Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wrench, please

In my shop, when we're unloading or shipping furniture, I am often faced with undoing bolts or screws that have been in place for 100 years. Especially with old, old French armoires, it takes a tight wrench and a lot of elbow grease to get the old dirty rusty connectors moving.

I feel right now as if I'm trying to wrench my head around, giving it a major heave-ho, working to get back to a point of gratitude and acceptance. I am not white knuckling it, but neither am I in that divine spot where it feels I am floating on a cloud of grace and serenity.

So much better than it was, as I said this morning, but nowhere near where I want to be. Some of this is likely the aftereffects of excess. Why can't I remember that this. does. not. feel. good. Why? I have a disease that tells me I don't have a disease, tells me this time it will be different, I'll be able to handle it, keep on track, quit with one. It's a liar, this affliction. Maybe one day I will lose my ability to hear its voice.

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No, no, no, no, NO!

Food does not make it better. Food does not make it better. Food does not make it better.

There. I wonder if I could get it tattooed on my right hand, the one that reaches for relief? Amazing how much better I feel just a couple of days clean. Amazing. Night and day. Whole different person.

Food does not make it better; it's the big lie, the thing that seduces me with a promised comfort and provides just a brief bit of numbness, then leaving me with the feelings of loss and disappointment and frustration and and and and . . . .

Um . . . I don't think that's typical. I don't see folks on the commercials eating Oreos and becoming despondent. Since that is for me the aftermath to the consumption of a bag of Oreos, does that make me a food addict? Ya think? (Note to self, sense of humor returning, good sign.)

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Eating hell for leather

Been doing that, these last couple of weeks: eating like a grown man, like a late July hay hauler, pretty much anything I've wanted, whenever I've wanted and often when I didn't want, just to get through.

It was the drug that got me past this ordeal of taking care of my mother-in-law. Facing 12 hours of tediousness at her empty, cold, dark house, and desperately missing my quiet time, my leisurely mornings, my four-day work week, my sweet little cottage, I'd fortify myself with large quantities of the obsession du jour, thinking if I could just stand it, get it done, survive it, get through, I'd quit.

This is old history for me. I've used food as the fortifier for most every unpleasant or painful task in my life. It works. Temporarily, of course, but I'd not have used it to such destructive lengths if it didn't work.

So I'm beginning again to work on my healthy eating habits and on my fitness. Haven't been to the gym in weeks. Haven't been myself in weeks. I miss the me that I was a month ago. I am closer today to who I was 18 months ago. I don't want her back, not ever.

It's pretty scary, because I know that I am powerless over this addiction. Just saying "I'm beginning again" doesn't mean I will. I want to, I'll take the steps I can to do so, I'll ask for help, commit to a food plan, but still . . .

I can't undo this lost time and the only thing I've really learned is that I am never safe from this thing. Food will always be an issue for me. I may be in remission from the disease, one day at a time, but it is never gone, no matter how much weight I lose or how much time I string together. It's always waiting, always ready, still deadly, still strong.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Honey, baby, sweetie, darlin'

Being not only big of ass, but a belle in the southern tradition (the feisty Scarlett O'Hara tradition, not the mealy-mouthed blue-stockinged Melanie Wilkes tradition), I love my region and our culture despite its multiple failings.

Garrison Keillor writes of the south in Salon, of southern friendliness and the tendency toward addressing complete strangers with terms of endearment and affection, of the southern tendency to talk to strangers ~ at length. We are a friendly people, sweet and open and quick to smile and engage others. We like folks and it shows. He draws comparisons between my people and his frosty clan in Minnesota, between my folks and the yankees who are thicker than fleas on a dog's back just about everywhere (smooches, y'all, love you cupcakes, truly).

And then he writes this: "If we can't talk to strangers, if there is no public life in America, then it's no wonder politics is so out of whack. And yet in the South, which has produced the most regressive politicians this side of Sudan, who are proud of bad government and lousy wars, in which a disproportionate number of young Southern men die, you keep running into the friendliest people on earth. Explain that to me, sunshine. Sweeten up here and tell me why these good people keep electing those dreadful idiots. "

What a precious man. Love his writing, loved the essay. Check it out, darlings.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Checking in

You have all been so kind with your comments, thank you. Here's a brief update before I head out to the final stretch of this three weeks of hell: This is the last day I have to finish clearing out the mother-in-law's house. I'm heading over there with one of my guys from the shop and we'll move furniture and donate and anything else that's needed.

