Getting Unstuck


I’ve gained 48 pounds since my dad died in October 2012. Nearly 50 pounds. Who gains that much weight in what feels like overnight? I suppose 48 pounds in 20 months isn’t overnight; it’s 2.4 pounds per month. A slow, steady, chew-and-swallow. Chew. And swallow. And let’s not forget the alcohol.

Before this morning, I hadn’t been on a scale since November. But of course I knew the pounds were piling on. I was going up in sizes, pulling my biggest jeans out of the back of the closet. Even they have become uncomfortable, and so lately I’ve taken to wearing formless dresses and stretchy skirts. And there’s my car seat. I can feel the sides of it hugging my hips and thighs. The same with my office chair. I am spreading out. And then there was the hike at Orcas Island a few weeks ago. I was huffing and puffing as we were going uphill. Huffing and puffing and sweating. It pissed me off. And I was embarrassed.

For the past several months, I’ve been trying to find a foothold. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get back to equanimity. How to find that sweet spot I was in before all the dying began. I’ve been trying, with little success, to get back to taking good care of myself. I take better care of my cats, in fact. Just this morning I steamed a lovely piece of fresh Atlantic salmon for them. I, in contrast, ate a slice of cherry pie with my coffee. Mind you, I told myself I’m working on making a shift, and so this was a last-supper slice of cherry pie. I’m terribly good at rationalization. Aren’t all addicts?

Oh, yes, this is addictive behavior. In fact, I’m seeing quite a bit of my mother in myself these days. She spent years dismayed by the alcoholism that surrounded her, never once looking at herself and seeing her own coping behavior, eating, was similarly self-destructive. I have, more than once over the past two years, felt anger with my brothers for how they killed themselves with alcohol. And I felt pity on them because they had never learned healthier ways of coping. But I, even having spent decades learning healthier ways of dealing with unpleasant events and emotions, am not coping much better than my brothers did.

It’s not like I lack self-awareness. Or desire. I’m trying. I just can’t seem to get myself going in the right direction again. I can’t get motivated to do consistent exercise. To cut back on the alcohol. And to stop eating everything I want. And I want a lot. How do I stop wanting what isn’t healthy, and start wanting what is?

I turned it into a research project. First, I set out to find the healthiest way of eating. I figured if I found it, I would be motivated to do it. I did my research and settled on the Mediterranean diet. And that might have helped, only I ate way too much of the Mediterranean diet. And I still wasn’t exercising consistently. So next I researched books on willpower. The books were not helpful. They espoused the same old advice that hadn’t been working for me. But there was one pearl of wisdom I kept bumping into: meditate.

I had a meditation practice several years back when I was heavy into yoga. But when I quit Kundalini yoga teacher training mid-course (having decided it was a cult), I threw the baby out with the bath water. No more meditation. No more yoga. Not even hatha. (I don’t do anything by halves, you see. A definite fault of mine.) So here we are, five years later, and all these books are pointing me back to meditation. Because I don’t have anything to lose, other than 50 pounds or so, I decided to give it a shot. I know my problem isn’t with eating, per se. My problem is with life. I needed something to help me cope with it. And, if I’m being ambitious, to help me find an interest in my existence here on this earth.

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

I’ve been doing a daily meditation practice for a little more than a month, now. At first my efforts were not consistent. But slowly I’ve begun to find some flow. As of today, I’ve got 14 consecutive days under my belt. (A belt that doesn’t fit.) I’ve found a terrific app called “Insight Timer.” You can program different timers, for varying lengths, with different chimes. You can do the offered guided meditations. (In addition to my mindfulness meditation, I’ve been doing a daily body scan.) You can join groups and connect with meditators all over the world. According to my app, there are 352 people meditating worldwide, right now. In addition to the app, I’ve started reading about mindfulness. I’m reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s, Full Catastrophe Living. I think I’ve finally hit upon the necessary tools to undergo a tectonic shift. Meditation. Mindfulness. And yeah, pulling the yoga out of the dirty bath water, as well. (Although I still won’t go near the Kundalini.)

I’ve been living mindlessly, sleepwalking, for 20 months now. 50 pounds was the result. What will be the fruits of mindfulness?

