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Friday, May 24, 2013

shoots of green

I have wanted to write an update post for a while, to report in on the progress I am making on my journey inward with food and with my life. But I wasn't sure I had come far enough to write about it.  Realizing that this is just another form of perfectionism, I am taking the risk to write it imperfectly. 
 
First let me tell you a silly little story.
 
When I drive, it is a habit of mine to look at the drivers of the oncoming cars.  I'm not saying this is a safe habit and I'm not saying I look at each and every driver, but I tend to remember what friends of mine drive what cars and I look out for them on the road.  Call it nosey, call it a symptom of extroversion, call it plain old reckless.  Either way, because of the schedule of my life, I tend to see the same people coming and going on the road between my house and the school and I like to wave to them as we pass. 
 
There is a woman I pass one to three times a week.  I do not know her, have never met her.  She used to drive a teel colored Rav 4 and she has chin-length, fluffy, blondish hair.  I would approximate her age somewhere between 50 and 80.  I started noticing her car because it is the same model and color my friend Ann drives.  But every time I would see the car, it wouldn't be Ann but this other woman - I imagine her name to be Estelle- behind the wheel.  The next week I would see it again and prepare to wave to Ann but, nope not Ann. It would be Estelle each and every time.
 
For three years I have seen this woman coming and going as I do on the same stretch of road to and from town.  She's become a familiar face, a reason to smile at life as this not-so-stranger passed me yet again. 
 
More recently, as I have been searching deeply for meaning, for context, for hope and transformation, I found that passing her on the road has somehow become a signal of the interconnectedness of life, the unseen web threaded from one of us to the other across the millions of souls dwelling here.  I realize this may seem like an overstatement, but honestly I have a hard time meeting up with the people I try to meet up with.  To consistently come across a stranger in the same two mile stretch of road, day in day out, week after week, year after year... it makes me feel as though there is something bigger than my insular life.  It is a lifting of the veil, a breath that takes me deeper.
 
And then last week I passed "Estelle" and smiled as I saw her and then laughed aloud when I realized she had a new car!  It wasn't even her car that was connecting me to this stranger anymore.  I saw her even in her new wheels.

I kind of pray I do and kind of pray I don't meet this woman someday.  She will likely think I'm crazy if I tell her this story.
  
There are some pretty major shifts happening inside me and in my life. Some of them manifest outside me but most are still gestating inside and I am, somehow, learning to allow change to happen infinitesimally slow, like the deepest water of the ocean, rather than the crashing surf to which I am accustomed.  The journey that began for me at the start of the year has blossomed and taken hold in my cells.  It is challenging, invigorating, exhausting and liberating. 

It is a process Elizabeth Lesser describes to well in her beautiful and amazing book Broken Open:

"Over and over, we are broken on the shore of life.  Our stubborn egos are knocked around, and our frightened hearts are broken open- not once, and not in predicatable patters, but in surprising ways and for as long as we live.  The promise of being broken and the possibility of being opened are written into the contract of human life....When you feel yourself breaking down, may you break open instead.  May every experience in life be a door that opens your heart, expands your understanding and leads you to freedom."

So many of my old ways of being are falling away.  In their ashes, I am finding the rudiments of a new a way of living, of loving, of breathing, of existing.  As it has been many times, again I find the image of the phoenix, a new life born from the ashes of the old one, present in my life. 

I am no longer interested in beating myself down, forcing myself to do things, rushing around, being in a perpetual state of overwhelmed tension and judging myself by some invisible measure - one that is more like a tightrope where any missed step receives harsh internal judgement. 

I am working to be on my own side, listen to my own needs, putting myself (sometimes) before others. 

These are not easy things to set down or easy ones to pick up. As a woman, as a mother, it seems as though it is written in my DNA to be selfless, tireless and capable.  Otherwise I would be one of those weak, vulnerable women and no proud, powerful woman wants that. 

How to be all these things at once?  How do I care for myself and set aside any familial, social or cultural notions about who or what I am supposed to be?  How do I get to know myself, and my deepest wants and needs without the overlay of what I have been taught, what I have told myself and what the world expects of me?

What do I want?  What do I need?  Who am I really when I am not pulling, pushing, striving, mandating of myself?

