Wednesday, March 4, 2015

God Smack Part Two Gazillion and Ten

Today, I was sitting at my desk waiting for Word to open. I needed to print out my copy of a letter for my doctor that I had written a few weeks ago as I prepared for an appointment that I've been delaying and dreading more than I can say.  It just does not follow the script I'd imagined. After my last appointment, I was full of enthusiasm and determination.  I was going to TAKE CONTROL and CHANGE MY BODY and SUCCEED.  I was sure that the next time I saw the doctor, I would be on the road to health, weight loss, vim, and vigor.  Instead, I am not in that place. Instead, I was dreading another appointment where my health provider and I both have to acknowledge that I'm not where I need to be.  Another humiliation.  Another failure.

 As I waited, I picked up the March issue of Magnificat  and said, in an offhand but snarky and challenging way, "OK, Lord.  What word do you have for me today?"  My question was casual just so God would know that I was in on the fact that he doesn't really pay attention to my petty problems.  God suffers with people affected by floods, fires, world hunger, and war, certainly, but he's far to busy to listen to me in my comfortable life and my oh-so-first-world problems.  They bore and frustrate even ME, let alone the maker of the stars.  It was challenging because I am pretty pissed off at being where I am today and I think God SHOULD care about my problems, even if they are important only to me.  So there (raspberry)!  (Sorry, God, but you know how I am).

Anyway, while looking for today's reading, I turned to the meditation that Magnificat gave for yesterday -- from St. Ephrem the Syrian.  

It got my attention. It made me want to cry.  

St. Ephrem says, shouting at me from 4th century Syria:

So, friends, could it be any more clear?  I challenged the Lord to speak to me where I was today -- full of anger and shame and bitterness because I was going to be HUMILIATED in front of someone whose good opinion I wanted.  And the reading I stumbled upon was all about HUMILITY.  Hence, God Smack Part Two Gazillion and Ten

Several of St. Ephrem's thoughts jumped right out at me.  
  • The enemy's snares are smeared with honey.  He who is attracted by the sweetness of the honey becomes caught in the snares and filled with all manner of woe.  I think that's shooting a fairly accurate arrow at someone who struggles with weight, don't you?
  • Arrogance is like a very tall but rotten tree.  All of its branches are brittle.  The source of my whole angst surrounding this doctor's visit is pride.  I should be able to fix this problem, by dint of hard work and perseverance, dammit.  And wouldn't I be so proud of myself when I paraded in to the doctor to receive my justly won congratulations at having done so well?  
  • Let us strive for sober attention, that we might recognize our sins and be constantly humbled... that we might preserve the temple entrusted to us undefiled by sinful corruption.  Well,being constantly humbled by my own failure to lose weight is something that I can say is definitely a mortification.   And it is true that I am interested in preserving the temple of my body undefiled by the sinful corruption of citrus glazed pound cake and its unholy companions of ice cream, Tex-Mex, and lasagne.
  • Wondrous is prayer accompanied by sighs and tears, especially if the tears are shed in secret... Weep before the Lord, that he might shine upon you the illumination of knowledge and grant that with an ardent heart you might be carried up to him.  That just killed me.  Just laid me flat out on my back.  Because...
Last week, I went to a healing mass at a local church.  It was an absolutely magnificent experience, and that is coming from someone a little suspicious of charismatic anything. But a friend I trusted assured me it wasn't too kooky and I had also heard some good things about it from another friend. 

I was curious.  Most importantly, I so acutely feel my need for God's mercy and healing.  I've been trying for so long to integrate the head, the heart, and the body.  I've been trying so hard to come to some peace here.  Everything I've done has been in vain and has showed me that I am not sufficient unto myself.      

