Connections

Before I talk anymore about the calorie myth, I just want to take a brief second to talk about a recovery–and life tool–that has become really important in my life recently.

In fact, I think it might be the single most important tool I’ve discovered–more so than nutrition, fitness, and even therapy or program.

Connection.

ED (or disordered thinking in general) grows strongest when we disconnect from other people. ED loves to sit in your head and wait for the quiet moments to start playing the negative self-talk record on repeat. ED knows that the longer you obsess about your own self and body, the less you’ll be open to letting anyone else in–and then ED has you all to himself.

I have always been the quiet kid who preferred to isolate. I used to get sick to get out of going to sleepover parties with my girlfriends in elementary school (although I didn’t realize that it was partly psychosomatic until recently). I preferred going on long walks by myself around New York City at twilight to staying up late with friends in my dorm. I am notorious for giving rain checks on days when the anxiety sends me to bed before 9 pm.

Frankly, while being alone can be a wonderful way to meditate, get in touch with yourself, and take a break from the world to calm the anxiety, it’s not an efficient tool for getting better. In the end, taking a risk and putting yourself out there–even for a little while, even with just one person–gives you a better chance at fighting the negativity that would otherwise fill the silence.

Easier said than done, you say. And you’re right. It’s easy to sit here and type out the words after I’ve already started doing it. But who said that only easy things were worth doing? So, in case you’re wondering how to dive in and start connecting, I’ve outlined my own journey:

1. The first thing I did was listen to myself. This is a connection that you can make alone, however you’ll have to work for it. In the months that I’ve been sitting in my house recovering, I’ve had a lot of time to sit by myself. In the past, that was some quality time with ED waiting to happen. Instead, I started listening to the other voice in my head–my voice. It was the one that asked, “But why do I need to go to the gym two days after my surgery? What will that prove?” and “Why do I care how many calories are in bone broth? Can’t I just enjoy it?” It was the voice that said, “I’m lonely. Please reach out to someone. Please.”

2. The second thing I did was listen to the universe. This is probably going to sound a little crazy and “hippy-dippy,” but bear with me: I believe that the universe sends us messages. Sometimes, those messages are in the form of people, sometimes they’re in the form of opportunities. A good example: In early June, I accidentally took a voice lesson. My little brother was going to miss a paid-for voice lesson when he went to visit his father in Florida. My mom insisted I take the lesson, even though I hadn’t sung in about three years and had no desire to ever go near the theatre again. Now, not only do I take lessons every week, I’ve found an incredible friend in my vocal coach and I am going to be in my first musical in six years. If I had fought the universe, I wouldn’t be doing Les Mis.

3. Third, I learned to talk to strangers. Probably goes against everything your parents taught us, but I’m not talking about the kind who offer you candy from unmarked white vans. I’m talking about the ones who offer you freelance work in Starbucks because they noticed that you were a writer. I’m talking about the kind whose blogs you stumble upon while searching for positive examples of recovery. I’m talking about the ones who send you incredibly heartfelt emails or leave incredibly honest and beautiful blog comments because they read your story and wanted to share theirs. I’m talking about the people who make small talk while standing in line, the people who see you walk into the gym after 4 months and ask you how your injury is healing. People are essentially good, and you can learn so much from them if only you donate a few minutes of your time to the experience.

4. Fourth, I learned to let people in. I have never been good at having friends. I have never been good at staying in touch. But of late, and partially because of this blog, I’ve reconnected with many of my high school, college, and grad school friends, as well as some of my coworkers from previous jobs. I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to know that they are still in my life. I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to know that they still care–and to be able to care about their lives. And that includes some of my new friends here in California, too. I was so scared of sharing even a tiny piece of myself with them–after dealing with the drama that I left behind in Florida–that I ignored the chance to connect with some really incredible, beautiful people. And I’m making an effort now to be a part of their lives as they’ve tried to become a part of mine.

5. Finally, I learned to reach out.  This is the big one. This is the hardest, hardest part: making the first move. I have always waited for people to come to me. If the universe didn’t seem to be sending a message (or I was too busy ignoring it because ED was holding my attention captive), then so be it. I would be alone, and that was that. But I’m learning that good things don’t always come to those who wait. Those who wait sometimes let the good things slip right through their fingers. Recently, I sent an email to one of my favorite podcasters, Roger Dickerman of Relentless Roger and the Caveman Doctor. And now I’m going to be transcribing their show. And yesterday, I sent an email to the big daddy of all Paleo/Low Carb podcasters–and one of my favorites as well–Jimmy Moore. And this morning, he sent me an email asking me to be on his show in 2013.* Take a chance. You never know who will write, call, or answer back.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, connection, communication, conversation…it’s the only way to heal. Other people can’t make your scars fade, but they can help you see past them. Other people can’t validate your existence, but they can enrich it. Other people can’t make you love yourself, but they can hold the mirror up for you so you can start to see the beauty you have inside.