I received an email from Mack the other day telling me he’d sent me the final payment. But instead of just telling me he’d sent the final payment, he continued with a long drawn-out emotional message about various and sundry things; things I don’t feel compelled to spend typing strokes on here. He did say we have no need to contact one another again. Ever. So I guess that means he’ll stop trying to hook me with emotional emails. Oh wait. Maybe not. What was the next thing in my inbox? You got it: another email from Mack. This one included a song he recorded. Apparently about me. I’m not sure though, because I didn’t listen to it.

So how did this final spate of emails make me feel?

I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t feel regret. I did feel a slight bit of irritation, but not enough to color my day. And I felt relief.

Dare I say it?

After a fabulous vacation in Tuscany, I am back to the mundanities of life. I’ve spent the past week and a half digging out at work (and getting behind on my blogging). I traveled to Chicago for meetings this week, and while I love Chicago in the summertime, the last thing I wanted to do was get back on a plane. My reward was accepting my neighbor’s invitation to drink bubbles by the pool last night. (Much to my chagrin, I think I may actually feel the stirrings of a requited crush.) The combo of the bubbles and all the recent travel finally hit me, and this morning I stayed in bed until 11:00 a.m. catching up on sleep and recharging.

Okay, okay. I won’t skip over the requited crush topic. My neighbor has been crushing on me for years. The trouble is, he’s nearly fifteen years younger, and wants babies. (“But not tonight,” he said, the last time he made a pass at me.) Despite the fact that he’s charming, sophisticated, well-traveled, single, stable, and has a job (the opposite of my last foray into romance), not to mention a sexy Latin accent, there’s just no point in going down that road. And then there’s the fact that it’s a terrible idea to have a fling with a neighbor. So I shall keep it as a flirtation, and enjoy that. But still, there is a stirring in my girl loins that I haven’t felt in months.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty good these days. But the anticlimactic feeling that often comes at the end of a great vacation has me looking for something more. The something more that comes to mind is getting back to my running. But I’m having trouble running in the heat on the antidepressants. The Abilify warnings state that it’s easier to become overheated while exercising, and cautions against strenuous exercise. I live in Austin. I exercise outdoors in the heat. I refuse to spend my life on my elliptical (sheer freakin’ drudgery). So I’ve made the decision to see how I do quitting one of the trifecta (Ability, Deplin, and  Wellbutrin). I called Dr. McEnroe yesterday to get his input on my plan to quit the Abilify, but he hasn’t yet returned the call. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to go ahead and stop it, cold turkey. I’m sure there will be those who protest, but I’m going to do it anyway. When I’ve made up my mind to quit something, I don’t do it by halves. Including relationships and cigarettes. And besides, having quit smoking cold turkey some years ago, I can’t imagine this could be any worse. Just rip the band-aid off and get through it. It’s the best way. In quitting drugs, and men.

Hopefully once the Abilify is out of my system, I’ll be able to run without feeling like I’m going to keel over from the heat. And just to get it out there, I really want to be drug-free within the next several months. I’m feeling better. And with proper sleep, exercise, and Vitamin D (and staying away from abusive jackasses), maybe I’ll be successful in managing the depression without the drugs.

I think I’ve got this now.

Today is my 49th birthday. My last birthday with a 4 in front of it. I awoke this morning at the Hotel Bernini in Florence. Last night, I had a four-course dinner at a wonderful restaurant, including too much wine. The meal was so fabulous, I’m not even going to try to top it. I’ve also grown a bit weary of getting lost. Florence is a maze! But since I was out the door at 7:30 this morning, I made it to the Uffizi and didn’t wait in line for long. The museum was spectacular. After I meandered amongst the statutes and busts and Botticelli paintings, including the Birth of Venus, I spent the next five hours wandering through the maze of streets that is Florence. I’ve finished being lost, and now I’m sitting in the hotel bar.  It’s lovely, decorated in traditional Tuscan furninishings of purple and gold.  I’m sipping on a delicious chianti and watching people. Not a bad way to spend a birthday.

Ive got lots of photographs left to post, including those from my favorite day of all:  Cinque Terre, the Italian Riveria. The coast was spectacular. As was our cliff-side lunch.

