like I NEEDED HELP.  And I had been asking for it.  And I had been seriously loving myself at the same time.

The great thing, for me, about having a cold, is that I have a(nother) habit of taking care of myself when I feel this way.  Over the last 20 or so years, with the support of family and friends and information that suggests this course of action, I have developed an attitude about colds that is a little different from many that I observe around me.  Colds are a message from my body.  They are information. They are my body’s way of re-balancing and reminding me to take good care of myself.  When I get these symptoms, I instantly know that I need rest and a really simple, healing diet.  I know that I am a little bit out of wack.  And finally, I have also learned that being “a little bit out of wack” is truly O.K.!  There is nothing wrong with me.  I don’t need to be punished for not being able to live “perfectly” and stay in balance all of the time.  I shouldn’t have “known better”.  I can be responsible for my cold, and at the same time not make myself wrong for its existence.  With this epiphany, this willingness to be kind and love myself even though maybe I “should have known better”, there is also room for seeing the gift in it.  Taking on the pronoia interpretation of having a cold.

When I am willing to love what is, I think just maybe there is the possibility for gratitude and joy and presence in each and every moment of my life.  My choice.

Day ten.

“Creamy Mug of Warming Deliciousness”

I know, I skipped a few days.  I wrote them in my journal, and rather than continuing to put off posting again until I have the energy and interest to type them up, I am going to skip to today’s entry, to real-time.

I have started going to bed or laying down whenever I find myself wondering if I am hungry or not.  Cuddled cozily under my down comforter, between my flannel sheets, I feel safe.  Any phantom hunger pangs brought on by anxiety or boredom or other emotional or mental disturbances seem to float away when I give myself permission to take complete and utter care of myself.  Then, from the depths of my downy nest, I can tune into my body and ask it what it wants.  “Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Would you really just love a nap and that is why you are reaching for the jar of nuts, or the leftover birthday cake?”

Post nap, I check in with my belly again and can very clearly feel that, yes, I am hungry!  It is such a victory to be able to sense and know for sure that I am hungry.  My body wants food.  After many years of using and confusing all sorts of other cues with physical hunger for food, I am beginning to recognize and distinguish this feeling again.  There is no doubt in my mind or in my grumbling tummy.  It’s time for lunch.  So that is what I shall give it!

——–

It’s the first day of my moon time today, the beginning of my womanly cycle and I find myself craving rest and comfort.  After lunch, I sit at the table and read one of my favorite cookbooks for a while, The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld, and then I acknowledge that really all I want to do is go back to bed.

There is nothing like sitting in the sun on a Saturday afternoon, sipping a cup of turmeric tea (my new favorite hot drink, aka, “Creamy Mug of Warming Deliciousness”), and then crawling into bed to take an afternoon nap.  Especially a second afternoon nap.

Day #2.

I tear open the small yellow package of danger and pour seven uneven, egg-shaped, multicolored morsels into my left hand.  Peanut M&Ms have been an obsession of mine since I was young. Even now, even when I know that the candy coating will cut my tongue, the non-organic peanuts carry pesticides and toxic mold, the chocolate keeps me from sleep in the wee morning hours, the sugar erupts tiny red craters on my cheeks, even still, they are like good, old friends.

They rattle into my hand, three brown, two orange, one green and one blue.  I toss the crumpled wrapper behind me into the trash.  It lands atop a banana peel, a couple of carrot tops, and some shards of glass from the mason jar that previously contained my healthy dinner option.  By now, the sweet little devilish egg-shaped candies are sticking slightly to my hand, leaving blue #27, and red #3 on my warm, moist palm.  They don’t melt as fast as chocolate chips do, when gathered on the palm on the way to my anxious mouth. In this way, M&Ms are better suited for the methodical hand-to-mouth habit that I find so often I turn to for comfort.  Sometimes I am not aware of what is happening, until I “come-to”, finally conscious of that familiar softness of finger tips meeting lips.

I noticed it tonight.  Even with olives, or maybe especially with olives, those juicy, drippy morsels that require an extra suck and smooch to keep fingers clean.  It’s funny to think of the comfort foods I created during childhood.  Black olives eaten out of the can, one after another, fingers in the can, fingers in the mouth.  Peanut m&ms.  Smartfood popcorn. “Healthy” jalapeno cheese puffs. Red Hot Blues tortilla chips with Temptee whipped cream cheese. The list goes on.