Today is a good day to start connecting.

Today…is a good day.

-K.

*I can’t even tell you how much I’m “fan-girling out” right now. (And, yes, I just coined  term. Shakespeare did it, and so can I.) Jimmy is such an incredible force for positivity in the podcast world. I am so grateful that he even responded, let alone offered to let me be one of the “& Friends” on “Low Carb Conversations With Jimmy Moore & Friends….

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Links for a Saturday Morning

So, in the coming weeks, I’m going to be posting about strategies for getting outside of the fitness/nutrition insanity, but until then, read this awesome and sane post by Nia Shanks: Rid Your Life of Fitness and Nutrition Insanity.

Also, Stefani Ruper has another wonderful Food & Love Hack at Paleo for Women: Be Your Own Buddy. (If you’re an isolater, like me, don’t take this as permission to hide though! Spend some time with friends or loved ones this weekend and practice being in the moment and enjoying every second as it comes instead of worrying about when it will be over. I’m going on the record promising to practice that today myself–and you can hold me accountable if I don’t!)

Happy weekend, y’all!

– K.

Day of Atonement

It’s Yom Kippur, the day of atonement that follows directly after the celebration of the Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

 

Today is the day to apologize and wash away the sins of the past year.

 

And yet I realized, as I started to reflect on those actions for which I need to apologize, that the biggest apology I owe is to myself for apologizing so often.

 

I am the kind of person who says, “I’m sorry” with such a frequency that friends and family actually get upset and have to ask me to stop apologizing (which usually provokes an apology for apologizing–and the cycle repeats). I am the kind of person who apologizes for trivial things and for circumstances beyond my control. I am the kind of person who apologizes for being alive.

 

And so, in order to atone for that sin, today I am not sorry. Today I am making the decision to stop apologizing for my life.

 

Now, granted, there are definitely things for which I need to apologize–things for which I own having done and for which I now humbly ask forgiveness. Things like letting some of my most important friendships lapse in the face of my narcissistic self-obsession known as ED. Like putting my family through the torture of supporting an unsupportable person during the depths of my depression. Like allowing myself to treat me so poorly for all of these years.

 

But there are things for which I no longer want to apologize. Here are a few:

 

  • I am not sorry for not caring about movies. I have been to the movies exactly twice since the fall of 2010 (the first time to see Fame with a group of girlfriends from my childhood and the second to see The Muppet Movie with my grandma). Sitting in a movie theater gives me anxiety, and watching movies alone at home with my laptop does not interest me in the slightest. I have no interest in getting pop culture savvy. I wasn’t raised watching movies, and I had no pop culture knowledge. When I tried to “catch up,” I realized that I was fighting a losing battle. The anxiety of inadequacy was overwhelming, so I gave up. So before you try to engage me in conversation that begins with, “remember that film where…”:  no, I haven’t seen that movie, no, I don’t know who that movie star is, and no, I am not planning on seeing it.
  • I am not sorry for having been a difficult roommate. I am not sorry for liking cleanliness and order. I am not sorry for wanting to impose that upon my living space, and I’m not sorry for estranging the roommates who couldn’t understand. With the exception of two, I have had nothing but a string of impossible roommates, with whom relations eventually broke down over the state of our shared living spaces. I used to feel bad about wanting things like clean dishes, but I don’t any more. Dirt and mess are signs of laziness and procrastination–two clear indications that you do not respect others, yourself, or the space you live in. If I can take the two seconds to clean my plate or fold my laundry, so can you. I’m not sorry for how I feel about this, and if it’s a problem for you, then we clearly shouldn’t live together–end of story.
  • I am not sorry for wanting to feel pretty. I’m not talking about wanting to be thin or indulging in disordered behaviors–for that, I’m sorry that I put myself through that b.s. But I’m not sorry for putting effort into the way I look. I went a year without wearing makeup, buying new clothes, getting a manicure, etc. I chopped off all of my hair because I couldn’t be bothered to spend time styling it. But there is something really important about investing some time in your appearance. Like putting the dishes away shows that you can respect your space, taking the time to leave the house at least put together shows that you respect your person. And I’m not sorry for wanting to respect the person I’m living in.
  • I am not sorry that I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t care if you’re a social drinker or need alcohol to have a good time. I don’t. I’m not interested in going to a bar. It’s just not my idea of a good time. Maybe I’ll have a glass of wine on a special occasion; but then again, maybe not. I’m fine with water and waking up in the morning without a headache or a fuzzy mouth. Do what you want, but please don’t comment on my temperance. It’s my choice.
  • I am not sorry for caring about health and fitness. Again, I’m not talking about the compulsive, excessive exercise and the obsession with restrictive eating; I’m talking about finally, for the first time in my entire life figuring out how to achieve a balance that will lead to optimal health. (That means potentially pissing off some vegans and marathon runners with the science that I’m going to quote on my blog, but I’m finally okay with that. I’ve realized that I can’t win ‘em all…and it’s silly to try if that means compromising my values and beliefs.)  I’m going to do what works for me without letting anyone–ED included–tell me that I’m doing it wrong. It’s my body, my life, and my health.
  • I am not sorry that I didn’t follow my life plan. Up until very recently, I was incredibly depressed by how my life turned out so far. I’ve realized that no one’s life follows the original map. But though it’s far easier to dwell on the delays, detours, and bumps in the road, the fact of the matter is that looking out the window and experiencing the scenery, the wind in my hair, the clouds and the stars in the sky above is a lot more enjoyable. So I’m not going to apologize for the fact that I’m not an Ivy League success, for the fact that I’m not living on my own or with a partner, for the fact that my body isn’t perfect, for the fact that I don’t have children or a high-paying career-of-my-dreams. Instead, I’m going to love the fact that I live in the mountains, that I am incredibly close with my family, that I have my ridiculous dog who snuggles my feet at night, that I’m learning to be happy in my body for the first time ever.

