Feed Your Hunger! My New Book!

Hungry-PrintI’m so excited to announce the publication of my self-help book based on my recovery from food addiction, which includes a 100-pound weight loss. I’ve boiled the experience down into digestible (!) bits for everyone to use.

When I started my journey of recovery, I had no idea  it would take me on a deeply spiritual path and give me the joy of working with others who struggle with binge-eating and being hijacked again and again by sweet, fatty, salty, wheaty, over-processed foods.

Available from Amazon. bitly.com/1gg7mId See what you think, and stay connected for upcoming workshops, groups and talks.

 

Fire that God!

Who is the God of your misunderstanding? That’s the question for today. But first: Let’s not get stuck on the God word, okay? I mean the higher power you turn to, whether Howard—as in, “…Howard be thy name,” as Ann Lamott suggests, or Harvey, as my friend Marlyn assserts, or My Adoring All as another friend says. Just anyone who’s not our own little ego and will.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend I’ll call Joanne and she told me how she’d moved off the cruel and punishing God of her upbringing (that included a teacher nun who swung a big hard text book into side of Joanne’s head so hard that it broke her ear drum). She told the story of how she moved from trying to work with a God who thought she deserved that treatment, who would think her sinful and evil at 7 years old, into the powerful, loving God she knows today, the one who helps, guides and heals her in all areas of her life.

It was at a retreat, she said. The leader asked everyone to think of all the higher powers they’d had in their lives—parents, teachers, coaches, doctors, dentists, older siblings and the like. Together, they made a list.

Next, the group made a list of the negative qualities of those higher powers. I wasn’t at the retreat, so I did my own list: hypercritical; negative; controlling; intrusive; relentless; cruel; unsympathetic; wildly impatient; opaque; uncommunicative; explosive; violent.

Those were the qualities my poor little psyche learned to attribute to all higher powers, including the one who created me, who is supposed to guide my life and heal my wounds. No wonder I have been on constant conflict with this HP!

Then, the retreat leader, says Joanne, held up his hand in a stop-traffic gesture and said, “Fire that God of your misunderstanding!”

And, he suggested, create a new, loving one of your choosing. Mine has these attributes: always available; unconditionally loving; totally kind; totally strong; not one little bit cruel; totally patient; pure love; excellent, kind teacher; always respectful; wiser than I know; beautiful beyond measure.

Well, I sure can work with that.

How about you? What are the qualities you require in a higher power? (Go ahead! Make a list! Do it right here and now if you want!)

Will you dare to claim them? Let’s do it together, shall we?

7 Ways to Love Yourself Up

Hug myself? Chant “I love you, Gay” over and over, out loud? Ewwww!

That was my first reaction many years ago when I was told I needed to love myself.

Now I’m understanding that whatever I do and whoever I am starts with self-care. Not the icky, self-centered, it’s-all-about-me stuff. Rather, the kind that says, as Max Ehrmann does in Desiderata, “I am a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the starts, and I have a right to be here.” The kind that says I am to be maintained, if not like a princess, then like a worthy human with a lot of normal human needs.

So here’s my list of whats to love yourself, particularly in this season of high expectation and excess.

1. Eat healthy. Some of us can splurge on food and drink and reel ourselves in the next day and some of us can’t (I can’t). Know who you are and live that truth. If a bite of a means a flat-out binge, don’t pick up that first cookie. Hurts when you do that? Don’t do that. Easy to say, harder to do. But totally worthwhile, to be a little uncomfortable for a few seconds instead of miserable for hours or days.

2. Move the bod. Stretch. Walk. Go to the gym. Stop thinking of exercise as torture, which I did for many years. I may not like the movement, but I adore the de-stressing, stamina-building, health-sustaining results of getting out of my head and into the rest of me.

3. Keep order. Clutter around me creates clutter in my mind. Or maybe it’s the other way around. I just know that a certain amount of clarity in my home helps me feel calm. (Just so you know, I am really, really bad at this. I just do the best I can.)

4. Pamper the bod. Get a haircut. Use nice lotions liberally. Brush your hair because it feels good, not because you’re rushing out the door and don’t want to scare people. Get a massage. Seriously. A massage isn’t a luxury. It’s smart health care. A great investment in your sanity, productivity and joy.

5. Talk nicely to yourself. Replace the mean, what-did-you-do-now inner monologue with sweet words you’d say to a tiny tot wailing cuz she just skinned her knee. As in, “Yes, it’s sad that you burned dinner. But it’s okay. You’re not in trouble. You are loving and lovable just the same.”

