- Strict diet that excludes dairy and simple carbs and emphasizes fiber, protein, and produce
- Stretching, walking… before long I’m adding aerobics, yoga, and hiking to my movement choices
- Lots. Of. Water.
- Journalling to clarify my thoughts and feel my feelings rather than devour and numb them
- Making stuff, from coloring pages to book binding, creativity energizes me and makes life feel full
- Savoring non-food treats like fresh flowers and comfy shoes
I resumed treatment with the Kind Naturopaths several months ago and I just received back some lab work on my blood. It’s not good. I’m nearly diabetic and have ridiculously high cholesterol. Like, one of the categories could not be calculated it was so high. That news, through the lens of my family’s history (Dad losing his fight with heart disease at the age of 44), felt like a death sentence. My mortality jeering in my face, demanding that I respond.
I’ve been struggling with making changes to my eating and physical movement habits for a few years. A one baby-step forward, two giant-steps back kind of struggle. I’m an emotional eater who comforts herself with food and lounging on the couch or buried under my covers in bed. And while I’m getting better at feeling my feels it’s not happening quickly enough for my physical health.
I expect that lots of American women are in this place. Life is hard and I don’t imagine that I’m so unique. But the numbers tell me that I’d better get unique when it comes to making big changes for my whole health, my whole life. My son’s life with his mother.
It’s a lot terrifying and a little bit exciting to take this on like a challenge. My body wants me to win. It’s giving me information that says, “Tend me and here’s how...” I’ve collected enough data to form a response. It will be a creative, mixed media type of piece applying body, mind, and heart.
Here are some of the ways that I’m working with my whole life to heal my body:
That’s where I’m at today. There are more good things to add to this list but I need to be gentle and realistic. A long list feels overwhelming and exhausting to me right now. The list is part of remembering myself, putting myself back together, with the good stuff that’s nurtured and engaged me in the past.
In this way, my blood is reminding me who I am and how I want to live. It’s a good message via a hard medium. And it’s got my full attention.
I've been away from this space for well over a year. It's been a full and challenging time. So much learning.
Learning the people of a new job. Learning to establish and hold healthy boundaries. Learning a new, much heavier, body. To love it. To take good care of it. To patiently change it into a more physically fit and cherished vessel. Learning to co-parent with L. To tend Little N with him, my most precious person with the person I least want to share my life with. And there's more that won't fit into one tidy post.
Old memories are rising - both painful recollections and wise encouragements from my past. The memories point to how I got here. Intimating the sources of deeply held beliefs. Recalling me to nurturing habits I once held sacred and practiced regularly. If I resume those old good habits they could carry me into and beyond this new phase of learning.
Back in November, I posted that Samhain to Imbolc would be a season of sitting still with the life that I live. Oh, but I am a wriggly little worm. Much of this dark season has been resisting the life that I live. So mundane. So uninspired. I've been looking ahead to a season of action on resolutions.
I came across the above image in my Facebook feed and it did inspire me a little. I'm thinking a lot about my health. About managing my weight, getting a grip on how I feel before reaching for food, about how I want to feel, and about the things that I enjoy, that feel meaningful, and that make me feel connected. This colorful image opens my lens on health to include all of those aspects and their interconnections. Plus, I read a quote (also in my FB feed) that basically said we overeat not because food gives us pleasure, but because it doesn't give us enough pleasure. I hunger, really, for pleasure, happiness, good relationships, a sense of the presence of the Divine, meaningful work. In the absence of these things I reach for a chai tea latte and a cheese danish and head back to my job.
This season of action prompts a long list of To Dos in order to reach for the full health that I want and need. Eating healthfully. Moving my body in a way that's enjoyable and repeatable. Playing with my son after work each night and reading to him before bed. Checking in with friends for Mama-dates and ritual. All things that I am capable of and have done before.
And - this season of action calls for discrete inactivity. Sitting. With my journal. With my life. Recalling and recounting my blessings. Perceiving the fissures in the mundane where the special and inspiring whisper through.
In addition to being a time to recall our Beloved Dead, Samhain is also referred to as the "Witches' New Year." This really works for me. I appreciate the cohesion of a year ending while the earth is going into a cold, fallow state. In fact, I see the time from Samhain to Imbolq as a period where the year is dying. When the light and the plants start to rebound in February, I perceive the new year beginning.