Then I'm going to vacuum and if she wants to clean beyond that she can. I will not haul over to her place the teensy light little boxes she could easily have put in the trunk of her giant cruiser. She is not helpless, helpless just works very well for her. I think part of my anger about this whole deal is that I long to help my parents, who live 100 miles away. They never ask for anything, I love them dearly, they need help with Daddy's dementia and my stepmother's 48 hour a day caretaking role, and I can't do anything for them that would seriously improve their lives. This one, not my mother, not even my kin in the tight definition of my family, is living it up in a retirement community, hanging out, enjoying her life and sucking the life out of me. God, that just sounds ugly and I am sorry to have written it but the comparison between her life and how I can help and their lives and how I can't just kills me.

I am fed up, exhausted, resentful. These are not helpful feelings for me when it comes to eating and working on weight and getting to the gym. I confessed my wish to run away to my husband, even describing my aerie in the old Victorian replete with iron bed and rocker. I am not sure he realized the fantasy does not include him.

I am a resilient person with a strong sense of self. I know I'll bounce back from this and it won't even take that long, but I am ready now and I have one more day. So I know I can do this and I will. But I am getting pretty tired of taking care of other people and I am just a bit afraid that when the quittin' time comes on that behavior, it's going to be final. When my switch turns off on concern for others, I don't know who I'll be, but I believe it will be irrevocable and I believe that change is coming up fast.

Oprah says fat people spend their whole lives putting others first. This fat girl is on the homestretch heading toward done with that soul killing, life stealing way of life.

I hope you all have a lovely day today. I can't wait to have some time this weekend to catch up with all of you.

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Monday, October 16, 2006


I sat on my front steps crying my eyes out this evening. Just too much over the last two weeks: 80 hours of estate sale work for the mother-in-law plus running my business, and then she managed to lose 1/3 of the funds collected at the sale. I am so tired, so overwhelmed, just can't get back into my life as I want it to be. This was too much and that's a lesson I've learned over and over ~ I just never seem to figure it out in the midst of whatever it is, only after the fact when I'm as deflated as a used condom. I am deflated, tired, sad.

Addendum: Woke up this morning, October 17, feeling the same way. Started thinking these meltdowns occur with some regularity. Searched through my other blog and found a post titled Insanity, which comes close to expressing how I feel right now, with that tremendous urge to just run away and abandon my post in this life I know. The only difference today is that I'm not sure I'd miss the husband. I'd definitely miss the dogs. Malaise? Incipient madness? Diagnosis, anyone?

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Outrage and folk songs

If you've not seen Iraq for Sale, Robert Greenwald's stunning, infuriating, horrifying film which should be mandatory viewing for every taxpaying American, Democrat or Republican, try to find a screening. I am pretty well informed about what's going on in this country and in the world and there was much in this film I did not know regarding the corporations which are profiting from the war and the maiming and killing of our citizens. Check it out.

And then, and then, I just have to say this: why oh why do we have to sing folk songs when we're gathering together for political action? I did the whole folk song hippie thing back in the '70s. I got my feet wet protesting Vietnam. I took part in sit-ins and marches fighting Houston's attempt to elect officials citywide rather than by districts, a move which would have excluded the poor, inner city residents, people of color. I marched for the ERA, fought hard for that one, was spit on and cursed by the Schlafly-ites and their ilk, those bitches who were willing to sell out women everywhere. EarthFirst! was my '80s cause and we protested and eco-sabotaged and, yes, we sang a few songs here and there. Actually, all of these events incorporated the singing of folk songs. All of them. Fewer with the women's movement, but then we were so pissed we only occasionally indulged in the singing of angry songs, some with quite lurid and frightening lyrics about the power of vaginas and the violence hidden within each oppressed soul. Every movement had its acoustic guitar musicians and their soft little voices. Did it start with Woody? I don't know and I'm not sure I care.