Right before I left for the healing mass, I came across this post from The Anchoress, a blogger I really admire.  It stirred me so much that I actually wrote to thank her and effused all over the page, saying,

I was thinking about it the other day and using almost the very same terms as you did about the frivolity and vanity of asking God to help me lose weight.  But then I thought about the very real spiritual anchor that this problem, this cross, is for me -- how it makes me feel frustrated, angry, self-hating, ashamed, and worthless.  I started to think that Satan really must love this about me because it does prevent me from being the person that God calls me to be -- integrated body, soul, emotions, and mind.  Instead, I carry my failure around with me for everyone to see.  I've trained myself to "not think about" or  "not care" about how others perceive me and I have lived so long in my head that I'm utterly divorced from the only body God has given me.  This is so sad.  I know that it's counterproductive and unhealthy and I am working on it. 

But, at last, I'm tired of saying that I'm "working on it". I want to see a real change in my inner life -- one that enables me to see myself as God sees me and challenges me to be what he is calling me to become.  As a side effect, that might bring change to my outer form, but it's the integration of soul and body that I'm looking for.  So, thank you for the God smack delivered at your hands and please pray for me as I will for you.  
 I don't want to go into detail about what I experienced at mass, save that it was precious.  But, St. Ephrem's words about tears shed in secret -- I ended up in front of the Blessed Sacrament, which was exposed on the altar, completely prone and totally begging for God's mercy, totally begging for him to heal me and to integrate body, soul, mind, and heart.  Recognizing that I can't do anything without him.  Utterly hollowed out and with recourse only to him.  As I melted into the stone, the musicians started playing Lord of All Hopefulness.  It was a benediction and a promise, I know.  Another God Smack -- one which I really appreciate.

And when I rose from my position there in front of the altar, I saw the pools of tears I'd left as an offering.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Vision Board

At my alma mater, one of the big traditions was the bacchanalian celebration of Groundhog Day.  Bonfires, beer, music, middle-of-the-night dancing in the woods adjoining campus, and going to class to discuss Aristotle or Wordsworth while a little um, indisposed, made us feel daring and adventurous, transgressive in ways that our mostly tame and studious lives didn't allow.  We even were able to put the whole thing in the context of carnivale, that time of year when everything was topsy-turvy and different -- a needed break to the social convention.  Mostly, it was exciting and fun.  One of the parts of getting ready for Groundhog that I liked a lot was decorating my Groundhog ticket -- each one was a mini-collage of innuendo and jokes.

Tonight, I experienced some of that same sense of fun when I completed my "Sparktask" -- making a collage that expressed my weight loss, fitness, and motivational goals for the coming year.  Here's mine:

There are a few things that I think are notable about this collage.  First, it's very word-centric.  There are not many images at all, which really reflects how my brain works.  I'm not a visual learner and I'm not drawn to images in the same way that my siblings are -- they are all really great artists.  I only have two images in the entire collage, which I think defeats the purpose of collage -- not sure.  The images I've included are of a middle-aged woman walking with the caption "I live to look good and feel better" and of a walking shoe.  Everything else is purely textual.  

Some of my favorites are:
"Make today fun."  "History Repeats Itself" with "Repeats" crossed out.  5K to 10K (a big goal for me this year).  "How good can you feel?"  and "Food for thought:  Spread the joy".  

I think it's interesting that while some of these texts refer to exercise, only one refers to food -- "You're thinking about everything you eat".  In fact, most of them refer to attitude and motivation.  Because I was drawn to these texts, I think I'm telling myself something -- motivation motivation motivation is key.  I'm posting this in a prominent place so I can be MOTIVATED every day!  

Remember:  "Dig a Little Deeper"  "Without a Doubt".


Thursday, January 1, 2015

From the Back of Beyond...

Oh, it's been forever.  I had so intended to write a triumphant post after the big day on November 15th, when I completed the Color Run in Baltimore.  It was really difficult, but I did it.  I even ran a (very miniscule) portion of it.  Here's me, goofing off before and looking particularly rectangular:

Here's another, where I look like I'm about ready to collapse, accompanied by my beautiful cousin and goddaughter, L., who was the best personal trainer and one-woman cheering squad I could have asked for, not letting me stop for anything, even when I wanted to...

