Day 259

7:30PM:

Today was not good, not a good step.  The sun was shining, birds chirping and the blackness sucked it all down a hole.  I have worked 30 out of the last 29 days (how’s that you ask?: three days off, but four days of working two jobs), and yet the longest I spent sitting down today was in a dentist’s chair.  I have become so immune to the fatigue, or I should say, immune to feeling the fatigue.  Maybe that isn’t even true.  I’ll explain:

I am not eating until I’m at an 8 or 9 out of ten, not resting until I fall down or until “everything” is done (both of which I did yesterday, thus the blackness).  As I pointed out before, fucking with my nature to this degree does have impacts later in the day (i.e. not being physically hungry for dinner, even though after one drink I clearly don’t have enough in my system to temper the effects), but I continue.  I am going past the point of actually feeling hungry (traditionally, physically recognized hunger) to having signs of hunger be light-headedness, dizziness, being wobbly – only at this point do I say, “ok body, message received, (but not lesson learned, still steps ahead of me on the path of recovery,” because these signs are unambiguously clear.  These have become the signs of hunger or fatigue for me, as opposed to being self-aware of the 1-7 out of ten, not acting out of fear of eating too much or not being active enough.

In doing these things, regularly, continuously, too fucking much, it desensitizes my cognizance to stress, to (as naturopaths call it) adrenal fatigue.  These are bad habits that the blackness has solidified, because although my stubbornness and strength and ability to withstand hell are imperfections, beautiful facets of the me version of me, the blackness has revealed their flawed potential.  Because while I have become desensitized to the stress, this does not make my body, my mind, my soul immune to the fatigue, stress, hunger.  This constant state of stress is still toxic to those things, even if I am too stupid to realize it.

Bad habits these are, break them I must.  I need to be strong and loving and wise.  I can only do that if I rest.  I can do that tomorrow, do that one day at a time.

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Day 258

11AM:

The bad experiences don’t help break bad habits, bad habits that are brought on by the blackness, bad habits that the blackness uses to turn beautiful imperfections into cancerous, soul-eating flaws.  To clarify this latter poetic ramble, my thoughtfulness and desire to be active have been warped by my blackness into bad habits: obsessing over counting portions and calories, not being able to sit down without shame and getting into the habit of working through meals.  My blackness distorts my thoughtfulness into over-thinking, hyper-vigilance and thoughts of self-harm to stop thinking so fucking much.  These bad habits are reflections of these flaws, distorting the “me” version of me and taking me away from my trueness and nature, my ease, making it harder to breath.  I am not the only one who struggles with this, finds it hard to reclaim imperfections from the blackness.

Regaining these from the blackness, breaking these bad habits by regaining our imperfections, there is a section in Tao of Pooh about it.  About imperfections v. flaws: “Sooner or later, we are bound to discover some things about ourselves that we don’t like.  But once we see they’re there, we can decide what we want to do with them.  Do we want to get rid of them completely, change them into other things, or use them in beneficial ways?  The last two approaches are often especially Useful, … they allow those transformed characteristics to be added to the list of things we have that help us out” (58-59).  My thoughtfulness is an imperfection, in so much as it causes me to over-think sometimes.  I accept this part of me and I love it.  But the blackness dug deep inside to screw these imperfections into flaws, turning this over-thinking into something self-harming and abusive and reinforcing bad habits to make for damn sure that they stayed.  Breaking these bad habits – therefore – is not just about reclaiming healthy, regaining your imperfections, but also about accepting these imperfections as beautiful parts of you.

But back to my point, while bad experiences may be the impetus or the motivation (that one-too-many, the fight, the doctor’s scare, the crying husband), breaking bad habits is about the good experiences.  Good experiences keep you going along the path, that light up the darkness ahead.  Saying, “I’m doing this,” is Day 0.  It is the bad experience impetus, the second before the starter’s pistol, the (to abuse a metaphor from Lao Tzu, the Taoist philosopher) moment right before you look down at your feet, deciding to take the “one step” that will begin the “journey of a thousand miles.”  Day 1 is getting past the bad experience and taking the first step in that thousand mile recovery journey: the first uncounted portion of food; the first snack indulged in (even if it is two apples, to quiet the obvious mental hunger); the first night drinking socially, not emotionally; the first “smoke break” that is not taken; the first time you come home to worrisome husband and calm his nerves.  These are steps on the path.