There are only six now.  The first chocolate covered peanut disappeared into my mouth earlier as I reached behind my seat to throw away the wrapper.  What IS it about the hand to the mouth action? What is it about the feel of finger tips to lips?  All focus on the task at hand (no pun intended).  The world slows down for a moment.  The fact that I don’t have a home of my own is now not a worry; my empty belly and a heart that yearns for connection are, in this short moment, forgotten.

The problem with this tactic is that the worries and emptiness are still there as soon as the ritual is through.  The hunger, physical and emotional, is not gone.  I have either stopped because the food is gone, or because I have noticed that my stomach is beginning to feel ill.  Or, more recently, I have begun to stop because, all of sudden, I wake up.  Something gets my attention and reminds me that I am already whole.  That the desperate hunger which I am feeling is often not, in fact, a function of an empty belly, nor of a current lack of ability to meet my needs.

It comes, instead, from programming.  From an old program I created as a child, back when I wasn’t always in charge of my situation.  When I didn’t have a say, or didn’t know I had a say about my circumstances, back when the only choice I thought was mine was whether to eat, or not to eat. And usually there wasn’t a question.

Food has been the substance I turn to for comfort since I was a baby.  Yes, I know, that is normal.  We all do that.  We feel sad, tired, etc. and mom gives us the boob or the bottle and everything is better.  But somewhere along the way, I think I missed an important transition.  I bypassed the fork in the road where I would (eventually) discover that I was now responsible for my well-being, and with that responsibility came the freedom to make choices about things in my life that I hadn’t felt free to make before.  Missing that rather important discovery, I continued as a young adult, a teenager, and then a 20-something, to believe that when I needed comfort, food was the best option, the one and only thing I could count on.

The m&ms are still sitting in my hand. I don’t particularly want to eat them any more, and now I am not sure what to do with them.  This is a common issue for me.  I have a strong dislike of wasting food, so I often find myself disposing of food into my mouth when no alternative storage options are presented.  I think in this particular instance, though, I will send the m&ms to join their wrapper in the trash. [I am reminded of one Christmas when my boyfriend and I had stopped eating sugar and he was about to throw away a plate of homemade cookies, all the way from his grandmother in Germany, and I stopped him, saying what a waste it was, and why didn’t he bring them into the folks at work. “Lily”, he said, “if you had a bag of cocaine and you had just quit your habit, would you bring it into your friends at work so it wouldn’t go to waste?” Good point.]

I used to be desperate enough that I might later decided that I “had to have those m&ms” and would find myself carefully picking them out of the trash.  I think I have made some progress, though. I am better at breathing these days, and I don’t think it will be a problem.  The glass shards would be a good deterrent — in case I am tempted.

Sometime in the last few years I realized that now, as an adult, I am in charge of my life.  That may seem like a rather obvious realization, and one that maybe could have come a bit before I turned 30, but I think that even though I knew I was responsible for my life, I hadn’t yet discovered the freedom that comes along with the perceived weight of that responsibility.

I love the notion of responsibility as access to change.  The idea that when I take responsibility for some part of my life, I am claiming my power and the ability to take action. Then, instead of responsibility acting as a vehicle for blame, unwillingly driven by me, the guilty victim, it is the cargo vessel for change.  When I take responsibility for my life, I now, all of a sudden, have a say in how it goes.  I make the shift from victimized driver to powerful captain.

When I slow down for long enough to remember that I am driving my own bus, I get present to the fact that I always have a choice about my next move.  I think I need to say that again: “I always have a choice about what I do next!”  When I remember that, I can allow myself to take the time to get present to what is really going on.  What am I really feeling?  What are my actual needs?  What is the most effective way to meet these needs?  What will be the effects down the road from whatever action I choose?

I am hungry.  My belly is growling.  I am tired.  A little thirsty, too.  I am about to arrive back home after traveling for a month.  I am not sure where I will be living for the winter, and I have chosen to stay with my parents tonight which means I will be entering the dynamics of the place where I grew up — the place where I spent so long using the now-dysfunctional program called, “food = comfort”.  I will be preparing and eating food in a strictly vegetarian kitchen, the diet my family has followed since I was young, so, while there, I won’t necessarily be able to keep the promise to myself to eat what my body wants.