This year, I've approached Samhain with a mind of letting go. A whole dark cold season of letting go. A time to compost, mull, and brew. No resolutions for January 1 - they will wait for February's light.
I am letting go of my marriage as I complete final paperwork and prepare to stand before a judge for the final decree of dissolution. I've been preoccupied with doing the work of this process and the emotions have faded from my perception. In this dark season I will pause and say goodbye to married life. Lay it down, with all its expectations and disappointments. Let it rest.
I am loosing my desire to lose weight, right now!, and slowly surrendering to my emotions. I may need the entire dark season and the entire new year to learn this practice. Where in my body do I feel my feelings? How do I experience my emotions? Time to lay down the perfect body and inhabit the one I am today.
And somewhere in the back of my mind I'm wrestling with our culture's prescriptions for age and timing and worth. That by X years old one should have achieved, purchased, defined Y, Z, and Q. I'm 40. I have a job that is neither a career that defines me nor my heart's work. My job is low paid and my heart's work goes unpaid. I have a home that I rent. Purchasing a home is not in view, despite my age. I have no partner. I am mother to a young child with special needs. I am short and fat with greying hair and no make-up on my face. My life is out of sync with the culture's preferred order and significance. This year has surprised me with the realization of how much those guidelines mean to me despite how little I've consciously subscribed to them. I will lay these down, too, and sit with the life that I am living.
The promise of spring lingers in another segment of the Wheel of the Year. There will be a fresh season for incantations and invocations. Part of me very much wants to skip over the slow still dark and rush into the bustling of resolutions and new habits. But a deeper hunger rumbles, calling my attention to the value of this current season.
On Sunday afternoon my Pagan circle celebrated Mabon, the holiday of the Autumn Equinox. Mabon is the second harvest festival we recognize, this one for later crops like squash and apples. We gathered to give thanks for the light that has sustained us and the bounty of the land, and to prepare ourselves for the coming darkness and cold. Already we observe darker evenings and cooler temperatures.
This new season we are entering is referred to as the time of the Dark Mother. She is the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. Marked by her sickle and scythe, she comes to reap what has been sown, in the land and in our lives. She has many names in many cultures including: Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Hecate, Nemesis, and Morrighan.
The story of Demeter and Persephone is particularly relevant to Mabon. Demeter, the goddess of grain and harvest, loses her lovely daughter Persephone to Hades, the god of the underworld. Either abducted or perhaps descending voluntarily, Persephone is resigned to six months of each year with Hades. Demeter grieves the absence of her daughter and the land is barren. That change, from lush to loss, begins at Mabon.
For our ritual, we decorated the altar with garden fresh vegetables and fruit. Bright Mums and Oak leaves stood out in a vase. We crafted candle holders from apples and placed them on the altar to note the four directions and god and goddess at the center. Our meditation focused on seasons of our lives – which season are you entering and how are you preparing for it? We used a Talking Circle to shape the individual sharing and later group discussion around our altar.
I’m entering a season of partner-less among the partnered. Now, more than ever, I feel like our culture places heavy expectations on us to have a partner. The expectation peppers our popular culture in music, television programs, and even commercials. The love-interest. The love unrequited. The love lost.
I started dating when I was 13, and while interspersed with solo phases, have usually had a partner or some love interest in my little sphere. Even in those times when there wasn’t a partner, and they were good for me once I adjusted to them, I assumed that there would be again. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve drawn some (a lot?) of my sense of worth from being partnered and possessing partner potential. Not so these days. Who wants to date an overweight, 40-year old, divorced mother of a child with special needs? The culture tells me the options aren’t good. So I look ahead and assume a long season of singleness. A season of belonging to myself. I’ve grown to like the idea. I’m choosing how to live in that season and claim it as my own.
I think it starts with treating myself as I would a good friend, in my thoughts, words, and actions. I tend my close friendships with time together, authenticity, listening, fun, sharing, patience… and so I will treat myself. It means developing personal practices for my body, mind, and spirit. It includes returning to my dreams for 2014: improved health and weight loss, feeling and expressing my emotions in healthy ways, hosting mini-retreats for women, cultivating a good divorce and co-parenting, and returning to my creativity – especially writing. It stretches to imagine new dreams of confidence, good work, and community.
