Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"You've lost weight, haven't you?" (Warning: Possible triggers)

Life's like a road that you travel on
When there's one day here and the next day gone
Sometimes you bend sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind
There's a world outside every darkened door
Where blues won't haunt you anymore
Where the brave are free and lovers soar
Come ride with me to the distant shore
We won't hesitate break down the garden gate
There's not much time left today
Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long
Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane

As a practicing intuitive eater, and someone who believes in Health at Every Size, I prefer to avoid discussions of weight, especially in relation to it going up and down.  Sometimes, though, someone will look at someone else and say those words, "You look like you've lost weight!"

The person saying the words inevitably believes with their heart and soul that they are delivering a compliment.  It is honestly difficult for the vast majority of people in this day and age to understand completely how those words can become something else.  For a person with an eating disorder, they could act as a trigger.  For someone with low self-confidence or who hates their body, they could actually hear "You look like you're FINALLY losing some of that weight!  Thank God!  It's about time you lazy blob!"

It has taken a lot of work on my mind, my emotions, and That Little Voice in my head, but I have finally reached a place in my life where I hear both what the person is saying, and what they are meaning, which...most just "You look really happy with yourself."  And heck, for all that I know, I may actually have lost weight.  I don't weigh myself often, and have been known to bob back and forth amongst the same twenty or so pounds quite easily.  *shrug*  It doesn't matter to me, as I weigh what I weigh at any given moment and I don't care to try and manipulate that particular fact even temporarily.

But I am one of the lucky ones, to have reached this place, this state of mind.  So many out there are still struggling with being happy with themselves as they are, and what that means.

I guess the biggest part of the struggle for me was realizing that I can be happy with myself as I am, and yet still have goals to achieve.  I can be happy that I can walk two miles per hour, and still want to reach the goal of walking three miles per hour without making my current state any less important and valid.  I can be happy with my blood sugars as they are but still look for ways to keep them more consistently within the range my doctor would prefer.  I can be happy that I don't get out of breath climbing three stairs (not three flights, three STAIRS) but still have the goal of not being out of breath after climbing ten stairs.

In the modern Western world, especially, we are conditioned that not being the best is equivalent to not trying at all.  If you aren't the best, you've got to be the extreme opposite, the worst, as opposed to just not being the best.  I'm not saying that everyone should get participation trophies in everything we do, because that doesn't help us learn anything about ourselves either.  What I AM saying is that we need to work on the idea that you can be the best YOU that is possible right now, while still having room to be a better YOU tomorrow, but that being a better you tomorrow doesn't mean that today's you sucked.  It just means that you've learned something new, you've expanded your abilities, and that you have taken another step down the path of life.

How each person reaches that state of mind is a completely individual experience.  We can share our own experiences and empathize with similarities, but no one can truly fully comprehend what someone else's path is like. No one should expect someone else to fully comprehend, not really.  What they should expect, though, is that they can look around, listen to others, feel empathy and sympathy, and begin learning from the lessons others have already gone through.  It can help lay the foundation for their own lessons, and while they'll find their own path to the next stopping place, just knowing that others have had similar struggles can sometimes make all of the difference in the world.

Find those places, those people who can share their experiences and that you can share yours with comfortably.  Talk, listen, and support one another.  Continue using that support to help yourselves move forward.  Use that support if you need to pause for a moment and take a break from the forward motion for a bit.  It's okay.  We aren't perpetual motion machines, we need to rest once in a while.  Take each step and assess whether you're ready to move forward or need more time to process.  Eventually you'll be ready for the next one.

All of this is, I guess, meant to say that you are amazing. I am amazing.  We're all pretty darned awesome just as we are.  There's room to move forward, but if we want to just be who we are right now for a while, there's nothing wrong with that.

Be gentle with yourselves, my friends.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Down Into The Black

It is going to be a rough weekend.

I closed down my online shop today.  I've been procrastinating on it because, I guess, as long as it was still up I thought there was a chance, a small, tiny chance, that I could bring my business back.  But now that I have cancelled my business insurance, I really can't sell any more.  So I shut it down.

I'm also going to work on pulling everything out of the Fat Lady room this weekend, so that I can go through it all, organize it, and put it back in so that it can handle some long-term storage without being under our feet all of the time.

I still hope that I can re-start my business.  The Husbeast keeps saying it will be next year, no longer, but he's a lot more optimistic than I am right now.

