What’s Your Story?

More specifically, what’s the story you’re telling yourself? Is it a true story? Does it need to be rewritten? Who helped you write it? Was it a parent? A friend or adversary? The media?

Like a bedtime tale, the stories unfold while we fall asleep until one day we wake up and find they were just faerie tales all along.

O-10nce upon a time I carried a story around into my forties. It said that I am just like my mom. I remember the distinct moment I challenged that story. I was at work, wiping the speckled black countertops liked I’d done every day for a year. Suddenly a thought popped into my head.
I am not my mother.

That’s all. Yet, there it was. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was the tipping of the first domino. Some called it my mid-life crisis. Some called it my late bloom. Knowing what I know now, I can tell you it was the changing of a story; a story I’d been retelling every time I started my diet anew.

We all tell ourselves stories. And once we’ve decided that story is false, we can’t just stop telling ourselves that story. We have to fill it in with a new one. One we can trust.

So when I falsified that story, the new story was . . .

I am me.

Nothing in the universe says I need to face the same challenges my mother faced. Nothing says food has to control me. The new story rang true, and I felt, for the first time in my life, at the age of 45 . . . normal.

I’d always been normal, but for the first time ever, I felt it. Inwardly, I had changed. Outwardly, people noticed. Friends said I glowed. Acquaintances walked by me without realizing they knew me. Yes, I had lost weight, but there was more than that. I had a different story. I am me, and I was not only normal, I was everything I had always wanted to be. I was like Dorothy realizing she had been home all along.
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So why and how did I find myself back on the diet treadmill, going nowhere fast? It started when I turned 50. It was just a number like any other. If anything, I was gearing myself up for an amazing decade.

And then it happened.

The Change. The Big M. It was more than a ceasing of the monthly cycles. My skin lost its elasticity. My hair lost its sheen. I lost noticeable strength in my hands, back and arms. My shape changed even before I started putting on weight. I didn’t recognize myself. I mean I literally asked out loud, “Who the hell’s body am I in?”

And I fell sleep to a new story . . .

I am old.

I tried to control it in the only way I knew how. I dieted. Okay, you can stop laughing. But I get it . . . it sounds funny as I write it too. Now, where in the world could I ever have gotten that idea?

20 foods that keep you young – Men’s Fitness

25 Foods That’ll Keep You Young Forever | Best Life

The Best Foods To Keep You Young | Prevention

7 Healthy Foods To Keep You Young – Blueberries, Yogurt – AARP

And if you’ve given up hope of actually staying young, you can opt for just looking that way . . .

Foods That Make You Look Younger – Health

Talk about fake news!

The diet industry brings in $20 billion every year, and we’re forking it over like blueberries and yogurt. Do you really want these people writing your story?

So when I woke up and saw the story for what it was — a horrid faerie tale with a bad ending, I needed to write a new one I could trust.

I am aging. Thank goodness I’m aging, because as long as I’m aging, it means I’m still alive. And as long as I’m alive, I have the potential to grow and learn and love. There is no promise of tomorrow. There is only now. And right now . . . life is good.

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No way.

Peace . . .

You may follow my intuitive eating journey from the beginning here:
The View From Here

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When the Universe Speaks, Listen

Sometimes the Universe speaks to me. You might call it God. I call it coincidence, but it’s fun to think the Universe is speaking to me. The day I decided to quit dieting, the battery on my scale died.

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Credit Wikipedia Commons

This is significant, because another first step to intuitive eating is letting the scale go. You might need to take a sledge hammer to it, or give it to a charity thrift store, or if the Universe is so aligned, let it take the juice from your battery. Because if you’ve been dieting almost your whole life, you won’t even know how to feel until you step on that thing. Sometimes I’d step on it twice in the same day, because using the bathroom might have changed the number. TMI? Anyway, that’s how I’d know how to feel about the day ahead.

So when the Universe spoke, and my battery died, I put it in a closet, and there it’s been ever since.

But as it turns out, there are several ways to measure your body and how it makes you feel for the day. And at the same time that I was trying to imagine what the scale would say if it hadn’t been rendered mute, I was learning the fine art of body acceptance.

The first few days of eating intuitively I went crazy with bananas and avocados. And amazingly, what was supposed to happen, happened. By the fourth day, bananas and avocados were no longer the forbidden fruits. They were just bananas and avocados. Eureka! I mastered it! This was going to be a snap.

That fifth day I had a hot fudge brownie sundae for lunch. I repeated that three times in the same week. But none the following week. A few months later I had another and realized that craving had probably run it’s course. So yes. I was getting it, but how many foods was I going to have run through? How many foods had I even forgotten were on my forbidden list? How long would this take?

Cream cheese? Why had I stopped eating cream cheese? Was it forbidden, or just disliked? Unlike a diet, these intuitive eating books didn’t offer a complete turn-around in 30 days. There was no 8-day foolproof detox for my diet-brain, and my list of demonized foods was long.

