Day 279

6PM:

Some universal signs to interpret, from today, a day that has left me realizing I’m worn down and not doing myself any favours by living on the edge:

“Peace is in each of us” (Mennonite Church)

Even though I felt like I needed the Naturopath to be a sounding board, that I needed her to tell me I am drinking too much (either to cope or to fill up the calorie tank at that point in the day), that I am not respecting my hunger out of fear of getting fat (and the never-ending thoughts of belly fat, unknown as to its delusional or truthful nature), that I am not fueling my me-ness enough throughout the day with food and rest, thereby letting my blood sugar drop, my adrenal health plummet and my ability to fight off / ignore / not hear the blackness crater.

Even though I felt like I needed her to say it, I knew these things.  I am scared of trusting myself, of trusting my opinion, even though time and time again, we draw the same conclusions: the only us experts, are us.  Peace is in each of us, or at least, in my case, the ability to find that peace is in me.  I trust my head to think, my heart to love, my soul to feel; now, I need to trust my body to heal.

“I value myself” (Naturopath)

I want to shift the way that I think from I find no value in myself compared to others, worthless in their shadows and that I accept myself as such.  I want to shift it to that I find purpose in others, I find value in helping them (like the happiness I got from doing yard work at my mother-in-law’s house today, not thinking about the selfishness that spawned me doing it, but simply having my heart focus on the love and the IAN).  However, finding purpose in others does not negate valuing myself, it does not have to.  In fact, valuing myself means I can be selflessly selfish, by taking time to heal myself, heal myself so I can engage in that purpose of others; as opposed to being selfishly selfless, making it about ignoring my own needs and ultimately sacrificing my ability to live that purpose.

“Be patient” (Mennonite Church)

We will make mistakes, we will falter, we must before we fly.  We will be patient, step by step on the path of recovery.  We will keep putting one foot in front of the other to reclaim healthy, making mistakes along the way but still going, one day at a time, one breath at a time, breath by breath.

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Day 266

6PM:

These might all seem like separate things, or even worse, redundancies. Two-hundred and sixty-five days of over and over, dropping one thing and going to the next, picking up one catch phrase when it better suits and putting down an old one, or again, even worse, being redundant and repetitive and (dare I say) edu-speak-ish.

Fuck off.  That is not the case.  These ideas do all fit, they fit around recovery.

Recovery is creating an environment – through lines (structures, respecting your true nature and not shoulds, working through blacklists and exposure therapy, safeguards, routines), support systems (literary and asking for help from the warm-blooded – familial and therapeutic) and tools (regular exercise, expressing gratitude and appreciation, writing a blog, happy lists) – that starves the blackness inside, taking away its power, taking back the things it stole as flaws (taking your thoughtfulness, contemplative nature and warping it into toxic hyper-vigilance and overt control, anxiety and over-thinking, an eating disorder or alcoholism to cope and depression, low sex drive and thoughts of self-harm as a result; taking your self-awareness and bastardizing it into self-doubt and fear, whereby you run and cheat and lose your you version of you) and reclaiming them as your own beautiful, amazing and loving imperfections, and in doing so, allowing yourself to find vivid in recovery one day at a time, reclaim healthy, manifest as the you version of you, your true nature, your Uncarved Block (healthy veganism, thoughtful gentleness, IANs, creative attentiveness and loving care).

Without the breaks and brackets (and questionably avoided run-on sentence):

Recovery is creating an environment that starves the blackness inside, taking away its power, taking back the things it stole as flaws and reclaiming them as your own beautiful, amazing and loving imperfections, and in doing so, allowing yourself to find vivid in recovery one day at a time, reclaim healthy, manifest as the you version of you, your true nature, your Uncarved Block.

See, it all fits – perfectly imperfectly.

Day 263

8AM:

We will make mistakes.  We will stumble, we will falter, we will collapse.  But we’re still on the road, we’re still on the path, we’re still in recovery.  Looking back on the last nearly eight months, there have been lists and plans and lines to set the recovery on the me path, on the us path.  Some of these have worked and worked masterfully.  Some of these have worked for a time, for that version of me, but no longer, not for the more colourful, soulful me.  And others have practically not worked, even if theoretically they “should.”

We cannot hold these against ourselves, let them be the burdensome, cumbersome prevention.  By that, I mean we cannot let them prevent us from moving forward, let the blackness take hold of them and use it as ammunition for spiral thinking and self-hate and mind-fucking attacks.  I have not been eating breakfast for the week I’ve been back.  I eat twice and act as if eating two times a day means a smaller margin for error, less of a chance for me to eat too much.  But because I’m oblivious to my hunger cues at Meal 2 (as I wrote a couple of days ago, traditionally hungry is not what I’m being aware of), there is actually a larger guessing game when preparing this meal, more of a chance for me to eat disproportionately, to eat out of my nature.  As such, it is a bad habit, one that the blackness has taken a hold of, feeding off my insecurity and using it against me, turning it into a bitter flaw and causing me to make daily mistakes.  These mistakes may not have served to propel us forward on the path of recovery, but they have the ability to give to the wisdom that makes recovery that much more powerful.  The strength of recovery, the respect for what works and what doesn’t, the love and courage that drive us forward – these are intertwined with the wisdom acquired along the path.

In Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff writes the following about the true nature of wisdom: “In the final section of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse wrote, ‘The wise are not learned; the learned are not wise.’ … From the Taoist point of view, while the scholarly intellect may be useful for analyzing certain things, deeper and broader matters are beyond its limited reach” (24).

If these are not mistakes for the sake of mistakes, stumbles and falters and collapses in themselves, we can gain strength and courage and respect and love from them.  Being respectful of one day at a time only came from looking too far ahead.  The closeness of failing together ends not with error, but with loving embraces.  Bitter loss serves as an emboldening, one that strengthens the courageous ferocity in the true versions of ourselves.

A post-it note once told me an important life lesson: “remember, we all stumble; you have to fall before you fly.”  I will eat breakfast tomorrow, knowing the problems it causes later in the day with hunger cues, drinking and respecting my true nature.  If we gain from our mistakes, in this way, they serve to make us wise.

Day 261

4PM:

I am still trying to break through the facade of nobility around being exhausted.  It is a flaw in me right now.  Busy is fine, that is the imperfection version of this, but exhausted leads to blackness.  I spent three of the last four days “off” doing chores – inside the house, errands outside the house, things I’ve wanted to get done for the 30/29 working month of July (and no, that does not mean bonus marks).  Yesterday afternoon I sat, thinking I could do so without the demons running through my skull, shaming me, yelling at me, telling me I will put on weight for doing something that my body needs.  I was so very wrong.  I collapsed; I didn’t rest.  I collapsed both mentally and physically and I’m not better for it, because my head, my soul took a beating.  It was a struggle to rest, but does it have to be this way?  What if I had taken the four days and spread the chores among them?  Or what if I prioritized resting above snaking the toilet or cleaning the floors, either of which could have waited a week?

I am spending today helping friends move, exhausted.  I will spend much of next week helping my grandparents prepare their basement for moving, exhausted.  There is an opportunity afterwards: five days.  Five days that I could use to prioritize rest.

As we have seen, I cannot fully rest without being at least a little busy, it is not good for me personally, for the now version of me.  Right now, I can no longer sit and veg in front of the TV for a day, watching movie after movie or reading book after book (maybe someday, if this is my nature, my trueness).  Forcing myself to be someone I am not, even if that is just the version of me (in the present stage of recovery), that is giving the blackness strength.  I have already written about the Tao of Pooh‘s caution of fighting against one’s nature.  Benjamin Hoff also writes about this in reference to people trying (or being forced to try) to be someone they are not:

  • “Let’s start with the first part: ‘A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.’  Very simple. … And yet, you’d be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.  We will let a selection from the writings of Chuang-tse illustrate: Hui-tse said to Chuang-tse, ‘I have a large tree which no carpenter can cut into lumber.  Its branches and trunk are crooked and tough, covered with bumps and depressions.  No builder would turn his head to look at it.  Your teachings are the same – useless, without value. … [Chuang-tse replied,] a huge yak is not easily caught or overcome.  It stands like a stone, or a cloud in the sky.  But for all its strength, it cannot catch a mouse.  You complain that your tree is not valuable, as lumber.  But you could make use of the shade it provides, rest under its sheltering branches, and stroll beneath it, admiring its character and appearance. … It is useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and do not use it in its proper way.’  In other words, everything has its own place and function” (39-40).
  • “‘A fish can’t whistle and neither can I.’ … There’s nothing wrong with not being able to whistle, especially if you’re a fish.  But there can be lots of things wrong with blindly trying to do what you aren’t designed for.  Fish don’t live in trees, and birds don’t spend too much time underwater if they can help it.  Unfortunately, some people – who always seem to think they’re smarter than fish and birds, somehow – aren’t so wise, and end up causing big trouble for themselves and others” (43).
  • “That doesn’t mean that we need to stop changing and improving.  It just means that we need to recognize What’s There” (43).

I like being busy and being useful, but I cannot do either of those things if I am lying to my Mom and friends about how exhausted I am, grinning and bearing it.  There is no nobility in letting people down, and just because I’ve been able to do it up to this point, I have also seen that doing so strips pieces of my soul away, causes me to regress into the blackness.  Perhaps experimentation is needed…

What if I used these five days to break through the nobility of exhaustion?  What if I did prioritize resting on the “to do” list?  The old way isn’t working, so we must find a new one.  This is a bad habit, one which we must recover from to survive the oncoming: two jobs in September, working weekends and weekdays and the days in between; starting my Masters at the same time; going back to a frosty work environment.

This is our time to find a new way, perhaps a way that works best for the me version of me.  So during this experiment, I limit myself to two things per day out of an active (running, biking, working out), an outdoor chore (groceries), a house chore (mowing the lawn, vacuuming, laundry).  The rest of the day must prioritize rest and see if this drives me nuts.  Five days, that’s all.  I was able to stop portion counting (ok, still eating flawed and I am having a hard time being back at home and listening to my nature, but to stop counting was a giant step).  I and my support system (I will need them to “pick up the slack,” to be kind and patient with my discomfort and to be loving) are strong enough to do this.  We are wise enough to know that this is doable, one day at a time.  The blackness shouldn’t be too bad, should it…?

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.

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 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.