So while my recovery stems from the guilt, the weight loss, the isolation, the mental and psychological anguish, these are not steps, they are bad experiences, they happen on Day 0.  They are not going to break my bad habits, but motivations they are.  Steps for me (aside from the obvious aforementioned ones) are being able to gloat about an awesome vegan lunch, looking in the mirror and realizing I don’t care or that I don’t want to run to the scale to “check” (still waiting for these), tasting food innocently given to me by a child or made by a loved one.  These are the good experiences that keep me going along the path, these are steps on the path to reclaiming my imperfections from the blackness by breaking the bad habits is has bestowed upon me.

Breaking bad habits, one day at a time, reclaiming beautiful imperfections from the blackness, they do not start at the bad experience, the impetus, the Day 0.  Breaking bad habits starts here – with action and care and try and courage.

Day 257

8PM:

We made it through yesterday – through the artificial insanity of my wife’s birth control pills, the hurricane (or tornado, as it were) of tumultuous emotions that tore her up.  We made it through, got strong and fierce and courageous, pulled her through the fire and flood (not without getting singed or water-logged) because of care and attention, intention and affection.

This brings me to something I read in Tao of Pooh.  I have said here before that love is automatic.  Love is the emotion you feel, it is directionless and pure energy.  Caring is the action, the direction, the follow-through of love.  Ironically enough, the thing that makes others feel loved, feel loved when they are alone, feel affected by love, is not love itself.  The ironic thing about love is that directionless, it has the ability to make others feel unloved.  Love itself, by itself, would be selfish.  Love does not make the lover feel loved; love makes the lovee feel.  On the other hand, caring – the action of love – that makes others feel loved.  We found out yesterday, once again, that being courageous and fierce and loving and strong, that these traits related not to love, but to caring.

In line with this, according to Benjamin Hoff and Taoism, the source of courage and strength (of believing) lies in caring, which is the action of love:

“The two Fearless Rescues just mentioned [(of Roo from the river and Piglet who was Trapped by the Flood)] bring us to one of the most important terms of Taoism: Tz’u, which can be translated as ‘caring’ or ‘compassion’ and which is based upon the character for heart.  In the sixty-seventh chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse named it as his ‘first treasure,’ and then wrote, ‘From caring comes courage.’  We might add that from it also comes wisdom.  It’s rather significant, we think, that those who have no compassion have no wisdom. … We also consider it significant that cor, the Latin word for ‘heart,’ is the basis for the word courage.  Piglet put it this way: ‘She isn’t Clever, Kanga isn’t, but she would be so anxious about Roo that she would do a Good Thing to Do without thinking about it.’  Tz’u … saved Roo, discovered the North Pole, and rescued Piglet” (128-129).

Strength and compassion, ferocity and fierceness, wisdom – these are built through caring, through Tz’u.  When my wife and I talk about her recovery, we talk about love being natural and care being intentional.  Care takes courage, awareness takes strength, but as it states above, “From caring comes courage” – what you put in – in terms of belief and strength and courage – will feed the recovery, will beget greater belief and strength and courage and feelings of love.  This is not done through love itself, but through the actions of love, through Tz’u.

I feel the love of my mother-in-law not because she loves me, not because of some abstract emotion she has within her.  I feel the love of my mother-in-law because she thinks of me when I’m not there, buying berries that cost much more than they should (probably because of the water they taste like! – but I’ll never tell).  Tasty or not, it is the caring in her action that makes me feel loved [AN ASIDE: (my metaphor continuing, of my wife and my Roo to her Kanga) my mother-in-law, through her Tz’u and because of her love, demonstrates time and time again her strength of character and that she is wise beyond experience].  Similarly, I feel the love of my grandparents because they sought to understand how they could support my veganism, even if they did not understand the love I have for it.  The caring in their actions – Tz’u – is what makes me feel loved.  Intentional Acts of Niceness make absolute strangers feel loved, and yet, there is no love for that stranger by the actee.  However, the IAN will give them the strength to do a nice thing for the next person, even without love being behind the Tz’u.  There is caring, which begets love and happiness, strength and wisdom in the lover and the lovee.

Going back to my wife’s path of recovery, it is about intention and belief.  Her path of recovery is reclaiming her healthy, her Tz’u.  I have faith in her love, but I also believe in her Tz’u.  I carry around a lollipop notepad from her.  In it, there are messages of love.  I have yet to open it, have yet to read a single one of these messages.  And yet,  I feel loved because of it.  I feel loved not because of the words on the page, words that are finite and after being read once are never-to-be-read the same again.  No, I feel loved because of the infinite care that the lollipop notepad represents.