Donuts. Cake. Chocolate chip cookies. Sour cream. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Hot chocolate. Butter. Cheese. Mayonnaise. Ice cream. Candy. Full fat lattes. Pie. Pancakes. Toast. Fried chicken . . .

 

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Credit Wikipedia Commons

Oh . . Fried Chicken. Golden brown, steaming hot, perfectly seasoned, juicy, crispy, battered and fried chicken. For six months I ate chicken from every grocery store, family restaurant and fast-food chicken place I walked into. Colonel Sanders found his way into my hottest fantasies. I had chicken fingers for lunch. Deep fried chicken for dinner. Broasted, nuggets, tenders, wrapped sandwiches, wings, pretzel-bun sandwiches, salads; I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Until eventually I did.

 

But along with all my other food exorcisms, this took a toll on my pants size. Like I said, there are other ways to measure your body than with a scale. And while I think I could have learned to accept my body at any stage along the way, that goalpost kept shifting. Just when I was about to accept my body, it changed. So okay . . . let’s accept this size. Fried chicken for dinner? You bet!

What I learned is that the only way to fully accept the body you’re in, is to be in the present. This bears repeating.

The only way to fully accept the body you’re in, is to be in the present.

Because at any time your body can change. You could lose a limb. You could contract a disease. And yes. Your weight could change.

You only have the body you are in. Right now. You can never have the body you had ten years ago. You don’t know what body you will have ten years from now, or even tomorrow.

This is the body you are given today. This is your Universe. And it speaks to you.

Listen.

Peace . . .

To follow this story from the beginning, check out The View From Here

The View From Here

I’m a firm believer that walking can be a metaphor for anything in life. A journey of a thousand miles . . . the path less traveled . . . it’s not the destination, it’s the journey . . . the straight and narrow path . . . two steps forward, one back . . . am I right, or am I right?

I’ve been on a bit of a journey lately, and frankly, I was afraid to take you along. I thought you might jinx it. I felt fragile. Like writing about it might break it and I’d have to go back to the start. Besides, the introvert in me likes to travel alone, and you might talk too much. You might disturb my inner thoughts or suggest a different trail.

Well, I decided it might be good for me, and maybe even you, if I tell you where I’m at, what the terrain looks like, how far I’ve come, and maybe where I think I’m headed.

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The trail is called Intuitive Eating, and there’s a book by the same name. There are many books by other names, and social media pages you can find by Googling Body Acceptance, Self Compassion, Body Love, BoPo, and Anti-Diet. It’s a movement that encompasses bodies of every size, age, color and ability. It’s about inner peace and love, and you know I’m all over that.

I’m not a stranger to beginning a journey. I began anew every morning and by nightfall felt lost. I cried alone in the dark. At daybreak I’d set out again. It’s a cruel circle. I’m talking about dieting. I was a self-proclaimed, out-of-the-closet diet junkie. I’ve described it as trying to stand still in the surf. It’s impossible.

Wading into the water, there will come tides and surges. There is no controlling it, only adjusting to it. And sometimes you need to let the waves carry you in or out a little bit before you find footing again.

Dieting isn’t that. Dieting is willing yourself to stand still. Most of us just end up face-planted in the sand wondering what happened. Then we wake up and try the same thing the next morning, maybe from a different spot on the beach, exclaiming over the roar of the surf that, “Today we will stand!” And expect a different result.

I’m afraid I’m mixing up my metaphors, but let’s just imagine this trail meandered somewhere along the ocean and opened up on a beach. And that’s just it! I’m not sure exactly where this trail is going to go next. But I do know it’s already taken me to some awesome overlooks and some really rough terrain.

unnamed-1So if you can stand the poetic metaphors, I invite you to lace up your walking shoes and join me. If you just want to sit at home and read my posts from the couch, that’s okay too. I’m not a trail expert by any means, but I am an expert on the steps I’ve taken. There are historical centers and information booths I’ll point out along the way, but if you ask me, all I can tell you about is my own experience and send pictures of the view from here.

Peace . . .

Coffee, a Good Friend and a Dog

As I sit in the quiet of my own thoughts, I am reminded of one of my best practices, “Be your own best friend.”  I love to sit on the couch before the house wakens and watch the sun come up.  The sky changes hues, the clouds shift, and the world comes alive.

There is no one else I would rather be with in these moments than my self.  We sit, the two of us, in our honesty and peace, and share a steaming cup of coffee, perhaps with cinnamon or cream.

“How delicious,” I say, as the warmth fills my chest.

I remember the week, with its lists and rush and habitual planning.  I wince.  “Remember what I said to that guy at work?”  My self smiles, and remembers.  “He knows you didn’t mean it like that,” she says.  “You probably didn’t sound as crazy as you think you did.”

