Flaws You Love. Presence.

More on Life-ers.  (Those darn perdy dandelions.)

Taraxacum, seeds detail 2.jpg

Image via Wikipedia

I had an interesting comment a couple of days ago on the concept of Life-ers.

If you have a weed in your garden, you pull it.  If there’s something wrong in your life, you don’t fall in love with it.  You get to weeding.

I can see the point of this argument as I’m sure you can.  I can also see where I didn’t get my point across well, or else this argument wouldn’t as likely have been voiced this way.  The person who said it isn’t stupid and neither am I.  But how do we come together on this?  There are Life-ers that are both weeds to pull and weeds to just plain garden I reckon.

We here at FriendtoYourself.com, got one of the most practical life examples of a Life-er.  It is both one that can be weeded and one that can’t.  Please read it if you haven’t yet.  Emily said in response to blog-post, One Woman’s Struggle,

I related deeply to Kara’s experiences. …I have been a self-identified compulsive overeater (or binge eater) since I was a child. It has always loomed large (pun intended) in my life. I have successfully dieted and lost 30-40 pounds at a time, and then I’ve gained everything back — with interest. It has been my obsession and my bete noir.

Eight years ago, out of pure desperation, I went to a Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I didn’t necessarily like it at first, but I recognized my problem as an addiction. If you hold my experience up next to an alcoholic’s, there is no difference. I struggled a long time with the program, but today I am living what OA calls an abstinent life. My definition of abstinence is three reasonable meals a day with nothing in between. I am shrinking to a healthy body weight.

I have also developed my spiritual side and my relationship with my higher power (that I get to define) is what makes it possible to eat like a normal person. My obsession has been lifted, one day at a time. Like an alcoholic, this is not something I can do on my own.  This is supported by about 25 years of data.

I am experiencing freedom I couldn’t even imagine walking in the doors of my first meeting — freedom from fat, freedom from compulsion, openness to change and growth and a life that is no longer nearly as self-centered.

Sana, you asked if it helps to think of it as an addiction — for me, it’s not an analogy; it IS an addiction. I use the Big Book for the solution. My recovery is just like that in any other program.  And it’s the ONLY thing that made a difference — not just for me, but for the dozens of people I share OA with. I hope this is something health professionals will understand one day. OA is an underutilized tool, and I think that could change with better understanding and guidance.

Thank  you Emily for your story.  I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind.

Addictions is a weed we could more often agree is a Life-er.  That isn’t to say there aren’t those of us who think that they can be weeded and be done with, but the general consensus in medicine is that they are Life-ers.   However there are other Life-ers besides addictions.  Recurrent major depressive disorder, treatment resistant major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, okay – a gazillion other medical illnesses that won’t respond to weed killer or a gloved garden-grip.  There are also non-medical Life-ers, such as poverty, natural or unnatural disaster, rooted social stigma and so forth.  We could even use the biopsychosocial model to catalogue them if we wanted.

One of the things that intuitively sits poorly about Life-ers in our culture and communities is the helplessness that can soil it.  However, we are not implying helplessness at all.  Just as this courageous Emily described, when we take care of ourselves, when we befriend ourselves, we take accountability for where we are now.  Our yards improve neighborhoods.

For the world out there who is scared to garden with us, I have this to say.  Get over yourselves.  What we are growing is worth the space we occupy and of high value.  You may never know it, but we are and we have bank to show for it.

Questions:  What is your response to those who call your Life-ers weeds to pull?  What are some examples of Life-ers you’ve fallen in love with and how did you?  Please tell us your story.

No water and no Internet

I don’t know which is worse – no water or no Internet. Oh poor me. Boo hoo. (I’m laughing cuz I know how pathetic I sound.)
I was w/o water yesterday and today alas, no Internet. I think I am in shock. If you don’t hear from me again, please know that I loved you. Think of me with fond memories and carry on the torch. Out.

Life-ers – Our Beloved Flaws

Giovanni Baglione. Sacred Love Versus Profane ...

Image via Wikipedia

Life-ers.  Our flaws that are ours for life.  Not a broken leg, not a bad haircut, life-ers last as long as our genetic code stays in tact.  I was talking with my beautiful eighteen year-old niece yesterday about loving our flaws.  The look she gave me was enough to say,

“Auntie Sana, you are the crazy auntie aren’t you?

Unfortunately, when people give me that look, despite the love in their eyes telling me to stop before I make things worse, I get set off to flap harder against the air trying to make them see how to fly.  My thoughts, like little ducklings with fluff for feathers, don’t always show what they will become when they are matured in discussion and practice.  So when my niece gave me her loving, “You are crazy,” look, I started talking faster, louder and my hands were doing the up and down thing.

