November Twenty-Fifth

Featured Image: “Autumn radiance,” © Mark K., Oct 2014. CC BY-NC 2.0.

For Thanksgiving (and my 1-year anniversary of recovery), I decided to take advantage of my judicious use of vacation days to date and spend the entire week at home with my family and friends in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Four days in Connecticut and two days in Massachusetts for the price of three days of leave and two 13-hour car drives on either end of my visit seemed like a pretty good exchange for my favorite holiday.

Thanksgiving – the perfect opportunity to practice my dialectical skills. It is the one time throughout the year when the greatest number of my nearest family members assemble in one place. It happens to come at the close of my favorite season, autumn, when the air is crisp and fills my lungs with an invigorating snap, before the harsher cold of winter settles and nudges me inside toward the fireplace, hot tea, and soft slippers. I cherish what Thanksgiving stands for, the coming together of family, the warmth, the light, the joy, the expressions of love and gratitude. When I open my heart to those themes, I find myself humbled, my sense of connection to others and to the universe crests, and my entire being seems to thrive. It is so much easier to live authentically when I am drinking in a steady stream of Thanksgiving’s wholehearted nectar.

The holiday now stands as a reminder of the season of growth that I entered when I began the partial hospitalization program at Walden on November 25, 2015. There probably wasn’t a better time of year for me to become fully engaged in my recovery. A year ago, I thought, “This timing is great because it will get me through the holidays and all those horrible, stressful food situations. Bonus, I’m not at work for the endless parade of potlucks and parties. Score!” I didn’t stop to think, “This timing is great because as I am embracing a completely unknown way of thinking and existing, a way rooted in compassion, forgiveness, love, relationships, finding the deeper meaning in life, living with a sense of purpose, remaining present in the moment, letting go of everything else… the entire world is coming together to re-center on those very same ideals!” That worldwide invitation to ground oneself wholeheartedly, to strengthen the bond with the self and with the others around us, is what Thanksgiving represents to me. Maybe I’m too idealistic, but if that is the case, please leave me to my idealism! When I allow cynicism disguised as pragmatism to govern me, I don’t seem to go anywhere but deeper into my own ego-centrism and self-righteousness. I would rather answer the knock at the door of my soul that I hear during this season, respond to the invitation to revisit the values I hold so dear, and explore with curiosity and patience just where the path from that door leads.

Candle bokeh inside Munich Dom
Candle bokeh inside Munich Dom,” © Nathan Rupert, Aug 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Here’s the thing… my inner critic, my cynically “pragmatic” demon, is never going away. I suppose that I can’t blame him. (I don’t know why I conceptualize this aspect of my personality as male, but that’s how I identify with it). In fact, I might actually be grateful to him, because I can imagine that if I walked about with my heart constantly wide open, trusting always, espousing universal love/compassion/forgiveness, and practicing vulnerability to the extreme, it wouldn’t be long before that same heart was ripped right out of my chest. A little suspicion and doubt keep me balanced, alert, and alive, just as a little healthy guilt keeps me in touch with my need to continue shining the spotlight of my values on my actual conduct, making adjustments and amends when I do wrong.

Thanksgiving isn’t only about family, soulfulness, and gratitude. Like so many other things of this world, it is neither all good nor all bad. It’s a time when our culture aggrandizes binging and a host of other disordered eating behaviors. While we make jokes about turducken and laugh about stuffing ourselves so full that all we can do is lie immobile on the sofa with our pants unbuttoned, the nutrition/health/dieting/weight loss industry is selling us an unachievable image of the perfect lifestyle. How many Paleo cookbooks, juicers, Nutrisystem plans, weight-loss supplements, etc. will be sold in the next two months? Thanksgiving is a time for every business to roll out their shiniest marketing strategies and glitziest promises of wellbeing, whether explicitly stated or merely implied (buy this sweater and you’ll be beautiful, thin, have lots of friends, and your Christmas will be picturesque). My cynical demon is seething.