L.kept telling me how good I'd feel when I was finished and how proud I would be of myself when I went over the finish line.  And she was right.  I admit that, even though I didn't run the stinking thing, I was really proud of myself and I even teared up a little.  It was really very affirming.

Here's some of my Color Run swag:

I also got a few bags of the colored powder that they throw at various color stations for the chickadees to play with once it gets warm again (so I can hose them off outside - it is MESSY!)

The world's best personal trainer and one woman cheering squad is really someone that I admire.  She has the most incredible heart.  She's smart, loving, prayerful, an incredible career-woman, and the best goddaughter I could have.  She is also an incredible godmother to Chickadee #1.  I am so lucky to have her in my life.  Not least because THIS was my Christmas present from her:

I'm so excited!  And terrified.  And excited.  And terrified.  But it will be so good!  Thanks, Little Linky!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Downward Trend Continues

Just popping in to say that THE DOWNWARD TREND CONTINUES!!!!  After struggling, what with the weird "is it or isn't it" menopausal stuff going on, I lost another 2 pounds last week.  Huzzah!   I didn't run, unfortunately, and I'm kind of mad at myself about that, but all in all, I am pleased!  I'm only one pound above where Sparkpeople says that I should be at this point to be "on track".  This is exciting news!

Happy happy dance.

Don't forget, today is the feast day of St. John Paul the Second.

Some favorite quotes:

"Family, become what you are....  And since in God's plan it has been established as an "intimate community of life and love,"(44) the family has the mission to become more and more what it is, that is to say, a community of life and love, in an effort that will find fulfillment, as will everything created and redeemed, in the Kingdom of God. Looking at it in such a way as to reach its very roots, we must say that the essence and role of the family are in the final analysis specified by love. Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride."  (Familiaris Consortio)

"Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

And for more lovely quotes:  Click here.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Switch

Years ago, I was a smoker.  I mean, a real smoker, not just one or two puffs here or there, or only when I was out, although that's how it started.  No, I was one of those people who woke up in the morning, made a cuppa, and had a cigarette.  I smoked while driving (blech), while talking on the phone, while reading, during work breaks. It was ingrained into my daily living.  And it was crazy.  For someone like me, who started life with serious health issues, including multiple bouts of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis, to smoke, that is cray-cray, as Chickadee #1 would say.

And then, one day, I wasn't a smoker.  It's not just that I stopped smoking, although I did.  What I mean is that, something had to happen mentally before I could think of myself as a nonsmoker, rather than a former smoker who struggles against a tobacco addiction and is in danger of falling back into the clutches of the demon weed.

I've described that smoker/non-smoker mental magic as a "switch" to people who ask me how I quit.  I can honestly say that I didn't really quit -- I just stopped.  I never had a craving that I can remember (other than one particular day when someone was driving me crazy) and only twice since then have I put a cigarette to my lips -- throwing it away after one or two puffs in disgust.  So, what happened?  It really was like a switch had been thrown.  What had seemed so impossible was possible.  What had seemed so unlikely was reality.  I wasn't a smoker.  I didn't want cigarettes.  I didn't have cravings.  I wasn't in a bad mood.  I was just a non-smoker, living my non-smoking life.

I bring this up because I went to bed yesterday, praying that the way I am currently feeling means that "the switch" has been thrown.
I feel happy, y'all.
I feel powerful.
I am doing fairly easily staying well within the caloric limits that are outlined on Sparkpeople (1400 to 1700 calories per day).
I'm drinking my water.  All of it.  Every day.
I'm even eating the right kinds of foods, as you can see in the charts below (this is one of my favorite Sparkpeople features -- a daily nutrition report that shows how you are doing along a number of parameters).

I've signed up for The Color Run in November in Charm City and enlisted my lovely sister and some cousins to join me. Training for that, I started Couch to 5K (podcasts courtesy of the National Health Service in England) and, although it nearly killed me, I completed Day One (Day Two is today).

