Monthly Archives: August 2008

Spirituality/Honesty as the mortar

Interesting thought, about the mortar.  So many things I do in terms of “spirituality” don’t take the form of set prayer. The way I interact with God is often simply a willigness to be open, to be guided, and to hear – while doing all kinds of other things. Another thing I consider spiritual is the fact that I do try to test everything I do against what I understand to be God’s will: submission.

The irony here is that others seem to look at my “outside” and think I’m very godly, and yes it’s true that my entire life is really about God, in the big things. My job, my social circle, the things I do: always with God in mind. But I don’t consider that spirituality. Those are the rocks, the stones, which have to be of good quality too – can’t have just mortar. It’s that mortar, the inner relationship, which only I know and which others can’t judge, and where I know I fall short (of my own desires – of the way I want to be).

And that’s really where honesty comes in – I can’t have spirituality, which I see as peace, if I’m scheming and having to hold the ropes together like a spider if I’ve woven a web of deception, however unimportant an issue it’s about. Deceiving others, and even myself, is stressful because it disturbs my peace, it keeps coming back into my thoughts, and I can’t let go. I think that’s why abstinence works for me, I’m just honest with my sponsor about my food and then I don’t have to think about it. If I was dishonest, even in a small way, I wouldn’t be able to get food thoughts (about that particular thing, and then probably about all kinds of things) out of my head!

I have this peace with food, thanks to our program. I also have this peace in the big issues of my life, because they are out in the open, I have brought them to trusted people and there is no lying about my big issues and/or my past (5th step work, really). However, where I stumble is the little things, unimportant and – worse – unnecessary. For example, if I don’t want to go somewhere I might say I have another engagement when I don’t. Why didn’t I just say I don’t want to go? I don’t know. Those little things are silly to lie about, but whether a lie is big or small it still makes me feel like a liar and gives me a fear of being found out. So I lose my peace.

That’s where I’m at today… I need to address honesty in the little things.

Abstinence and Life

I’m Susanne, a compulsive overeater abstinent today as I weigh my 3 meals off the CGS, write them down, commit them to my sponsor, and eat nothing else no matter what. I make that my #1 priority, even if it means – as it did today – that I need to go back home from work to fetch the protein I had planned for lunch. Not that that’s a big deal any more, now that I live five minutes away from work!

I’ve been wanting to share for a while but just couldn’t think of anything to say. What have I to complain about? Are there any problems, struggles, issues? Well, at the moment, the truth is that I’m in a good place in my life and I couldn’t complain if I tried. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying life will be all flowers when one gets abstinent. I credit abstinence with providing the bedrock on which I build my life, but of course, being abstinent itself is no promise that life will be good. Abstinence is in one hand, life in the other, and as it happens right now for me, both are wonderful.

A 10-point life gratitude list for today:

  1. I have a new place, five minutes away from work and costing me half what my old place did;
  2. the sun is shining (at last!);
  3. Monday is a bank holiday;
  4. my new housemate seems to be reasonable, lovely, and open to friendship;
  5. I have a long weekend ahead to spend with friends from my church which I am about to leave (due to the move);
  6. I look forward to connecting with new friends at my new church
  7. I’m going food shopping in a few minutes (I *like* that!);
  8. I’m not completely broke even though I’ve paid two rents this month;
  9. I love my job and my coworkers and we just had a lovely Friday in the office;
  10. I look forward to two holidays, in a way: house-sitting with two gorgeous kitties for one week, and later, visiting family in Austria (yes it’s stressful, but I still look forward to it).

A 10-point food gratitude list for today:

  1. I’ve ordered a new scale today because the display of my scale has gone funny (I’ve had my scale practically from Day 1!! – this is better than Christmas!!)
  2. I’ve been off sweeteners for two weeks now – and I’m still alive!
  3. I’ve been off caffeine for two weeks now – and I’m happy!
  4. food tastes different (more intense?) since I’ve given up sweeteners
  5. experimenting with new recipes – free from sweeteners – has been interesting (although I’d love to get more reliable recipes…)
  6. I have a huge freezer in my new home! (had no freezer before)
  7. all my food for the long weekend is packed and ready to go, no hassle
  8. since I’m no longer eating gum & drinking sodas, I have a lot more money – it does add up!
  9. found huge fruit of my favourite kind in the supermarket
  10. found a local farmer’s market which I can’t wait to check out.

And here it is… as I said, I’m not saying that abstinence = fab life. I just happen to go through that phase at the moment, and I’m exceedingly grateful. Above all, and underneath it all, my foundation is – I don’t eat, no matter what.

No absolutes and being teachable

The topic… the paradox of absolutes and non-absolutes within Greysheet is its beauty, for me. GS is absolute, no two ways about it – absolute, rigid, and exact. Just what I need when it comes to food. It suits me! I think it suits me because I am a goal-oriented, practical person and I like to know what’s expected of me, then do what is required to achieve that. Simple enough, with food – or academics – or work targets – but spirituality? Sadly spirituality doesn’t work that way.

