Tag Archives: honesty

Riding the Waves

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I’ve been paddling along, enjoying the scenery, taking in all that is new and different. Or I should say, I had been. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came a wave. It has not been a wave I can’t ride, but it’s taken some steadying, some muscle. It’s a new wave of grieving. The wave must have a long way to carry me, because I’ve been on it for days and days and I cannot see the shore. Others can sense it – I’ve been quieter and more withdrawn, as though I’m off in the distance.

One thing I know for certain about grief: there is no one way to experience it. Oh, wait, there are two things I know for certain. The other is that there is no wrong way to experience it. What I am experiencing now is just one more step in the long process. At first I tried to fight it, but that didn’t last long because I’ve learned over the last 8 months that it’s better to just let emotions come and embrace them. Doing anything else leaves you feeling lost. Facing the emotions is uncomfortable, for sure. This new grief has brought with it feelings of loss, longing, and love. It’s also brought a lot of tears, the kind that burn as they run down your cheeks. The kind you cannot wipe away fast enough, so you just let them flow and fall wherever they may. The kind you can still feel when you wake up, dried and salty on your skin, and you know you cried while you slept. There is, very often right now, a silence so deafening in my life that I can hardly bear it. A voice and a laugh are missing and I have to listen very closely in my mind to recall their exact sound. I want to hear the old sound, the sound of a healthy Brian who was living life as big as he possibly could. Sometimes I can hear that voice. But what comes more easily, though still quietly, is the voice that became a whisper and was slurred because of a combination of medication and cancer. I miss even hearing that voice and knowing that my life was still my life, not this uncertain (though, admittedly, often intriguing) new thing.

I don’t cry in front of people over this and I share very few words about it. The reason for that is not that I’m attempting to steel myself and appear stronger than I am. The reality is that the new grief feels so private and intimate. I can’t share the fullness of it; I don’t want to. I don’t know how long this new wave of grief will last. Will it be a few weeks, several months, or many years? I don’t know yet where it is taking me either. Far away or very nearby? I’ll continue to steady myself and put my muscle into it and watch for a new shoreline to appear. And I’ll ride the new wave with a mixture of deep sadness and expectant joy.

New Waves = Joy

My Story – The Downward Spiral

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This was taken 4/12/2009 and 13 days later my life took an unexpected turn. I weigh 118 here. In my mind, even today in a much better state of thinking, I still see the flaws. Admitting that is difficult.

Hmm, where did I leave off last night? Oh yes, numbers defining my worth and triggers causing me to resume my cycle of binge eating and starvation.

My obsession with how I looked and what I saw in the mirror became a big numbers game. I weighed myself at least once a day, usually twice. I can tell you what I weighed before I got pregnant with each of my kids. I can tell you what I weighed before I moved to Missouri and Florida, during significant times of my marriage, and other milestones. My chiropractor in Denver once asked me what I weighed and I replied, “About 112.2.” He said Brian and I were the only people he knew who answered that precisely. It’s pretty telling that I put the word “about” in front of that precise number.

There was a period of about two years where bingeing was all I did. Some hurtful words were said about my weight by someone close to me and I went on a downward spiral. I ate and ate and got further disgusted with myself for having no self-control. Then I decided I’d go on a real diet. Well, the one I found, if followed correctly, might work, but for someone with my problem, it gave me permission to fast for days at a time. I did that repeatedly. The weight came off and I felt better… emotionally. I had other problems, but I didn’t relate them to my poor eating habits. I started to feel good and in control of myself again.

This cycle repeated itself a couple times. Then, 2009 came. That was the beginning of three years of hell, to put it bluntly. In April of 2009 something devastating happened and my response was to try to make myself into what I knew I should have been all along: the perfect wife and mother, the ideal homemaker. I weighed 118 at the time. My goal was 105.

I had been running for about a year and I kept it up very regularly at that time. Running is a great way to relieve stress and make your heart healthy. There’s nothing wrong with running. But there’s a huge problem with not feeding your body after running. I know that now, but at the time, all I knew was the pounds were coming off again and I was on my way to becoming a person my family could be proud of.