And yet, even as these circumstances cause anxiety to rise in my body, I still have a choice.  As I start my car and drive off the ferry onto the island I call home, I am reminded of that choice by the faint rainbow of colors still painted on my palm.

Project Freedom: Day #1

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 was the first day of my current project to heal my relationship with food, to break free from my patterns of emotional eating, and to create a body in which I  love living!

It was sometime in the late afternoon on this particular Thursday, when I ate the last gooey, sugary bite and realized I had managed to consume two, full-sized almond snickers bars in the short span of a couple of hours.  The last time I ate even one snickers bar was probably over five years ago.  Snickers bars were the candy of my youth.  I was a vegetarian, and they were one of the few candy bars which didn’t contain either gelatin or egg whites.  I’m not sayin’ they were healthy, but they didn’t break any of my family’s dietary rules (beside the sugar!), and I absolutely loved them.  Somewhere along the way, though, I became so sensitive to sugar that they were way too sweet and I gave them up.  I can’t say I never looked back…

After a whole bunch of experimentation with food and diet over the course of the last 15 years, I have finally figured out a way of eating that makes me feel good in my body and mind.  Even so, I continue to re-test the validity of these specific dietary choices over and over and over again.  And I keep getting the same result.  Yes, I know, insanity.  And yet I don’t think I am necessarily less sane than any other emotional, hormonal (ie; I have emotions. I have hormones.) 30 year-old woman.  So what is going on?

I am not sure if I will ever find a definitive answer to that question, but for the duration of this month-long eating experiment, “Project Freedom”, and hopefully for the rest of my life, I am making a commitment to learn how to trust myself with food.

Here are a few of the tools I plan to use on this part of the journey:

  1.  The Eating Guidelines. Geneen Roth has started referring to her eating guidelines, as “what love would say to you if love could speak”. “Honey”, love would say, “eat when you are hungry, eat what you want, and stop when you’ve had enough.” “Sweetie, take some time. Eat in a relaxed environment. Don’t feel like you need to sneak your food. And please, my darling, eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.”  I was introduced to Geneen’s eating guidelines when I was in my late teens, struggling with learning how to listen to my body, and they have continued to make a tremendous difference in my life.  In the beginning most of the guidelines seemed impossible to follow.  And I still find myself “waking up” to find myself eating while driving, or walking, or eating more than I want, or eating something I think I should eat but don’t really want to eat.  But, as I was reminded today, the guidelines are suggestions for traversing the journey called life.  I am not going to get my eating taken care of, and then move onto the rest of my life.  Instead, my success with the guidelines is an indicator.  When I find myself unable to follow them, it is time for me to check in with myself and see what is going on.  I am no longer attached to the belief that they are impossible.  In fact, I am sure that following them will make possible what I want for my relationship with food and my life.
  2. Writing. Asking myself questions. Being curious about my experience. Whenever I am not sure if I am hungry, I will have a dialogue with myself until I get sure.  I am excited to record all the parts of my journey including the yummy food I choose to eat (stay posted for photos and simple recipes), and the creative alternatives to emotional eating that I come up with.  I will journal every day and do my best to post something here most days.  I am also keeping a daily log of what I eat, what I feel, my intention for the day, what my body wants, etc.
  3. Participation in a weekly, group coaching call on “becoming irresistible” with Be More You.  Homework for this call includes making goals and taking actions towards my dream of finding a life partner, as well as being in touch with other women for support and guidance, and offering the same in return.  Not to mention becoming irresistible along the way.

I am committed to healing my relationship with food primarily for the freedom and self-love and trust it will provide.  Although I am not thrilled with my current pooch of a buddha belly, the possibility of finding my natural weight is a fabulous bonus.  I am excited to listen to my body as it tells me what it needs to be nourished and healthy and to find its “right” size.

For the next month, I plan to record my experiences and findings as I explore what it feels like to bring focus and commitment to this area of my life, and also be willing to share it with others.  The reason I have decided to finally record and share a part of my journey is this: As my favorite life coach, Martha Beck, says, “my story is all I have to give, which is why I keep writing it down”.  Although my experience with emotional eating is not necessarily the part of my story I feel most proud of, I offer it up with the intention that it will be useful to others who are facing similar challenges and are reaching for the same goal of healing their relationship with food.

Please feel free to leave comments if you are so moved (I would love it!), and if you have questions I will do my best to respond.  Thank you for joining me on this journey!