Funny, I thought I was past the point of crying, but I guess I'm not.

Yeah, it's going to be a dark weekend.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

LiveBlog: Annual Re-reading of "Health at Every Size" by Dr. Linda Bacon

I try to read this book every year or so to get myself back into the mindset needed for effective mindful eating.  I've found that mindful eating works the best for me.  Other people's mileage may vary, but overall following this philosophy has given me a much healthier relationship with food.  I don't obsess about it any more, I don't do fad diets any more, and I enjoy my food for what it is instead of what it SHOULD be.

On that note, this passage from page 106 always strikes home with me, so I post it here:

There's one nutritional concept that seems to make a healthy relationship with food particularly difficult, and that's the idea that some foods are good while others are bad.  Labeling a food good or bad stops you from questioning and discovery.  If you label a Twinkie as bad, you are not able to observe its effects on you, and you lose the opportunity to learn from it.  On the other hand, if you maintain a neutral attitude, you can watch your response to that Twinkie.

You can be more perceptive to its flavor, noticing whether it really tastes good to you, or if it was just the idea that tasted good (my emphasis).  Perhaps you learn that it doesn't satisfy your craving - that there was something else you really wanted that the Twinkie can't provide.  Perhaps you become more sensitive to your taste buds toning down after the first few bites, making the next bites less pleasurable.  Or perhaps you notice that half an hour after indulging in that Twinkie, your energy crashes and you start craving sugar again.  This information will ultimately affect your taste for Twinkies in the future.

Is eating that Twinkie good or bad?  It all depends on how frequently you eat it, how much you eat, what else you eat it with, whether you were attentive to it...Rather than eliminating these variables, we need to listen to them.  By staying connected to your body, some foods may lose their appeal or you may no longer be driven to over-indulge.

So, in answer to the questions, "Is [fill in the blank] bad?," the response is, "Of course not."  We simply need to respect it.  Let it teach us whether or not we want to indulge or when enough is enough.

It may sound crazy at first, I know that when I first began attempting to follow this way of life, my concern was that I would go crazy and eat chocolate, ice cream, and so on without stopping and I would just end up killing myself with high blood sugar or a heart attack or whatever.  The funny thing is that I found out something:  when you listen, I mean really slow down and LISTEN, to what your body is telling you, the things you find yourself eating vary across the full spectrum of foods.  Nowadays I find myself craving salads and fruit as much as I find myself craving sweets.  But more importantly, when I DO crave sweets, I go ahead and have them!  Instead of shoving them into my mouth as fast as I can eat them because I'm not sure when I will get them again, though, I eat slowly.  I actually take the time to enjoy the flavor and the texture of things.  This allows me to also pay attention to my body's responses to them.  There really is a moment when things go from tasting amazing to tasting 'meh', when my body signals that the craving has been satisfied and enough has been eaten.

In the past, I would have just kept eating until all of the food I was eating was gone, whether it made me nauseous or not, whether I was full or not, it didn't matter because I was so used to depriving myself that my instinct was to binge when I had the chance.

I feel free now, and it is wonderful.  I am free to have chocolate when I want it.  I am free to eat an apple when I want it.  I am free to make steak for dinner one night, and veggie stir fry the next, all because I am learning how to listen to those signals that I spent years suppressing by following the instructions of so many diet plans.  Eat this, don't eat that, eat now, don't eat then, none of that matters.  What matters is that my body actually KNOWS what is best for it and now that I've begun trusting it again, the signals just keep getting stronger.

This is why I re-read this book so often.  It reminds me of thoughts and ideas that can get drowned out by the constant pounding of our "thin is in" society against our brains.  It is easy to give in to the pressures brought to bear by that society.  This book helps me fight those pressures and stay true to myself.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Definitions of Productivity

We all have our own definitions of productivity.  For most of us, I would imagine, these definitions are developed most strongly when we become part of the workforce.  The word "productivity" becomes synonymous with "results that can be measured quantitatively".  This may even begin when we're in school, with students who get high grades being considered productive, and those who get low grades considered to be unproductive, no matter how much work either student actually puts into getting their grade.  Any way that it is instilled, however, by the time we reach adulthood we all seem to have pretty solid ideas as to what that word means to us personally.  Changing that definition is not an easy task.  But it appears to be a change that I am currently involved in trying to make for myself.