6. Connect to others. Healthy people. Supportive people. Non-toxic people. Call, write, text. Ask how they are. Tell them how you are. Say what you need. Get no for an answer, ask someone else. Help others, but only as your inner guide instructs.

7. Take quiet time every day. Prayer and meditation are the foundation for how a calm mind and soothed spirit. They also empower me to be my best self.

 

Don’t Ask Why. Ask How

It’s a miracle to me that my father-in-law, Irving (Ed) Edelman, whom I never met, could paint such a lovely picture. How’d he do that?

I was angry again, at God. I don’t understand suffering. I really don’t. The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh shocked me recently by saying he’s grateful for life’s pain because it creates compassion.

I do know that a broken heart is an open heart. And an open heart is a caring heart. And a caring heart creates connection and all kinds of growth and healing, seen and unseen.

And I do understand that railing at God about suffering isn’t particularly useful, though it does seem to be common, if you take a look at spiritual memoirs, and/or, bring up the topic with friends.

I do not believe God gives us suffering to teach us. That is just too mean. I do believe suffering comes when people use their free will to move away from God’s grace. I do know that God helps us learn from whatever happens to us, whether from other people’s mistakes and evils, or the mysterious vagaries of weather, chance, happenstance, and freaky inexplicable stuff like hurricanes, car accidents and cancer.

My friend Lori says her preferred method of compassion creation is unconditional love. This I could deal with.

Do you suppose that if we increased the unconditional love in our lives and in the world, there’s be less suffering?

Well, there you go.

A new friend this week, hearing me fuss about the pain and suffering thing—which includes pissiness about how this happily ever after thing wasn’t quite working out the way I expected—made this suggestion: Don’t ask God why. Ask how.

Okay, okay. I surrender. (Again.) I give up. (Again.) As it says in the book Alcoholics Anonymous, acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. Any time I am disturbed is because I am finding something unacceptable, and I can find no peace until I accept things as they are.

My assignment, and I’m choosing to accept it: I’m looking for the hows. How to increase the peace. How miracles are being made all around me. How I’m better off tapping into the sources of love than focusing on what’s not feeling so good or doesn’t make sense. Most of all, how to receive and express the love that exists in me and in you, always solid as a rock, light as air, bright as a candle flame, fluid and flowing like water.

Amen.

16 Ways to Feel Good NOW!

Today is all we have. Let’s make it a good one!

Self care is not selfish. It’s impossible to be who we’re supposed to be in the world if we aren’t who we’re supposed to be to ourselves. When I first learned this lesson, I had to make a list of possible ways of self-nurture because in the crunch, everything went right out of my head. I’ve had so many conversations this week where we ended up talking about baseline self-care that I decided to share my list. When I’m feeling lower than whale poop, like nobody likes me, everybody hates me and I might as well eat worms, I know I need a dose of self-mothering. Some nice things to do:

• Slather on sweet-scented lotions or oils

• Light a scented candle

• Go to the library, wander through the stacks and take out whatever speaks you—a whole pile of novels, memoirs, travelogues. Don’t forget the section of movies, music and books on tape

• Pick up new do-dads for your hair, a new hairbrush, a different conditioner while you’re food shopping

• Send thank you notes to people who’ve done something nice for you. Send one to yourself in the mail

• Pet your dog or cat

• Get your hair cut just the way you like it

• Schedule a massage. Too pricey? Start saving up. Make a jar and put a few bucks in whenever you can

• Drink a cup of hot herbal tea

• Go through your photo albums

• Call a trusted, nurturing, supportive friend

• Go to meditationoasis.com and listen to a guided imagery.

• Have a nice nap

• Take a walk in a nearby nature site—or around your back yard

• Tend your houseplants

• Color, in a coloring book or on a blank piece of paper. Don’t forget to breathe in that eau de Crayola!

Where’s My Money???

This handy, dandy art work is the result of my million years of living, working and trying to understand how money gets made ethically, number one, and how to get behind what I know and love to do in and for the world, number two.

Whew! With thanks to my business coach, Melody Stevens I have come to believe that the best place to work from is in the spot where heart meets market. And that, said Ms. Mel as we both roared with laughter right there in the Manalapan, NJ Starbucks, is reality!

I don’t have to sell out. I have to buy in…to my own work, my own calling, my own strengths, my own abilities.

Okay! As my friend Traci Bild  would say, “I am my own lottery ticket!”

Meaning, my life is my own, as I choose to make it. With the help of my higher power, always and forever, one day at a time.

Any questions?

 

Try A Little Wildness

Big, beautiful flowers growing wild. They’re only weeds if we decide we don’t want them around.

Are you willing to be wild? That was the challenge motivational speaker Vicki Clark issued to a room full of Junior Leaguers at a talk several months ago in Rumson, NJ.

