Cautiously Optimistic

crocus in light

As I walk this crazy path of discovery, I’m uncovering things about myself that, although I’ve always suspected them to be true, are now proving to be true.  It’s kind of like learning about a long-lost relative with whom you share personality traits or getting the results of your first Myers/Briggs Assessment.  You see it and then think, “Wow!  So that’s why I eat my peas with my knife,” or “Hmmm, that’s why the pillows on the couch need to be perfect.”  There’s comfort in numbers and an even greater comfort in knowing WHY.

I have always had a very difficult time letting people take care of me.  I brush off comforting hugs (yes, even from my husband and children) and say, “No, no really…I’m okay.”  I feel extremely uncomfortable when people reach out to me with compassion and concern.  My first response is ALWAYS, “No worries.  I’ve got it.  Don’t trouble yourself.”  When my father died I wrote the eulogy and watched, dry-eyed as my husband delivered it.  People saw me and began to cry and I comforted them.  The same happened when my mother died.  My children were devastated and I had to be there for them.  I pretended I didn’t need to grieve because we had such a difficult relationship but that was the biggest pile of bullshit ever slung.  Everyone needs to grieve – for what was or for what wasn’t – doesn’t matter.

The love and compassion flowing from the comments on this blog recently are overwhelming to me…and a little uncomfortable.  Each one I read touches my heart, some make me cry, some make me laugh but they all make me know I’m not alone…that I’m cared for.  While I’m reading them however, there’s an crazy desire to say, “NO, NO…it’s okay!  I’ll be FINE.  Don’t worry yourself about ME!”  Can you hear the unspoken truth here?  It’s saying…”Don’t worry about me…I don’t deserve your love and concern.  I’m not worth it.”

How fucked up is that?

Pretty fucked up indeed.  But like the tendency to perfection, I’m uncovering WHY all of these things exist and that part, while extremely uncomfortable, it really kind of exciting.  Why is it that I don’t feel I’m worthy of the love and kindness you people pour forth?  Why, after 32 years of a happy marriage, is it so hard to for me to believe that my husband loves me?  Why can’t I let anyone give me a hug when I’m crying or say “there, there”?  Why can I be there for everyone else in their time of need but not let anyone be there for me?  Kind of selfish don’t you think?

But now I’m starting to see some answers and it has me frightened and nervous and anxious and excited.  Just the thought that, after almost 54 years on this planet I could open my heart to love and compassion not only from others but from myself; that I could actually learn to love the person I am and not the person I think others want me to be; that I could actually let someone else TAKE CARE OF ME emotionally has my mind reeling and my heart cautiously optimistic.

It’s almost too much…but not quite.

Namaste

“Most of us have far more courage than we ever dreamed we possessed.”  ~Dale Carnegie

Advertisements

Breaking Down Walls

walls around my heart

Yesterday went very well.  I’m not sure how much “progress” I made but “Joe” (we’ll call him that for the blog), says that’s okay.  The process is supposed to go at my pace and in my time.  I have some new homework and I’m good for another couple of weeks.  I’ll think and process and think and…did I say think?  Yeah think.

The thing that is absolutely blowing me away is the fact that something that happened almost 50 years ago still has such an impact on me and can reduce me to tears in a matter of seconds.  It’s really not about the abuse so much as it is that feeling of not being protected; of not being safe; of not being loved.

I have no memory of being held by either of my parents to feel comforted and safe.  The memories I have of being held are uncomfortable – like I just wanted to get away as soon as I was on someone’s lap.  Hugs and kisses were frequent (we’re Italian so…well it’s what we do) but I never remember them feeling the way they do when I hug and kiss my own children.  They were perfunctory.  Mechanical.

On the way home yesterday, I told the hubs that until my children were born, I had my heart walled off.  He came the closest of anyone to breaking down those walls but it wasn’t until the kids came along (nieces, nephews, steps and bios) that the wall was truly destroyed…but only for them.   They get that part of my heart that I believed would never see the light of day.  It exists purely to love and provide for them, unconditionally and always.

What I’m learning is that it’s time to open that place in my heart to myself as well.  It’s time to love myself unconditionally – the way I love my children.  But that’s not an easy thing.  The exercise of speaking to my little girl, of parenting her, reduces me to tears in a way that few things can.  It touches my soul and awakens a yearning that I didn’t even know existed.  It makes me profoundly sad.

I still feel a little weird about this – like I’m whining and complaining about shit that I should be over.  Like I’m self indulgent and overly dramatic.  But I let those feelings go because I know that if I’m every going to be truly free, I have to get through all of this and learn to love myself.

