Tuesday, July 21, 2009

#55 Sad, Sad, Sad and Angry!

My good friend Perry died today. It wasn't expected. I am so sad, sad, sad, and angry. Angry because I didn't get a chance to say goodbye. What's even more upsetting is that 3 days ago, I sent myself an email reminding me to call a few people I haven't spoken to in a couple of months. I got to a few, but not Perry. Why is it that we remember to call people when we are in the shower, or at the movies, or when it's 10:30 at night?

This is the second time something like this has happened to me. A couple of years ago, the husband of a coworker called to tell me that his wife, my friend, had died. I had just spoken to her in April and all was well, she was in remission. This phone call came at the end of May. I wanted to ask why he hadn't called me sooner, like when he knew she was dying? I was so sad, sad, sad, and angry. Angry because I didn't get to say goodbye. Looking back, I can see that during her last weeks, calling Bobbie was probably the farthest thing from their minds, but how I wish they had. I went to the funeral to say goodbye, but I have to admit, it made me feel no better.

In the past couple of years, I've really tried to stay in touch with people without letting too much time slip by. This needing to stay connected started about three years ago when weeks after the fact, I learned that a friend's father had died. It was around Thanksgiving -- when everyone was busy getting ready to travel or getting ready to cook that big meal for incoming family and out-of-towners. Life gets hectic and we focus on ourselves and our needs. Before we know it, weeks have gone by. And, I don't mean keeping in touch with just out of town friends, I mean the friends around the corner or even next door. Sometimes, weeks can go by without my speaking or even seeing my neighbors.

There are a number of friends of mine who I speak to or see maybe twice a year. It seems, in these relationships, I am responsible for calling or initiating an email. Years ago, I wondered if they still wanted to be my friend. Yet whenever I call, they are always happy to talk and it feels like no time has gone by. Sometimes I resent my job as caller and think, if they are my friend, they will call me. I've tried, on occasion, to wait out their calls, but soon, I begin to worry and end up calling them. It's not like we haven't talked about this, my non-caller friends and me, we have. There are no hard feelings; we understand each other. I accept my "job" and realize that we are mutually happy just to be connecting and sharing.

I guess that's what having great friends is all about. The give and take is mutual, but the contributions are different. Perry was a wonderful, kind and generous man, a master carpenter, and a sweet, tender-hearted friend. My old house, with new moldings that he matched up to the 200 year old ones, the 3 room master suite he built with his son during their summer break, the master bed that he copied from a magazine photo I gave him, the walls that no longer weep mold, the beautifully crafted shelves and furniture, and the venison he shared with us after his hunting weekends are all a testament to this wonderful man and his talents. However, his talented hands couldn't compare to the abundance of his heart. Perry was an angel, and if he treated all his clients and friends the way he treated me and my family, then they were as blessed as I.

So hear me out my friends, I will continue to call and check in because I don't want to ever have to say again --- I was sad, sad, sad, and angry because I didn't get a chance to say goodbye.

Quote of the Day: "Revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst" Walter Weckler

Thursday, July 16, 2009

#54 Bobbie's Buxom Blues

In the Oprah Magazine, there is one page that is dedicated to a famous person's Aha! moment. I'm dedicating this page to mine.

The background
I am in high school. My boyfriend of one year is going off to college. As far as I know, we are still dating. When I hear he is back home visiting, I wait for him to call. He never does. I find out through his friends that we are no longer an item. I spend a lot of time alone, and a lot of alone time eating. I feel abandoned and go to food for comfort -- no talking to someone, no alcohol, no drugs, no shopping -- just lots of comfort eating . During this time, I am also developing physically [at an exponential rate] and find that the attention my body attracts makes me uncomfortable. I start getting heavy and notice this causes less attention to be directed my way. I have learned to cover my new curves with blubber.

The Middle Time
These are the school years. Throughout high school, college and graduate school, I gain and lose, gain and lose depending on my confidence. If I start losing weight and get the right kind attention, I continue to lose and feel good. If, on the other hand, I feel the attention I am receiving is solely based on my body and am uncomfortable with the feelings that this evokes, I start eating to cover my [what I see as my] sexiness. Up and down I go. It doesn't matter if I have a boyfriend or not, the weight goes on and off. And to make matters even more disturbing, I never share with anyone why I gain and lose because for some reason, I believe it is all my fault. I believe that I must be doing something that attracts the more lascivious and lewd than decent and chaste attention.

Nearing my Aha!
I am a graduate of The George Washington University's undergraduate and graduate schools. I am 39, married and the mother of two young children. I am the Administrative Director for the Emergency Department at The Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. Over the past 6 months, I have lost 25 pounds. I am walking up the stairs of an outside pavilion heading into our local supermarket. I hear a car honk. I turn to look thinking it's someone I know saying hello. In the car, there are guys whistling and hooting at me. I turn around and walk into the supermarket. All I can think about is shoving food [lots of it] into my mouth. Later that night, I share this with my husband.

My Aha!
I tell my husband how having those boys/guys/men honk at me brings back all those feelings that I thought were long gone. I tell him that perhaps I was dressed too provocatively [I was wearing black capris, a white t-shirt and sandals]. I give him more reasons for why I attract "this" kind of attention. I can go on and on with self blame, but he stops me. He says, [not in these exact words, but how I wish I could remember them] you are not some young over-budding pubescent teenager anymore. He says, you have a graduate degree and are the administrative director for a busy city emergency room. He says, you are a mother, a wife and a wonderful friend. He says, you have great siblings and parents. He says, you have bought and furnished [on a shoe-string budget] a 250 year old money pit while working full time in the ER. He says, you are an intelligent, fun and loving wife and a fantastic mother. I think I see sparks in front of my eyes. So this is what an epiphany is like I think - this eye opener of great magnitude. I realize that everything he has just said about me, I knew, but I had never stopped and given me the credit for achieving, having, doing and becoming all those things. I can't tell you how it felt, but I can give you the visual.... it is like the weight of an elephant being slowly lifted off one's back. This weight, a physical and emotional one, is suddenly gone ----- just like that.