The workshop was entitled: The 11 Commandments of Wildly Successful Women.

The event was not my first reminder that maybe at this time in my life I really, really need to go wild. As a friend’s bumper sticker reads, “Wild women don’t get the blues.”

If you’re open to passion, it doesn’t take much to bring it on. I had a moment in my very own  kitchen the night before the workshop. An earlier library visit had yielded Otis Redding CD with “Try A Little Tenderness” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azpUTXntVagon it. OMG! That song—rocking out in the kitchen as the music built and built, it got me positively vibrating with visceral certainty that life—and Otis!—are goo—oood!

Then I just had to put on my ratty, tatty faded old video of the movie Pretty in Pink, where “Try a Little Tenderness” has a featured role. I soaked up Molly Ringwald’s classic lesson in rising above stereotypes and embracing toe-curling passion. Wild!

I started thinking about wildness again when introduced recently to Traci Bild’s Get Your Girl Back movement http://gygb.com/. Don’t you love it? Getting my girl back is about remembering who I am under all the conformity, responsibility and plain-old life-fatigue. Who I was, I mean, when I rode my bike fearlessly down a flight of stairs. When I swam out to the middle of the pond. When I told off that snotty English teacher. When, country bumpkin that I was, I took on big bad New York City after college.

I’m not a teen or a twenty-something any more, and haven’t been for some time. But passion? I sure know something about that, and now that I’m older and wiser, I know that passion are as much about life itself as it is about youthful romance.

Passion is about being all in. About searching for what you value, then living from that place, knowing, as it says in the Bible, that “a prophet is without honor in her own country.”

The moments don’t have to be big ones. A big smile, a dollar and a little dance move to the sounds of a subway drum duo, that’ll do it, thank you. Yes, lots of people looked askance-ish (New Yorkers don’t stare; staring is too intimate; they just look, with a flat expression.)

But the drummers, and one spectator smiled. We had a moment. Then I moved on, refreshed and renewed by a nice dose of wildness.

What are you going to do today to remember who you are under all the grown-upness?

 

 

Don’t Be So Nice!

So I’m at the red light and the light turns green. There’s one car in front of me and it doesn’t move. I’ve been working on being more patient, so I decide to give him a couple seconds before I honk. Boom! Someone hits me from behind.

I’m okay. Sore neck, sore back, two hours in the ER and a billion x-rays say nothing’s broken. Right. Thank goodness. Really, THANK GOODNESS!!!

But from now on, the second the light turns green, I’m giving my horn a helpful tap. That’s just sensible self-protection. Good Orderly Direction. Keeping the system running smoothly for all.

Too nice is not healthy for anybody.

And by the way, I didn’t let anyone yell at me about the accident, either. When someone did start yelling at me that there was no damage to my car, why did I want to involve the insurance companies? well, I just went over the the police officer and asked him to handle the situation and keep that angry person away from me.  He did.

Nice does not include, need or involve letting someone hurt me in any way at all, ever. (For the record, I knew I was going to need medical attention. I felt my head whip back and forth. That’s why I needed a police report. And there was damage to the car as well. I don’t have to explain, but I wanted to.)

Compassion, yes. Patience, yes. But awareness, alertness and common sense, too. I don’t have to be a doormat. I don’t have to give myself away to my own detriment. I don’t have to be hero, a saint or a martyr.

The Buddhists have a thing called Idiot Compassion, where you kindly hang in there when there’s no good outcome foreseeable and you’re being hurt. No more Idiot Compassion.

And for the record, I did not yell at anybody. I did not lose my cool. I did take care of myself. And here I am, alive and well and learning. Always learning!

 

 

10 Simple Truths About Selfishness

Self-care? What’s that? That was my thought when I first heard about the crazy, radical concept of self-nurture. That was two dozen years ago. I was pregnant with my 24-year-old and I was overwhelmed and feeling out of control.

Since then I’ve learned and relearned the value of self-care. I’ve learned through trial and error that job one in life no exceptions is minding my nutrition, exercising, being with friends, wearing only clothes that make me feel good, keeping my hair cut the way I like it, putting on lotion after my bath, taking at least a half hour each and every day all by myself just for myself, letting myself have naps and fun. And so on. (The list is ever-evolving.) Not to mention saying “No” to things that don’t feel right, no matter how worthy the request sounds, or how much I feel like I “should” comply.

Understanding that I need to respect my own needs, that’s hard. I forget, collapse, burnout or act out, then remember, again (often because some one who loves me reminds me). It’s so hard to remember because like lots of folks, especially women, I am hard-wired to think that taking care of myself is self-indulgent. Selfish. Ugly. The Puritan culture of my upbringing taught this; my family of origin supported it. Hard work and sacrifice, that’s what was called for. How you got your strength to keep on keeping on, well, that was your problem.