I am in the process of shutting down my business for a hiatus.  At least, I hope that it is just a hiatus.  I really do want to come back to it at some point because I love my business, I love what I make, and I love selling what I make to my customers.  Sadly, with the national stress levels so high due to the unusually rancorous elections last year, people were hanging onto their money very tightly.  I worked twice as many markets and made half as much money.  This did not give me enough of a margin to pay all of my overhead and keep buying raw materials to produce or to pay booth fees for the coming year.  So...the hiatus, which will ideally give me time to pay off what my business owes and to re-establish my financial cushion (and to make it even bigger this time to prevent another such occurrence).

In the meantime, I am looking for work, preferably in the form of a work from home job, and taking the time to continue gleaning through our household, getting rid of excess "stuff", and organizing the remaining items so that there is less clutter.  I am also spending time on craft projects, a number of which will end up being holiday gifts this coming December, and continuing my personal form of education via reading a multitude of books and taking as many free online courses as I can.

What I have found, however, is that I am battling my previous ideas of what is productive and what is not.  Despite knowing how reading a wide variety of books expands the mind and the knowledge base, in the back of my head I find myself fretting about wasting time when I'm reading.  There is a part of me that seems to feel that if I am not actively doing housework, then I am being lazy.  This same thought pops up when I am busy with craft projects.  Somehow, at some point in my life, I relegated reading and craft projects to "relaxation" rather than considering them to be productive uses of my time.

This is a foolish point of view, however.  Creating beautiful things for people to enjoy is not a waste of time, nor is increasing my literacy.  These are both activities that serve multiple purposes, and yes, one of those IS relaxation, but they do so much more than that as well.  Crafting keeps my dexterity sharp, lets my mind rest for a bit while I focus on the physical, or even lets my mind focus on learning if I am listening to an audiobook while I craft.  Reading not only gives me more information about the world in general, but sharpens my imagination and my creativity.  It increases my eloquence, it expands my vocabulary, and it helps me formulate thoughts more quickly and coherently.

Can these various skills be measured by numbers?  Possibly.  Should they?  I'm not so sure.  While physical chores like housework, organizing, and simplifying have their values, so do other parts of life.  Beauty, creativity, and knowledge are all worthwhile goals in and of themselves.  I know this in my rational brain.  Now I just need to get the part of my head that houses my ingrained American Puritan Work Ethic to understand and accept that qualitative productivity is just as valid as quantitative productivity.

That, my friends, is the hardest part of all.  But I plan on continuing to strive for this achievement.  It is important, and important things are worth the effort.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Sound of Silence

Have you ever noticed how some people just can't tolerate silence?  They always have to have noise around them, whether it is the television or music on in the background, or they are actively talking to someone.  It is almost like the silence unnerves them and weighs too heavily for them to be comfortable or something.

I love silence.  When I am home alone, I rarely have music or the TV on.  I love to just sit and focus on whatever it is that I'm doing while the silence just enfolds me like a blanket. It lets my mind clear out all of those random thoughts that we all get every day.  It goes through them, sorting them out and throwing the irrelevant ones out while filing the good ones away for deeper thought.  Sometimes I make plans for the future in my head, things I want to do around the house or for my business, and with the silence around me I can just drift from idea to idea without my train of thought getting interrupted.

Sure, I like to watch movies, and am a Music Based Lifeform, but when I am home alone and everything is silent around me except for the normal house noises of HVAC, the ice in the icemaker dropping, and the jingling of the bells on the cats' collars, I just feel so very content.

I'm not sure if that makes me strange or not.  But really, it is who I am, and I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

LiveBlog: Reading "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand

These are notes from my second session of reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.  It is slow going as I am taking notes, and, quite frankly, haven't been in the right mindset to read this particular book for the past few days.  But onward we go!

Peter Keating - Perfect in every way, at least outwardly. Inside he is unsure. Unsure of himself, unsure of his skills or talents, and unsure of his place in life. There are so many who suffer these same insecurities without the advantages he has. I'm not sure yet if I should feel pity for him or empathy. His mother is passive-aggressive and manipulative. His friends don't seem to really be friends because his facade, his public face, is too impenetrable.  I'm curious to see where things go and what he ends up representing.