I wanted her to know that she will love the people she wants to love better when she does that for herself.  When she loves her flaws, seeing them like a favorite rock she’s never been able to consistently climb or a piano sonata that she has practiced over years but still trips through and loves it even though she will never be its master – when she loves her imperfect self that much then she can love me.  She can love me better when she doesn’t hate her failing self.  I fail her and will for life.  She can love me as I am when she gives herself the same passion.  She can love me enough not to want me to stay this way, when she pushes herself, works herself and throws her energy against the barriers against her own growth – why? because she loves herself enough to do that.

My niece and I talked about God too.  God loves us completely now.  He doesn’t want us to become perfect before He loves us entirely.  He doesn’t love the parts of us that don’t let Him down only.  He doesn’t divide us up between good and bad cells, genes for heaven and genes for… well, not heaven.  God loves us passionately now.  Why in the world would we think He would want us to feel any differently about our own selves?  Wouldn’t that be pretty lame if God said,

“I feel this way about you, but don’t you go accepting your own flaws.  Only I can do that.  You had better hate your flaws and despise yourself for them until they go away.”

I was reading an amazing story accounted by The Itty Bitty Boomer, where we are given some of the inner scene of one woman’s flawed and perfect self, Carie, growing to love her life-ers just like you and me.  She tells us,

“Recovering from obesity is much like recovering from any addiction – the battle is never done or over.  Over the last 3 years I have regained 25 of the 90 pounds that I lost.  I could fall easily into blame and self-hatred and beat myself up for failing again … but I do not think I’ve failed. And the more I keep myself in that mindset … the easier it is for me to keep on track to dump the pounds picked up.”

Speak it!

Self-Care Tip – Love your life-er.  Have you given your life-er a hug today?  (Smile.)

Questions:  What are your life-ers?  Are you able to love them yet?

What do you think about a God who asks you to love yourself either differently than He does or as well as He does?  How do you see it?  Please tell us your story.

Oxymorons – The Flexibility In Us That Ties Us to Both Sides of Hope

Clara Bohan, wrote about the wise “white buffalo,” sacred to the Lakota as well as other Plains Tribes, such as the Apache and Cheyenne.  White buffalo’s bring us a message.  Read Clara’s blog if you want to know the message, but what we reference here at FriendtoYourself.com, is the embrace of magical thinking with an indian wearing sunglasses beside a plastic banner.  I love it.

The oxymoron is no more inappropriate than the oxymoron we find in becoming our own best friend.  In yesterday’s post, bluebee called it “schizophrenic,” which means a “broken mind.”

Self-care is an oxymoron at every turn.  Love ourselves the way we are.  Love ourselves too much to stay that way.  Are you okay with that?

Sometimes I say that calling myself a “Christian psychiatrist” is an oxymoron because I know emotions and behaviors come from the brain, yet I believe in outside input, or what many call magic and unscientific.  My own white buffalo.

Getting comfortable with the oxymorons in our life is a friendly thing to do.  We are not so perfectly collected, so well-designed and well-defended that we will ever be above the magic each of us consider, quality of life.  We could describe this in part as having a flexible identity for our own safety.  If we take away the oxymoron, we threaten our hope-factor in life.  We die as anything does that doesn’t move.

So there’s our tip.

Questions – What oxymorons are serving you well?  How?

Have you hugged your oxymoron today?

One Woman’s Struggle To Shed Weight, And Shame

Joana Johnson, from CreatingBrains.com, found the following story on the NPR iPhone App:
http://www.npr.org/2011/07/25/138606501/one-womans-struggle-to-shed-weight-and-shame?sc=17&f=1001

One Woman’s Struggle To Shed Weight, And Shame

by Tovia Smith

Part of an ongoing series on obesity in America.

In her 37 years, Kara Curtis has seen every dress size from 26 to 6. Looking through old photos, in her slimmer days, you see a young girl standing tall and pretty in her tiara as high school prom queen, and strong and lean in team shots of her track and swim teams.

Growing up in rural upstate New York, Curtis and her family were totally into fitness and nutrition. Her mom used to send her to school with a lunchbox packed with liverwurst on homemade whole-wheat pita, topped with sprouts grown in their kitchen cabinet. It kind of makes sense, Curtis says, that she went a bit crazy for chocolate and cheesy stuff when she was finally living out on her own. But it still took her by surprise after college when she gained nearly 100 pounds in a year.

“I remember the first time I ever heard myself called obese — it was terrible,” Curtis recalls. She was at her doctor’s for a regular check up when he started dictating notes in front of her, describing her as “an obese 22-year-old.” “I was just shocked to hear the word obese related to me.” Curtis says.

No Easy Solution

Fifteen years, countless failed diets and another 100 pounds later, “and now I’m morbidly obese,” Curtis says. “And it’s just overwhelming.”

Indeed, as one of the 70 million Americans who are obese, Curtis has watched her weight become the overriding fact of her life. It’s why she put off buying a new car, and stuck with a less-than-fulfilling job (she worried her size would limit her options.) It’s why she bought a custom-made bathrobe and porch swing and why she can’t comfortably go to the movies or get on a bike or in a boat.