Thank you all for your kindness and support.  This blog is my way of processing not only  my recovery from alcoholism but from the rest of my life as well.  I’m honored that you read and take the time to comment.  You all rock and I am forever grateful.

Namaste

That which causes us trials shall yield us triumph: and that which make our hearts ache shall fill us with gladness. The only true happiness is to learn, to advance, and to improve: which could not happen unless we had commence with error, ignorance, and imperfection. We must pass through the darkness, to reach the light.      Albert Pike

Like Walking Into a Hurricane

 

Photo courtesy of Huffington Post
Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

I’m off to the therapist this afternoon.  I did some of my homework but had to stop after a while.  It was just getting to be a little too much.  The more I thought about it and wrote, the more confused I got about memories and what happened when and to whom.  I started feeling things about places and times that I can’t be sure are real.  I had to shake my head to clear the cobwebs and just walk away.

When I wrote my letters for my 4th step I felt cleansed after I finished.  It was cathartic.  I cried.  I raged.  I wrote.  But then, I was done and I truly, truly let it go.  I was hoping that this would be the same experience.

Not. Even. Close.

This is like walking through tar – all sticky and thick.  It feels much heavier and I want to give up about a hundred times an hour.  Shut that door and lock it for good.  Protect my heart.  It feels like I’m walking into a hurricane head on…and no matter how hard I push, something keeps pushing against me saying “Stay back!  Turn Around!  Danger!”.  I know it’s just my psyche trying to stuff shit down again but damn…I’m strong.

I know have to get through the hurricane in order to see the sun again and this feels like a big one.  One that levels shit and leave nothing but destruction in its path.  This motherfucker feels like Katrina.

For now the emotional part has been…well…meh.  Not intentionally.  I just haven’t had any really strong feelings about anything yet.  It’s like I’m muted.  Muffled.  Well except for anxiety and adrenaline.  Every time I “go there” my heart beats faster and I feel a little like I can’t breathe.  Like I’m in a crisis and I don’t have time to stop and deal with stupid emotions.  I have stuff to do and until it’s done I can’t stop to process feelings.  How on earth will anything get done if I do that?

Yeah…I know.

Part of the problem is that I have no idea what I’m doing here.  I’m a planner.  I’m a Project Manager for christ’s sake…it’s what I DO.  But there’s no plan for something like this.  No instruction manual.  No one to tell me if I’m doing it “right”…because there is no “right”.  It just IS and apparently I have to deal with it or I’ll just keep trading addictions out like they’re playing cards.

Namaste

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you to give you hope and a future.        ~Jeremiah 29:11

Interesting Phenomenon

Eating

So I’m reading yet another book about a young man who got up to over 450 lbs before he took his life back.  I’m still in the introductory phase so I’ll post more about it when I’m finished.  As usual, I’m hyperventilating during the sexual abuse parts and feeling rage and sadness during the alcoholic dad parts and crying during the parts where he’s teased and ridiculed.  I can’t wait until the part when I get to rejoice in his victory…if I make it that far.

See, I’m noticing an interesting phenomenon as I’m reading these books.  One that has me freaked out, confused and intrigued all at the same time.

It seems that every time I get to a tough part, I get something to eat.  Sometimes it’s something healthy but most times…not so much.  I’ve been simply observing the last few days (which is code for eating it anyway) but now I’m trying to be more present and figure out what the fuck is going on in my head.

The authors of these books describe, in vivid detail sometimes, the food that gave them comfort and how it made them feel.  They remember very specifically what they ate and how much.  They remember feeling of fear or comfort or sadness and those descriptions are, apparently, triggers for me.

But here’s the thing, when I think back to my own troubled childhood I can’t remember eating.  I remember cooking, shopping, standing in line at fast food restaurants, arguing with my mother about how much I ate, my mother and father arguing about how much I ate, etc., but I can not remember putting food into my mouth.  I can’t tell you what, even my most favorite foods tasted like nor can I remember getting any comfort, love, companionship or thrill from eating.  Anything.

I guess it’s safe to say that when you look up “unconscious eating” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of me as a child.  Further, since I’ve been battling my weight since the 3rd grade, and I was fairly active as a child (walked everywhere, pom-pom girl, cheerleader) it stands to reason that there was a whole lotta eatin’ goin’ on.  Why can’t I remember it?

My next therapy appointment is going to be a doozie.

figure_in_therapy_5141

It’s also interesting to note that when I began to “control” my weight with exercise and food choices, that’s exactly when I began smoking (age 16).  Then, when I quit smoking is precisely when my drinking began to increase and spiral out of control.  THEN when I quit drinking the food was back – specifically sugar.