Page 38

New word: Pilaster
Definitions:  The pilaster is an architectural element in classical architecture used to give the appearance of a supporting column and to articulate an extent of wall, with only an ornamental function. It consists of a flat surface raised from the main wall surface, usually treated as though it were a column, with a capital at the top, plinth (base) at the bottom, and the various other elements. - Wikipedia

Page 45

"The Columbian Exposition of Chicago opened in the year 1893.

The Rome of two thousand years ago rose on the shores of Lake Michigan, a Rome improved by pieces of France, Spain, Athens, and every style that followed it.  It was a "Dream City" of columns, triumphal arches, blue lagoons, crystal fountains and popcorn.  Its architects competed on who could steal best, from the oldest source, and from the most sources at once.  It spread before the eyes of a new country every structural crime ever committed in all the old ones.  It was white as a plague and it spread as such."

Rand demonstrates a serious contempt of history and tradition with this passage. It almost seems as though she has gone past the point of "we shouldn't be slaves to tradition" and into a realm where nothing traditional holds any value, it just holds mankind back from necessary growth.

That seems to be a very extreme line of thought to me. I agree that traditions need to be re-assessed on a regular basis to determine whether they are still applicable to our lives, still relevant in some way. But I am definitely not in the camp that would throw the baby out with the bath water.

Traditions can be updated, changed, or even left behind if that is needed for growth.  That said, it should never be done lightly or summarily. Maintaining a connection with the past is equally important as laying a path toward the future.

That's as far as I've gotten right now.  More to come as I continue reading!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

LiveBlog: Reading "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand

I've never actually read either The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, and yet 'Randian Philosophy' is referred to on a constant basis in the political world.  This made me decide that it was important to go to the source material and try to use it to understand where those who use it as a basis for their outlook are coming from.  I started just taking notes in my Commonplace Book, but when I mentioned it, people on my Facebook page said that they would be interested in seeing my notes.  Thus, here I am, typing them up as I go.

Just a warning, I'm a fast reader when it is fluff, but when it is something I am really trying to digest and am taking notes on, I tend to go a lot more slowly.  So this will probably be a fairly extensive series of blog posts.  I will tag them all with the book title and author, so that if people want to go right to them, they can, and those who want to avoid them can easily do so.

The notes will be typed in here exactly as written in my Commonplace Book, no editing, so you will be able to get my reactions as they were in real time rather than reactions modified by reflection on what I had already written.

So...we begin:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 @ 12:45 p.m.

Ayn Rand's books are the cornerstone of much of the Neo-Conservative philosophy so prevalent in our country today.  I want to read this source material to get a better understanding of where they are coming from.  I will NEVER agree with them, but understanding is the first step toward defeating their mindset.

Introduction, Page X

"The man-worshipers, in my sense of the term, are those who see man's highest potential and strive to actualize it.  The man-haters are those who regard man as a helpless, depraved, contemptible creature - and struggle never to let him discover otherwise." - Ayn Rand

This passage already confuses me.  I am not sure how the Far Right, with their Conservative Christian views of man as a sinner and God as his only path to redemption can reconcile the dissonance between these two stances.  Or do they even try?  Is this one of those conveniently ignored aspects of the whole?

Page 23

"You must learn to understand - and it has been proved by all authorities - that everything beautiful in architecture has been done already.  There is a treasure mine in every style of the past.  We can only choose from the great masters.  Who are we to improve upon them? We can only attempt, respectfully, to repeat." - The Dean

What this says to me at this point is that Rand is setting up "The Establishment" to represent stasis, and Roark to represent change.  She is heavily implying that the past holds nothing of worth and only forward progress is worthy of our attention.

To this I have to reply, "Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it." Not in the sense that The Dean talks about, sure that there is nothing better left in man, but in the sense that if we don't take an honest look at the mistakes of the past, we will just keep repeating them over and over.  I do not believe in stagnation, but I also do not believe in change just for change's sake.

Page 27

"He did not care. He had never learned the process of thinking about other people." - referring to Roark

That is a very telling passage, and it sums up the modern Neo-Conservative philosophy very neatly.  They have never learned the process of thinking about other people.  Other people's needs,wants, and motivations are irrelevant to them.  "I have mine, who cares about yours?"

I cannot imagine how hollow life must be when living that way.


That is the end of my notes for Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Feel free to discuss, debate, and mature, rational adults.  Flame wars and personal insults will not be tolerated.

Thank you for your consideration. :)