Standing on the scale has not been a pleasant experience for many years…so most of the time I just don’t bother. My size hadn’t gotten in the way of my happiness but it was beginning to become obvious that my health was beginning to suffer. New Year’s resolutions just aren’t my thing. This is one of the only years I can remember starting something with real conviction after the first of the year and continuing long enough to reap the rewards. And for once I am standing watch over my feelings not my appearance.
What prompted me to write about this was a profound realization I had this week. The critic that has always been a prominent voice in my head would consistently throw darts at anything productive and loving I attempted in order to change my feelings about myself. This week he started in with “No one is noticing how much weight you have lost, what’s up with that? Maybe you are lying to yourself about what you are doing. Is it really worth giving up so much?” But then a loving and nurturing voice interrupted:
“People don’t CARE about how much you weigh because who they see has nothing to do with pounds”.
Wow! For years I wore my damaged psyche like a badge…parading it out for all to see so that I could be sure you paid attention. It wasn’t until I was working with a client and realized she used illness to get attention and care that I started making connections. What we discovered together harkened back to my own childhood as one of 5…not much got you special attention with so many who needed it in the house.
It has been my life’s work for many years to help others feel cared for, safe and empowered to be themselves. You teach….you learn. It was time to heed my own counsel.
How many times have you led off a conversation with the state of your health? Ever stop to wonder why we choose an illness as subject matter to greet folks with? Why is it that we attach to our illness, past trauma etc. and parade it out in front of people as if it were all that we are? Often when I am speaking with a prospective client I do talk about many of the things I have overcome, but now it is in the past tense…they are things that no longer hold power over me. Knowing that my life has gone from “tragic to magic” circumstances builds trust but here is where the discussion about it stops. If I am always thinking of myself as a rape victim – I will mold my behavior into that which is necessary to play the part. When I began to view that as an event in my past instead of who I am, it began to lose its hold on me. Even the words I used made me a victim. “My rapist”, “my alcoholism”…when I lay claim to something in my life I will do everything in my power to protect it. That means you are not going to take it from me. It becomes who I am and leaves no room for anything else. And once I started letting go of blame, I started letting go of the need to cling to the past to protect me from the unknown. I no longer refer to the negative events in my past or illness as MY anything. They are now just things that happened.
The reason I have let go of 20 pounds in the last couple of months is because I chose to conduct a research project. I began to really pay attention to what, how and why I was eating. I journaled how I felt when I overdid things or when I got that a certain food seemed to suck the life from me. And I realized every time I put food in my mouth I was chastising myself. Every day had become an exercise in self-flagellation and I blamed no one but myself. I grabbed one of the many diet books off my shelf and started with SOMETHING. This was not the kind of life I was offering up to the world and not the one I wanted to experience either! Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t an overnight thing. But I started paying attention, writing my feelings down, eliminating one food at a time, and doing small things like making each trip up the stairs 3 then 4 then 5. Those things added up to feelings of success…and each success began to enlarge the foundation of my determination.
So this week I challenge my readers to listen to what you are saying to and about yourself. Write it down. Would you talk to a prospective lover that way? A child?
What will it look like if you decided to speak only lovingly to yourself? What do you imagine would change?
When you find yourself disappointed in your progress towards a goal or task, where does your mind take you? If you decide that you have made a mistake, missed a deadline or just can’t get your sh** together, what do you tell yourself?
If you are like the majority of us, your knee-jerk reaction is to call yourself names, spit, sputter, and get angry for falling short. But how productive is this? Whatever happens next is going to be directly affected by your attitude, because the more you focus on the mistakes and missteps, the more they will multiply. So what if you showed up to work with peanut butter on your shoulder? That just means you got your kiddo fed. If you got yourself out of bed, ready for work and out the door on time…congratulations! Some folks can’t get out of bed at all. Don’t discount the things you do routinely every day…being willing to bravely face another day no matter how routine, is cause for celebration. That my friend is an important springboard to a host of personal choices. Did you smile and the lady in the elevator or hold the door open for someone? Get a walk in at lunch? Call your Mom? Finish that Hope you had a wonderful birthday!big project on time? Every day is filled with successful completion of many things and a cause to rejoice. Pay attention to how those things make you F E E L.