It's 2006. I am 49 years old. I want to go to the Peace House and see Iraq for Sale and not have to sing songs first. Can't we be earnest and committed and activist and not have to sing about it? I love music, love it. I love classical, baroque, hip hop, rock, pop, techno, trance, soul, chanting monks, Lutheran hymns, opera, Native American drum and chant, Broadway, country, even a little bluegrass and swamp. It was sweet, this singing of folk tunes, it was a little trying, and yes I joined in a bit on "This little light of mine" and "This land is your land." I love Woody, but I think even Woody would be telling us to get over ourselves. Let's visit, let's chat, let's do something, but let's don't sing. Please.

The @#$%&* scale

As a fat girl, I know that moving the scale is death. I know it. Once moved, the thing will never read precisely the same again. It will be up or down, and though I try to readjust it, it just won't be right.

My husband, sweet man who holds steady at 172, 172, 172, 172, no matter what, moved our scale. He did it in an effort to determine whether little Bill was as fat as the vet said. Mike has his own scale thing going on: he denies that the vet's monstrous digital appliance is as accurate as our retro chrome beauty when it comes to the fat little dog.

He kicked the scale around the uneven tiled floor in my sitting room a couple of days in a row, desperately trying to make Billy weigh less than 14 pounds. Knowing that an evil report would be the likely result of this moving of the scale, I skipped weighing a few days. And here's the stunning, terrifying thing about that: I gained 6 pounds.

Did I really gain 6 pounds or has he messed up the scale? Really? Really, I've been working this estate sale and skipping the gym. I've been burning the candle at both ends, feel tired all the time, not eating clean. I've probably really gained a few pounds. Six or not, I'd go with the gain being a reality and that speaks to the power of this disease for me.

For whatever reason ~ a lifetime struggle with weight, more fat cells than the average bear, whatever ~ I have a stunning capacity to gain weight quickly. It is one of the things I'm best at. If it were a competition, I'd win, but the truth is I lose with every increment of increase on the @#$%#$^ scale.

I hate scales. Hate them. But I have to have one for accountability. Skipping a day of weighing is a step toward a complete relapse. It's how I gained 80 pounds in less than a year in 1987. It's how I kept a comfortable denial going about the weight I gained when Mike was sick. I have to have daily accountability if I'm going to hold steady. Have to. So I'm back to it, weighing every morning, and I've hidden the scale from the 172 pound man and his fat little dog.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Old democrats

Garrison Keillor in Salon:

". . . Pick up a newspaper and read about Congress and you will find yourself yelling at walls and terrifying the cat. Last week, Congress moved to suspend habeas corpus, one thing that distinguishes a civil society from a police state. Reaction was muted.

"Then the Party of Family Values was revealed to have protected a sexual predator in its midst until finally a reporter asked some pointed questions and the honorable gentleman resigned and ran off to recovery camp: This level of hypocrisy takes a person's breath away. You thought that Abramoff, Norquist, Reed & DeLay had established new lows, but the elevator is still descending.

"The power of righteous vexation is what keeps so many old Democrats hanging on in nursing homes long past the time they should have kicked off. Ancient crones from FDR's time are still walking the halls, kept alive by anger at what has been done to our country. Old conservationists, feminists, grizzled veterans of the civil rights era fight off melanoma, emphysema, Montezuma, thanks to the miracle drug of anger. Slackers and cynics abound, not to mention nihilists in golf pants and utter idiots. Time to clean some clocks. As Frost might have written, "The woods are lovely, dark and thick. But I have many butts to kick and some to poke and just one stick."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I sleep in an old four poster, the bed of my parents and the one in which I was made. They bought it in D.C. when Daddy was working for the FDA before he signed on for a world war. A pair of spinster sisters had slept in the bed all their lives and were happy to give it my newly married parents when the sisters moved to a nursing home. My bed is topped with three layers of feather beds, a down comforter, an old quilt, eight soft down pillows and two of firm feathers for propping up to read.