This has been such a fabulous trip. I’m not sure how I’m going to top it next year: 50.  Any recommendations?

 

We have at least one cooking class a day at the villa with Valentino. The food has been spectacular. Here are some shots of making grilled veggies and pork roast, lasagna, osso bucco (melt in your mouth!), and tiramisu. And, mustn’t forget the wine tasting!

20120517-155433.jpg

20120517-155442.jpg

20120517-155449.jpg

20120517-155457.jpg

20120517-155515.jpg

20120517-155523.jpg

20120517-155537.jpg

20120517-155544.jpg

20120517-155550.jpg

20120517-155601.jpg

Two weeks ago, I gave up teevee on weeknights. http://wp.me/p1jL9y-aQ The first week I caved and watched a movie Friday night (North by Northwest). Week two, this past week, I again cheated one night. Monday. I watched one hour of DVRd teevee. I’d had a bad day. I can’t recall now why. But I wanted to zone out. And so I did. I also watched Notorious with a friend on Saturday night. It seems I’m on an Alfred Hitchcock bent. 

So the first two weeks were fairly successful. I watched teevee a total of two nights out of seven, both weeks. And I learned from my infractions. It’s odd how teevee-watching is a go to mind-number for me. It’s similar in effect to alcohol or chain-smoking. (The latter of which I stopped doing years ago.) So just as I did when quitting cigarettes, it’s time to make a list of go-tos when I feel like turning on the tube.

 

 

  • Write/Blog
  • Read a book
  • Take a bath
  • Go for a walk/run
  • Pull weeds
  • Get on my elliptical
  • Do some yoga
  • Catch up on email (being careful not to get drawn into internet mind-numbing)
  • Organize a room, or maybe just a closet for starters (okay, a drawer?)
  • Listen to music

Sometimes, listening to music is difficult for me. I’d stop listening to music entirely when I was in the throes of the depression. (I’d also stopped reading and doing most exercise.) I’ve never quite understood why it’s so difficult to listen to music when I’m flattened out by depression. Perhaps it’s because music is about feeling, and when I’m depressed, I don’t feel much of anything. Except hopeless.

Alcohol is not a substitute for teevee. Although last night, it was. I went to a rubber-chicken work-related function. Only it was rice enchiladas instead of rubber chicken. (Have you even heard of rice enchiladas? No? There’s a good reason for that.) They had complimentary wine and beer, and cash margaritas. The wine was crap so I paid for a margarita. And I had the bartender make me a double. How else can you get through one of those awards ceremonies? At dinner, I switched to the crap wine. To go with my rice enchilada. (Who in the hell ever heard of a rice enchilada?) Today, I’m suffering the effects of a double margarita and too much crap wine. And two rice enchiladas. My head hurts. I’m tired. I slept terribly for the first time in weeks. I haven’t had a hangover since the days of Mack. The days of wine and narcissists.

No. Alcohol is no substitute for teevee.

If anyone has other ideas to add to my list of teevee substitutions, I’d be delighted to hear them.

 

The painter comes tomorrow. It feels like this change is about a lot more than paint color. It’s been six months since I ended things with Mack, give or take a handful of days. According to popular thinking, it was to take me half the time of the relationship to feel free of him. We were “together” a few days shy of a year. So here we are, at half-time.

At least in my case, the formula is accurate. It took a psychiatrist, a cocktail of antidepressants, a therapist, a personal trainer, an interior designer, a painter, and a scheduled trip to Tuscany. But I’m free of him. Mostly.

I go days at a time without him sliding into my thoughts. I’ve stopped mentioning him to my friends; for which I’m sure they are most grateful. I’ve stopped muttering a barage of profanity to myself, when I do think of him. I’ve started wearing the ring again. On my right hand. I asked two of my dear friends at sushi the other night, “Does it pass as a right-hand ring?” And they said, “It can be whatever you want it to be.” What I want it to be is a very special ring I bought for myself. Which is exactly what it is.

I’m so grateful it sits upon my right hand, rather than my left.

Yes, it’s definitely about more than just the paint. It’s about making my life, my environment, my world, just the way I want it to be. My old paint is a burnished red. And sandy beige. My new paint is a deep vibrant teal and a neutral called Coastal Fog. I’ve always been attracted to cool colors. I have no idea how I ended up with warm. But tomorrow, they’ll be gone. And my home will be vibrating on the same frequency as my soul.