 

So, for those of you who are fasting today (I will not be, for hopefully obvious reasons), I wish you an easy and meaningful fast. And as you ask forgiveness for the past year, don’t forget to forgive yourself. You are the most important “you” that you have, and you deserve your love and forgiveness just as much–if not more than–anyone else.

 

– K.

A Spiritual Bucket List

I’m going in for a minor surgical procedure in a few hours (and let’s hope this is the last one), and I’m feeling reflective.

I’m scared to go back to the doctor, but I know that this is the last time I will have to deal with this. I’m looking at this whole year-plus long ankle debacle as a message from the universe:

I’ve spent the last 10 years fighting for control over my body, and I’m finally coming to realize that it’s not mine to control. I assumed that I had the right to do whatever I wanted to it, but it turns out that I’m lucky to have been given permission to use it as I have. And, like a rowdy, disrespectful hotel guest, I’m responsible for any damages that I leave behind.

Looking down at my mottled and swollen skin (by-products of the past week’s allergic reaction), my atrophied calf, my bruised and scarred ankle…I’m realizing that I have no choice but to accept the body that I’m living in and to use it only to make a better life for myself. I read an amazing quote in Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney Martin, one that I’m making my mantra: “I will meet my body where it is.”

In order to do that, though, I have to grow. I have to come to terms with the “me” who is not my body. It’s scary, uncharted grown up territory, but it’s time: I’m approaching 26, which always seemed like such a foreign, grown up land to the younger and more naive me, but here it is–and I’ve made it here without a map or stars to guide me. But I think it’s time to stop feeling my way through the dark and hoping I’ll end up somewhere comfortable.

I’ve realized that a lot of my “growing up”–my spiritual growth and my ability to relate to my mental and emotional needs–got stalled and stunted when I began my relationship with ED at the ripe old age of 13. But I’m ready to stop making excuses for myself and to double my spiritual age (from 13 to 26) in a much shorter amount of time than it took to keep it from growing.

So I’ve decided to make a “Spiritual Bucket List”. And I’m posting it here because I want to be accountable. I’m ready to take responsibility for myself. So, here goes:

– I will be honest–to myself and others–about my needs.

– I will articulate my needs.

– I will learn how to communicate without complaining.

– I will stop apologizing for my life.

– I will stand up for myself.

– I will set boundaries and communicate them effectively.

– I will establish a relationship with my higher power.

– I will stop making my higher power food and ritual.

– I will keep in touch with the people who enrich my life and let go of those who don’t.

– I will learn how to ask for help.

– I will seek friendship and fellowship–because the disease thrives on isolation.

– I will stop waiting for tomorrow and start living one day at a time.

– I will stop sweating the petty things (and I will never pet the sweaty things!–thanks Grammy :D)

– I will accept that I’m allowed to be happy.

– I will not engage in negative self-talk.

– I will not play the victim because I have the power to be a hero.

– I will actively work on figuring out what I want from life–and I will go out and get it.

– I will take responsibility for my life.

– I will stop blaming and living in the past.

– I will stop being afraid of success.

– I will take risks and stop being afraid of mistakes–they’re meant to be learned from.

– I will use my talents to help others whenever possible.

– I will stop being afraid to love and be loved.

– I will meet my body where it is, every day.

That’s all for now, although I’m sure the list will grow as I do.

-K.