I Am That Girl Now

Monday, January 07, 2008

"One moment at a time" is actually pretty tough

Reading through my past posts has been something of an eye-opener, particularly once I got back to the point prior to September 2005 when I was in manic perfectionistic mode. There are at least three or four posts there that, in retrospect, set off huge alarm bells for "dude, you are driving yourself into depression, stop having such strict standards, stop being so judgemental and harsh on everyone, particularly yourself, and get in touch with your stress because OH MY GOD YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT MEANT YOU WERE STRESSED?" I just want to take that old self and sit on her for a while until she calms down, and try to talk her out of this self-destructive course.

Also I've noticed that I continue to go "aha! I have the answer!" on a regular basis regarding my same problems, just with new answers every time. For the most part, I think all the answers apply, and I'm just kind of building on each one every time. Or something. So every time I think I have the answer, apply a large grain of salt; in another six months, I'll have picked up another piece of the puzzle and will be saying "Let me amend what I said before" again.

With that in mind, I wanted to talk about this thing that... okay, I forget what it's called. It's the phenomenon in which the limit is gone past, and we go "well, fuck it, I've screwed this up, might as well screw it up MORE." Former Weight Watchers Points-counters, repreSENT: I can't be the only one who had this happen. After the limit is breached, all restraint goes, and crazy-ass eating occurs.

I had this happen when I was shopping for New Year's Eve, only with the budget, not with food. Which, well, now that I think of it, that's happened a lot with money in the past, particularly with my Hub, who will always have that attitute: "Well, we're already going over budget, so why not order pizza, too?" This time, though, I managed to recognize it when I was in the middle of it, breathe, remember that just because the stuff we needed for the party was going over budget didn't mean that I had to buy more stuff on top of it because "what the hell, I already fucked up, might as well get everything we want". And it was fine. And, really, we already ended up having way too much food.

Incidentally, my Hub went out to get eggs, milk, and flour (he wanted pancakes on New Year's morning) and returned with those and then frozen pizza, taquitos, and another twenty dollars' worth of stuff on top of that. ...Oops.

My poor beleagered Hub. He insisted on buying the "Rock Band" video game before Christmas; I admit fully that it is really fun, and it's been an awesome party game, but it cost $150, and he didn't have the money for it. He knew full well that I was going to hate him buying it on credit, and I took advantage of that by "letting" him get it without guilt-- but on the condition that as of the New Year, his money accounts would go through Mvelopes, too. He went along with it. He is not really happy about it thus far, and doesn't get it, and is mopey when I bring it up. That said, we've got the money for the entire household into this thing, finally.

My job in this, thus far, is not to judge or nag or be weird. Just let the thing track purchases, and sort them into their envelopes. That's a major first step. Having to make choices about priorities comes later, when he runs out of money in his Parking envelope and has to make a decision to raid another envelope for the funds-- thus making it obvious that his parking decision is robbing him of the funds for the next PPV, or his next video game purchase, or the next time he wants to eat at a restaurant. And he'll be able to actually look at the totals from his purchases at the end of the year (or maybe just a few months from now) and recognize that hey, that's a lot of money he's spending on parking, maybe just once a week is okay. What he does with that knowledge is a whole different thing, but going from ignoring the situation entirely to knowing is huge. I just, er, have to make sure that he doesn't avoid looking at the thing. And I have to do that without being a pain in the ass. Yeowza.

Knowledge is power, it's just not COMFORTABLE power. There is a glorious luxury-- I've written about it before-- in ignoring things. Ignoring what the balance is on the credit cards is a big example, but what I'm thinking of more these days is ignoring my own feelings. I out-and-out said a few times in the early days of my blog that I'd been completely oblivious to being stressed until such-and-such brought it to my attention; stressed, or scared, or annoyed, or happy, or nervous. Ignoring it when I felt like my whole life was a series of pointless tasks, because frankly I'd MADE it a series of pointless tasks. Ignoring how my body felt: hungry, or full, or tired, or overworked, or underworked; ignoring it when my body very much wanted chocolate; ignoring it when my body very much wanted vegetables; ignoring minor injuries that turned into major annoyances; ignoring the bad posture that aggravated those injuries. By avoiding knowledge of what my body was feeling, I was disassociating myself from my body, protecting myself from the shame of being imperfect.