I’m not blaming, I’m just saying. They didn’t know a different way.

But I do. I’ve learned some truths about what enlightened selfishness is. I’m not talking about the attitude that says no matter what happens, good or bad, it’s all about me. No, I’m talking about honoring and supporting with actions our needs for love, connection, good health, serenity, sanity.

Here are few things I remember when the how-can-you-be-so-selfish bug bites. I keep these concepts in mind so that when that fool bug tries to make me feel guilty, I’m ready!

Okay, here goes:

• It’s good to give, but not what you don’t have.

• It doesn’t help the millions who have so much less than you do to keep your soul dry and unwatered.

• You can fully receive the abundance in your life in the name of those who don’t have what you have (even say a prayer for them), then use your well-nurtured skills and resources to help those in need.

• You must take care of yourself to take care of others. No one can get water from an empty well. Self-care is not a luxury. It’s not optional. It’s required.

• You don’t have to be hero, a saint or a martyr. Everyone has his or her role to play.

• People like people who are humble yet confident more than they like doormats. Self-care supports humility and confidence.

• Your higher power lives in the place where your self-care feeds and fuels your joy and your contribution to the world. Be in touch with where you feel loved. Go there in your mind as often as you can during each and every day.

• People will try to manipulate you to give you what you don’t want to give. “No” is a complete sentence. What’s good for you is good for the other guy, even if he doesn’t know it.

• If it truly feels bad, it is. Listen to what your body is telling you. The body knows.

• You are enough, you have enough, you do enough. Really.

3 Myths About Weight Loss

Embrace your colors!

November 2012 marks 19 years since I found the solution to my obesity and my food obsession. Effective this month I have been abstinent for 19 years from sugar, wheat and flour. I also weigh and measure all my meals (except in restaurants where I order carefully and moderately). One day at a time I’m maintaining a 100-pound weight loss.

It’s a miracle, for sure. To celebrate, I want to expose three myths about food and weight and recovery from obesity.

Myth #1: Relapse is inevitable. No, it’s not. Sometimes in addiction circles you hear that relapse is part of recovery. My take: Relapse happens. But it doesn’t have to and it’s not required. That we can learn from relapse, sure. With any degree of grace, we learn from any and every painful thing that happens. But there’s no need to set ourselves up for the pain. I worry that thinking relapse is inevitable makes folks relax their guard and lighten up on the hard work of recovery. Not wanting to do what it takes to make a good life, that’s human nature. Nobody is gung-ho all the time. But we don’t have to sink down into the I-don’t-wannas. We can rise above, recoup our commitment to our best interest and move back into doing those things we know keep us healthy and sane.

Myth #2: You shouldn’t deprive yourself. There are certain false truths that get repeated over and over in the popular media coverage of weight loss. The biggest one is, “Don’t give up something totally. Eventually it’ll come around to bite you double-time.” I know what they’re trying to say. They don’t want you to be a martyr to the weight loss cause. They don’t want you holding your breath waiting for that croissant at the end of the rainbow. Let’s be careful here what we call deprivation, though. There are a lot of us who truly have a biochemical sensitivity to certain foods—and the only way to be free is to give them up totally. By God’s grace, I have not had one speck of sugar, wheat and flour in 19 years. Am I deprived? Are you kidding? I have been liberated! Do you truly want to be at the beck and call of a cookie? If you start eating something and then can’t stop, doesn’t it make sense never to start? You only have to do this one day at a time. Don’t give it up, promising you’ll have it one day. Give it up promising yourself it’s just for today. (After all, today is all anyone has, right?) That’s how I made 19 years.

Myth #3: Just eat less and move more. That’s only two-thirds of the truth. What works for long-term recovery is, eat less, move more, believe in something or someone greater than yourself. If we give up things (kinds and quantities of food we think we need or love) without replacing them with healthy things (a power greater than ourselves), we set ourselves up for a fall. We have to nurture our inner life, our spiritual side, our soul, to grow in health. I struggled with this higher power stuff for a long time. But gradually over the years I have found a higher power, through observing the joys of nature, feeling the power of connection with people I love and respect, through reading ancient and modern texts written by those who’ve had these struggles before me. When I feel depleted, instead of reaching for something of the world, I can fill myself up with spiritual sustenance. Prayer. Meditation. Readings. Writings. Journaling. Connecting with others. Yes, I must eat right. Yes, I must exercise. And yes, I must build spiritual muscle.