I’ll stop my story again here. It’s difficult to write these things and not feel as though I sound crazy! I am finding joy in the telling of my story though. In writing this, I realize I’m in a much better place today than I was for so many years. I’m glad that I’m able to admit to myself and to others that I’m not perfect, that I have struggled with who I am and what I’m supposed to be.

Admission = Joy

My Story… the Beginning

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Over the last six months I’ve been pretty transparent about my feelings and my circumstances, letting people in like I never imagined  I would. I have not shared every part of my life, of course, but I’ve gone back and forth with myself about talking about one issue, wondering if I should say anything. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that maybe someone out there… just one person… might need to hear what I have to say.

This tale is hard to tell, but I would rather tell it in its entirety. I want anyone who might need to hear it to know where I’m coming from, to understand what I’ve been through and where I am today.  I can’t tell all of this in one post.

It is unimportant what first compelled me to start binge eating. It was triggered by emotions that I didn’t want to deal with. It started slowly when I was a young teenager, and grew into more of a problem the older I got. It’s tough to be a teenage girl sometimes.  Girls are supposed to be thin and beautiful and I fell into the same trap many girls before me and countless after me have fallen into: do what you have to do in order to be what you are supposed to be. Binge eating helped me deal with my emotions, insulated me against things I did not want to handle. I put on weight when I needed to, in order to cover up what I didn’t want to see, or didn’t want others to see. But then I’d have to take the weight off in order to be acceptable. I don’t like throwing up, so that wasn’t really an option. It’s hard for me to do that even when I’m truly sick. Working out was fine, but it took too long. The only logical way to manage things was to binge when I needed to, and then stop eating all together to reverse the damage, to change the person in the mirror. I lived that way for a long time and it wasn’t even noticeable. There are so many ways to starve and make excuses for not eating that are believable. I kept up the cycle through high school, thankfully never getting dangerously underweight, though I was still very unhealthy, doing damage that couldn’t be seen on the outside.

After I got married I stopped the binge eating and starving for quite a while. Well, I stopped the starving. I still gave in to food calling to me whenever I was feeling worthless and so imperfect in the body I was in. Having kids, growing older, life getting busy – those all have ways of making us lax and we forget to take care of ourselves. Then, someone says something and a trigger gets pulled. At least that’s how it was for me. The power of words is incredible, and in my case, they were so hurtful that my habit started again. I realized the only way to be normal, to be thin and look right, was to stop eating so my weight would be correct. For me, correct was a very specific number and anything more than that meant punishment was necessary. Numbers became my life and a measure of my worth.

After writing this, it seems like I would have nothing that could “= Joy” about it. But the joy is in sharing something that someone out there might identify with. Sitting here today, looking at these words, I see one that stands out: trigger. Everyone has them, those things that cause us to act or speak a certain way. Usually triggers are negative, but I believe we can have positive triggers if we start looking for them, or creating them. Our children can be triggers that make us smile and feel good. True friends in our lives who love us unconditionally can be triggers. A piece of art, a memory of our past, visiting a place we love, a photograph of a loved one… all of these things can become joy triggers. So, leaving you with the first part of my story, I would ask you to look at your life and come up with some joy triggers and start pulling them when you are feeling down or worthless or anything less than wonderful.

Positive Triggers = Joy 

Chaos to Clarity

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I mentioned in another post how valuable I have found journaling. For years and years I have used journals periodically, the kind that you can lock with a tiny key or a plain spiral notebook, leather-bound fancy journals and even digital diaries. Last year I took it up as a more regular practice. It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I have a brain that is so full of stuff… I think it’s all super important though I’ve been told a lot of it is actually pretty useless trivia (I will agree to disagree with those who feel that way). I also have a brain that doesn’t shut down easily. I’m serene and quiet on the outside, but there is chaos inside my head. You know when someone says, “penny for your thoughts?” Well, if I accepted money for them, I’d have a full bank account made up of pennies.

