Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I went to bed last night thinking about Knapp's comments (see previous post) about a controlled, together appearance (not really true of me) and total chaos inside (absolutely true of me). And I had this bitchin' nightmare about the new job. I was in high school, in this dream, and I was late.

I had walked out of the neighborhood, having missed the bus, and realized when I got to the main road that I didn't know which way to go. I couldn't remember the name of my new school. I eventually got there, and some classmates were studying for a test. One of them was studying something I'd written, and I said to her, "I can help you with that, because as it happens, I wrote it." Another student, seeing that there was a reference listed, commented "that isn't the same as writing it."

Worse, I realized as I looked at the paragraph in question that it was the one thing I had totally cribbed, and I didn't know what the hell it meant either.

Meanwhile, I remained confident about the test, which was to be multiple choice on European history. I had read and understood the assignment, and it's the sort of test I do well. I fully expected to ace it. But it turned out to be some kind of multimedia thing, no history in it at all, never mind European, and no directions: You were supposed to somehow intuitively know what to do and how. Not how I work best at all. I am verbal, linear. My classmates were so noisy I couldn't hear myself think. I liked the teacher, but she didn't like me. Time was running down.

I have completed one month of my six-month probationary period. I have moments when I suspect that, in a down economy, all these people really want is my clients and contacts and, as a result, the money I bring in. Not me.

The few times I have let myself be my self, mostly not until in the past week, I've gotten anxious about it and worried that the real me won't be welcome. That I won't even understand what's expected of me, that I will come prepared for the wrong thing, that passing work test won't even be a possibility as the calendar runs down toward December.

I've been faking it all these years. I'm gonna get busted.


Monday, June 29, 2009

I've been sober for 23 years, come September. I'm reading Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story. When I picked it up, I worried that reading about someone romancing the bottle would give me the willies. Weirdly, instead what it's done is confront me with my sick relationship with food. I think I'm having a Step One moment.

Food's a common substitute for alcohol. Anybody who's ever gotten sober at a club is familiar with the tables of food, the industrial-size pots of coffee, and the clouds of smoke hanging from the ceilings. Ever see Michael Keaton's Clean and Sober? One of the funnier scenes is when Michael is doing his Fifth Step with his sponsor in a diner. Every time the director cuts away to Later: Same Day, there are more dishes on the table. The sponsor drinks coffee, eats pie, has a milkshake, drinks more coffee, orders a sundae--you get the picture. And smokes the whole time.

So at first, I lost weight. I lost about 15 pounds, partly because I needed something to do and took up hiking, but also because booze just puffs you up. Then I got kind of obsessive about working out and dieting, and lost another 30. I probably got a hair too thin.

When I decided to go back to school and finish my education, I stopped working out and hiking in order to study, and I was no longer doing the shopping and cooking at home. I gained all 30 back, and then some.

After graduation, I lost a bit, but never got back down to a healthy weight. Then I developed high cholesterol and started getting diabetes. I went to pre-diabetes class, went on the diabetic exchange diet, and--you guessed it--lost about 50 pounds.

Then my Nigel got diagnosed with cancer, and I stopped losing. I actually put about five pounds back on. For a year, I have struggled with those same five goddamned pounds. Lose two, gain one, lose three, gain four. Lose one, gain one, lose it again, gain it again. For a couple of months now, I have been swearing I was gonna "get serious" about losing the last ten or fifteen I'd set out to lose back at the start--with the stunning result that I have merely stopped gaining. It's like the alcoholic promises, "I'll cut back," or "I'll quit--tomorrow" but nothing every really changes.

I have flirted with going to Overeaters Anonymous, but haven't gotten there. Then I picked up Knapp's book, and about fell over. My relationship with food is on every page. My experience with food echoes nearly every sentence she wrote about alcohol in the opening chapters.

Page 3: "I drank when I was happy and I drank when I was anxious and I drank when I was bored and I drank when I was depressed, which was often."

God knows, I eat when I'm happy, anxious, bored, and depressed.

Knapp talks about how every binge is an exception of some sort. This is true for food as well: Just this one M&M, just this one brownie, just this one piece of cake. Of course, as the chip ad says, "You can't eat just one." In AA, it's the first drink that gets us in trouble. In OA, it's that first compulsive bite, not the fiftieth. Knapp writes about how she "deserved" or "earned" a drink. It's been a sucky day: This calls for chocolate. I'm gonna eat this today/tonight, because it's been a bad day/night, but I'll count every carb tomorrow. Which of course I don't, because I'll have "just one" of something because it's a bad day, or we'll be celebrating something (a birthday at work? a new client?). I will have earned it. I will deserve it.

And the tricks we alcoholics play with "just one" work pretty well with food, too. Knapp writes, ". . . two glasses, but they were small ones, so I considered them half-glasses and counted them as one." When I drank, I used to keep topping off the same drink, and count it as one. I would brag that I could make one drink last all night (unlike my alcoholic friends and relatives, don't you know?) Compulsive overeaters play the same games. You can see it in the comic strip, Cathy. In one, Cathy and her mother discuss why eating cake crumbs and broken pieces of cookies "don't count."

And I compare. In Alcoholics Anonymous, newcomers hear "Identify, don't compare." This is because alcoholics can always find someone whose drinking is worse than our own and use that as proof that "I'm not really an alcoholic because I'm not that bad." I did that then, and do it now with food. I am always comparing my body size to other people's, what I brought for lunch to my coworkers' lunches, how fast I am eating, what I ordered, what (if anything) I leave on my plate to everyone else at the restaurant table. And wondering if they are noticing my eating. People with worse food problems than mine provide a perverse sort of comfort.