My self is practical, and forgiving.  And she’s right.  The guy probably doesn’t even remember what I said, much less how I said it.  I reach for a doughnut hole that Bubba brought home the day before.  It smells delicious and pairs well with the coffee.  My self smiles.  “Don’t forget how well you’ve been taking care of yourself.”   I haven’t forgotten, and I promise my self that I will savor it and eat something healthier later.

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The dog lays her warm head on my knee.  Her brown eyes are irresistible.  I trace her forehead with my fingertips.  The sky is beginning to lighten.  The clouds are purple-grey.

Funny stories from the week return.  Bubba using foreign accents just to hear me laugh.  A coworker teasing me on the phone.  My self chuckles, and says, “What would it be like to see nothing humorous in the world?”  For a moment, I feel guilty.  “I suppose there is enough suffering in the world that I shouldn’t make idle fun at every turn.”  My self thinks this over for a moment and replies, “I suppose there is enough suffering in the world that one should find humor where one can.”

We balance each other.  Me, putting my best foot forward in the world, and my self justifying the way I do it.  She eases my guilt, my shame, my embarrassment.

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Blue is beginning to break through the clouds.  White, fluffy puffs race across my window, right to left.  Silhouetted branches dance in the wind.  Cars begin to move on the street.  Voices.  A stirring from the bedroom.

“I could take a walk.  You know . . . get a few steps in before I start the day.”

My self considers this.  “I’ve been looking forward to this time all week.  The peace and quiet.  Just the two of us.”  We guard this tranquility jealously.  I tuck my cold toes under my leg.

“We have all day to get more steps.  We can go to the dog park later,”  I say.  She smiles.

“I’m really happy with how my resume turned out.”

“You did a nice job.”

“I hope they think so.  I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Nor I without you.”

I think about how far we’ve come, my best friend and I.  She isn’t always my best friend.  At times she is my own worst enemy, letting anxiety and fear mushroom to the surface.  But for all the times I’ve despised her, she is the only one who is with me every minute of every day.  When it seems the world is against me, she is there still.  When I’m in a crowd, or on stage, or in the dark, she abides.

Sometimes I see her looking back at me from the mirror.  If I could remember when I was a baby, I would remember loving seeing her there.   Babies gaze into mirrors, laugh at them, touch them, and sometimes try to kiss them.  When does that end?  Is it with our first bad haircut?  Our first pimple?

There is so much we share that the world will never know.  A random act of kindness is made more precious by keeping it between the two of us.  She is the only one I can trust with wicked gossip or spoken confidentialities.  My self even holds secrets from me too, revealing them only when I am ready to know — she can be very sly!

We celebrate together.  We never wait for others to acknowledge our birthday.  If she wants a party, I plan it!  If I want a special meal, she comes up with a menu!  If we want a gift, we go shopping!  No one knows how I want to celebrate better than my self, so why would I place that expectation on anyone else?

I value this relationship I have with my self, and make time for us.  It requires life to slow down.  It necessitates waiting and listening until her voice is clear.  It takes being honest with my self and accepting what she says with love and understanding.

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The dog’s wagging tail tells me that Bubba is waking.  My cup is cold and empty.  Heavy blue November clouds now hang in the sky.  Our quiet time is coming to a close.

I reach for another doughnut hole and my self says nothing, but I know she’s thinking it.

“What?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t have to.”

It’s true.  Best friends don’t have to say anything.  They just know.

Peace . . .

Note. To Self:

When I began this blog, back when I called it WholeyJeans, I worried about what would happen if I went back and read my first posts.  Would I want to edit them?  Would I find them embarrassing?  Would I want to delete some of them?

Now that I’m in it a while, I find I’m so busy trying to keep up on other peoples’ writing, I don’t have time to go back and read my own.  Yet when asked for whom I write, I answer, “Myself.”  So just in case my self should stop by, I’d like to leave a little note.

To Self:

I’m glad you’re stopping by to check out the blog.  I’m curious to know your thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment.

There are a few things I should probably tell you.  People are saying that you are too hard on yourself.  You should really lighten up.  After all, you do your best in everything you try.  Other things that people say is that you are hard-working, creative, dependable, responsible and wise.  I’m proud to say that you are my self, and if you insist on being such a hard-ass, I’m going to have to step in.

I don’t want to share rumors, but I’ve also been told you are quite the worrier.  I understand wanting to research and prepare before you move forward, but with all due respect, I think it’s paralyzing you.  It might be time to set aside the details and take some small steps.  Moving in some direction is better than not moving at all.  You don’t learn anything sitting still, you know what I mean?

That’s pretty much it for now.  I’m really glad you stopped by.  Keep up the good work.  I know it isn’t easy to balance time, bank accounts, family, health and recreation.  But if you keep doing what you’re doing, everything is going to be just fine.

Remember . . .

Be yourself. You’re okay. And it really doesn’t matter what other people think.”
— Taylor Schilling

Which is completely unoriginal, and very easy for her to say.  When you’re rich and beautiful and famous, I can imagine it would be a lot easier to not care what people think.  But it’s true anyway . . .

Peace . . .