I do this on everything, really. In any given moment, I've got my brain somewhere that has very little to do with what is going on: thinking about the past, or fretting over the future (although a quote I read lately indicated that worrying about the future does about as much to help with future events as chewing gum has to do with defusing a bomb, which is an awesome comparison), or making a judgment on whether or not I like something, or whether or not someone ELSE likes something, or whether or not it's a good thing. I keep catching myself in the middle of having arguments with people who aren't here and who haven't actually said the thing that's set me off-- or, most of the time, people who were here within the past 24 hours and who said something that I didn't get to respond to in a satisfactory manner. Or I'm working through how to do a project. Or I'm distracting myself with a book, or TV, or the computer. Or with my latest obsession.

Living one moment at a time is not comfortable stuff. It's the thing we're told to do to get through any big catastrophe, but the thing nobody seems to mention is that the worry about the future isn't the real problem, it's just a symptom of really really really really not wanting to be right here and right now. Even when right here and right now is not that bad, it's hard to hold my attention on just being here and being me, because I'm sort of bracing myself in advance, to cushion the blow of the inevitable bad stuff that's coming.

So ignorance is bliss. Except for how, the more I do this, the less I'm actually present in my own life, the less I really experience, the less I can remember later about what I'm experiencing now. And apparently that sneaks up on me, because if I don't really experience the time I spend with my family and friends, then I feel lonely, and if I don't really experience and deal with the stress I'm having, then the stress just piles up and piles up until I blow many fuses, and if I don't really experience (and savor, and smell, and enjoy) the food I'm eating, then I'm not satisfied with what I eat even if I eat huge servings of awesome food and, voila, I overeat.

So, back up, ignorance is blissful, but it fucks up my life. Which, I tell you, sucks. Because I really don't feel up to paying attention, and I really really don't feel up to dealing with the emotions involved in my daily life.

They talk a lot about paying attention in both the Mindfulness Meditation stuff and in the Intuitive Eating book. The Intuitive Eating book doesn't talk a lot about how to deal with it, granted, and (probably because it's more focused) doesn't talk about how not paying attention to food and body sensations may be part of a larger problem. So while I've picked up from Intuitive Eating that the sensation of "full" is not "I am stuffed full of food" but rather "I am no longer getting the 'hungry' message and my stomach is just kind of there", I had to go back to Mindfulness to get the message on how to deal with stuff.

And you know what? Their answer is sort of revolutionary: learn to be in the moment while we're in pain, while we are unhappy, while we are stressed out, while we are angry. The idea being that the bad parts of life are still parts of life, and the pain is still part of our experience, and that, while escaping from these things has its place, living in the moment-- without judgment, without dismissing your experiences and emotions as useless-- could be more useful. That maybe living in the moment, noticing but not running away from the emotions that come up, could give us the opportunity to notice and examine those emotions and recognize where they're coming from. And-- oh boy-- accepting who we are in that moment, without judgment, and with love.

I've been trying to do that, with scattered success, over the past ten months or so. The times I've had less than stellar success, I've noticed, is when I'm trying to be-in-the-moment in such a way where I'm pretending that if I only pay attention, I'll enjoy this. The rest of my brain can sense such self-applied bullshit, though, so I usually get bounced off into a wacky zone. A big part of that was that, in trying to convince myself that if I just relaxed I'd enjoy [fill in the blank], I was not taking into account who I actually am, what my actual likes and dislikes are-- because to a certain extent (oh, who am I fooling, it's pretty much all the time) I don't accept that I am that person. I want to believe that I'm much more adventurous and bad-assed than I actually am, and when I came up against emotions to the contrary, I was dismissing them and looking for the "real" emotions. Which pretty much means I wasn't doing this right: I wasn't open to the possibility that I honestly, underneath the reflexive fear and discomfort that comes with some things, I might just plain not like it.

I can't really state it any better than this: Kate Harding writes, in The Fantasy of Being Thin: "[This] is, of course, a pretty normal part of getting older. You start to realize that yeah, this actually is it, and although you can still try enough new things to keep anyone busy for two lifetimes, you’re pretty much stuck with a basic context. There are skills, experiences, and material things you will almost certainly never have, period. It’s a challenge for all of us to understand that accepting this fact of life does not necessarily mean cutting off options or giving up dreams, but simply — as in the proverbial story about the creation of the David — chipping away all that is not you. But for a fat person, it can be even harder, because so many fucking sources encourage us to believe that inside every one of us is 'a thin person waiting to get out' — and that thin person is SO MUCH COOLER."

