Day 348

2:30PM:

Tired, beat down, worn out.

Don’t want to burden the evaluation process on anyone else, don’t want to burden the sleep on my wife, don’t want to be in oblivion like this though.

Not even sure I know what tools to use right now.  The hours of solace are fuzzy, not enough, not managing the pain.

I might be stronger, braver, wiser, more full of love and care.  But when the blackness shouts, making me blurry, making the spiders scurry in my brain, caking my soul with cobwebs…  When the blackness shouts and there’s no one to hear (or listen for or remember) my screams, I need this.  I hurt, that’s why I have to use those tools.

Remember the beautiful:

“Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.”

— Roo, Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

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Day 335 & 336

Recapping the last few days, the more ME version of ME appears, the more we learn about ME.  The more we learn about ME – not through mistakes, since I have gained wisdom by experiencing and experimenting with intuitive eating – and what ME/WE want to be – not what we should be – the better we are able to reclaim healthy, take it back from the blackness.

Imagine that there is a battle – a battle that wages between the blackness that grabs hold when stress is over-stress, a battle that is fought with the tools of recovery.

So, standing at the precipice of the next battleground, the next stage in reclaiming healthy, here are our lines, our path towards vivid, the next steps in recovery:

  • No more drinking before eating two meals, since I am able to separate drinking to cope from drinking to enjoy, but I am not able to separate drinking for calories from these.  I have allowed myself to consume alcohol calories outside of mealtimes (in the same way as having allowed myself to consume a latte outside of mealtimes), and therefore if I am too hungry outside of mealtimes, before the “shoulds,” I will drink my calories (and sensibilities) away.
    • I was ready to go on hiatus, but my wife brought me back to sensibility; I do enjoy a good bottle of wine, I just need to make sure the reasons (interesting, because she was the one that first opened my eyes, palette and heart to social drinking and now, she’s helped do it again with my tummy!).
  • Back to portion counting; albeit a softer version, but still portion counting.  After learning – through non-mistakes – I am comfortable doing this.  I am comfortable saying that intuitive eating is less a part of me than portion counting.  I am comfortable saying that softer portion counting [no weighing EVER, only calorie counting when ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY (since the latter actually allows me to try unknown things, fit it into me)], is helpful to me.  I am comfortable saying that this allows me to be the person I want to be, but acting as a boundary, an insurance that I will not falter.  I am comfortable saying that I want/need portion counting to retain the me-ness of me throughout a busy day.  That’s why it was not a mistake to try intuitive eating – hell, it might be something we go back to someday.  It was not a mistake because now I don’t say “grow” or “be able” to eat intuitively; I say that if it fits, it will be a part of our future.
  • To address the symptoms (and some of the causes) of over-stress:
    • Unrecognized hunger
      • Portion counting and food timing
    • Decreased sex drive
      • Sex drive
      • Pushing through discomfort and communicating openly about sex
    • Increased spiral thinking
      • Food timing
      • Recognizing that spiral thinking are signs/signals, that (insert venomous tool of the blackness here) is more about being in a position of weakness, not about being weak
    • Unrecognized fatigue
      • Re-instituting candles
    • Decreased silliness/gentleness
      • Happy lists
      • talesofarecoveringrecoverer.wordpress.com

There are still gaps, especially in needing to develop more coping strategies and boundaries that prevent the blackness from taking hold of the symptoms of over-stress.  In fact, my wife brought up a point yesterday, that I completely understand.  I understand that this does not deal with the core issue as much as it could.  These lines fight the symptoms more than the disease.  Therefore, while this next stage in recovery means boundaries, stop-gaps and lines that help support the anti-stress movement, it still requires further thought about what to do about this whole stress thing (if I were to put money on it, I’d say there are more beautiful candle and happy list ideas in my future, once my wife digests our talk and taps into her beautiful, amazing and loving vivid genius).

Step by step, breath by breath, one day at a time.

Rivers know this, there is no hurry.  We shall get there some day.

Here we go.

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!

Day 260

3PM:

In keeping with the last few days’ posts about reclaiming my beautiful imperfections, breaking bad habits (ok, so yesterday and the day before and the day before and today up until now are BAD examples), I will look up for the rest of today.  I will enjoy like Pooh Bear enjoys living in the now: “‘Owl, you’re just confusing things,’ I said.  ‘This is the day after Tuesday, and it’s not Thirds – I mean, Thursday.’  ‘Then what is it?’ asked Owl.  ‘It’s Today!‘ squeaked Piglet.  ‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh” (27-28).

Pooh recognizes that the best day is the one you are in.  I will try to live one of those days today and relax.