So where I previously experienced loss and confusion, facing this season of living partner-less, I now feel excitement and anticipation. I am a true companion to myself. Composting the distractions, lies, and cultural hubbub, to tend something true, vibrant, and vitally my own. This is my season.
Note – The Fall Equinox has only recently been named Mabon. It received the name in the 1970s from Aidan Kelley as he wrote Crafting the Art of Magic. He deemed it a useful tool in helping modern Pagans to conceptualize Pagan religious ceremonies. This is interesting to me because it speaks to how contemporary Paganism is both an old religion of ancient myths and symbolism and a young religion that is still being created. I think about that seeming dichotomy a lot as I imagine all the little circles around the country, or around the world, gathering and recognizing the symbols and seasons of the year in their own unique ways, borrowing from the past and infusing it with their own personalities, creativity, and desires. I appreciate the malleability and personalization of this religion because it allows each person to honor Spirit in his or her life in his or her own ways.
My little pagan circle celebrated Lughnasadh/Lammas this weekend. It's the first of three harvests that we recognize as pagans. I was high priestess, for the first time!, so it was also a big deal for me and the roles I play in our group. Lughnasadh/Lammas is a crossover holiday originally celebrated by pre-Christian society and later adopted by Christians.
Lughnasadh began as a celebration of the god Lugh. He is described as a multi-talented, multi-skilled god, excelling in everything from swordsmanship and blacksmithing, to history, poetry, and harp playing. The holiday was either a recognition of his death day or that of his mother, depending on which accounts you read. It was honored with ritual games, religious ceremonies, matchmaking, legal contracts and more. The holiday also comes at the time of the first harvest, celebrating the abundance of the land and the ongoing survival of the people who depend upon it. Versions of this holiday continue with festivities in parts of Ireland today.
As Lammas, or "loaf-mass", the Christianized holiday focused more on the first fruits of the harvest. People made a loaf of bread from the early crop of grain and brought it to church to be blessed. It's rumored that the loaf was then carried home and used for magic.
In our circle, we focused our attention on the harvest aspects of the holiday. We recognized the little crops coming up in our gardens and the seasonal fruit filling our grocery stores as well as the personal growth coming to fruition in our lives and the letting go of what has not bloomed in the time span that we had hoped. For our craft, we made smudge sticks. These small bundles of healing herbs, like rosemary, lavender, and sage, bound together with cotton thread, are used as a tool for cleansing a person or a space for sacred work and connection with the Divine. We also chanted together, raising energy to send to the children at the US border in the form of compassion and courage for the journeys yet ahead of them. We closed the circle with a potluck chat about what we are harvesting in our lives, both the tangibles like fresh zucchini picked that morning and the intangibles like gratitude.
For my part, I served as high priestess for this ritual. I don't think of myself as a public, out-in-front leader, but in ritual the role is more subtle and supportive. It's about moving the group through the different pieces as the energy and attention of the people warrants. It's about holding space for folks to have time to complete a given piece and then host the transitions between pieces. So I guided the group from one focus or activity to the next. I also shared the meanings of the holiday, the attention we would be giving to it, and information about the Border Children to whom we were sending our energy and good will.
But what about my harvests at this time? I've written a bit in other posts about the dreams I'm working on in this season of my life. This holiday offers a time to reflect on where I'm at in those projects and processes. I haven't lost the weight yet, which I shrilly lament, but I am harvesting better health thanks to the Kind Naturopaths and the Beloved Therapist. I'm still working on a Good Divorce with my ex. In my view, that would look like less cranky conflict and more clear communication and agreements. We're not quite there yet - and maybe we'll never be there but always working on it. As long as we can protect Little N from the conflict and crankiness I'll be able to call it good.
I am finding my voice, again, too, a fresh harvest that I hadn't consciously planted but am grateful to find growing up through the cracks. I hear my voice becoming clearer and stronger in many places. In responding to my ex. In my journal. On this blog. Through my un/healthy habits. In our little pagan group. At my job. It requires good work for me to be able hear my own ideas, opinions, feelings, and perspective on a given experience and then give words to it out in the world. It makes a good rich harvest that I'll be tending for the rest of my life.