The worst part for me is tolerating the talk around the family table or at the work potlucks. “I stopped eating all sugar and have lost 12 pounds and feel fabulous! You NEED to do it.” “I’m trying a juice cleanse between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year.” “I discovered this AMAZING new workout. It will seriously change your life.” “The reason your rheumatoid arthritis is flaring up is because you’re still eating wheat! My co-worker’s sister had the exact same thing, and when she went gluten free she was able to come off ALL of her meds. I swear.” It isn’t as though this sort of thing doesn’t happen throughout the year, it only seems that it propagates during the holidays… like a fungus. My cynical demon is roaring.

Deep breath. “You can’t save the world,” Kelly, my nutritionist, once told me. As November 25th rolls into November 26th, I am resolving to practice my dialectics. It is what it is. It is truly, amazingly, brilliantly wonderful. It is… less than ideal. There are certain ways that I can choose to stand up for my authenticity respectfully and thoughtfully, and there are a great many more things that are far beyond my control. I am centering myself on the light, the warmth, the peace, and the joy, I am practicing gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness, and I am striving for understanding. I am finding small ways to change my little piece of the world around me, and I am letting go of everything else.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! May we each cast a little more light out into the world.

release,” © Ahmed Mahin Fayaz, March 2012. CC-BY-2.0.

Thank You to My Former Nemesis

Featured Image: “thank you,” © Amy Gizienski, April 2011. CC BY 2.0.

This October and November mark a one-year anniversary of a plunging spiral, and I am processing what that means for me now, in my current state of recovery. Though my decompensation was prolonged, my “rock bottom” and the beginning of my climb toward the light followed shortly one after the other. In October, I was binging daily, was barely functioning on any level, be it cognitive, emotional, or physical, and was afraid that my suicidal ideation might become something more. By the end of November, I was taking my first, shaky steps into this strange, bizarre, foreign land of “recovery.”

Isn’t it funny how the way we might experience something in a moment differs from the way we record it into our memories like an odd collection of snapshots, sound bites, and video segments, and differs yet still from the way it appears to us if we are ever able to examine objective pieces of that moment a long time later, such as an actual photograph or recording?

I remember that it was a struggle for me to accept the meal plan that was individually tailored to my needs when I entered partial hospitalization. I recall arguing with my first nutritionist, Olivia, and I recollect that it took me a little while to trust her. I can flask back to the leap of faith I made when I began eating carbohydrates and snacks. I can revisit snippets of events – for example, the conversation that I had with myself in the shower after my second day at Walden, as I tried to talk myself into doing things “their way.” The intensity of my emotion is lost on me, though. I can only vaguely imagine what it must have felt like, how anxious and distressed I must have been to relinquish that stranglehold of control.

A few days ago, I cracked the spine on the journal that I kept while I was at Walden. I was forced to dig through a pile of journals to find it, because since that time, I filled up about eight black Moleskines with line after line of black ballpoint in careful cursive. My life bridges two lives, “before Walden” and “after Walden.” In my memory, they are distinct, but staring up at me in not-so-careful cursive was something that was anything but distinct. On my first day at Walden, I wrote, “The only negative interaction that I had today was with Olivia, the nutritionist/dietician. The diet that she wants me to follow is HORRIBLE!” What ensued across the page was a word-for-word recapturing of a confrontation that I can only picture, knowing myself. I could imagine how frustrated, enraged, indignant, and righteous I felt, but the intensity of that moment was gone as I read the words that I scrawled in capital letters and double-underlined. In its place, I found only surprise and knowing laughter. I was surprised that I forgot what it was like, and I laughed with heartfelt empathy for my confused, conflicted self.

Moleskine,” © Linelle Photography, Aug 2016. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

I’m a scientist by training and profession. Sometimes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. My reasons for refusing carbohydrates were grounded in fact, but were so distorted, black-and-white, extreme, rigid, and, in retrospect, ridiculous, that when I read what I wrote with my own hand, I couldn’t help but break into laughter. Later, I showed the journal page to my therapist, and we laughed together. At the same time that I was accusing Olivia of being brainwashed by the grain industry, my brain (which only uses glucose for fuel) and body were craving those complex starches that I refused to permit myself to eat.

Regardless of the path my life takes, my partial hospitalization will always stand as a bend in its course. Yet, the clean division that I created in my recollection did not bear forth in my re-reading of my journal entries during those days. There is no old me and new me, there is only this one me, all messy and merged. I cringe as I type out those words, because I so want it to be otherwise, but denial won’t create reality. And, so, I accept that there was no “aha!” moment, and there probably won’t be. I hope that I keep climbing toward the light, but it isn’t a straight climb, and it never was. I’m on some narrow mountain pass that twists round and round, and I only gain elevation by coming back across the same face of the mountain that I crossed three times already. Sometimes the trail takes a dip or a drop, and other times the ground is level and the going seems easy.

It only took a few weeks for me to begin to, first, trust and, then, to like Olivia. She once admitted to me that she was the one counselor at the center that all the patients hated. “I’m the one who makes them eat,” she sighed. “They love the therapists, they don’t fight with the psychiatrists, but everyone always hates the nutritionist.” Her tone was accepting, not resentful or bitter. She never gave up on any of them, just as she didn’t give up on me. She worked away at my inflexibility with steadfast persistence, never yielding. When I fought, she held her ground. I hated her, and she helped to save my life. So, to Olivia, and all the others like her, I want to say, from the depths of my heart, “Thank you.” Thank you for pushing me, for confronting my demons with me, and for showing me my own capacity for folly. At this time next year, I can’t help but wonder what I might be laughing at about myself as I am today.

Mountain Path
Mountain Path,” © Louis Vest, June 2014. CC BY-NC 2.0.

Mind Tricks

Featured Image: “Maze in the Maize 2009,” © City of Albuquerque Open Space, Oct 2009. CC BY 2.0.

“Are you still going out with your friend once a week?” Kelly asked me on a Friday morning in early November. Only moments earlier, I finished relating my most recent eating near-disaster… I mean practice in flexibility and opportunity for growth. The shift in the conversation seemed a bit abrupt.

“Once a week or every other week. Yeah. Just about,” I replied, rather flatly. I was unsure where Kelly might lead me next.

“Good,” she smiled and nodded. “That’s important. You need to keep doing that.”

I laughed. Actually, it was halfway between a laugh and a grimace. “Why?”

“You need that challenge. You need to continue putting yourself in those situations,” she responded, without hesitation.

Many thoughts rippled fluidly through my mind. What situations? Restaurant situations? Social situations? Exactly what kind of challenge is this routine of eating out regularly supposed to offer? I think this whole rhythm of dining with Brita two or three times a month is becoming mundane. I don’t really need to keep doing this anymore. I like spending time with Brita, but that doesn’t mean that we must dine out.

“Yeah, ok,” I told her.

For some reason, when I am with Kelly, her advice seems intuitive, and my fears seem unrealistic. The near-misses, almost-catastrophes, and horrible situations over which I come to her in various states of distress, worry, anxiety, hesitation, trepidation, and concern tend to morph into strange periods of struggle through which I must traverse in order to gain comfort with food, with myself, and with the complexities of life in this world. By life in this world, I mean a full life, an entirely engaged life, a life that is worthy of treasuring. I do not mean the narrow, hollow, shell-like, false façade of a “life” that I created for myself when I was imprisoned by my eating disorder. I tend to leave Kelly’s office with some bizarre mixture of curiosity, inspiration, disappointment, motivation, self-forgiveness, courage, and eagerness for the next opportunity to face down a similar challenge so that I can try out a slightly different approach to the problem. In fairness to myself, I am often well on my way through this process of reflection before we meet, but she always draws me further along. As my recovery progresses, I find that it takes less and less time or effort to wade through all the mental and emotional “middling stuff,” as I like to call it, on my way to the lesson/nugget/discovery of self-compassion at the end.

Yet, there are undulations to most parts of life, to borrow a word from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis. Sometimes, I am more mindful and connected than at other periods. My moods and thoughts fluctuate; and the way I feel about and approach my recovery shifts.

Tire Swing
Tire Swing,” © Julie Falk, Oct 2005. CC BY-NC 2.0.

Two weeks earlier…

Brita and I are at a popular, chef-owned, local restaurant. Part of its popularity and attraction is the emphasis that the chef/owner/operator places on using locally sourced, natural, and in many cases organic ingredients. Personally, I love small, local restaurants featuring menus that change with the seasons. As an orthorexic, I feel reassured with a somewhat better knowledge of what is going into my dish. However, this particular restaurant still remains a challenge for me, mainly because the cuisine is targeted toward the Midwestern palate. While I am making remarkable progress toward comfortably eating and enjoying an ever-broadening range of foods, cream sauces, chicken thighs, spaghetti, tacos, fried onions, and buttermilk mashed potatoes remain well-beyond my comfort zone. Simply the idea that I am braving this restaurant and will “Tim Gunn it” (i.e., “Make it work,”) is its own victory.

The standard menu is definitely a big challenge, but one of the seasonal options catches my eye. Swordfish with polenta. Seafood in general is a safe fallback for me, and I know polenta through a friend from Columbia who loves to cook. I place my order, and then I almost forget about the food as Brita and I lose ourselves in conversation. When the waitress returns and places a steaming plate before me, I am perplexed. There is my little piece of fish with its artful tomato and caper garnish, next to it is the steamed asparagus that I expected… but what is the mushy stuff? The polenta that my Columbian friend prepares comes out looking like round rice cakes.

I stare at the plate, baffled. What IS it? I wonder. Did they mix up my order? What DID I order? I honestly can’t remember what my starch is supposed to be.

Brita is not looking at her food. Rather, she’s staring at me. “What’s wrong,” she demands. I would love to know what my face looks like right now. Actually, I would settle for being able to identify my emotions. Confusion? Anxiety? Fear? I don’t think I’m panicking… not yet.

“I can’t remember what I ordered,” I confess, poking at the mush with my fork.

Her face expresses a mixture of mirth and concern. “It’s polenta,” she educates me.

Relaxation and relief instantly wash over me. I can feel the release as if it were a wave gently smoothing a sandy seashore. My muscles ease, my thoughts at once calm, my emotions are again as they were only moments before the food arrived, more interested in my company than in the plate positioned in front of me. “Oh, yeah! Oh, it’s ok. I just didn’t expect it to look like that.” I take a bite. It doesn’t taste like the crunchy cake baked by my Columbian friend, but it doesn’t taste bad. I can detect a hint of cheesiness, and I reason that it is probably mixed with something fatty or creamy and not-so-healthy for me. It’s still ok. It’s not a crisis. I will just eat a little bit of it. There is plenty of food here to fill me up.

And that is exactly what I do. The remainder of the meal is excellent, and Brita and I chat energetically until the last of the other diners are making their ways toward the exit and the waitress is looking on tiredly, ready to go home.


“SO!” exclaims Kelly during one of our Friday morning appointments a few days later. “How did it feel to eat GRITS?!” she almost explodes with laughter as she drops the word “grits” on me like a belly flop.

“I didn’t eat grits,” I correct her matter-of-factly. “It was polenta.”

She is grinning from ear to ear and leans in closer to me across her desk. “It’s boiled cornmeal. The only difference is where you live.”

I sit up more erectly in my chair. I hate grits. I am a born and bred New Englander. The only time I ever allowed grits to pass my lips was on a trip to Alabama when I was 16. I tried grits once, found the dish perfectly unappetizing, and promised myself never again. “It wasn’t grits!” I insisted. “It was POLENTA!”

Kelly is thoroughly relishing our debate. “It was grits, and it was made from CORN.” I also hate corn, a fact of which Kelly is well-aware. Kelly continues to press, “Why won’t you eat corn?”

I look past her right ear toward the spines of the books lined up neatly on her shelf, as I often do when I know that I am being irrational. “Because,” I declare, “it isn’t healthy!” I think of the malnourishment and obesity that I see in impoverished communities that subsist on too much corn and too little of everything else. (It’s ironic to think that malnourishment and obesity can co-exist, but they often do). Kelly argues that there are important nutrients that are found in corn. I argue that the modern varieties of corn that are raised for human consumption are crossbred to be sweeter to appeal to American taste, and the result is corn that is less nutrient-rich. I don’t even begin to bring up the topic of genetically modified corn. Considering the wide variety of other starches that I will eat, we call a truce.

“You still ate grits, though,” Kelly smiles.

“I am choosing to be from one of those places where it is polenta!” I laugh.

Kelly pushes back in her seat and exclaims, “I don’t like it, either!” I’m a little surprised at her candidness, but also reassured. She is also a New England transplant, like me. “It’s a texture or a consistency thing,” she concludes.

Maybe I’m not that weird, I think. It’s ok to not like grits!

“You’re still not getting me to eat corn!” I stubbornly assert. She gives me a knowing nod and we both descend into more laughter. At least for now.

I guess maybe I do still need some practice at this whole restaurant-eating thing…

Kitchen Open Late
Kitchen Open Late,” © Thomas Hawk, Jan 2010. CC BY-NC 2.0.


The Day the Wall Came Down

Featured Image:  “Remains of the Berlin Wall,” by Joe deSousa, Jul 2012. Public domain, CC0 1.0.

*Note to the reader: Names have been changed. Despite the allusion to the contrary below, I am not, in fact, on a first name basis with my boss.

The Scene: A non-descript hallway in a non-descript office building. Poorly engineered overhead lighting does little to improve the appearance of the grayish, scuffed walls and beige, linoleum tile floor. Lulu exits the women’s restroom, and a slight man of about 45, with thinning brown hair and a tanned, lined face approaches from behind.

Michael*: Hey! I was just on my way to see you in your office. (A subtle emphasis is placed on the words, “in your office.” It is almost imperceptible.)

Lulu: (Thinking to self: “This can’t be anything good. Why does he need to talk to me in my office? Ok, wait, it doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. I will try to avoid jumping to conclusions.” She laughs nervously.) Oh, really?

Together, they walk toward another hallway, which intersects the first at a right angle, and Lulu opens a heavy, unmarked door. Michael follows behind as Lulu passes into a wider office space filled with cubicles. They pass a row of cubicles,  toward another open door. Warmer, welcoming light streams from the entryway. As they approach, the soft, muted tones of Enya can be heard playing in the background.

Michael: Yeah, you know. It’s been awhile since I talked to you!

Lulu: Perplexed. Sounding innocent. Since Friday?

Michael: Yeah, well, you know. Three days! What’s been going on? That’s nice music!

Lulu: (Trying to hide embarrassment that she listens to Enya in her office. Makes a soft, chuckling, choking sound.) Yeah, it’s my after lunch, chill-out music. Um, things are pretty much the same.

They cross the threshold into Lulu’s office, which is richly decorated with a Tiffany lamp and an area rug patterned in gray and gold that complements the tones in the glass. An elegant table runner drapes over the top of a low bookshelf, forming a perfect surface for a rose-colored, ceramic pot of pink flowers, a decorative teacup, and a picture frame. A plaque that reads, “Believe – v. to have confidence or faith in the truth of,” sits next to the pot. A map of the world hangs on the wall above, and the remaining walls are covered in diplomas and certificates framed in heavy, dark wood. Lulu quickly maneuvers behind the desk and propels herself into the security of her familiar chair, while Michael more cautiously seats himself in a straight-backed chair opposite her. Michael leans back, picks up one foot, and places it on the other knee, allowing his leg to flop to the side casually. Lulu props her elbows on her armrests and tents her hands under her chin, lips pinched, leaning forward.

Michael: So, I was just wondering, you know, if it’s not too much to ask, and only if you’re comfortable, I don’t want to put you on the spot or anything, but would you tell me what it’s like to have an eating disorder, you know, from your personal experience. (He drags out the world “personal” emphatically.)


Michael: You know, if you’re comfortable. I don’t want to put you on the spot or anything. I just, I mean, you’re the only person I ever met with an eating disorder. I mean… what’s it LIKE?


Lulu: (Thinking to self: “WHAT… THE… … … … ?”)


Lulu: (Thinking to self: “Did the director of my division seriously just ask me to share my personal experience with binge eating disorder? Um… How is this going to factor into my performance stratification?”) Um. What?

Michael: You know, you just seem so open, otherwise I wouldn’t ask. You just seem like such an open person. (He repeatedly stresses the word “open.”)

Lulu: (Thinking to self: “Well, he certainly has guts… Is my mouth hanging open? I think my mouth is hanging open.”)

Michael: You know, we were talking last week, and I realized that I don’t really know anything about eating disorders. I mean, I’d like to understand better what it’s like for you.

Lulu: (Thinking to self: “Geez. Well, I’m the one who is always saying that I want to increase awareness and break down stigma… I just didn’t think it would be with the head of my division.”) Well… what do you want to know?

Untitled,” © Kyle Cheung, June 2011. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Can you imagine my shock, mingled with horror, mingled with speechlessness, when the above occurred just before Halloween? We ended up speaking for an hour! Historically, my division chief and I did not have the most open relationship, to use his adjective. It wasn’t as though I thought that he meant me any harm. I believed him to be very well meaning, but I also found interacting with him feel forced and awkward. However, our mutual courage to be a little bit vulnerable might just be leading us both to an improved understanding, to borrow from one of my favorite authors/researchers/storytellers, Brené Brown.

On the subject of Brené Brown… as my division chief and I were chatting again last week (about the dicey topic of my future professional plans – dicey because I don’t have any at the present moment, which is not something I am eager to confess to my career-focused boss), he interjected with, “Hey, do you like TED talks? Have you seen these TED talks by this woman Brené Brown on shame and vulnerability?”

My reaction was essentially to think, “How the fudge do you know about Brené Brown?” Except I didn’t think the word, “fudge.” Fortunately, what actually came out of my mouth was something to the effect of, “I would pretty much attribute my success in recovery to discovering her work. They made us watch her video on vulnerability, and then I read her book, The Gifts of Imperfection while I was at Walden, and it was a definite turning point.” I didn’t go into how research demonstrates that it is critical in establishing and sustaining eating disorder recovery for a sufferer to be able to learn self-compassion. We needed something to talk about the next time we chat! But, prior to Brené Brown, I didn’t know what vulnerability, shame, and self-compassion meant. (There are more resources about self-compassion and ED recovery on my favorites page).

I’m pretty sure Michael didn’t realize just how much of a compliment he was paying me when he told me that I seemed to practice the appropriate degree of vulnerability that Dr. Brown discussed during her TED talk. He confessed that, despite watching the videos several times, he struggled to fully understand exactly how and why vulnerability was necessary for establishing human connection, and why connection was necessary for leading a wholehearted life (he admitted that he was stuck on the “necessary” bit). “Would you mind going over them with me?” he asked. “I think I can find the transcripts online,” he continued. “It might be helpful if I could highlight them, and I could write down some questions. I think I would understand it better if I could discuss it with you.”

The transcripts arrived in my email inbox the next day. I’m looking forward to our next conversation.

"Kaffee für zwei," © Marco Huber, Aug 2013. CC BY-ND 2.0.
Kaffee für zwei,” © Marco Huber, Aug 2013. CC BY-ND 2.0.

New Blogger Award

Liebster Award LargeSometimes, it’s hard to accept recognition. This is my excuse for taking a month to acknowledge weightywonder‘s thoughtful nomination of my blog for the Leibster Award. What a huge compliment! Thank you, weightywonder!

Apparently, this little award recognizes novice bloggers (that’s definitely me!) with a small following (definitely me, again!).

The rules to this award are as follows:

  • Make a post thanking and linking the person who nominated me and include the Liebster Award sticker in the post. (Thank you, weightywonder!)
  • Nominate 5-10 other bloggers and notify them of this in one of their posts.
  • All nominated bloggers are to have less than 200 followers.
  • Answer the 11 questions posed by your nominator and create 11 different questions for your nominees to answer.  Or, you can repeat the same questions.
  • Copy these rules into your post.

So… onto my responses to the questions that were posed to me!

  1. If you didn’t blog about what you blog about now, what would you blog about? Travel, possibly? I LOVE to travel, especially to Europe.
  2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Nothing! Part of my recovery is learning to love myself as I am, practicing RADICAL ACCEPTANCE of my whole self, imperfections and all. I am learning that acceptance and approval are not the same, so that I can love myself as I am while working to become a better person. I would not want to instantaneously change anything about myself and deny myself the benefit of the growing process.
  3. Who is your favorite person to spend a night binge-watching movies/tv with? My amazing sister-in-law. (Love ya, Sis!)
  4. Do you have any pets? Tell us about them. I have one finicky cat named Pangur Ban. His name comes from a poem written in Old Irish by a monk sometime around the 9th century. Interestingly, like me, he is an incredibly picky eater. He loves taking naps in the sun, watching the animals that parade across our back patio, and catnip mice.
  5. What is “your song”? I don’t have one.
  6. What are five words that describe you? Resilient, young, growing, compassionate, introspective. I’ll throw in a sixth word – analytical.
  7. If you were going to dye your hair a crazy color, what color would you choose? My natural hair color is a beautiful auburn. I love it so much that I would never dye it. When it turns gray, I’m not sure if I will allow it to turn naturally or dye it back to my lovely auburn.
  8. What body jewelry/piercings do you have? Just a single piercing in each ear.
  9. If you had to watch one tv show only for the rest of your life, which would you choose? MADAM SECRETARY!!! I hope it never goes off the air!
  10. Socks or slippers? Fleece-lined Birkenstocks. I need the arch support.
  11. Who is your favorite sidekick? Robin.

My nominations for this award are…

  1. The Wellnessworx
  2. The Girl With Scars That Smile
  3. Sunshine In Motion
  4. A Parody of Life
  5. johnthemassie

It’s not that easy thinking up eleven novel questions, but here it goes…

  1. What was the best trip you ever took?
  2. What is your favorite room in your house?
  3. City mouse or country mouse?
  4. Who is your favorite poet?
  5. Do you have a scar with a good story behind it?
  6. If you could have any job/career/profession other than the one you are currently doing, what would it be?
  7. What is your idea of the perfect weekend?
  8. If you were an animal, what would it be?
  9. What is your favorite season?
  10. Car, truck, SUV, motorcycle, bicycle, or other?
  11. Tea or coffee?


Meet and Greet Weekend for Bloggers!

There’s a Meet and Greet happening at Dream Big, Dream Often. I’m passing on the virtual ginger snaps, but I’m super excited to discover new blogs. Head over to check it out.

Meet and Greet Link 11/6

6If you’ve got nothing else going on today through Sunday, join in the fun at the Dream Big Meet and Greet!  We have ginger snaps and fruit punch for everyone!

Click here for Ginger Snaps!


Featured Image: “Joy of Rain,” © Bindaas Madhavi, Aug 2009. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

What is best in life? This is a question I used to ask myself frequently when I was first learning how to not engage my disordered eating behaviors. When the impulsive, compulsive thoughts pummeled me like hurricane-strength waves against a worn, ocean levee, I would ask myself for what it was that I resisted.

There was a time when living life well, to me, meant having it all. I slaved hard for the job that everyone stood in awe of, and it wasn’t worth doing if I wasn’t giving 200%. I needed to be working harder and longer than everybody else. If it didn’t hurt, I wasn’t sacrificing enough of myself; I was lazy and sloppy and average. I needed the perfect house, perfect car, perfect clothes, perfect diet, and perfect body. It wasn’t enough that I ran to stay in shape; I ran until it hurt. I entered races, and I made sure that I was a competitor, whittling down my mile splits as I whittled down my waist and whittled away at the foods I would allow myself to eat (read here for more about my struggle with orthorexia). If there was an element of my life that didn’t fit into the perfect image that I tried to project of myself, such as my binge eating disorder, I denied it, minimized it, buried it, rationalized it, disassociated from it, did whatever I could to get rid of it, while shaming and berating myself for my weakness and promising that I would work harder. I was a woman at war not only with the world and everyone else occupying it, I was a woman at war with herself. And I was miserable.

"Prison Textures and Shadows," © Bob Jagendorf, Dec 2010. CC-BY-NC 2.0.
Prison Textures and Shadows,” © Bob Jagendorf, Dec 2010. CC-BY-NC 2.0.

What good was the job, the car, the clothes, the body, the trophies and accolades, when I was depressed, anxious, suicidal, and sinking into binges so severe every night that I was terrified I was going to die if I didn’t kill myself first? Perhaps it seems intuitive to a healthy person or to someone who never struggled with an eating disorder or mental illness, but it took quite a while before I was finally able to recognize, really, truly, and with my whole heart, that this idea of perfection I created for myself was not worth the price I was paying. It didn’t happen quickly or suddenly. It was a gradual realization, and it grew from repeatedly asking myself, What is best in life?

"Wave Breaking Over Sea Wall," © Bill Gracey, Jan 2015. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Wave Breaking Over Sea Wall,” © Bill Gracey, Jan 2015. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

It is three days before Halloween. I am sitting on the rubberized gym floor of the preschool that Alice’s kids attend. Elliot is huddled shoulder-to-shoulder with the other four-year-olds in front of the small, folding table at the front of the little, square room. They are all completely oblivious to the fact that they are now well beyond the line of tape that marks the “do not cross!” point that they are supposed to stay behind. With each simple magic trick, they squeal with delight, bounce up and down, and scooch forward. I am struck by the idea that a middle-aged adult would spend his evenings performing magic shows for preschoolers. He pulls out a giant pair of wooden scissors as big as some of the children and asks who would like to try to cut the magic rope. They encroach even further, erupting into excited shrieks as two dozen hands shoot into the air, fingers stretched to their maximum length.

Behind this line of miniature, jostling bodies, the littler siblings are carelessly wheeling through the wide, empty space of the remaining gymnasium. Penny, who is two, runs loopy circles around and around until she falls onto her bottom, and then stands up to repeat the same pattern. Around and around and down. She never cries, never looks distressed, and never tires. She is completely oblivious to whether or not she might hurt herself, bump her head, or run into another kid who is careening in the opposite direction. Every so often, she trundles over in my direction, flops into my lap, and practices her new favorite word, “Wuwu! Wuwu! Wuwu!” she echoes as she points at me. As if to emphasize how proud she is of learning names, she occasionally points to her brother or mother and throws in an, “Ewiot, Mama.” Something inside my chest twists up in knots and climbs into my throat.

The magic show comes to an end, and Elliot races eagerly to find Alice and me. “Did you like the magic show?” Alice asks as she tries to wriggle him into his jacket.

“Yeah!” he exclaims, as he jostles against her legs.

“What was your favorite part?” she persists.

“When Lulu came!” he declares.

I choke again.

The weekend will include walks to the park under a brilliantly blue sky, the autumn sun sparkling through the golden and fiery New England leaves. The air will feel crisp and clean while the kids ride bikes and go down the “big” slide. Elliot will insist that his grandmother drive to the craft store so that he can buy beads to make me a necklace that I am never to take off. He will request that I give him his bath and watch his favorite cartoons with him, his itty, warm body curled into the hollow under my arm like a living furnace. For the next three days he will ask, “Is it time to go trick-or-treating yet?”

Penny will throw a monumental fit when it is time for her bath, as she does anytime her head is wetted. She will scream until her face is mottled and snot is streaming from her nose, but within thirty minutes of being wrapped in her soft, velvety robe, she will be calmly nestled on her mother’s lap with a stuffed animal and a book. Elliot will whack his head against the arm of the couch playing ring-around-the-rosy not an hour before trick-or-treating begins, which will precipitate a meltdown, which will be completely forgotten once he is in his monster costume with a flashlight in his hand. His mom, dad, and I will take turns pulling him and his sister around the cul-de-sac in their red wagon when they are too tired to walk home, and then, clustered around the kitchen table, they will dump the spoils of their treat bags on the table, less interested in the M&M’s and Snickers bars than in the experience of the evening.

What is health? What is happiness? What does it mean to live a full, vibrant, wholehearted existence? What does it mean to love and to be loved? What does it mean to be fully alive? What is best in life? What is that worth?

"Old Sturbridge Village - Sturbridge," © Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, Dec 2013. CC BY-ND 2.0.
Old Sturbridge Village – Sturbridge,” © Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, Dec 2013. CC BY-ND 2.0.
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