Clearly this needs much more investigation with someone with whom I feel safe and I that I know that is trained to help me through this (therapist..duh) but I need to put a band-aid on this hemorrhage now before I “bleed” to death.  As such, I’m going to do a few things to stem the flow:

  1. I’m going to go upstairs, away from the kitchen, after dinner and try not to eat after 7:00 pm and before 7:00 am.  Now that the twins are living at school and my oldest stays in his room when he’s home, I can use the bonus room to watch TV.  Staying away from the food and eating all my meals within a 12 hour window may just give me the sense of control I crave in these situations.
  2. I’m going to try to be more present as I eat.  I want to slow down and pay attention to the textures and flavors of my food in addition to paying attention to my feelings as I’m eating.  Yeah…that feelings thing is going to be the hardest.
  3. Of course I’ll keep walking, walking, walking – Scandal may just get me skinny.  I have to admit – the show is really good.

Guess I’d better buckle my seat belt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Namaste

54 at 54 Friday Update – Week 2

Down 1 pound…right on target.  If I can maintain a one pound per week loss then I will reach my goal (or just 2 lbs shy – big whup) by the end of the year.  To me, that not only feels doable, it feels peaceful.  Still a quiet determination.

I’m reading another book, It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell.  Here’s the Amazon description:

“A heartbreakingly honest, endearing memoir of incredible weight loss by a young food blogger who battles body image issues and overcomes food addiction to find self-acceptance.

All her life, Andie Mitchell had eaten lustily and mindlessly. Food was her babysitter, her best friend, her confidant, and it provided a refuge from her fractured family. But when she stepped on the scale on her twentieth birthday and it registered a shocking 268 pounds, she knew she had to change the way she thought about food and herself; that her life was at stake.

It Was Me All Along takes Andie from working class Boston to the romantic streets of Rome, from morbidly obese to half her size, from seeking comfort in anything that came cream-filled and two-to-a-pack to finding balance in exquisite (but modest) bowls of handmade pasta. This story is about much more than a woman who loves food and abhors her body. It is about someone who made changes when her situation seemed too far gone and how she discovered balance in an off-kilter world. More than anything, though, it is the story of her finding beauty in acceptance and learning to love all parts of herself.”

While Ted Spiker’s book Down Size showed me a way to reach my goals by uncovering my own truths and facing my sexual abuse head on (that’s an entirely different post that I will address…sometime), Andie’s book has opened my eyes to the fact that I need to make peace with food and the role it has in my life.

Like her, I have never had a normal relationship with food.  Food has never been just sustenance for me.  While I don’t emotionally feel I’m using (and have used) food for comfort and to numb my feelings, intellectually I know that this is the case and her book helped to confirm it for me.  All I can say is thank God I found a great therapist because working through all of this may take a while.

From her alcoholic father (that hit so close to home I had to put down the book from time to time and catch my breath) to her obsessive calorie counting and exercise to her battle with undiagnosed depression, her journey is my journey.  I hope mine turns out as well as hers.  Thank you Andie.

And, TA-DA, my treadmill arrived this morning!!!!  My husband and son are going to put it together for me today and I’ll walk/run on it for the first time tonight.  I am SO EXCITED!!!  I’ll post a pic of my baby as soon as I can.  😉

Finally, I ordered a wellness journal from Amazon which, coincidentally (?) is due to arrive today as well.  I’m going to use it to set small, attainable goals (as well as the big one at the end of the year) and also record my workouts and food and moods to see if any patterns emerge.  I’ll let you know if I uncover anything.

Happy Friday!

Namaste

PS – If you’re interested in following Andie, she blogs at Can You Stay for Dinner.

Restless Feelings

I have a really bad habit of getting restless when life gets too mundane for my tastes.  As soon as things begin to settle or get comfortable and easy, I start looking to shake it up.  Redecorate!  Move!  Change jobs!  Go on a diet!  Join a gym! “Examine” my marriage  (code for “we have to talk” – every man’s worst nightmare).  For some reason, I’m not okay when everything is just…okay.  I’m impulsive.  Emotional.  A little unstable.  I crave excitement and change.  I worry that something is about to go terribly wrong.  I feel that if I’m standing still than life will just pass me by.  Carpe diem or soon there won’t be any diem to carpe!

Why?  What is it that makes me feel this itchy thing?  Why can’t I just relax and enjoy my life?  Why am I always looking for more?

Oh that’s right…because I have the disease of MORE.  Every once in a while that slips my mind.

Not.

Anyway, I’m beginning to understand (with a lot of help from the therapist) that feelings are only feelings and they are a part of me like my green eyes or my deviated septum or the fact that sometimes I snort when I laugh (see previously mentioned deviated septum).  My feelings, negative or otherwise, are part of what makes me a whole person and I have to learn to honor them and give them value.  They just ARE…no more and no less.  

