My favorite quote this year is from Tolstoi: “Boredom is the desire for desires.”
It should be engraved on my tombstone
Once upon a time, I walked into a 12-step meeting for eating disorders and was, within a week, struck abstinent.
Years and many events have intervened since then and I do not, now, have the innocence to believe in myself as abstinent. There is so little out of life that I want that I’m a big bundle of angsty ennui. I have to find another way to my best self.
People have responded to my recent posts by talking about the learned helplessness of 12-step programs. I agree and don’t agree but I certainly sympathize with those problems. Still, the only thing that has ever worked for more than 17 minutes is what I’ve found through the Rooms.
If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that I’m taking some seemingly random stabs at getting back into my program and my self. Abstinence – refraining from compulsive overeating beyond the food I’ve committed for the day – is not actually one of the stabs I’ve yet taken. Indeed, I think a food plan will probably be the last piece of the puzzle I add.
I have only one rule about my food: it must be bought at a specific grocery store. They have a promotion going that could be a 10% discount if I earn enough shopping points by November 10th.
Coincidentally, they do not have an in-store bakery or wide selection of my favorite brand of ice cream.
Another rule I’ve instituted is that, whenever possible, I must accept every invitation and adventure. I’ve been isolated in shame, food and variously induced numbness for far too long but I found empirical support for this rule in Psychology Today itself. Turns out, lack of socializing is as damaging to my health as smoking, obesity or neglecting my sneakers. I’m finding that a few days without a major hit of socializing lays me low. And when my friend, Pam Peeke, hooked me up with the David Lynch Foundation for instruction in Transcendental Meditation™, even though it means going into midtown, I accepted. I may panic on my way there but, with luck, I'll rattle back to Brooklyn with some new serenity.
I’m pushing Peeke because her attention to remanufacturing dopamine activity and effectiveness in The Hunger Fix is material any addict or any depressive can benefit from. I enjoy my friends and I’d forgotten that. I enjoy meeting new people and I’d really forgotten that. There are things about me that other people deem shameful and are not hesitant to tell me of – my adjunct status, walking dogs instead of working in a bank, my unwise financial decisions of the past – that I find I refuse to countenance. Call me fat, accuse my dog of being a wolf, make fun of my sloth or my stinky moods, and I’ll probably cry. But what I do for a living is honest and allows me time to write, and what I’ve done with credit cards is done and can only be whittled at undoing.
Standing up for myself is new.
It’s also exhausting insofar as each time in theseweeks of beginning reconstruction that I make progress, all the things I need to do come flooding over me. I am overwhelmed with what I need to be writing, reading, pursuing, organizing, curating, cleaning, and pouring my limited energy into.
That’s when I do a reverse to-do list.
I can’t make to-do lists that I give much authority to any more. They act as a recipe for failure. Instead, I stop sometime in the day and write down every impossible thing I’ve done, from brushing my teeth to reading the complete works of Shakespeare. It’s calming and surprising and victorious because I wake up every morning feeling that I cannot possibly get dressed or walk Daisy, let alone go into apartment buildings and collect my other canine charges. And yet I do and most days do this or that beyond and I need to claim the victory of it.
I’m trying to remember things I love to do and many of them are at their best in autumn. My new cell phone takes decent pictures and something about photography gives me deep pleasure and a feeling of concrete accomplishment.
I love to cook, whether it’s chopping a thousand vegetables or going through the rote motions of baking cookies. (I know. Ironic, isn’t it, that one of my best talents is for baking cookies?) With Tropical Storm Sandy coming in, I’m making a plan of what to cook while it rains: you can even see the recipe at my personal blog.
And despite my whittling at debt, I’ve ordered a few decent new things to wear to those few social engagements I’ve opened the door to. My wardrobe comes in two shades, dog-walking duds and grown-up professional clothes. I believe we each have the right to feel as attractive as possible in our own skins and dinner at the local diner calls for a middle ground I don’t possess.
I’m making a concerted effort to let go of incidents and people who frustrate me on a daily basis. My sponsor gave me a new mantra – bless them, change me – that I inadvertently changed to bless them, heal me. Calling Dr. Freud…
I have a few ideas of what I need to do next. I haven’t been able to read books for a month or so and that’s a big piece of self that’s neglected. I need to start listening to music again. A few weeks ago I basked in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and am still carrying the last movement’s choral section in my heart.
But I can’t have too many ideas. My aim here is to come back rationally, naturally, with as much calm and enjoyment as possible in order to forestall a winter depression and another twenty pounds.
I’m going to go walk a dog now, a task that felt impossible at 8 a.m. I might take a bath later or start reading the Lucrezia Borgia biography that’s collecting dog hair by my bed. I need to eat – I deserve some nutrition – and I may make it past the stuff that unglues my evenings.
Or not. After all, I’m accumulating points toward a discount and a firmer confidence in my self.