During a particularly trying time, I had been having trouble calming my thoughts to the point I could not concentrate and meditating/prayer (whatever you prefer to call it) was next to impossible. I asked my sister in-law for some advice and she suggested morning pages and recommended a book called The Artist’s Way, a twelve-week exercise in journaling. I took her advice about journaling in the morning, but I didn’t get the book. I started writing my thoughts on paper and immediately had positive results. I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed with calm, but I was able to release some of the things that were bothering me. The simple act of putting pen to paper started to help me cope with the inner commotion. I was even able to solve some of the problems I was dealing with – it was as though the pen navigated difficult paths for me, cutting through the tangled thoughts and revealing solutions. Journaling still wasn’t a daily practice at that point, but it was at least regular.

In April I looked at my Amazon wish list and noticed The Artist’s Way was still there. I don’t know exactly why I had left it there so long, but I decided it would be a good time to make the purchase. Two days later I had an inch-thick journal with crisp, bright white pages, just waiting for me to begin writing. And it sat on the shelf…

On July 16th I finally began my 12-week journey: three hand-written pages each morning, the first thing I do each day if at all possible. Doing that on vacation has taken some doing and I fell behind, but have caught up. Some of my entries are a mess, or they would appear that way to an outside observer. They almost make no sense. There is a lot of whining and complaining and even some ranting and raving. There is nonsense and goal-setting. The book insists that I write by hand, no cheating by typing three pages on the computer. I have to admit typing would be faster, but there is something far more intimate about a pen in the hand planting thoughts on paper. My handwriting is even revealing. Some days it’s flowing and beautiful; other days it’s more slanted and angry-looking or messy and hurried.

I’m now beginning my third week of journaling in this way. I honestly think this could become a habit. My mind feels more at ease. I’m comfortable just writing, writing, writing. I’m learning about myself, my feelings, my hopes and dreams, my beliefs, my irritations, my happiness.

Journals = Joy

Transparency

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“How are you doing?”

That question is one of the best and one of the worst questions you can ask someone. It’s one of the best because it opens up the opportunity for hearts to connect and feelings to be shared. It is one of the worst because it is something we ask out of habit. Typically, we truly don’t want an honest answer. We want to hear the canned response of “fine.” Anything else might scare us and keep us from ever uttering the words again.

What would you do if someone said, “I’m hurting and I really need to talk”? Would you dare to stop what you were doing and open your heart, mind, and ears? On the other hand, what if someone just lost her husband of almost 20 years and, when asked how she is doing, she responded with “I’m doing absolutely wonderful”? Would you celebrate with her or give her a quizzical look and say, “No, really, you can tell me how you are doing”?

I’ve been asked how I am doing. A lot. Daily since February 10th. Sometimes I don’t mind the question and other times I know it’s coming and I want to turn and walk away, hang up the phone, or completely ignore the message. It’s not that I’m uncaring. No, it really comes down to this: are you ready for my honesty? I’ve had moments of depression, anger, relief, happiness, grief, elation, sadness, indifference, and joy. I’ve been honest and I’ve been dishonest in my responses.

I have a friend who is incredibly brave. She has decided to choose a path of honesty. Oh, how much I admire her! She is tired of the way people hide behind social masks, pretending they are fine and dandy, when they are really lonely or bitter. People paste fake smiles on their faces and walk around pretending instead of having the guts to be real. Not my beautiful friend. Her honesty is refreshing and inspiring. She is learning that being transparent can open you up to a better way of living. I’m sure it will have positive and negative consequences. Some people will choose to walk away from her, unable to handle truth and the beauty that comes along with it. How very sad. They are going to miss out on knowing a lovely woman. Ah, but others are going to open up in kind and wonderful things are going to spring from the gift of honesty given and received. I want to be more like the brave soul I am lucky enough to call friend.

The next time I ask someone “How are you doing?” I am going to ask with sincerity. If I am not prepared to accept any answer, good or bad, I’m not going to ask the question. I’m going to assume honesty so I can sincerely rejoice with the good answers and sympathize tenderly with the not so good responses. I’m going to have the courage to respond to that question differently in the future. If I’m doing wonderful, which is true these days, I’m going to say so. But if, on the other hand, I’m having a sad day, I want to have the courage to say, “Can I be honest with you?” And if the answer is yes, then perhaps I have found a beautiful soul who understands the gift of honesty…of transparency.

Transparency = Joy