Day 264

10AM:

When I smile at you on the bus or hand back the rest of a gift card or help you with your bags, it is an IAN.  It is an Intentional Act of Niceness.  It is because the world would be better with more love and niceness and care in it.

It is because I know what it feels like to not have that.  My regular place of work, the thing that has the ability (when my support system cannot or doesn’t compensate) to take away my gentle, is lacking in IANs.  Benjamin Hoff explains, through the all-seeing eyes of Eeyore:

“‘Not conversing,’ said Eeyone.  ‘Not first one and then the other.  You said “Hallo” and Flashed Past.  I saw your tail in the distance as I was meditating my reply.  I had thought of saying “What?” – but, of course, it was then too late.’  ‘Well, I was in a hurry.’  ‘No Give and Take,’ Eeyore went on.  ‘No Exchange of Thought: “Hallo – What” – I mean, it gets you nowhere, particularly if the other person’s tail is only just in sight for the second half of the conversation'” (96).

Making others feel loved, or even worth it, that takes care, attention, niceness — intention.  I am on the bus (because I want to leave a car to make my parents and brother’s lives easier) going to my grandparents to help them prepare their house for sale, doing the things that they would otherwise be alone to do because I love them.  No — I’m doing it so that I attend to that love, intentionally doing what many other members of the family can’t find time to do (but who will send you an email on your birthday or RECEIVE a birthday phone message from you, without response).  I’m doing it because Intentional Acts of Niceness attend to love, foster it and make it grow.  IANs are my mission!

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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 250

6PM (+ some late night readings):

So, let’s talk about where we are:

  • One week in to this next stage of recovery, of reclaiming healthy
  • Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Having difficulty eating snacks or eating breakfast or lunch on time (not a “should,” but because I am ignoring hunger signals in favour of eating later)
  • Still worrying a little about portion sizes, but not as much as I thought I would and when I do think about it, it is not as disordered as I think it might be (i.e. having two components at each meal, like a salad and oatmeal or pasta and fruit bowl)
  • Cooking meals is a bit of a struggle, especially when I do ignore my hunger signals in favour of eating later (which was always the case when I let myself get too hungry/too weak), but doing major cooks-for-the-week when I wasn’t hungry and having my wife cook meals the first couple of days and Mom pitching in all helped
  • The voice of the blackness has shifted to:
    1. “You feel that you are getting fatter, you see that your stomach is less defined”
    2. “You shouldn’t eat that much, you shouldn’t eat that soon, you shouldn’t be hungry yet”
  • I have had glasses of wine in the last few nights, none of which was for calorie recovery, and as such, was relaxing and enjoyable (Saturday night, the second glass was for quieting the blackness, if only for a little bit – and guess what, it didn’t work)
  • I tried coffee yesterday and while it did kick my appetite for a little while, the impact later was that I was hungrier, like I had skipped ahead from Mile 2 to Mile 5 on the hunger trail without having to feel the Miles in between (but feeling just as hungry at Mile 5 as I would have otherwise)
  • Using the tools of recovery to keep from going crazy – exercise in moderation, leaning on my support system to talk, reading – but at times of weakness, the blackness still screams through

One of those tools provided some advice about the next steps on the path of recovery, to be used for the coming days and weeks and months of reclaiming healthy: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff (or at least, the parts that speak to this – there is more that I will refer to in the coming days, I am sure).

“According to Lao-tse [author of the oldest existing book of Tao-ism], the more man interfered with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreated into the distance.  The more forcing, the more trouble. … Everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties.  When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed from the outside, struggle was inevitable.  Only then did life become sour” (4).

“The essence of the principle of the Uncarved Block is that things [and people] in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed … ‘things in their natural state'” (10-11).

“When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun” (20).

“When we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us … then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort.  Since the natural world follows that principle, it does not make mistakes.  Mistakes are made – or imagined – by man, the creature with the overloaded Brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard.  Not like Pooh, the most effortless Bear we’ve ever seen.  ‘Just how do you do it Pooh?’  ‘Do what?’ asked Pooh.  ‘Become so Effortless.’  ‘I don’t do much of anything,’ he said.  ‘But all those things of yours get done.’  ‘They just sort of happen,’ he said.  ‘Wait a minute.  That reminds me of something from the Tao Te Ching … “Tao does not do, but nothing is not done.” … It means that Tao doesn’t force or interfere with things, but lets them work in their own way, to produce results naturally.  Then whatever needs to be done is done'” (69-70).

My interpretation: a quiet mind, a mind at peace goes with the flow of the river, of nature; for me, this means eating when I am hungry and not eating when I am not – listening to my nature – because when I interfere with this nature, that’s when interference happens to me.  If I ignore my hunger, it makes me feel distressed, amplifies those ghosts of self-harm and makes me more vulnerable to the blackness (as was the case on Friday, when emotions got a hold of me and I cried, often and a lot).  If I restrict during the day, it leads to desires to binge at night (or at least, as was the case Saturday and yesterday, leads to much-too-derailing confusion about not feeling physically hungry at 8PM; derailing because the what ifs start, stemming from the unpredictability and uncertainty, which is probably a less physical but just as loud and telling a sign of hunger – it is just less certain for my re-learning hunger/reclaiming healthy brain).  A little interference by me against my nature, a little interference in return from the universe.  No interference by me against my nature, my body will figure things out.  It will tell me if I am hungrier today, if I ate less yesterday.  It will tell me if I am less hungry today, if I ate more yesterday.  My nature will tell me if my physiology will require more food, if it is going through things that mean it needs more nourishment or if it doesn’t need as much that day. Trying to interfere with something natural – controlling the river – that’s the too many/bold lines that caused my colour to struggle against these lines over the past month.  Don’t get me wrong, because it is not time to throw everything out (the proverbial baby with the bath water).  The harsher lines (yes, interference) were needed before to counteract the even larger disruptions of the blackness and disordered behaviour, but it is only because these latter disruptions were interfering with my soul – now, they are not needed to the same degree.  This is not an immediate call to Zen or to find my inner Uncarved Block (the proverbial running before I can walk – or even roll over by myself, as the case may be), just a step on the path a few ahead of where we are.  For now, the harsher lines caused my vividness to suffer and the friction of that struggle threw the blackness into the front seat and me into the darkness. So going with the flow of the river, means no distress, no bingeing, no hurtful thoughts, just peace?  Accepting my nature with food, listening to my nature, will lead to realigning my nature with the other things (sex, love, sadness, rock and roll)?

For a Bear of Very Little Brain, you are a wise one Pooh Bear.  There is serenity in knowing that the thing that gave you comfort at age 3 still has the power to do so a quarter of a century later.