“I love to kayak, but I haven’t been in years because I’m afraid my hips will get stuck,” she says.

At 300 pounds, every day is a struggle with the little things — like chafing on her inner thighs or tying her shoes — and with the biggies — like love. With bright eyes and high cheekbones, Curtis is as pretty as she is engaging and witty. And she’s into kids and family, but totally down on the idea of ever getting back into dating.

“It’s not like I can just fix myself and be done,” she says. “If you lose the weight, you’re still stuck with the stretch marks and the extra skin, and the toll you’ve taken on your body already. And I’m probably still not going to be excited about getting naked with somebody.”

She has poured all her energy and untold resources into trying to get fit. But it’s hard to stay motivated, Curtis says, when the challenge begins to look not just difficult, but impossible.

“Really, if there was an easy solution, Oprah would have bought it,” she says.

Many Factors

There is little that Curtis hasn’t tried. Making breakfast one day — a pureed concoction of hemp and rice protein, coconut milk and avocado — she recalls the gamut: macrobiotic diets, Weight Watchers, Overeaters Anonymous, acupuncture, aerobics, meditation, therapy and all kinds of exercise — from punishing pre-dawn runs to what she calls more “joyful movement.”

She starts most days with a vigorous hour-long walk, escorting a group of neighborhood toddlers to their day care. Pulling several kids piled into a big red wagon, she breaks into a sweat just minutes into the mile-long trip. Several times a week, she sweats through a rigorous dance or yoga class.

But sitting down later to a lunch of a squash soup, Curtis concedes that what she really needs is not to burn more calories but to eat less. And yet every time she tries to diet, she ends up binging.

“This is not a simple thing,” she sighs. “There are genetic components. I mean, I look just like [my] grandmother and my aunts.” Looking back, Curtis says, she has battled serious food addiction and body image issues since she was a little girl. “Clearly, there is this piece that is programmed in.”

But it’s not the only piece, Curtis says.

She’s as conflicted about what’s behind her obesity and how to deal with it as society seems to be.

One minute she’s sympathetic and cutting herself slack, and one breath later, she’s beating herself up.

“It’s a very schizophrenic relationship we have with obesity,” Curtis says. “I understand it as addiction, but then there’s also this other piece of me that knows that there is a lack of willingness on my part. So really, who’s to blame for that? Me!”

But another moment later, Curtis will pivot again: It can’t be all her fault, she says. Those who make and serve or sell really unhealthy food also have a role to play.

Walking through her local grocery store, she points out the junk food that lies, like a trap, right inside the front door while the healthy foods section is at the far corner of the store.

“It would be really hard to walk out of here without something with sugar on it,” she says. And once she starts, “I’m never going to eat just one cookie. And there are times recently where I’ve eaten most of a box.”

The Personal As Political

What’s brutal, Curtis says, is that your failure is out there for everyone to see and judge. So, for example, at the checkout, she says, “There will be that moment of being like ‘Oh my gosh, I have ice cream on my conveyor belt.’ Like there is that pint sitting there. And I catch someone checking me out, like I shouldn’t be doing that.”

It’s the same kind of glares she gets on an airplane. These days, Curtis says, it’s like her personal problem has become political.

“Now, it’s not just like ‘You’re fat and I feel sorry for you.’ It’s like ‘You’re fat and that’s taking a toll on my life. You’re burning more fossil fuels, you’re raising health care costs.’ It’s more vigilante. It’s more harsh.”

And that tends to be counterproductive, Curtis says. It just ends up making her feel bad — and eat more. But she’s working hard to get past it. It was a huge step for example, to go on NPR and talk about being fat. It’s taken a long time, but she’s begun to measure progress by more than just her dress size.

“I’m really proud of myself for being honest about my situation,” she says, fighting back tears. “I feel like it was gutsy to come on and say this is what I struggle with, and I want it to stop.”

It’s all part of a very uneasy paradox, Curtis says. She’s got to accept herself and her body, even as she’s desperately trying to change it.

“There were periods of time when I used to hang skinny pictures of myself up on my fridge,” she says. “But that was brutal and mean. And I don’t want to be brutal and mean to myself.”

Curtis says she had a huge breakthrough recently, when she came out of the shower and caught a reflection of herself in the glass door.

“It was the first time that I’d seen that body and not been horrified,” she says. “It was not like I don’t want this to change, but it was just about standing there and seeing the entirety of my shape — and still feel loving toward it.

Curtis actually took a picture of her reflection, and she still looks at it, almost giddy with hope, that she might finally be on the way to shedding her excess weight by shedding the shame that surrounds it. But on the other hand she adds softly, “I’m also at the highest weight I’ve ever been, so that might be complete delusion.” [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]