What about you? What are you harvesting these days?
This is what my fresh start looks like.
I still have a lot of big emotions. I still feel stuck. I think it comes from all the changes this path of divorce and single parenting requires. Changes that I don't always feel in control of or like I'm directing. Emotions like loss and anxiety. A stuckness about being in limbo, between married and divorced, and not knowing what the future will be for me and Little N. Emotions that tend to flood me and wash me off of my chosen course.
And it's all ok. I'm learning that I can feel big emotions and take care of myself at the same time. Taking care of myself maybe the only realm I really have control of right now. And taking care of myself is good for both me and Little N. The better I get at feeling my big emotions while continuing to take good care of myself, the more full, real, and healthy I will be for today and for the future we grow into.
So it's good work that I want to continue. Good work that is still important to me, despite (or proven by) a two-week setback.
I had a little chat with the Beloved Therapist this week about what set me on the binge. After some hemming and hawing, I admitted that I was (and am) very angry at my ex.
The Beloved Therapist is always straight with me. She doesn't let me wiggle around stuff for very long. I told her I didn't know what to do with my feelings about my ex. What could I possibly do? So, I eat. She looked at me and said, "You're a very good writer. You could write it in your journal." She then continued to explain that I could talk to or write to my ex about the particular things that he's doing that bother me. The short version of her proposed solution - Use Your Words.
My mouth is littered with little sores, which is what happens to me when there are words that I need to say but I bite them back, holding them inside rather than expressing them. It's a pretty direct message from my body to get the emotions and words out. (But it doesn't stop me from devouring food.) So I knew the Beloved Therapist was right.
Right then, we talked out what I could write to my ex, in a simple email, that would address the most immediate concerns that are bugging me. I'm still sort of wondering what to do about our longer term, lingering issues. Though I suspect the answer might be the same - Use Your Words.
The Beloved Therapist also suggested that I start to move my body more. As in exercise. She talked about joining a gym and working out as little as 15 minutes on a treadmill or elliptical machine. Ugh. A gym simply isn't in my budget or schedule right now. But, I am walking a leisurely 2 miles each day on my lunch break. And resuming my yoga practice continues to linger in the back of my mind. I used to do yoga every afternoon and it rendered me calm, clear headed, and ready to take on whatever came next. I miss that.
Another, and exciting, thing that we talked about was taking me off of my multiple medications. But - and it's a big one - that can't happen until I am actively, consistently practicing expressing myself. Otherwise, I brood and bottle up, sabotage my best intentions for healthy happy living, and generally sink myself back into heavy slogging depression. With the promise of a drug-free future dangling before me, the proverbial "carrot" contrasted to the "stick" of depression, I'm inspired and motivated to develop this skill of healthy expression of the big feelings that challenge and upset me. It's not an overnight endeavor but one that I'm gradually waking up to, again and again, as I experience my feelings in my body and find my words.
I've been so good for so many weeks. Alas, I fell into a 18-hour binge:
What triggered it? Mad cravings.
Maybe it was smoking less. Maybe it was the Family Law Orientation class. Maybe it was the heatwave we're in the midst of. Maybe it was being "in control" all these weeks, doing the right thing by my diet. Maybe it's just an old habit rearing it's ugly head - reminding me that it's still here, still in me. That I'm still falling back on my addictions to get me through.
Well, I'm back on track this evening. Drinking lots of water and packing a salad to enjoy at my friend's house tonight.
I'm wondering about the relationship between starting a good new habit and managing my stress. It's not enough, apparently, to abide by the Kind Naturopath's diet, even when I have good results (more energy, clear mind, weight loss). I also need to choose and practice alternative ways to manage my stressors - my ex, the FLO class, my boss, the heatwave - or else the new good habit turns into one more demand on me. I don't have a good answer yet, and I need one.
Out of the Attic
This blog started in 2006
on Blogger as
Out of the Attic.
I began posting here in April 2014. Please visit the original site for the rest of the story on topics like: