Here’s to the Dark Bits

Image credit: www.tbquk.org

Image credit: http://www.tbquk.org

For some time now I’ve been questioning my path and wondering what’s next. The old ideals stopped making sense somewhere along the way. Belief structures quit resonating. The foundation started to crack, then crumble, then fall away completely.

In short, I don’t know what’s true for me anymore.

I scratched and clawed to find something—anything—to hold onto so I could feel safe again. But there wasn’t anything. It was as if I was floating in the ocean with nothing and no one in sight. Which direction do you swim when you don’t know where land is?

Alone, in the dark, I just had to wait. Fuck.

I’ve wanted to write about where I’m at, but I didn’t know how to explain what was going on. I still don’t. I’ve felt this general sense of malaise. This total lack of motivation. This utter directionlessness. Just blah. I haven’t felt particularly turned on by anything. I have felt alone, but didn’t necessarily want to be around anyone.

I’ve been irritated, annoyed, prickly. I hesitated to write when I felt so pissy. It’s hard to seem enlightened when you feel like shit.

I’ve tried to surrender to this…whatever it is. To not follow that compulsion to put a happy face on it. In the past the happy face was the way to turn around a low mood. Always look for the positive, I would remind myself. And that did help, or so I thought…until it didn’t. But lately it just started to feel a little delusional. Like I was lying to myself.

What’s wrong with admitting something is hard? What’s wrong with being honest with yourself?

I am no stranger to the dark bits. Depression is an old friend of mine. And while it’s just an occasional visitor now, I still fear inviting it in for a long weekend. Partly because I’m afraid it might decide to take up residence again, but also because our social and cultural conditioning leans toward happiness at all costs.

In our uber positive society it’s not acceptable to admit life sucks sometimes. It’s not okay to not only recognize I’m having a hard time, but do nothing to change it. To just ride it out and see where it takes me.

And that’s the part that bothers me. I don’t want to put on a happy face just because it makes you feel better. When I don’t say how I really feel, it’s like I’m being smothered. And honestly, that feels worse than the dark bits ever could.

There’s all kinds of advice about how to feel good when you don’t. Turn that frown upside down, change your attitude, be grateful, get outside, exercise, help others…and on and on it goes. But all that trying to change things insinuates it’s not okay to feel bad, alone, confused, angry.

I used to have a friend who, when I was down, insisted I would feel better if I went out. At first I believed her. I thought there was something wrong with me if I didn’t feel happy…something that needed to be fixed. But after a few evenings of me either crying in a bar or wanting to punch people in the face, I realized this was not the answer.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with positivity in general. Where I think it can be harmful is when I use positivity to not feel anything uncomfortable. I need to feel bad when I feel bad. Denying that is like rejecting a part of me.

Life is messy and things don’t go according to plan. And sometimes it sucks. But the dark times aren’t just to be tolerated until we can figure out how to be happy again. They should be revered the same way those joyous times are…as just a part of the experience of being human.

I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t know what any of this means. But I’m here. So I’m going to let this be whatever it is…dark, scary, uncertain. There’s still the urge to try to change it so I can feel better, but now there’s an even stronger pull to let it crack everything open. Let it all fall apart and see what comes of the broken pieces.

There comes a time when you can’t sidestep the shadows with positive thoughts anymore. You have to sit in the darkness, the nothingness, the not knowing, without trying to change it. Feel as bad as you feel. And wait. And listen.

I read this quote from the Bruce Cockburn song, Pacing the Cage in Sonja Alarr’s blog and it sums things up perfectly for me. “Sometimes the best map will not guide you. You can’t see what’s ‘round the bend. Sometimes the road leads through dark places. Sometimes the darkness is your friend.”

Here’s to the dark bits…may we welcome them with open arms.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

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What If I Stopped Wanting To Be Thin?

“I’ll never diet again!” That’s what I told myself after my last diet failed. After my willpower caved about six months in and I spent the next six months forcing myself to go to the gym and restricting the foods I allowed myself to eat. This left me 45 pounds lighter…it also left me neurotic, obsessed, and utterly crazy about food and exercise.

I have done unspeakable things in order to force my body to do what I wanted it to do. And in return it retaliated. To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And the reaction to severely restricting your diet is the dreaded binge.

During those dark and difficult days I would throw what I considered “bad” food in the trash in order to keep myself from eating it. But that only made things worse. I was so obsessed all I could think about was that cookie (or whatever it was) in the trash. And I’m ashamed to admit I’ve eaten food out of the garbage can…more than once. I know that sounds disgusting. And it is. I also know I’m not alone.

My rock bottom came the day I had binged so much that my stomach felt as if it would burst. That feeling was so unbearable all I could think about was getting that food out of me. I had never purged before, but the idea was sounding better and better by the minute. The thought of getting relief by getting rid of the food I had eaten was overwhelming.

But in that moment I heard a voice in my head say, “This is a slippery slope. If you do this once, you’ll keep doing it.” I don’t know how or why, but I knew I was seconds away from a full-blown eating disorder. And somehow I was able to stop myself. But I’ve never been able to stop that longing to lose weight, no matter what size I am.

I know it’s hard to believe I would do that to myself again, but recently I went down the health and weight loss rabbit hole once more. I had been focused on “perfect” health in an effort to recover from adrenal fatigue and as is my tendency, I got a wee bit obsessive with it. And by ‘wee bit’ I mean A LOT! (Can you be a wee bit obsessive about anything? Exactly!)

I found myself admonishing things like cantaloupe and apples because they have too much sugar in them. I switched from whole wheat bread to Ezekial bread (which tastes slightly more bland than cardboard). I wouldn’t eat cottage cheese or yogurt (dairy is bad, don’t you know?) and I took copious supplements all day every day (14 types of pills, 7 times a day, 37 pills in total). Super Supplements must have loved seeing me come in the door!

Three very interesting things happened during this time. I didn’t really feel any better, I didn’t lose any weight (in fact, I gained some), and I wasn’t having any fun. So what was the point?

That’s when it hit me. What the fuck am I doing?

It would probably make me ill if I could add up all the time and money I’ve spent on books, programs, workshops, supplements, gym memberships, personal trainers and more over my lifetime. Not to mention the physical, mental and emotional energy I’ve wasted.

I could’ve written several books, taken piano lessons, had time to garden, spent more time with friends, traveled and done all the things I say I want to do but never seem to have the time, energy or money for. Ironic, huh?

So I’m wondering…what if I just stopped wanting to be thin? I know some of you just gasped in horror. The thought is not an easy one for me to wrap my brain around either. But what if I just give up this fight? No really…give it up. Not because I think acceptance will eventually lead to that long pursued goal of thinness, but just because I have so many other things I’d rather focus on. Could I actually get to the place where the size of my body isn’t even part of the equation anymore?

”Never underestimate the huge middle finger you are giving to the world when you make peace with your body.” ~Frances Lockie

What if the goal wasn’t thinness, but happiness, joy and fun instead? What if I said yes to life instead of always saying no? As in, no I can’t eat that it’s not on my plan. No I can’t go there, they might not have anything I can eat. No I can’t do that, I have to go to the gym, prep food, count supplements.

We’ve all been told (and generally believe) that if we want something bad enough and just work hard enough at it, eventually we’ll succeed. But is that really true? I’ve worked as hard as anyone to get to (and stay at) that ever-elusive healthy weight for my body without any lasting success. What if the problem lies in the wanting, the striving, the working so hard for?

There is no ‘right’ way to eat…no ‘perfect’ program. For every study/article/belief touting perfect health, there is almost always a study against it. It’s a wonder we can find anything to eat at all anymore. I have always believed knowledge is power and there’s no such thing as too much information. But in this case I think information is a recipe (pun intended) for insanity.

Right now I’m not the weight I’d like to be. But right now is all there is. And as I said in my previous post, The Weight Problem I Never Had, there is no bigger waste of time and energy than to wish things were different than they are.

For too many years I defined “being healthy” by the number on the scale, the size of my clothes, taking the right supplements, eating the right foods and doing the right exercise…whether I liked it or not.

Now I’m shifting that definition. It may take some time as the old definition of health is deeply ingrained. But what feels best to me is not focusing on plans or formulas or numbers some “expert” deems the right and only way. Being healthy means feeling good, enjoying life and having fun!

Does this mean I’ve finally made peace with my body? I don’t know. But I’m certainly on my way.

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I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.

Closure…It’s Not What You Think It Is

Clo·sure Webster’s dictionary defines closure as : an often comforting or satisfying sense of finality <victims needing closure>; also : something (as a satisfying ending) that provides such a sense. Dictionary.com describes it as a bringing to an end; conclusion. But I call bullshit! This has not been my experience. When you lose someone you love; due to death, divorce, a break up, there’s nothing satisfying about it. And there’s certainly no conclusion. Maybe the hope of getting closure someday keeps us going when we might otherwise give up. I suppose that’s a good thing. But I don’t think closure exists…at least not the way most of us look at it.

I’ve been thinking about closure alot these last months. Ever since the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with walked away and my heart was broken beyond words. The ‘solution’ I am often presented with is closure. Well-meaning friends and family members often say, “You just need closure.” Or, they’ll tell me something negative about him saying, “Maybe this will help you get closure.” Apparently, no matter what the circumstance or how deep the pain, all you need to do is get closure and that matter will be behind you forever. They make it sound so easy. It’s not.

Most days come and go without tears, but not without thoughts of him. I get up, I go to work, I live my life. But then something out of the blue sparks a memory. I hear a song, or a line in a movie and the pain comes flooding back. Before I know it I am consumed by the longing to see him again, to hear his voice, to touch his sweet face. Often those journeys into darkness are completely unexpected. The other day I picked up a book off my shelf thinking I’d sit down and read for a while. Inside the front cover was a folded piece of paper. I opened to it find a print out of an email from him professing he would love and adore me forever. He didn’t. And just reading those words all these months later brought back the pain of him leaving as if it were yesterday.

There are also times when it’s a funny memory. I was at the grocery store recently and suddenly felt the urge to start drumming. You can imagine my confusion since I am not, nor have I ever been, a drummer. It took a minute, but then I realized the song playing ovehead was also on the video game Rock Band. We used to play that game until the wee hours of the morning. We had our own ‘band’ and we were on ‘tour’. He was the guitarist, of course, and I was the drummer. I wasn’t very good at it, but we had alot fun! It was our thing…something we did together nearly every time I visited. I laughed out loud in the aisle when it hit me.

And then there are the times when I wonder if the Universe is messing with me. Has that ever happened to you? I was driving through Eatonville the other day. This is the town where we met…were we went to high school together. I have to drive through town on my way to my parent’s house. He was already on my mind as he often is when I drive past the high school. As I was sitting at the four-way stop in the middle of town, I looked up and realized the car in front of me had Virginia license plates. That is where he lives and where I was going to move. Virginia is where we were going to build a life together. I just looked up to the sky and sighed. Really? There are 49 other states; why Virginia plates? What does that mean? Or is it just a random coincidence? I still don’t know what it means, but don’t believe in coincidences.

To be honest I was starting to think something was wrong with me that I couldn’t get to that ever-illusive state of closure. I felt like people wanted me to get over it already and move on. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Then my mom loaned me Jerry Sittser’s book, “A Grace Disguised.” It’s the story of a man who lost his mother, his wife, and his daughter in one fateful car crash. He talks about loss in such an honest, real way. And reading his story reminded me that while my life goes on, and so does yours, it will never be the same. You can’t go back. Losing someone you love leaves a hole in your heart that nothing else can fill. That’s not to say you won’t be happy again. But you’ll never stop missing them; they will always be a part of you.

I have to admit I still get angry sometimes when people tell me I need closure. As if that’s the magic pill that will make my heart stop hurting; the memories stop flooding back at the slightest provocation; the longing to see him again fade away. I just don’t think closure is the right word. I think the word we’re looking for is acceptance. You can accept the fact your loved one is gone. But that doesn’t mean you forget them. And I don’t think you should. The memories will always be there; some sad, some happy, some just downright weird. But I think acceptance brings peace…a little at a time.

So here’s my advice on loss. You can take it or leave it. It’s your choice. Let yourself feel the pain. Remember that person as often as you want and cry or smile or both. Don’t fight those feelings because you think you shouldn’t have them. This is not about wallowing or feeling sorry for yourself; though you may feel that way at times. This is about being real. The experiences of your life are as much a part of you as your fingers and toes. The pain will come and go. There is no closure; no magic moment; no satisfy ending; no conclusion. The person you love will always be with you; in your thoughts, your mind, your heart. Life is a story that goes on and on. And they will always be a part of it.

“Even the saddest things can become, once we have made peace with them, a source of wisdom and strength for the journey that still lies ahead.” ~Frederick Buechner