In 1494, Leonardo da Vinci stated: “Oh ye seekers after perpetual motion, how many vain chimeras have you pursued? Go and take your place with the alchemists.”  Not so, because the source of alchemy is Tz’u.  Even if I never read a single message from the lollipop notepad, it will always be an infinite source of strength and belief, of courage and ferocity, of matter-and-universe-defying love.  This act of love – caring, compassion, Tz’u – always creates and therefore is perpetually in motion.

Day 256

12NOON:

There is hardness brewing, hurricanes (or more appropriately tornadoes) of spiral thinking, the kind that sucks you into a blackness driven by your weakest bits.  The razing by fire, the drowning by flood happens, even though the 48 more hours of fumes is choking the oxygen.

But I will swallow fire and tread water in the frigid Atlantic; I will withstand the demons and not flinch when they throw salt on the wounds.

No greater motivation to keep standing up straight than love, love for my beautiful.  You are struggling and I am here.  Not to save you or so you can save me later – but for love.

Day 255

6PM:

Barely enough energy to see straight or piss straight, let alone think or act straight.  No Tao of Pooh – will get there some day (as rivers know).  Sorry, best I’ve got are random thoughts (and bad metaphors)…

Three days = three successful days of reclaiming breakfast, lunch, dinner – never eating too much and never eating too little.  Today wasn’t so great, which we knew it wouldn’t be.  But as my lunch from the gorgeous Gorilla Food demonstrated…

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…just because it looks fucked up, doesn’t mean it is (damn, did that Great Gorilla Salad ever taste good!).

On day three, didn’t over-drink = just had one and that was all – could be attributed to…

That being said, feel like crap – bloated (yesterday’s ill), tired, sleepless, restless, senseless, fatigued beyond belief.  Blackness little louder than is tolerable as a result.  Good news though = didn’t have to cram a bunch of food into me to “fill the numbers” – could skirt on yesterday and my body/nature would figure it out.

Still worry about eating too much/too little at each meal.  Just finished some fruit and chocolate as a snack and worried a shit-ton about the chocolate – maybe this is about realizing that physical signs of hunger (tummy grumbling) are not the only ones of note.  There is also (as today and yesterday have shown, since more than coffee or alcohol, fatigue kills my physical signs of appetite), other signs of hunger: being a dick, distractability and lack of concentration, over-thinking about food or counting or if it’s enough (like the fruit-chocolate demonstrated), light-headedness (shouldn’t get to this) and falling asleep or excessive fatigue.  Still learning…

Got a few more days of running on fumes, then I get to rest for 48 hours (long enough to get sick), before I’m back “on.”  Mom appreciated me being there though.  Mom needed me there though.  So fatigued or not, I am happy to be stuck in an airport waiting to go home to my girl and glad I got to be the swiss army knife again.

Day 254

5:30AM:

In light of this spirit of kindness and self-love, here’s the current perspective/point-of-view/slant…

  • On each of the last two days, I have eaten breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner
    • Albeit, the snack is a bottle of wine (but hey, you should meet the selfish, ruthlessly cruel fucktards that I have to work with all day out here, THEN JUDGE!)
    • Albeit, dinner is a little unconventional (but who dictates that?)
  • On each of the last two days, I have woken up not famished and not bloated/full, but hungry enough to “break the fast” as it were, which is kind of the place I would like to be in the mornings – not too hungry, but not still tasting the midnight “meal”
  • On each of the last two days, I have eaten roughly two components at every meal (two at breakfast, two at lunch, one at snack and three at dinner) and respected the four out of six food groups, one of which is a healthy fat
  • On each of the last two days, I have beaten myself up at first flinch about counting portions in my head (however, I haven’t woken up in the middle of the night with visions of them, as I was experiencing on the two days before this trip that I almost fell back into counting), but reminded myself about self-love and kindness at the second flinch

This new way will allow me to be more social, will allow me to not feel hungry or bloated at any point of the day, will give my head a rest from constantly drilling calories and portions from ear to ear – there is a small reclamation of social and emotional comfort, physical comfort, psychological and mental comfort.  Not peace, not quiet, but definitely a step on the path of recovery.

Day 253 (aka 252 STILL)

12:45AM:

This Neghar Fonooni is turning out to be a very timely and sensible one.