And I’ll have painted over Mack.

And so it begins! I’ve hired a painter who starts Wednesday. Right now, I’ve got the Tuscan look. Tan sand-colored walls with a deep brickish-red accent wall. Olive green in the downstairs powder bath. And a horrific deep red in the upstairs guest bath. Oak cabinets in the kitchen.

Here’s where we’re headed:

From Tuscan red to teal (living/dining/kitchen accent wall; in my open-concept condo, these areas flow together):

(more…)

I went four days without television. Monday through Thursday. (Recall the goal was no televesion Monday through Friday.) Okay, I did turn it on, but only to play a yoga DVD. That doesn’t break my resolution.

On Monday, as with the early moments of kicking any addiction, I felt free. Buoyant. I embraced the possibilities. I went for a long walk after work, followed by a bubble bath.

Tuesday night I kept feeling a pull to turn the teevee on. (I like referring to it as “teevee.” It feels irreverent.) The pull was almost unconscious. “Turn on the teevee.” “What? No. No teevee. I’m not doing that any more.” A few  minutes later: “Turn on the teevee, dammit. You need the white noise. The distraction.”

Interesting. The teevee was a distraction. Whatever I was distracting myself from needs to be dealt with. So I wrote an uncharacteristic Tuesday night blog post.

Wednesday night I turned on the yoga DVD. It felt like cheating; like smoking a cigar when you’re trying to give up cigarettes. (Yes, I did this. In all fairness, it was during the cigar craze of the late ’90s. And it worked.) I turned off the DVD (and the teevee) as soon as I finished shavasana.

Thursday night. More yoga. Shavasana done. What about the news? Don’t I need to watch the news now and then? No news. Turn the fucker off. Now. Teevee off.

Friday night I caved. Friday was a bad day. Lots of work stress. And I’m getting a new fence. You wouldn’t think that would be stressful, but it was. My jasmine, which I’ve grown from a tiny pot, had spread itself across the fence over the last eight years. I had left work early to quickly cut it away from the fence so the workers could remove the old fence. In the midst of that, with the workers fast approaching my unit, my boss was blowing up my Blackberry with numerous emails about a non-emergency emergency. I hacked at the jasmine, stopped, wrote back, accidentally hitting reply all. The client received an email meant only for my boss: “I agree with your approach. We’ve given them every courtesy. Fuck ‘em.” At least the “fuck ‘em” was referring to our opponents, and not the client.

But I fretted over it for the rest of the jasmine hacking, and for hours after. I ordered bad takeout. I turned on the teevee. Two ways to check out. Food and teevee. And a couple of glasses of wine.

It could have been worse. I could have watched network. Instead I watched North By Northwest. You know the movie: Alfred Hitchcock, where Cary Grant appears in a towel.

I have got to stop using the F word. But first let me get through my fucking teevee withdrawals.

 

 

There are lots of bloggers who start blogging because of a breakup. I started blogging because I wanted to break up. I eventually wrote my way there, but it took many months. Too many. After I wrote myself to the breakup, I spent the next six months writing myself through the breakup.

Once we write ourselves through the breakup, what then? I worry that there’s nothing else inside me.

Where I stand now, I can see for miles in every direction. Looking at what lies behind fills me with an odd mix of disquiet and comfort. Despite the familiarity, I feel an urgency to change directions. Anywhere but toward more of the same.

I’ve always written the script. The men I’ve chosen to play the supporting roles have waved their undesirable traits at me like a matador waves his cape at a bull. And like the bull, I’ve found it intoxicating. Rotten men are a drug. A drug it’s time I stopped using.

I can choose someone different this time. Can’t I?

Can I free myself from the effects of an abusive childhood? Does anyone ever really free themselves? I need to know that it happens. I need to know that it’s possible.

 

I’ve been writing since I was a little girl, carrying a notebook and pencil around with me wherever I went. The little girl who pushed her kitten around in a baby stroller. My writing will never dry up. But it’s time the pull toward rotten men did.

 

 

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 411 other followers