And I will do so by both literally and metaphorically respecting the simple phrase on the outside of the Mennonite Church yesterday.  One that I have found wisdom in before, their weekly message to the drivers going by, the parishioners going in and all those who need the IAN:

BE STILL

Day 251

Now:

I will need strength this week.  Totally usurping my life and taking a risk with my recovery: I am leaving on a jet plane, to a foreign land, taking only a limited support system (I have decided that my Mom, who would be much of that support system for the week, needs my help; she is not paying attention to the fact that I need to eat, she is not pushing anything, she is not aware; I am not going to take this to mean that she cannot be, I am going to take it to mean that she needs me not to need her – it sucks, truth be told, as I was kind of hoping that I could lean on her and bring her back into the fold after my brother’s needing her more; she is tired though, she is in need of rejuvenation and I hope that she has the chance to do that here, outside of her fucked-up-world of the last five months; I am not martyring myself, I am just taking care of my Mom so she can hopefully take care of me later) and a lot of love.  The care, therefore, that will come from afar.

It worked yesterday, so maybe I can find a bit of that care in the continued wisdom revealed by Tao of Pooh.  Every day I’m away will be inspired by the words of this gentle bear:

  • About IANs: “When we make the first move, the process will begin.  And that brings us to the Tiddely-Pom Principle, which comes from a song by Pooh: ‘The more it snows (Tiddely pom), The more it goes (Tiddely pom), The more it goes (Tiddely pom) On Snowing.’  … Now the principle can work negatively or positively.  It can promote cynicism as easily as it can encourage hope.  It can build hardened criminals or courageous heroes, stupid vandals or brilliant creators.  The important thing is to make it work for yourself and for the benefit of others, or face the Ugly Consequences.  Working with the Tiddely-Pom Principle, you use respect to build Respect.  The more it snows, the more it goes” (134-135).

Living as if the world is not for you to get from, but for you to give to, that is a principle in which I can believe.  When I go away like this, I am forced to work with some really stupid people.  I am talking about people who make you wonder whether or not stupidity is contagious.  I am talking about people who would write their name on the pizza they bring into the house, but be oblivious to the fact that you cooked dinner the next night.  I am talking about people who show up late, leave early and take the wine with them.  Those people, I am happy to say, deserve IANs too.  Those people, I will call and tell that we have food in the fridge ready for them and wine in the bottle waiting for them, because it is the nice thing to do.  Those people, I will give choice of bedrooms just in case they want to shower after their swim or bike or run in the morning.  Those people, fuck that, all people, deserve IANs.  Because my hope is not that I am in a position to get a return on investment, that the karma I gain will somehow find its way back to me.  My hope is in the Tiddely-Pom Principle: that I will give respect to the universe, give IANs to the world, and respect and IANs will be built in the universe.  The universe, the people in it (yes, maybe even me), will be better for having these Intentional Acts of Niceness.  No one can be uncheered by a balloon or an IAN or feeling like someone loves and respects them, even if they are dumb enough to believe you are skiing in July.

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.

Day 248

11AM:

Cue Mr. John Lennon…

I am in my hour of darkness, struggling through this new stage of recovery because it will be for the best.  And therefore, I have tried to find that metaphorical “Mother Mary.”  Two days ago, I found it in Habitating Family Friend, using a wireless printer that was wired in his room.  Three days ago, I found it in my grandparents and their new-found interest in veganism that stemmed from their not-so-new-found interest in me.  Four days ago, I sought it in digital companionship, digging into the silent online community who have gone through or are going through stages of recovery, of their reclaiming healthy.

Yesterday, I tried finding it in Intentional Acts of Niceness: smiling at anyone I could to get a smile back – the grocery cashier, cyclists going the other way, drivers who I let pass ahead in stop signs = NOTHING!  It was as if the world had taken a giant step backwards in the graciousness department.  [AN ASIDE: On a more dramatic note, there was a story in the New Yorker about suicide attempts made off the Golden Gate Bridge — the following story has relevance:

Dr. Jerome Motto, who has been part of two failed suicidebarrier coalitions, is now retired and living in San Mateo. When I visited him there, we spent three hours talking about the bridge. Motto had a patient who committed suicide from the Golden Gate in 1963, but the jump that affected him most occurred in the seventies. “I went to this guy’s apartment afterward with the assistant medical examiner,” he told me. “The guy was in his thirties, lived alone, pretty bare apartment. He’d written a note and left it on his bureau. It said, ‘I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.’ ”

How far do you think this gentleman walked?  How many opportunities for Intentional Acts of Niceness – simple smiles – were missed on his way?  Clearly, I am not that close nor do I ever think I will be, but it does resound given the mental thunderclouds of the last month].

So being unable to find that metaphorical “Mother Mary” in my bag of recovery tricks, I sit here in my hour (oh, what I wouldn’t give for that to be a metaphor) of darkness.  I sit in the dark, worrying about having sat down for too long (even though I biked for almost an hour uphill yesterday and will probably lift weights or run later today), about small flaps of skin around my waist (that very well could have always been there, fucking hypnotic, body dysmorphic voice of the blackness) and about a stomach that touches my T-shirt a little too closely (even though I did core work on Friday and that always causes a tighter stomach).

Don’t worry trusted readers… this is not feeling sorry, indulging in self-pity or even clocking in the five seconds of Lost fear – it’s just crossing the tools off that are not working at the moment.  Instead, I will seek wisdom in the Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, a wonderful discourse on peace of mind and quiet of soul.  I’ll let you know if…

When I find myself in times of trouble
Winnie the Pooh comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
He is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be