Archives for April, 2012
While I'm on a spiritual roll, I wanted to share with you a snapshot of one of my most favorite small prints hanging on my wall right now. Here it is: The quote says, "Love is, above all, the gift of oneself." Several years ago, when I first moved into the place where I currently live today, I was fleeing the inevitable transition of a challenging relationship. In those first days in my new apartment, I had bare walls, bare shelves - I didn't even own a kitchen knife (thank goodness, given the mood I was in most days at that time). Then one day I got tired of staring at an endless expanse of unbroken pale yellow walls, and I got in the car and drove myself to Michael's. There I found an assortment of cheap prints in cheerful colors that seemed to go with yellow. I didn't pay much attention to what they said - hearts, flowers, bunnies, anything that looked the opposite of how I felt - that was what I was after. So it took me some time to actually digest what this particular print was trying to tell me.
I absolutely love getting older. Yes, you read that right. As I get older, I learn things about myself that I never knew were possible to learn. Things that I've puzzled over for years begin to finally make sense. I slow down, calm down, as I perceive my role in my own life and in the lives of others differently. The most recent edition of Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery, the eating disorders-specific ezine I publish monthly, has just been released, and in it I share one such "aha!" moment, courtesy of hitting (and passing) the 40-year mark. I thought I would share it with you here.
I keep a vision board hanging on my wall. I will admit that I do not update it far often enough....in part because "crafty" is not a word I typically use to describe myself (and vision boards involve a lot of cutting and pasting words, images, etc), but also because the things I envision as fleshing out a truly amazing life are pretty big things, and they do not shift or change very often in my world. The vision board experts suggest sectioning off your vision board into segments, such as "career," "personal," "hobbies," "romance," "spirituality," etc. So of course I did this with mine (see "not crafty" above). One quote that has been on my vision board for years in the "spirituality" section states: "Spiritual maturity is the capacity to live from your true nature in the midst of the everyday madness of the ordinary world." I really love this quote. I especially love how it doesn't specify whether the "everyday madness" is coming from inside of me or from all around me. Or neither. Or both.
Whoo boy. Never in all my innards did I ever see this post coming. I travel a lot during the spring and fall when I am speaking at college campuses and conferences, and in addition to the opportunity to meet lots of fun new folks and see new places, my schedule also gives me access to an amenity I do not have at home. Cable television. I have lots of fun speaking and we definitely take a lighthearted and proactive approach to discussions about recovery, eating disorders, and the meaning of struggle and being human, but I suppose it is fair enough to say that after a few hours of this, I am ready for some lighter entertainment to close out my evening. This last round of travels, I found myself glued to Jersey Shore. I had never really watched the show before, and the "gluing" part was a good 85 percent due to the fact that I just Could.Not.Believe. people actually used such crass and shallow terms for actions and choices that I regard as highly personal and private. But there you have it. Several episodes later, clearly they do. The other 15% of my fascination, however, I did not really decode until later on, during another speaking event, when I got to talking about the show with one of the students who hung around after my presentation to chat.
....can and often does hurt you. It also hurts others, but mostly it hurts you. We often spend so much time getting to know others - and the more we love them, the more time we spend. We might be able to recite our pet's top 5 favorite foods in perfect order, or our spouse's exact morning routine from the time they stop hitting "snooze" to the moment their car backs down the driveway. But how well will we do, and with what tone (on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being "adoration" and 10 being "disdain") will we describe our own? On average (just a question if you are up for it) how much time would you say you spend studying yourself versus studying others in your life? On average (ditto above) how much curiosity (loving and open-minded, not judgmental curiosity) would you say you feel towards yourself versus towards someone else in your life whom you especially love or admire?