Oh God yes. I remember I had this list of things that I intended to do, when I got thin, and then when I got thin I didn't do any of them. I forget what all was on the list, but I do remember that they pretty much all involved athletic craziness that, let's face it, I am absolutely never going to do-- not because I'm a chicken, but because I am not a big fan of discomfort (cold, dirt, you name it) or being scared out of my mind for the purpose of getting an adrenaline rush. Therefore, some of the things on that list aren't ever going to happen simply because they're not really something I want to do, they're something that the person I want to be would want to do.

It's time to repurpose the blog, I think, because if you read my mission statement it's a rejection not only of my body before I lost weight, but of everything I was, personality-wise, when I started. That's pretty fucked up right there. Over the past almost-three years (!!!) my priority has shifted from become the girl who could stay thin to deal with who I am so I can stay thin to deal with who I am so I can be happy. So when I started working on the Intuitive Eating thing, it wasn't to get thin, but rather to resolve my issues with food-- and if that means that I stay this weight, then so be it, and if it means that I gain a bit, so be it. I want to eat like a normal person, without the disordered thinking and the binging and the good/bad dichotomy. I want to be healthy, I want to be more relaxed, I want to love myself more, I want to be less of a judgmental jerk. I want to write for the love of it, for a specific audience, instead of reflexively trying to please everybody. I don't want to be scared of what other people will think.

I'm always going to have a certain tolerance level for the company of others, and it's not going to be the same in different situations, and yeah, that won't always make sense. I'm always going to have my worldview trend dramatically downward if there is cat litter on the bathroom floor (there's a reason we have a big orange broom in our teeny bathroom, and that is it), because I cannot stand getting crap stuck to my feet. I'm always going to cry when we drive away from my parents' house, even though I know it breaks my Hub's heart. I'm always going to be kind of a flake about appointments all winter because I won't like going outside until spring, and then when it's really hot in the summer I will likewise be cranky because while I can always wear my big poofy down coat in the winter, there's a limit to how many clothes I can remove and still be presentable during the summer.

It's possible that some things might change, if I'm less scared and am paying attention during them. I might learn to like activities as much as stories. I might be less tense around friends and acquaintances (it's a strange fact of my life that I am gloriously uninhibited amongst strangers, because if they have no prior knowlege of me then I have nothing to live up to and no limits on the bullshit I can sling). I might be able to argue with people without feeling the cold hand of death clutch all my internal organs, and hence a) be somewhat more logical and convincing, b) avoid veering off into YOU JUST WANT TO REPRESS ME, YOU ARE A JERK territory and c) not leave the argument feeling as though I've been beaten up and threatened with more.

You know what else is weird? Going into tasting food, when I'm trying to be mindful, is kind of a scary experience. I move the fork toward my mouth and have this twinge of oh, God, what if I don't like this? Which leads me to believe that I've spent way too much time zoning out while eating. I think that this may have to do with me never being a picky eater in the past (except for, well, healthy stuff like spinach and green beans and sweet potatoes and olives and fish but the point here is that I did like them eventually); now that I'm paying attention, I've realized that there's some stuff that I just don't like, and suddenly the world is rife with possible dislike. If I don't like something, then suddenly I have responsibility to myself to actually act on the dislike: to send restaurant food back to the kitchen and pick a new dish, or make a request about the cooking if that was the problem; to admit to my Hub that this dish didn't turn out very well this time; to figure out what to do if I'm at a party or someone else's house; to take an item back to Trader Joe's and say "okay, I know you have that 'if you don't like it bring it back' policy, so I'm bringing this back."

Most of these things risk bringing attention to myself, which still makes me nervous, and standing up for myself, which is even more nerve-wracking. And all of these things mean that I have to disengage from the process of eating, which is still weirdly difficult for me. If I'm at a restaurant, I might have to wait another twenty minutes for my new food. If I'm at home, I might have to make a whole new dish. If I'm at a friend's house, I might end up having to be polite, eat what I can stomach, and then wait until I get home to eat a proper meal (or, as has occurred in the past, have a late-night Taco Bell run). In short, there are abundant reasons for me to discount my feelings on these things, because paying attention means a lot of bother.

That's the whole thing in a nutshell, I think. If I pay attention, I risk realizing I don't like something. If I don't like something, I risk having to stand up for myself and having to work to make it right. And people, I've ignored whether or not I like a lot in my life, so I'm kind of terrified that if I pay attention to everything, I'm going to be overwhelmed by the stuff I have to deal with.

Baby steps, maybe. Maybe just deal with the food.


Post a Comment

<< Home