A couple of days ago, I found her post about body image on a day that I really needed it.  “Today” (can’t sleep, so technically…), given my earlier post, I received this email from “her”:

How to stop hating on yourself

‘Self love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting.’ -William Shakespeare, Henry V

… When you regularly practice self-loathing, you don’t have what it takes to further yourself in your career, relationships, or fitness endeavors. Instead, you exist as a victim, and often place blame, whether on yourself or on external factors. When you lack self-love, you also lack self-worth, which is the driving force behind true ambition and active acceptance: If you don’t think your worthy, why would you ever attempt to have or do anything great?

Self-love is clutch, and we just can’t progress without it.

But often people will ask me, isn’t self-love a little arrogant? Conceited? Vain? This is a common misconception. You see, self-love is not the same thing as self-importance. Self-love is the belief that you are worthy of love, and the awareness that while you may want to be better, that doesn’t mean you’re not enough right now. It consists of positive self-talk, and regular self-care (exercising, eating nutritiously, getting enough sleep, etc). Self-love is the foundation of not only your love for others, but the love that you’re able to authentically receive.

Self-importance is thinking that you’re more valuable than others, or that your worth outweighs that of everyone else.

Self-love is tremendously advantageous when it comes to developing a success mindset and self-importance is downright counterproductive. Loving yourself doesn’t mean that you think you’re better than others, it means that you think you’re worthy of love, and able to accept it. It means that you can actually change your eating and exercise habits for good, because you can overcome mistakes instead of dwelling on them.

Only once you believe you’re worthy of love are you able to make a real transformation; if you want to change your body, you’ll do so because you love yourself, not because you hate yourself. If you want to change your habits, you’ll do so because you want to do what’s best for yourself, not because you’re disappointed in who you are. If you want to advance your career, it’s because you know you’re capable, not because you perceive yourself as a failure.

Self-love changes your inner dialogue from “I’m not good enough” to “I’m worthy of success.” It seems like a small change, but it’s one that will completely shift your intentions and in doing so, your actions.

But loving yourself doesn’t mean that you always think you’re perfect and can do no wrong. People who love themselves make mistakes all the time! What it does mean is that when you do make mistakes, you don’t beat yourself up for them, and you don’t berate yourself for every little misstep. Instead, you learn from your experiences, and live in the awareness that you aren’t perfect–and that’s okay.

For a lot of us, it’s not easy to embrace self-love. Maybe we were raised with a victim mentality, or perhaps we were constantly told we weren’t good enough until we finally believed it. Like anything else, self-love takes practice and requires a ton of mindfulness. It’s something we need to truly cultivate in order to make it a habit, but with a few strategies, we can start to change our behavior and the way we view ourselves.

5 Things You Can Start Doing Today to Cultivate Self-love

  1. Take 15 minutes of personal time. This isn’t simply time alone, it’s focused personal energizing time. Whether you go for a walk, journal, or read, take some time alone to energize and reflect. When you do this on a daily basis, you’ll not only start to really look forward to this alone time, but you’ll begin to develop an inner dialogue that serves you in the most loving way possible.
  2. Say goodbye to toxic people. If someone doesn’t add positively to your life, it’s time to let them go. I know this can seem impossible in certain situations, and in some ways it seems harsh, but it’s absolutely essential to your wellbeing. Surround yourself with people who add value, and to whom you can add value as well.
  3. Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Failing at something doesn’t make you a failure, and your mistakes don’t define you. How you recover from those mistakes is the mark of your true character. Let it go, forgive, and use the past as a lesson, not a curse.
  4. Turn your thoughts around. The moment a negative thought about yourself comes into your mind, ask yourself, is that really true? Or am I just giving myself a hard time because that’s what I’ve always done? Turn the thought around into something constructive, and one thought at a time you’ll start to cultivate more positive self-talk.
  5. Listen to your body. If you’re in tune with yourself, you’ll know when to slow down and when to speed up, and if you’re in that flow you’ll never feel as though you didn’t do enough. You’ll do whatever you’re capable of doing.

Start doing these 5 things, and before you know it you’ll begin to shift from the “I’m not good enough” mentality to “I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.” Only once you truly accept who you are right now, can you begin to move forward and change.

So I need not to beat myself up about counting portions in my head.  It is expected after having done it for the last three years.  Just being happy that I’m moving forward, that I’m on the recovery path, that I’m reclaiming healthy one step at a time – that is self-love.  The real tomorrow will be another step and hopefully, by doing things one day at a time, things won’t be as hard tomorrow.