It's All in Your Head – August 2013
I knew a man once who would tap his finger to his temple, and say, “Good sex is not what happens in bed after the lights go out. Good sex is all up here.” He would start signaling his desire with a soft touch on the shoulder at breakfast. A kiss that was no more than a peck on cheek as he left for work. A soft smile and a touch on the hand at dinner. A shared look over the top of his child's head as he read a bedtime story.
Emma Curtis Hopkins said, “If you can redden your face with a thought, you can straighten your crooked bones with a thought.”
Everything about this life is in our heads. Everything we think, feel and say - every response, reaction and action, is based in our perception, from our unique experience of our world. I can look at someone and think he's very attractive, while my sister will look at the same person and barely notice him. He's the same person. His 'attractiveness' is my perception.
My perception of my attractiveness is all in my head. The size of my body has nothing to do with it. The shape of my lips, the style of my hair, the color of my eyes, are my appearance, but they are not me. And they are not what make me attractive. Every day I see articles about some celebrity's weight, their clothes, their lips, their fashion sense. I see ads for weight loss programs, Botox for fuller lips, creams that make a person look younger. The fascination with appearance is overwhelming in our media. It has the tendency to form our opinions about who we are, based on the accepted cultural standard of beauty. It gets in our heads.
I know I am attractive when I feel good about myself. I know that when I can let go of the judgments about my appearance, and look at another person without judgment, I am attractive. When I can go inside, and understand my true nature is not my physical body, but the essential spark that gives me life, love, laughter and joy, then I begin to know my true appearance. When I can sit quietly on a weekend morning, with a cup of coffee and my dog at my side, and feel content in the moment, happy with my own company, cherishing the new day, I feel wonderful. And it is in living inside that feeling, and inside that contentment, that I also get validation of my attractiveness. When someone responds to me with a genuine smile, when someone greets me with a hug, when someone calls me to go out to lunch with them, I know myself through their response. Their response is enjoyable, but it is not what makes me attractive. The attractiveness is all in my head.
Comfort Food – June 2013
Spaghetti and garlic bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken, a burger and fries, macaroni and cheese. These were my comfort foods. These were the foods that made me feel safe and protected, or self-indulgent. These were my retreats when I felt stressed, lonely, overwhelmed, or just plain sorry for myself.
These were my 'comfort' foods until I started listening to my body. When I decided to be good to my body, that meant I had to listen to what it was telling me about the food I was giving it to live on. I had to finally acknowledge that my body was very unhappy with me! Spaghetti sauce, and in fact any tomato product, gave me raging heartburn. Fried foods made me sluggish. Thick, heavy sauces gave me reflux and made each bite hard for me to swallow. Cheese, and most dairy products gave me sinus headaches. These foods were not comfortable at all!
I was trying to satisfy an emotional yearning by eating foods that had either been part of my childhood, when I felt safe and taken care of, or had been forbidden as not good for me, and so were part of my rebellion against the constraints of my childhood. If I was honest with myself, the foods that were 'good for me,' were actually really more comforting for my body than I wanted to admit.
It took some rearranging in my head to understand and accept that I was not 'giving up' anything. I had to practice making a conscious choice about what to do for my body. I began to feel better and better as I chose foods for my body that made it feel good, made it feel energized, and that were easy to digest. Learning new recipes, learning new spices, trying new vegetables and fruits that I had never tried before was exciting. Now, one of my greatest joys, is planning my food for the week. I have so many choices!
And I learned that it's not an all or nothing kind of world. I can still choose spaghetti, or a burger and fries, or whatever. The difference is that now, when I make that choice it is a conscious one. I understand there may be physical consequences, and if they seem acceptable to me, I go right ahead run through the fast food drive-through. Also, by not making the old 'comfort' foods a constant diet, the negative effects are much milder. Because my primary intake is so healing and nurturing for my body, my body is much more tolerant of foods that give me side effects.
Today, I take comfort in preparing my own meals rather than eating out. Today, it is comforting to plan my shopping list and pack my lunch for work. I take great comfort in knowing my digestive system will not be interrupting my work, my conversations, or my sleep. I love my comfort foods!
Morning Thoughts – September 2017
As I sat down at my desk to write today, I went through some of the files in my blog folder and the title of this file stood out to me, “Morning Thoughts.” I thought it might be one of the files where I used to do a mind dump in the morning, to clear out all the busy-ness of my mind and let it settle into focus for writing a blog. When I opened the file, this is what I found.
The day is new, becoming lighter little bit by little bit. Each moment new things are defined and outlined outside my window. The ghostly light from my laptop screen on the keyboard is gradually enhanced and brightened by the rising sun filtering through the eucalyptus trees, and I am more and more aware of what a privilege it is to be able to sit here and write.
The thought is new, becoming more clearly defined little bit by little bit. Each moment I become more fully aware that with the upcoming surgery and recovery time, I will not be able to sit comfortably for long periods of time, or think clearly through the pain and medications. That picture of post-surgery recovery sparks in me a gratitude, that deepens with each moment, for the simple ability to sit upright and type right now.
I went back and saw the file date was from early February of this year. Well, here I am in September, on the other side of surgery, six months into recovery. I can now sit at my desk for about an hour at any given time of day, I’m able to walk for up to half hour at a time, I’ve been in physical therapy for two months, and I’m nearly medication-free.
Right after surgery I remember feeling gratitude almost non-stop. I was so grateful for the freedom from pain, for the drugs that relieved the pain, for the ability to move, for my doctors and caregivers, for my family, and for my friends. Everything was better, even if it hurt sometimes, and I just felt thankful for knowing I would be able to walk, swim, and enjoy a life without constantly dealing with some level of pain.
As my health has improved, it’s funny how that gratitude has become conditional. I feel grateful for any morning that I wake up without pain. I’m grateful when I pass a new milestone, like walking for a half hour without muscle spasms in my hip. I’m grateful at odd moments, when I realize how good the day has been, and how I schedule three different tasks all in one day, knowing I will have the stamina and energy to do them.
But there is an edge to all of this. I’m well enough to be irritated at small things. When I have a really uncomfortable day, I find it hard to be grateful for anything. I’m not grateful to be alive or for a new day when it’s pain that wakes me up. I’m not grateful for being able to walk without a brace when I hurt too much to get up and take a half hour walk outside. I’m not grateful that I call it “really uncomfortable” instead of “pain.” Some weeks I’m home too much and I get irritated with the inactivity, with my living arrangement, with the lack of good books to read or shows to watch. When I have outside-the-house activities every, single, day, of the week, I get irritated that I don’t have a moment to myself and no time to rest. I realize I’m not being rational when I’m irritated at these things, and that on any other day I would be giving thanks for each one of them. And that realization irritates me more!
It occurs to me now, after reading what I wrote back in February, that my irritation is a luxury that only improved health can provide. It also occurs to me that I’m not proud of owning this luxury. Is it human nature? Sure. Do I want to practice the habit of feeling irritated instead of practicing gratitude? Not on your life. My own words have humbled me and reminded me of what this blog, and what my book, are all about. For truly, the main meal of life is discovered in gratitude. It is gratitude for every, single, moment, of the day and of the week that lays the feast out before me and delivers the deliciousness of living to my entire being.