I was fluffing the bed this morning ~ tossing all of those feathers and down ~ and it struck me that I used to do this daily. Daily. I did it every day for a period of two years and then I just quit. Now I fluff on the day the housekeeper comes and aside from straightening the covers, I do nothing else the entire week.

I don't understand this. A fully fluffed bed is truly one of the pleasures of my day, yet I only give myself that gift once a week. It takes about two minutes to toss and fluff and then the bed is an absolute nest. I sleep better, feel as if I've had a treat, feel comforted in this world where comforts are sometimes infrequent.

It's the same with the prayers I said for the 20 years I was attending 3-4 12 step meetings a week. I believed nothing in the beginning; I got on my knees and said the words because I was told to do so and I was desperate. After a year or two of taking that positive action, I began to realize that something was different. I'd become aware of the Power that changes hopeless, desperate alcoholics into people with sparkly eyes and smiles and laughter. Aware, but not there for myself. More action, developing a habit.

I clearly remember the day I took the action and felt as if my prayer connected somehow. It was a profound spiritual experience and one which changed my heart and my mind. That connection strengthened and the habit I'd developed led me to a life I'd never imagined: living free of alcohol, free of excess food, free of binging and purging, free of the insane relationships that marked my actively addicted years.

One day I stopped. Mike was sick and I was working full time, running a full time business, caring for him. I quit one day and then the behavior became periodic. He and I used to pray together every morning, holding hands, and we did that for 12 years. After he was unable to work and was so desperately ill, I left the house before he even awakened most days. The habit of years fell away and so did the connection.

Once broken, the habit is so hard to bring back. I've noticed it's not so hard to bring back the habit of overeating ~ I've done that over and over and over throughout my life. But then overeating isn't so much habit as actual addiction for me. But the positive habits, fluffing my bed, praying with my sweetheart, pausing to ask for help through the day. Damn, those are just so elusive.

I am starting right now by saying a prayer to get through this day and to find a way to be of service to others. I don't know what / who / if anything's out there, so I am acting as if there's a benevolent Power that cares for me. The kind of connection I had for so many years is the greatest high I've ever known and I. Have. Known. Some. Highs.

I've done this before and it works. I don't know how to start anything beyond just doing it for one day, this day. So today I'll pray.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Ya think?

I've tucked this one away into my personal "oh my God, say it's not so!" file:

Food like drugs for some, same brain path used
Overeating and drug addiction may be linked, researchers find

Anyone else surprised? Heh.

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Too much

As has been my habit in life, I am currently in the midst of too much to do. We're behind on shipping at the shop and I can only work three of my usual four days this week because I'm conducting the estate sale for my mother-in-law, who has turned so demanding I'd almost like to bury her under the weight of this house full of possessions.

I am missing my morning reading and coffee drinking, missing my 1-2 days of my 3-day weekends spent doing nothing. I am missing idleness which I have found is a requisite part of a happy, contented life and thus a foundation for living free of the urge to overeat. One week to go ~ the sale's this Friday ~ and I'll be back to the life I've made for myself, the one that fills me up and restores me and makes me feel at home in my life.

The end result of this is that I will not have to dip into savings to finish remodeling my bathroom ~ the one with the clawfoot tub and the 1800s French oak marble-topped vanity and the stained glass window. I want that bathtub even more than I want my free mornings and weekends, but I'm still cranky about letting go of my little pleasures in order to do this thing.

Overwork is an affliction that's plagued me throughout life, starting with my first jobs as a teen and continuing through my crazy twenties and thirties in which I was always employed and usually had an extra job or two on the side, even when I was a maniac and a party girl and a drunk. Even in social work, I avoided the 8-5 jobs and went for the killer positions with 24 hour, 7 day a week call, or 24 hour emergency response and first responder on child deaths and hospitalizations.

I think overwork can be as much of an addiction as food. My husband insists I'm an adrenaline junky and I'm not happy unless I've got a crisis going on. I can see that in my past, but I don't think it's the case now. Funny how pushing myself beyond reason always took extra quantities of sugar, though. I guess I had to fill up somehow. Finding balance in this area is just about as difficult as finding balance with the food. I am, in this, a work in progress.