It's been close to 8 years since that discussion and not once have I felt the need to eat to hide me. Now at 47, the hoots, horn honking and whistlers come fewer and more far between, but on the rare occasion when it does happen, I just smile, take a deep breath, and feel really good.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

#53 Oy Chew-wawa

I just finished reading Elizabeth Hasselbeck's book, The G-Free Diet. It's about her years of stomach upset and discovering her intolerance to gluten. She has Celiac Disease, and her case is so extreme that she has to be very careful that no flour, wheat, barley, oats and rye get into her diet. I'm not going to go in depth about what she wrote, but she did say something that I thought was very smart and caught my attention. I'll paraphrase: you can't remove things from your diet; you need to replace them. We dieters know this very well. The minute we take away or deny ourselves something without finding a substitute, that's the beginning of the end.

Here's a perfect example, A friend of mine has been a member of Food Addicts Anonymous for years. I'll let you know you this up front, this program does not replace what it takes away. Members of FAA follow the AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] rules, except, in place of alcohol, they cut out all white flour products and sugar. From years of experience as a "us
er", I can say with great authority that sugar is a drug. I crave it, I love it, and when I "do too much" of it, I get bitchy and tired, and of course worst of all, crave more. However, just to see if I could, I decided to cut out both sugar and white flour. I allowed myself the freedom of no time limit, or as AA, OA, FAA recite, just one day at a time. Day one, no prob. Day two, no problema. Day three, oy chew-wawa!!! I went through major withdrawal or detox or whatever you want to call it. I was craving something sweet all day; I was nauseated, shaky and so tired all I wanted to do was lie down. On day 4, I was a normal person again. All in all, I was able to stay off white flour and sugar for 10 days. I lost a couple of pounds and felt great. However, like Elizabeth wrote, when you deny and don't replace, you're going to have trouble in the long run. On day eleven I went to one of my favorite restaurants, Blue Sage, and had my favorite sandwich -- the Farmhouse Cubano [roasted eggplant, melted brie, tomato preserve and garlic aioli on grilled focaccia]. I truly believed that I would be able to enjoy this meal, be "clean" for the rest of the day, as well as start the following day flour and sugar free. I am sure members of FAA, AA, OA and, any other addiction group acronyms, are laughing at me right about now. After that lunch, the rest of the day was pure torture; I was exhausted and craving sweets. I came to the conclusion that I just didn't have the fortitude, discipline, self control nor the desire to do without flour or sugar any longer. But truly, most of all, I just didn't want to stop eating those things with sugar and white flour. Alas, at 47, I want what I want.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

#52 The Game of Love

I was talking with my sister the other day about the game of love... tennis that is. She was telling me that one day after tennis clinic, she and her partner [let's call her Serena] talked about their games. Serena reviewed her own game telling my sister how she loved her new serve, that her forehand was really strong in the second set, and how her footwork was helping her game a lot. After playing in a clinic or a match, my sister would review and lament her mistakes instead of looking at all the good and right things she did. When she told this to Serena, Serena said that when she makes an error, she knows exactly what she's done wrong, tries to work on it right away, and doesn't dwell on it. Rather, she tries to remember what she did right so that she can do it again and again. What a concept, huh?

Why is it that we tend to hone in on all the bad and wrong things we say, do, and experience instead of the positive? To illustrate, I have somewhat thick, straight hair. No matter the weather, it is always straight. I know
people who would kill for my hair, and yet, I hate my hair because when I curl it, 2 hours later it's uncurled. An acquaintance has the most beautiful cheek bones and facial structure, yet all she can see are her big ears, and I have a friend who is very smart, yet never feels that she sounds intelligent when she speaks. It's sad that we don't recognize the positives in ourselves as easily as we see them in others. After my sister told me her tennis story, I have really been making an effort to see me and what I do, and say, and experience in a more positive way.

Talking about the game of love, seeing the positive rather than the negative in our love relationships is also really important. After being with someone for an extended period of time, we start to expect the same responses. It's like when I h
it a short cross court forehand to my husband, I know he is going to hit a low deep return to my back hand. I set myself up for this -- losing the point. I know what I did wrong and should not to repeat it. BINGO!! LIGHT BULB!!

I am that someone in the game of love. I am that someone I've bee
n involved with for an extended period of time. I am that someone who expects the same responses over and over. With all my successes, I continue to do things that set me up to fail. In dealing with my bane [food], I do this too. If I know that eating pretzels will most likely trigger a desire for something sweet, then I need to hit a backhand slice down the line instead of the cross court shot to the forehand, i.e. stay away from the pretzels. Instead of dwelling on falling off the wagon and/or bemoaning my own "bad game", I need to allow myself to see all my positives, review them and do them over and over.
We all need to be more like Serena -- see the negative, deal with it, but don't dwell on it. Then, we need to take all the positives like how long we've maintained our goal weight, or how many miles more we can now walk, run or bike or how I am finally able to hit a deep forehand down the center of the court instead of where my husband can kill the return. How about allowing ourselves to see and enjoy the positive - review what we have done that has worked - and do it again and again.

You know the saying, "It's not if you win or lose, but how you play the game"? Honestly, I don't care if I win or lose in tennis, but in the game of self-improvement, I for one, want to be a winner. Here's my strategy: to win the game use positive reinforcement; to win the set, adopt new habits when old ones don't "serve" you, and to win the match, practice unconditional self-love -- again and again.

...And if all else fails, buy a new tennis racket.