In recovery, as in life, often the great sensibilities we gather that help us assess our overall quality of life really do boil down to a collection of the littlest things imaginable. Like - do we live in a beautiful place? (if we love nature) Do we have at least one close friend we can confide in? (the average number of close confidantes most people have, according to the authors of the book "Connected," is between 2 and 12) Do we feel healthy and rested on a regular basis? (an inner sense of well being and life enjoyment go hand in hand) Do we have some source of inspiration that moves us? (this could be work, family, a cause, etc - it will be different for each of us) In the same way, your "little things" may be quite different from my "little things." For instance, I have a friend who just loves country music, boats, and football games. We are good friends and I appreciate her. Yet all three of those things - things that she loves enough to spend nearly every available waking minute of her free time doing them - consistently rank right down near the bottom of my favorites list (side by side with root canals and taking my bird to the vet). I do marvel at how our "little things" can be that different - but then again, thank goodness, right?! My own best friend only begrudgingly attends STING concerts with me, while I plan my year around them. She prefers Train concerts, which I will attend with her, but only because it makes her happy. We are so different - so interesting - so unique - and our little things will necessarily be unique to us.
....so you do unto me. I am not well-versed in religion, Christian or otherwise. I would never presume to attempt to sermonize, or to assume I fully understand the words of those who do. But I do know this - if by "the least of these" Jesus was meaning bugs, then I've got a LONG way to go to earn my "great human being" stripes. I cannot seem to help myself. I have so much compassion for animals, children, and most adults. I keep my house neat and see my folks at least once a week on average. My bird lives better than some people do (so do my fish and my houseplants for that matter). But just TRY being a bug in my household and see how you fare. Splat. Whack. Smush. At least I don't stalk them with those electric zapper paddles like my Dad does. But if I'm being honest, that is just because he hasn't bought me one yet (I hear it is on order). Since I've moved into this place - a 100 year old historic duplex home in the heart of one of Houston's most historic districts - I have battled roaches (shudder), fleas, both red and black ants, countless spiders of all colors and sizes, one medium sized rodent and a host of black gnats that think houseplants make mighty fine insect residences. So I suppose I have been provoked.
When we are recovering from any difficult challenge life throws at us, it is totally normal to feel discombobulated for awhile. Who am I again? What am I all about? Am I here? Normal, normal, all too normal. Oddly, being thrown for a loop is about the only time that a human being can absolutely, with 100% certainty, count on having the experience of being "normal." Because while there is nothing normal about struggling, there is everything normal about the experience of the human struggling. A colleague, Liz Dennery Sanders*, recently resposted a great article on what fellow blogger and author Julien Smith calls "The Cult of Awesomeness." She also added her own thoughts on what it means to be awesome, and I liked both articles very much. I liked them so much so, in fact, that I thought they were re-mentioning here as well.
If we are to believe shame and vulnerability researcher Brene Brown, vulnerability can just about cure cancer. The thing is, I believe her. I first heard about Brene's work several years ago. She happens to do her research at the University of Houston, and I happen to live in Houston. So I had visions of sitting down with her over coffee, sharing with her about how shame is a factor for those who develop eating disorders. But I think (know) that she already knew that. In her latest talk for TED.com, called "Listening to Shame," Brene implicates the all-too-human experience of shame in the development of just about everything that hurts and kills us. Addiction. Eating disorders. Depression. Anxiety. Suicide. You name it. Vulnerability, on the other hand, is a necessary ingredient in the antidote to shame.
One of my all-time favorite movies is the Nicholas Cage classic "Gone in 60 Seconds." This is not just because Nicholas Cage and my brother Adam could be identical twins, either. In the movie, Cage plays car thief Randall "Memphis" Raines. His nemesis, Detective Castlebeck (played by Delroy Lindo) and Castlebeck's sidekick (played by none other than a younger Timothy Olyphant, aka Justified's Raylan Givens) spend what seems to be every waking minute trying to bust his chops. Continually throughout the film, you hear Castlebeck muttering, "The easy way or the hard way, Raines....the easy way or the hard way." I must have watched the movie a dozen times before I realized that that was my favorite line. It felt like something I'd been asking myself for most of my (now) 41 years.