Being happy is all about attitude. When you decide that you have things to be grateful for and think about those things, you just might see the list growing. Start a notebook of gratitude thoughts and successes. When you see something as an accomplishment write it down. When you experience successes or obtain something you worked hard for, write it down. Get teary-eyed at the sight of your child’s smile? Write it down! How would it feel to read these things before you went to sleep? Calming thoughts before sleep prepare our bodies for rest and now you have a list of things that went right for you today to calm our inner critic. You are important and successful in your own life in many ways. Take note of them!
Every day we have an opportunity to be the kind of person that we want to spend time with (after all, we can’t escape ourselves!). What will you do with your successes today?
Lying on the massage table this morning, debating on whether I was going to survive the experience, it dawned on me that what was needed to combat the pain was a different perspective. As I whined about the soreness and reflexively jumped, Harry reminded me that my memories always show up in my muscles. That I understood...it is all about energy and how it shifts and the affect tension has on me. I asked him to give me a picture of what was going on in those treacherously sore spots and what caused the pain. He spoke to what was happening in the muscle and how the lactic acid had frozen everything up, and how the process freed up the muscle to release the toxins and repair itself. The conversation triggered a thought about how everything that keeps us stuck keeps us sick. After all, the point of my visit was to empower my body’s innate healing tendencies - so I let go.
Awareness and perception are the keys to how we experience our world. However, when the intensity of the moment catches me off guard, my first reaction is to fight the perceived threat to my existence. When I do this I often sabotage the things that help me the most. This part of the human process we inherited from our caveman ancestors. Fight or flight….this we had to do to survive. Fear does that to us. It causes us to retreat, retract and strike out in order to maintain our current level of being…even when it is painful. The stress that keeps us ill is stored in our muscles and according to my therapist, “our memories show up in our muscles”. When we don’t recognize this, our worn out and inviable belief systems rule our existence. Our bodies finally break down and create illness because of the things we can’t or won’t acknowledge. (See Christian Northrup M.D. on Adrenal Fatigue for an explanation of this process and ways to heal: http://www.drnorthrup.com/adrenal-exhaustion/)
My own journey of “just trying to make it through it” brought me to a place of do-or-die. When you are facing the devastation of addiction, you have the advantage of the usually quite visible wreckage of your past as evidence. For others it can be much more subtle. It shows up in unfulfilled dreams, destructive relationships, constant and chronic illnesses, phobias, etc. Whatever keeps us “stuck” comes from the “memory in the muscles”. They are things that cause me to stay small because some belief system stemming from an event, a skewed belief system, or statement in my past, rides dominion on my brain. The moment I consider veering off the safe road, my muscles freeze up, my brain shuts down, and I try to avoid whatever pain I perceive is waiting for me. Every time I let fear be my guiding force, my choices are removed.
Being active in the addiction community helping others is a blessing and a curse at times. I have witnessed so many die needlessly, even sober for many years. So many settle for so much less than what is available to them. We all have the ability to affect monumental changes in our lives but only if we start looking for ways to continue to grow and evolve. For each of us it is a personal journey, but one that is always a breath of willingness away.
Every morning I look at what things are good in my life. I set the timer on my phone for 5-15 minutes, get still and center myself and focus on how having those things make me feel. This practice opens my heart and relaxes my muscles...and relaxed muscles allow peace into my heart. Meditation, writing, exercise, and gardening…are all things that heal my spirit. My health has improved immensely due to constant attention to my own wellbeing through a variety of techniques and good nutrition. I do not accept illness as a permanent diagnosis…only as a new opportunity for discovery. If something doesn’t feel right I explore it, write about it and address it as quickly as possible whether it be mental or physical.
Exercise that self-love “muscle” and consider what is keeping you from having the life you want. Then give your thoughts to ways to move forward and to move out from anywhere you are currently stuck. Write it down so you can see the evidence of your willingness to move into positive change for your wellbeing.
What small step can you take toward claiming your happiness today?
Every blog I share comes from the heart and has a challenge or a question within it to help others explore new ways of thinking. I hope that as you read the blogs you would consider starting conversation by commenting. We can learn so much together!