I suppose that’s because my spirituality with God as I understand him is a relationship, not a target or place to get to or enlightenment stage. It’s a dynamic, ongoing relationship that has no fixed targets. I can’t ever fully know or understand God, so I’m on a path, and that path doesn’t have tangible markers because everything about a relationship is intangible, however real! That’s my understanding for why there are no absolutes in the spiritual program. I’m only learning how to relate, both to humans and certainly to God too.

Being teachable – I think I’ve shared this before – I know I have to be wise not only whose input I value and weigh strongly, but even those whose opinions are qualified and who I respect for their expertise/thoughts/experience, aren’t always right. So I can’t go to one authoritative source. God is authoritative, sure, but he’s not an oracle that answers my questions with yes/no signs as I please to ask. I have to be taught by several sources, so that I eventually begin to filter out the chaff and get what resonates within me… submit that to God and see if I have witness for that… and that’s how I need to walk. I don’t always, of course, but that’s my understanding of how I should handle teachability in my life. As CS Lewis said, an open mind is like an open mouth, open for food – and that’s good – but once the food is in it, you need to close it around that or you’ll look like an idiot. 😉

Careful what you wish for… writing topic

What an interesting idea to think about… triggered a number of thoughts for me.

The topic, be careful what you wish for, resonates because as I look back over my life a lot of things I would NOT have wished for have turned out to make me who I am and I am grateful for them. It may sound horrible but the death of my mother when I was 15 is one of these. At the time, my world ended – I attempted suicide several times – everything I cared for was gone. I shut off emotionally. From then on I never cared about anyone, and only when I became a Christian did I begin to tentatively allow God to bring this part of me back to life. S-l-o-w-l-y. I’m still working on this… I think I’m at a stage where I do care about friends, I miss them when they’re gone and people are not simply replaceable, as they used to be. At this stage I don’t think I’m capable of love, not yet, but I know that is where this path leads and one day I may love somebody.

The point I’m making is this: if my mother hadn’t died, I would have grown up with her, with all her dysfunctions, and I don’t believe I would have known the first thing about life. She certainly didn’t. I loved her to bits but she was absolutely helpless and clueless. It was only through her death and the resulting pain, as well as being taught basic life skills by my aunt who took us in, that I am now who I am. Looking back at the 15-year-old, I would not want to be further along the path I was on then (absolute self-centredness, meddling in drugs, etc.). So, I am grateful for everything that happened but I certainly didn’t wish for it. I’m careful these days, wishing for things. I very rarely do, mostly I accept what comes and react accordingly (having my reactions “profoundly changed”, as the AA BB says).

I also liked the quote, “Our destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.” Whoever shared the quote that abstinence/spirituality is a “profound alteration in one’s reaction to life.” – thank you! I had never really read this, I don’t think. What a truth. My reactions to life have changed radically through abstinence, and certainly through working the steps, and that has happened as a sideshow really: I wasn’t working on changing my reactions to life, they changed as my perspective (“way of looking at things”) did. I can identify this in hindsight, but it’s a little like hair growing: you don’t see it happen while it happens but it definitely does, and looking back over time, it’s obvious.

I loved what one person said in her e-mail, “I think I might already be who I want to become.” – in a way, that is where I’m at, too. Not to say I’m at the destination, but I am who I want to be in that I seek after it. In that I am actively engaged in growing, becoming more and more like the one I follow. Willing to be molded and shaped. I fall short of this, of course, and God will shape and mold me even as I kick and scream about it – but the baseline is, I want him to do this.

One week off sweeteners & caffeine

I’m a compulsive overeater who’s abstinent today as I weigh my 3 meals off the CGS, write them down, commit them to my sponsor, and eat nothing uncommitted no matter what. I make that my #1 priority.

Abstinence is what I described above, sweeteners don’t come into it (I just wanted to say that because I’m no “more” abstinent than anyone else just because I’m cutting out sweeteners).

But I wanted to share my excitement, my gratefulness, or more to the point – my humble amazement at this power greater than myself who enabled me to let go of sweeteners and caffeine one week ago, something that seemed absolutely unthinkable even on the day I started. I could not imagine living without these things. I could not imagine that my abstinence would be “contented”. What have I found? Amazingly, my abstinence now feels much more serene and contented!

There’s now no one food I MUST have. I’m happy with anything on the Greysheet. I have my preferences, of course, but there’s nothing non-negotiable that I MUST have, like it used to be with having a sweet breakfast. The thought of a non-sweet breakfast was impossible. Now I have learned it’s actually just fine.

Wow! Another step in this glorious freedom path. NMW!

Sweeteners and Caffeine

I’ve made a big adjustment – one day at a time, perhaps this is permanent or perhaps it isn’t, but certainly for today: I have finally cut out all sweeteners and caffeine sources.  I haven’t shared much about my struggle with those, mainly because sharing about it would have brought something out in the open that I’d rather not see in plain daylight.  But the time has come, finally… I’m defeated.

This really is a biggie for me.  I haven’t consistently had issues, especially with sweeteners I could always use them very sanely (only at breakfast, a little bit… and on weekends…) but the recurring problems I have been having with diet sodas and gum, especially gum lately, I have come to believe are connected to my use of sweeteners.  It’s the same substance.  The taste.  How can I expect to get off one carrier of the substance (gum) when I keep taking it in through other ways?  I’ve been off gum for weeks on end – struggling each day – just to then pick it back up, with a vengeance, suffering all the intestinal discomforts (putting it very mildly) that come with that… then finally gathering up the strength to give up gum, hoping the last episode was so bad it would forever take the attraction away.  What was I thinking?  The same as I used to think after every food binge.  That it would be so bad, finally, that I would never want to do it again.  And then I did it again.

I did see this pattern very clearly, with the gum, but I hadn’t made the connection to sweeteners as a whole.  I didn’t want to make that connection!  I’ve been using sweeteners very lightly, I thought, but the few things I did have I guarded with a vengeance.  But, as my sponsor more than once said to me, if a food takes up the kind of importance that I can’t let it go, that I fight for it… then that’s worrying.  It’s out of its proper place.

So, I have jumped.  Done the unthinkable.  Had a non-sweet breakfast yesterday morning.  And it wasn’t the end of the world!  I had it again this morning and still the world hasn’t stopped.  And that I did another unthinkable thing at the same time, giving up coffee, makes it a double miracle that I survived yesterday at all!  A new idea has emerged, a complete heresy: life without sweeteners or coffee may, after all, be possible.  Wow.  I can be abstinent without those crutches?  Say what??  I don’t need those crutches to prop me up while I hold on to abstinence – I can have a really simple relationship with food where no particular food or drink takes up a prominent place beyond its importance?

I don’t know if that’s true.  But since I survived yesterday and am still here to tell the tale (without coffee or sweeteners thus far today), I may yet hope.

My mother’s 67th

Today would be my mother’s 67th birthday (she died at age 54).  I can’t imagine her at that age at all!
 
As it’s her birthday, I’ve been thinking about her.  Sometimes I wonder if my food issue is inherited from her.  I don’t think I learned it from her, as such… I never consciously watched her.  She ate her food and I ate mine (as a child, I ate incredible amounts of food – and exactly the same food every single day for years – and nobody ever minded: I grew up with no boundaries).  But as I look back I do see certain traits… how she would lose and gain the same 50 lbs. periodically.  If on a diet, she’d eat lots of soup (I hope that’s a generic enough term to be allowable on Greynet?) and vegetables.   If not on a diet, I don’t remember what she ate.
 
My mother was a very emancipated woman.  She was married (only because she was forced into it by her mother, because she was pregnant with me), but she went back to work the moment she could walk again after my C-section – I was looked after by my aunt and cousins.  Later, from primary school onwards, I was in all-day schools and returned home about an hour before she did, and my father returned after that.  My mother never cooked, cleaned, or did any household chores.  I have no memory of it, but she told me that my father used to do much of that until he once burned his hand while cooking and never did it again after that.  That’s why I grew up on microwave frozen food.
 
And that’s probably why I remember my mother’s diets, because that was the only time she would actually cook herself some food.  Not that it was edible.  I remember she made a very watery soup one day, unseasoned, inedible, and a family friend coming to visit – she took the occasion to get rid of the soup and the poor friend was too polite to refuse.
 
So my mother would go up and down the scale, yo-yoing her way through life, unhappy when she was fat and happy (but not for long) when she was thinner.  Never thin, just thinner.  She did share with me how she couldn’t stand her appearance, her hair wasn’t blonde or curly (both of which she wanted it to be), her body wasn’t made to be thin, her eyes were too small, her lips too thin… I thought she was beautiful.
 
Looking back, I think the way she would berate her appearance actually helped me, because I looked at her and saw beauty – so I have always remembered to take my own perceptions of myself with a grain of salt.  Just because I don’t like certain things I see in the mirror doesn’t mean I’m not beautiful.
 
I don’t think my mother was in need of the Greysheet, she wasn’t a compulsive, out-of-control eater like I am.  But her life makes me intensely, incredibly grateful for the Greysheet and for the fact that I have worn the same size clothes for years now, I have no double-wardrobe (fat clothes and thin clothes) but just one, all the same size, and the only reason I ever throw clothes away is that they are worn out!
 
Thank God for leading me to Greysheet.  I do it NMW!