Before the run
After the run.  LOL

I even didn't react in disgust when the scale this week showed that I'd regained 3 of the 4 pounds I lost last week.  I know that I did everything and more that was required of me last week and that, if I truly have gained weight, it's only from retaining water (cue "I Enjoy Being a Girl,"  a song my college roommate would sing ironically every 28 days or so), if you know what I mean.  Prior to "the switch" having been thrown, I would have been really depressed and angry about the gain and would most likely have accompanied my morning coffee with a cinnamon roll or a danish, rather than a nice healthy bowl of oatmeal.

Of course, I have to bring in U2 to this discussion.  I know they are publicity hounds and annoying to a lot of people.  But, heavens, they speak to me sometimes -- I can't think it's coincidence.  They recently released a new album, "Songs Of Innocence".  Immediately, the standout track for me was "Every Breaking Wave".  This video from rai3 (Italian tv) has a live performance with just Bono and The Edge.  If you can ignore the really annoying moving graphics in the background, the lyrics are just breathtaking.  The parts that really speak to me are the refrain and the bridge.  

The refrain says, in part:

Baby every dog on the street
Knows that we're in love with defeat
Are we ready to be swept off our feet
And stop chasing 
Every breaking wave.

The bridge says, 

The sea knows where are the rocks 
And drowning is no sin.
You know where my heart is
The same place that yours has been
We know that we fear to win
And so we end before we begin...

This time, I'm not going to end before I begin.  I'm not -- Bono tells me, and I must obey, LOL.  
So, I'm still hopeful.  I'm still liking SparkPeople.  I'm still drinking water.  And I'm going to do my podcast run thing tonight.  

Go me.  


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pep Talks and Iconic Clothing.

So, I've been logging onto SparkPeople, which is a really comprehensive and helpful resource.

I lost 4 pounds last week.  Amazing.  I don't really trust it, but WAY TO GO ME!

I'm also working on the "head" piece of all of this.  And, yesterday, I gave myself a pep talk.  I was partly inspired by something I'd heard on the radio in the morning, part of an ongoing series on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.  Called "Why Saying Is Believing", it was really interesting, and you should go the the link and listen to it.  But what really struck me was two notions.  The first was that positive self-talk is more than just being nice to yourself.  It's actually kind of "internal remodeling," according to the story.  The second thing that stood out to me was that it is important to achieve some kind of distance from oneself when doing this -- for example, instead of saying "I can't or can do x", you would say "Colleen, you can do x".  This provides some psychological distance that is very effective in getting people to be less emotional, more rational, and even kinder to the people they are naming -- even when those people are actually themselves.  It's really fascinating.

So, I tried it.  Right that morning.  I went up to my bedroom, undressed, and actually looked at myself in the mirror.  Before I started, I was emphatic that I couldn't be mean to myself -- no name-calling, no hatred.  But I was also adamant that I would spend only 5 minutes and that I would be truthful and positive.

I would be lying if I said it was easy.  It was one of the longest five minutes of my life -- I really can't believe what I see in the mirror (I avoid them at all costs) and it's so difficult not to be hateful towards myself.  But I promised myself, and I followed through.  I thought about what a gift my body is -- to me and to others, and of all the wonderful things I've been able to do with this body.  And how there is no other -- it's like the little life raft for the seed of my soul, and it has to carry me forward until the next phase of my life.  It's going to be with me through eternity.  God made this body for me, so there has to be a reason.  It's assuredly not perfect, but it's mine and I have to love it.

At the end, I felt really good about that exercise and I'm glad that I did it.  So, WAY TO GO ME! (again).

