Monday, January 23, 2012

Public Accountability

When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair
50 Ways to Feel Thin, Gorgeous and Happy (When You Feel Anything But) by Geneen Roth

I bought this book. It sat on my book table for a while. I eyed it a bit disdainfully. I picked it up and read the foreward by Anne Lamott. Then I really didn't want to read it because I might just be fixed by doing so and I wasn't ready for that yet. The great thing about this book is, that while it's written towards those who compulsively eat, it can help anyone with any issues. I do not struggle with eating too much. I struggle with eating too little. I also put another issue I have into the context and it brought about great clarity. It doesn't matter. These pages came about at a time when I really, really needed them. I wasn't eating so that I'd be starving to distract myself from something else. It didn't work. Of course it didn't. I found the book a day after my friend hugged me and said I was skin and bones. First reaction was elation. Second reaction was the awareness of what I was doing to myself. A lot of people don't understand eating disorders. It's not a switch that can be turned on and off. Even during my times of "peace with myself," it's still always there in the background waiting for something to flare up so it can barge back up front. It's not a teenage phase. It's not a ploy for attention. It's anything but. It's my coping mechanism. A really unhealthy one. Mostly, this disorder for me isn't about feeling fat or being thin - I mean, that's there - but it's about control. It's hard to explain coherently. For example: I can't seemingly get a grip on how I feel about something. I want to eat this thing. I can't change the emotion. I can deny myself this thing. It's not so much "I can't eat the cookie or I'll get fat" as much as it's "I can't eat the cookie because I want the cookie and I don't deserve the cookie."

You know how sometimes you read or hear things and it's as if someone reached out and smacked you across the face? Yeah. They hurt, right? A lot of really necessary slaps in this book. ---

"And most of the time, our minds are somewhere else. When we get out of bed, we are thinking about something we should have done yesterday. When we talk to our children, we are thinking about the phone call we need to make. When we walk to the bathroom, we are thinking about the candy we shouldn't have eaten. Or want to eat. Or are going to eat. Or how great our lives are going to be when we lose weight, or get a promotion, or fall in love. Every day, in every moment, we spend our lives thinking about what we already did or are going to do, and we completely miss what we are doing. This lack of attention leads to a tremendous hunger that we can't quite name, so we get fooled into thinking that it's for something we don't have yet instead of something that is unfolding minute by minute, right in front of our eyes. Since you are going to do those things anyway -- since you have to get out of bed, walk to the bathroom, make breakfast, eat, clean the house -- why not be there while you are doing it?"

"Feeling fat won't keep you safe."

"Count the lies you tell in a day -- the times you say you don't care when you do, the times you profess emotion when you feel nothing, the times you add just the slightest twist to a story. You will be shocked at how much you omit, distort, exaggerate, or otherwise change the truth to fit what you perceive to be the needs of the moment. Lying about your actions or your feelings has the same effect as sneaking food. It is a clear message to yourself that you are too much. Too overwhelming. Too powerful. Too petty. Too ruthless. Too strong. Too smart. Too intense. The result of all these lies is that after a while, you can't find yourself. You forget what's really true. And you begin to feel fake because you know that what other people are seeing and loving is not you."

"Your thoughts can drive you insane. When you are present, nothing is missing. When you are present, a day seems like a week, a month like a year."

"[Starving yourself] doesn't lead to weight loss, health, well-being, or balanced energy. It also makes you feel like a lunatic, since hunger is a survival mechanism. More important, it will always lead to a ragged, empty feeling of desperation."

"Not every friendship is meant to last forever. Some friendships are meant to lead you to other friendships. Some are meant to be short, intense experiences. Some are meant to teach you one particular thing. [Letting go...] But it might be painful. You might have to grieve. After a while, letting go will seem easier than holding on, and at that point, separation will then be an act of love for both of you."

"If you don't let yourself fall apart when everything in you has already fallen apart, you will sleepwalk through your life, you will live in limbo. This is the thing: What you don't let begin can never end. And this is the second thing: If you don't let yourself fall apart, you will never be completely together."

I want to quote all of chapter 46 (Consider Resigning from Your Fondness for Drama) - I'll just heavily paraphrase:
"Telling yourself you are fat is fabulous drama. It is also time-consuming and anxiety-producing. We find that drama and agitation are strong, enlivening positions. You cannot be numb and agitated at the same time. You don't feel dead when you are famished, miserable, worthless. [I ask...] "What would your life be like if you woke up tomorrow and suddenly didn't have a problem with _____?" What would you do and think about if the main problem of your life was suddenly gone? At first, most people smile. How divine. Then, reality sets in. But what would I do all day long? What would I think about? The drama itself is incredibly alluring, and seductive. It's not that feeling fat feels good; we all know it feels terrible. But at least it feels like something. Imagine what your life would be like without the drama. How would your definition of yourself change? What would you do with all the time that you used to spend worrying about _____? These are burning questions. Live with them, turn them over. Wrestle with the answers. If you weren't convinced you were fat or _____, who would you be?"

"The bad news is that being thin is not going to do what you think it's going to do. If it did, everyone who is now or has ever been thin would be happy. And the good news is that you can have whatever you believe being thin will give you, and you can have it now. By living as if you liked yourself. By beginning today."

I'd really like to start today. I really would. But then what would I do? I might forget about the things I dwell on and that scares me. But how freeing would that be? I would be so light. And perhaps find the self I left in the dust. That's pretty darned exciting.


Danica said...

Love this post. I hope you find the courage to let 'it' go! Also, not sure if you are there but quitting facebook helped me to stop feeding 'it'. Keep writing!

Mindy said...

so you titled this post "public accountability". how are we supposed to hold you accountable? what (if anything) do you want us to do?

Shannon said...

Danica--I'm going to mull that over!
mindy--lame title, I know. I'll have to think of another.

Mindy said...

it's not lame. i just thought maybe you wanted us to do something to help you out.

Mj said...

yep. Nike wasn't kidding when they said, "Just do it" Everywhere I look these days whether it's here, in Titus 2, in the latest book, in my eyes when I actually make eye contact with myself in the mirror...those words: do it. There is no time other than the present moment. Live it. This post truly makes me cry happy tears for you. and me. Here's to doing it, pal...Live like you love it!

Mj said...

ps..i get your title. Are you meaning by just merely doing the post,putting your thoughts out there that that's making you accountable to yourself? that's what i thought when i read the title. Accountability works for me sometimes...unless my "goal" isn't really true to my heart anyway. This is true to your heart and you will be accountable. I know it!

Mindy said...

ok, by martha's definition i get it now too. it's not that you want public accountability. it's now that you've made it public you will hold yourself accountable. got it. we heard at menomonie this year, "just do it" over & over again. in those exact words & others......

Lani said...

Must read this book. That quote about friendship that you brought to my attention a few weeks back was very timely for me. I'm hoping this year is a year of healing for me. But your right... we have to be to the point where we want to be "made whole". I think I'm there. Very much enjoyed a little more raw honesty from you than I've seen in awhile. Hugs to you.

Shannon said...

yes, martha - nail on the title head!

katrina said...

Great post! It's tough for me to open up b/c then I feel vulnerable. So I'm impressed with your courage. I'm rooting for you!