This has been one of the most difficult life lessons I’ve ever tried to learn.  My natural response to a perceived negative emotion is to DO something about it.  I’m feeling <insert emotion here> so I must FIX it immediately.  Wine…chocolate…a new pair of shoes…a diet…a tattoo.  Anything and everything I can do to escape this feeling and make it go away.  Stuff that fucker down.  Because I only want to actually feel and experience the good feelings.  The less than good feelings need to leave…they are not invited.

It’s like I’m serving tea and the “bad” feelings are made to stay on the porch while the “good” ones are held captive until they begin to rot.  I’m having tea with the continually fading good feelings while the bad ones pound on the door to be let in.  Once the good ones rot away and the bad ones stop pounding, I get bored so I run around trying to find the good feelings again while bobbing and weaving through the bad ones until I trip and fall and the bad ones engulf me while the good ones scurry away.

Oh yeah?  Well how’s THAT workin’ for ya?

Here’s the thing, there is no need to FIX anything because nothing is broken! My feelings are just emotions…no more no less.  They only have the power that I give them…no more and no less.  I don’t have to react to them or do anything about them no matter how much I am compelled.  All I have to do is acknowledge them and maybe talk about them with my therapist or the hubs or a friend.  

And then hold the door open when tea is over and it’s time to move forward.

 Namaste

“Each of us makes his own weather, determines the color of the skies in the emotional universe which he inhabits.~Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

A Date with Me for Tea

One of the main reasons I’m going the therapy route is that I have no idea how to process emotions.  Most people learn how to do that when they’re very young but people from dysfunctional homes like mine just stuff that shit down…ain’t nobody got time for that!  Of course we all know that comes back to bite you in the ass eventually.  For me the bite turned out to be clinical depression and a whole host of other text book behaviors that left me a 53-year-old recovering alcoholic in desperate need of therapy.  Oh well…cest la vie!

My therapist told me about a Buddhist saying that goes something like – rather than avoiding your feelings, invite them in for tea.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that.  First I have to recognize I’m feeling a particular way and name it.  Believe it or not I’m just learning how to do that.  So let’s say I figure out what I’m feeling and it’s knocking like a cop on my front door.  I’m visualizing opening that door with anger and resentment on the other side (or whatever I’m feeling in a particular moment) and instead of shooing them away, I invite them in for tea.  Which of course would be sweet tea rather than oolong because I’m in the south and that’s how we roll.  Which means instead of sitting on the floor on some fluffy pillows and sipping from tiny cups and listening to pan flutes, we’d be sitting on stools around my kitchen counter drinking from Tervis tumblers and listening to Trace Adkins or Colbie Caillat or P!nk.

Don’t judge.

Anyway, I like the way that makes me feel.  Like I could actually get comfortable with my emotions.  Get to know them a little better.  Let them leave in their own good time rather than rushing them out because I don’t want to deal with them.  Because they make me uncomfortable.

Except.

Except that I can’t figure out what to DO with them while we’re at the kitchen counter!  I’ve been trying to practice today and I’m having a hard time knowing what to do with them while they take their sweet time moving right along.  If I were at home and IF I had the time I could go into my closet and just let the feelings be.  But I’m not.  I’m at work and…well…ain’t nobody got time for this shit you know what I’m sayin’?

Yeah…I still have a little work to do.

My guess is that normal people do this on a regular basis and don’t even think about it.  They process emotions and feelings like breathing…it just happens.  I was thinking about how, when my kids were little, I used to make sure that whatever they were feeling was validated so they knew that it was okay.

For example, someone is angry and throwing a hissy fit.  I’d tell them (sometimes having to yell over their yelling) that it was okay to feel the way they were feeling.  That I understood and that they had every right to be angry because it never feels good not to get what you want.  In fact, let’s stomp and little louder and maybe punch some pillows.  But I’m not giving you the _____________ no matter how angry you are or how much you yell.  So get this out of your system and we’ll talk when you’re feeling more like yourself.

And then I’d walk away.

I’d say it worked about 70% of the time.  I mean sometimes an irrational child is just that.  But I notice now that they’re grown, that they are way more in touch with their emotions then I’ll likely ever be (with the exception of my niece and nephew who I’m still working on – but that’s a different post).  So how could I teach that skill without learning it myself?

Who the hell knows?  Maybe it’s just an innate desire to model what I wished was done for me as a child.  Maybe it’s just dumb luck.

For now I guess I’ll just use my feelings journal and me and my emotions will sit at my kitchen counter and stare at each other until they decide it’s time to get the hell out of my head and go bother someone else.

Namaste