The mirror I was using was a full-length mirror on the inside of my closet (where I put it so that I don't come across it unexpectedly).  It's the only full-length mirror in the house.  Because the mirror is inside my closet, the door was open, naturally, which led me to look at the clothes inside my closet (the ones I don't usually wear -- my daily outfits are mostly the folding kind). I pulled these two dresses out of the closet:

They don't look like much on the hanger, but boy did they look good on me.  And what I love about them is not only are they several sizes smaller than I am now, but that they are associated with such great memories.

The blue dress is the one I wore on my first date with my husband.  I was so excited that day -- floating on air.  I walked into the Humphrey Building with such as spring in my step that the security guard stopped me to ask if I had a hot date that night.  I was very happy to be able to say "Why yes, I do" and even happier at the smile of appreciation he had for me as I left the building 8 hours later, all dolled up.

The green dress is the one that I wore to a family wedding 4 weeks after Chickadee #1 was born.  It was the first time I'd been away from her, and I remember feeling like a million bucks in that dress.  My husband's aunt, the mother of the groom, kept introducing me to people by saying, "can you believe she just had a baby a few weeks ago?"  It doesn't hurt that that is my favorite color of green.  Can I just say, though, that wearing a dress that zips up the back to a wedding where you are going to have to use a breast pump regularly is NOT the world's most splendid idea.

So,  I loved those dresses, but most of all, I loved how happy I was at the time I was wearing them.  I could have been dressed in a paper sack and I would have been beautiful, because I was so so happy.
It's a good thing to remember.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Future Fast Forward

You know those Weight Loss Success stories that appear in women's magazines, on CNN, and sometimes in newspapers?  They follow a typical pattern,
  • First, the introduction to the subject with special emphasis on the dire condition he or she was in prior to losing weight.  
  • Then, a list of past sins (never liked to exercise, diet consisted of soda and ice cream, in denial)
  • Next, there is a "life changing moment" -- the turning point when the subject decided. through dint of will, that things were going to change this time, for good.
  • Now, the payoff -- the moment we crave  -- the moment we crave.  We see the before and after photos. We hear about all the great things the subject can now do.
  • At the conclusion, we may be treated to some advice and motivation, mostly centering on "don't give up" (with the silent (or not so silent) corollary of continuing to buy whatever product or lifestyle is being promoted.   
I used to read those stories  -- I'm a firm believer in the power of words.  I'm a writer after all.  I have written myself into college and into graduate school, into job after job after job.  I take consolation from the written word.  I find my worldview (weltenschauung -- see I can't even help it -- learned that in Lit. Trad. IV) is interpenetrated by things I learned in books.  So, it's no wonder that I really believe that words can transform us.

Except, they kinda can't.

There was a fantastic lecture I once attended in an epistemology class in college given by one of the 20th century's preeminent Thomist philosophers -- Dr. Frederick Wilhelmsen.  In it, he discussed the differences between the scientific way of thinking and the magical way of thinking.  I remember being so shocked when he asserted that both science and magic spring from the same root -- both attempt to affect change in the material realm through the use of formulas.  He talked about alchemical roots of science and how the assumption in science is that, if you can understand nature through experimentation which you record and duplicate, then (ultimately) you can change nature, just as the alchemists were doing when they tried to turn lead to gold.  It completely blew my mind, and still does.

What I'm learning, though is that words are not enough to transform.  All the knowledge in the world is not going to affect change unless it is put into action.  And so, I start again, with the basics.  8 glasses of water.  Salads.  Movement.  Determination.

And I'm doing pretty well, so huzzah for me.

I thought again of joining Weight Watchers but, really, I don't want to go to meetings and I didn't want to pay for the online plan.  Luckily, I (re)discovered SparkPeople, which is very similar in a lot of ways to WeightWatchers, but which is free (they just subject you to a lot of advertising -- okay with me because I just ignore it).  So far, I believe I've been doing very well. Tomorrow is day 7, so I will do a weight at the beginning of the day and see whether my intuition is correct.

Oh -- also -- for my goal setting.  I did do something scary.  I signed up for the Color Run.  That is terrifying.  November 15.  AAGH!