This, for me, is what being broken open has been at this point of my life.  (It has looked very different at other points in my life.)  I have cracked along my own fault lines and have to go deep inside myself to really see what I am all about. 

Evesdropping on my own thoughts, I am astounded by how much rehabilitation they need.  I can be so harsh and critical toward's myself.  I am using mindfulness to pay attention to the careless ways in which I think and act. I am meditating and writing.  I am paying attention to what I really need. 

I have to tell you that it isn't exactly convienient to be a semi-single mother of two trying to put myself back into the center of my life.

I am realizing how often I do things I don't want to do, force myself to accomplish things, take on too much, or simply don't allow myself to rest.  I am trying to ask myself what I want in any given moment, what I need.  Why am I reaching for food when I am not hungry?  What need am I trying to fill?  Most often it is a need for rest, play, indulgence, unproductivity, connection.  It is hard work to do more than just acknowledge these needs and instead to actively fulfill them.

The truth is sometimes I do say no. Other times I don't and then I watch myself rushing around, unable to breath, losing my ability to be mindful and present, eating on the fly and not caring for my body or my soul and thinking: damn, I've done it again.

It is such a relief to have Sandi and other people who love me that remind me often that it is okay to not do it all.   Other times it isn't a relief and I want to yell back, "If I don't do it who will?"  Sometimes the prompts are gentle and subtle, sometimes more obvious. Like when Emilie sent me this list of badass ways to say no.  It is a must read.

The funny thing about asking myself some of these tougher questions is that I would have told you a year ago that I didn't have trouble setting boundaries and limits for myself. I would have told you that I did all that I did because I loved it, wanted it, because it fed me.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  I am the sort of person that thrives on projects, activity, living right in the messy middle of life.  But I am also so driven that I don't know when to say no to myself until I have gotten too far in over my head.

I read this by Geneen Roth the other day:

"Rejection (of the self) takes many forms: shame, an intense focus on self-improvement.  Rejection can feel like determination, will power, restlessness to change.  I observe that I am pulled between a basic trust of myself and a basic fear.  Between letting myself alone and believing that if I don't shove myself, I will never move."

Amen.

Specific to food, I have been working for about 3 1/2 months on the Roth's eating guidelines (which I wrote about here).  It has been a bumpy, imperfect road.  I have realized the profound difficulty in eating what I want when I am not at my ideal weight and working through the guilt and mind games therein.  I have observed the startling difference between eating to the point of satisfaction instead of fullness and the difficulty I have stopping before I am actually full.  I have witnessed nearly every day how hard it is for me to not eat standing up, checking my email, watching TV or while driving.  I struggle to take the time to sit mindfully with food and enjoy it.  I think I partly struggle with feeling that it is a worthwhile use of my time.

 I feel like a toddler learning to walk. I am on my bottom more than on my feet.  But when I stand...let me tell you there are miracles happening.   I am eating without reproach and finding pockets of tenderness for my body exactly as it is.  I am finding the joy of listening to my body in what it wants and how much it needs.  It is like establishing a long-lost line of communication.  It feels like from this mindful center of me dwelling in me, anything is possible. 

I am learning to trust myself and how I feel and what I want.   I am learning that there is no yard stick for my journey and that if it ever were to be measurable it would be the lightness of my heart.

Today Maya "graduates" from preschool.  This breaks me open in ways that I find hard to articulate.  I am a petri dish of emotions and the tears I shed are a cockatil of pride, longing for moments that will never be again, sadness at losing my baby, gratitude to have my child meet her milestones and fear as she moves out into the world of public school, larger classes, standarized testing, rubrics and report cards. 

All I really know is that this life.  This is real living.  Pain, joy, loss, excitement, ending, beginnings, saying goodbye, saying hello.  If I'm going to live bare, my heart open and unguarded by food, or distraction, busyness or an attempt to control every last thing, then I will be broken open endlessly.  And each time I break, more light, more love, more life will flood into the cracks and make me whole.

And each time I can extend or receive love, make a meaningful connection with another human being, or see some random woman driving her car along my same road, these are like shooting stars across my galaxy to help me remember that I am not alone, that it worthwhile to look beneath the superficial parts of living and ask the difficult questions.  But that most of all, my big heart, with its messy love and unknown depths, is connected to all others.

1 comment:

Zoe Kreitzer said...

It is so, it is so, it is so. Bless you.

 
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