Like alcoholics, sometimes we overeaters hide it pretty well. I mean, obviously, a lot of compulsive overeaters are overweight, but not all of us are. And we carefully control our eating (sometimes) in public. I never binge actually at the office, although I can get carried away at a restaurant in front of coworkers. When I'm in the kitchen getting something for me and my Nigel, I sneak extra bites while I'm dishing it up, around the corner and out of his line of sight. What he sees is me, exercising portion control.

"Just today. Bad day. I deserve a reward. I'll deal with it tomorrow" (p. 6).


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nigel: What are your plans for tomorrow?
SS: I'm cleaning house.
Nigel: I'll help.
SS's Inner Wolf: Grrrr.


Monday, June 22, 2009

You Go, Girl

While my weight has definitely affected my health, I discovered back in my teens that my yo-yo-ing weight had nothing to do with my happiness, academic success, sex life, or much of anything else.

I was a whole, complex human being leading a whole, complex life, thin or fat. I was still me.

I Write Letters

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Zippy and Daisy

Jill, over at I Blame the Patriarchy, reported that her beloved dog, Zippy, had to be euthanized yesterday. I left a comment there, but haven't been able to stop crying since, so by God I'm posting again here.

Not to be redundant, but my dog Daisy died last year and I still miss her. Just the other day the "new" dog, who is hardly new any more, came running down the hall and when I heard her feet for a second I thought "Here comes Daisy!" I turned, happily, to greet her, and there was this other dog. Things like that still happen about once a month.

And today, since I commented on Jill's post, I haven't been able to get the image of Daisy flying off the top step of the deck and vanishing into midair--forever--out of my head.Except she doesn't disappear forever because it keeps playing over and over in my head like a stuck video loop on some hellish version of You-tube. And every time I see it, it makes me tear up all over again, until it's getting damned difficult to get any work done.

I think I'll close and lock my office door and have a good cry. And go home and hug the "new" dog (Diana) extra times tonight.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Birds and Books

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA - OCTOBER 2:  (IMAGE REVI...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I went birding with a friend today, and then to a used book sale.

We started out at the river, at what used to be a county-owned education center. To our disgust, we found they'd put up fences around everything and were charging admission. We couldn't even get to the toilets without paying $5. The ponds were behind the fence. The wetlands boardwalks were behind the fence. Very irritating.

So we went downstream aways, to a city park that was still a city park. We saw Mourning Dove, a male Northern Cardinal, Canada Geese (of course), a Brown Thrasher, grackles, and more.

Sadly, last night's thunderstorms had blown a baby Northern Mockingbird out of the nest. The parents were squawking around us but we didn't realize why until we saw him on the ground. He was still in his pinfeathers. He died in my hand while we were trying to figure out the best place to put him. The instant he died the parents stopped fussing. How do they know?

I carried my 300mm lens, and took about 145 shots. On the first pass through in Adobe, I winnowed that down to about 110. The biggest disappointment was the Red-shouldered Hawk: The center had one in rehab, and another was in a pine tree overhead, calling back and forth to each other. I took easily a dozen shots of the wild one, and not one was in focus. Either I was bobbling the long lens or, more likely, absent-mindedly left it on auto-focus. The field was too busy, what with a brown bird and branches and pine needles and stuff, and I always forget that the autofocus can't cope with that.

After another dozen or so of an immature Eastern Bluebird with the same problem, I got this:

I love the curve of her body, and the curls of water around her.

And then there was the totally frustrating series of the Bank Swallows feeding their baby that I didn't get.

I'm just gonna have to spring for a monopod. That's all there is to it.


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Friday, June 12, 2009


So I'm reading Carolyn G. Heilbrun's Reinventing Womanhood, and she's explaining it all to me. "Women," she writes,
"have avoided adventure, risk, and opportunity because they have been taught that suffering, the shaking loose of the comfortable foundations of one's life, must be avoided at all costs." (p. 68)
Except I'm a risk-taker. And a poor planner. I am the epitome of not looking before leaping, ok? And yet. Something in this quote tickles at the edges of my pre-conscious mind. A page later, Heilbrun says,
"They feared above all the loss of dependence and the discovery of a realm of choice where suffering is possible, even likely." (p. 69)
Wham! Right between the eyes. Not so much choice, but responsibility, and certainly, the loss of dependence.

In the meantime, I'm loving my job. But I spent some social time with some of my peers today, and got a glimpse into their successful lifestyles. About which, I remain ambivalent. One has a house worth twice as much as mine, and it's expensively furnished and landscaped to boot. And while it is beautiful and I liked it, I did not think I would feel comfortable living there. Why? Don't know yet. But for whatever reason, I'm more the kind of woman who would go on living in a shack and stuff the money in the mattress.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Dessert First

I am a firm believer in eating dessert first, especially if I come home so tired and so hungry that I can't even wait to open a can and heat up the contents for dinner. I noticed, though, that the last two days running I've had a tiny sliver of cake and a glass of milk the minute I walked through the door, and it got me to thinking about Dessert First as a life philosophy.

It's not a workable one, and the consequences show in my life. My blood sugar is fine, but it was not always so. I am a little pudgy, although that, too, has been worse in the past. And I goof off before doing chores, with the result that my house is a mess. Finally, I buy on credit, trusting that the money will come. It doesn't.

My mother always told me I had to eat my dinner to get dessert, and my father warned me to pay cash whenever I could. Should have listened.

Maybe there's a Lesson for Girls in there somewhere.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

You know,

I'd be a whole lot happier if I hadn't just found mouse turds in my kitchen.



What does success feel like?

I am on the verge of a chance, just possibly, at financial success. Not the overnight-millionaire-just-won-the-lottery kind, just a steady, decent income.

And I wonder. What will it feel like? Is there anything about it that scares me, just a little? Have I needed for some nutty reason to live hand to mouth all these years? Will I screw this up for myself somehow?