Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lenten pondering

This being Holy Week and all, I thought it was a fine idea to see how I was doing with things. As with the last few Lents, I wanted to forego sugar. I wasn’t as successful this year as I’ve been past years, and I can justify it, I suppose. How at my weekly knitting group, hosted by an 89-year-old sweetheart who’s sometimes a little confused and tremendously hurt if we don’t take a slice of cake or whatever sweets she’s gotten ready for us, it’s easier to eat the piece of cake and say thank you rather than remind her that once again for Lent I’ve given up sweets. Or when on the long drive to and from Ruth’s funeral, it was easier at a few rest stops to get a diet soda than a cuppa black tea (not only meaning black as opposed to green tea, but also to find some unsweetened. If it was prebottled for iced tea was impossible.) Yes, technically, diet soda doesn’t contain sugar, but I was more interested in carrying out the spirit of my sugar-free intention, which was no sweets or sweeteners, not saying “no sugar” while saying yes to every item labelled sugar-free and loaded with excitotoxins. And, there were few occasions where I had taken some food to eat and could taste the sugar in it, but I didn’t stop eating it after the first bite. I didn’t go back for seconds, mind you, but still.

As I’ve mentioned before, what I really like about Lent is that it provides an opportunity to try out a new habit or to try and abolish an old one. And in looking at my only partial success this Lenten period, I was reminded once again how so much of my life I’ve looked at things only in an all or nothing way. Black or white. Right or wrong. I seem loathe to give partial credit but only too glad to award full blame.

At SFB’s FIL’s funeral, I thought a lot about my dad. He believed that if he criticized your efforts, you would want to do whatever it took to correct those faults and hone excellence. And although I understood that logically, just as I do now, emotionally, it was processed very differently. It delivered the message of “You’ll never be good enough,” and as he demanded perfection, I found myself not trying some new things if I knew there was no way in hell I’d be able to be any good right from the get-go. It took me many years after his death to make peace about that, and to give myself permission to try new things. Even if I wasn’t very good at them and even if inordinate practice wouldn’t render me excellent. It took a bit longer to allow myself to enjoy the process, and I found that if I were going to enjoy the process, I had to change my self-talk.

I could hear my inner voice chiding myself those times during Lent where I ate sugar willingly (at knitting, or realising after the first bite that what I was eating had sugar in it), or point out all the things I could be doing rather than take some time to rent a movie I wanted to see, or like this past weekend, take a nap.

But the whole self-talk analysis didn’t really come to the forefront until a few days ago when someone online mentioned how she always saw herself as the fat girl in the mirror. I had to get a passport photo taken recently, and while I felt quite dapper in what I was wearing and happy, the photo showed a middle aged, fat-faced woman. Not the me I picture in my mind at all. I’ve mentioned before how I hate having my picture taken, but for this trip in front of the camera, I felt happy and thought somehow the lens would capture that. But no. It captured that fat girl in the mirror, and that’s when I realized that those years of not being happy how I looked weren’t really purged. There were still a few layers where that chiding voice was embedded, that size 2 finger pointing at me, not wanting to besmirch herself poking the Pillsbury dough boy’s sister, and memories of the plump nurse at a doctor’s visit over 10 years ago now who was fine with me until I stood on the scale, and then ranted about how I needed to lose some of my heft.

If she had asked me if I had any sort of exercise programme, if she mentioned wanting to conduct a fat percentage ratio, I don’t think it would have been so hurtful, but to see her look change from benign acceptance of the patient to one of horror because of a number on a bloody scale gutted me. When I answered that I played ice hockey, this was my first season, and would she want to join us Sunday afternoons, as we were always glad to swell our ranks, she screwed up her face even more.

A younger me would have been more flippant and mentioned HER size and demand that she step on the scale so we could compare numbers and see how we measured up, but a younger me would have been thinner. The me who stood on the scale that day had only recently changed jobs from one I hated with an arduous commute to one I loved with a far shorter ride, but the three years’ arduous commute had done its damage. I had had little time to exercise, and was eating a diet that although touted by experts as “perfect” was perfectly wrong for me. My metabolism had been really damaged, and it would be another year or so after that for me to understand and accept that and make whole scale changes to my diet to repair things.

And here I was, years, yes YEARS later, carrying that around. Dead weight. Unnecessary baggage. One offhand comment and look still hurting me, and I’m sure the nurse herself would have no recall of the event.

I thought about Holy Week and for Christians, the importance of Jesus dying on the cross. Willing to take on the sins of all of us. Willing to forgive.

I needed to forgive that nurse for her thoughtless remark. Or maybe it wasn’t so thoughtless. In any case, it was still hurting me, because I was still hanging onto it. I needed to release it, and allow it to separate from me. I looked around the house and felt overwhelmed by all the things I felt I needed to do. Too much stuff, and things not put away. So, I cleared off most of the kitchen counters, put away what I could, and sorted a wardrobe and most of a closet, purging what I didn’t need. I thought that some of the nicer items might be good candidates for a nearby consignment shop, and stopped by there. It’s not a large place, and the proprietress said she’s picky due to space restrictions. She didn’t want any of the clothing items, but the one houseware item might sell, so I let her take that. I dropped off the other items at Goodwill.

When I returned, my gleaming and much less cluttered kitchen counters greeted me. Later that day, I opened the wardrobe door without having to worry about anything falling out and smiled as I could see everything at a glance.

The kitties were glad to see I had returned so quickly after leaving with bags and a box. The last time I had left with clothes in a bag or other container, I had been gone a few days.

So, I’ve not been completely successful with my goal of a sugar-free Lent, but I was able to release an old hurt, extend forgiveness, and tell that woman in the mirror that I really do love her, no matter what the camera lens may have picked up. Then again, it could be that the lens truly shows what I look like right now, and it may be only my mind that sees “fat girl.” A second look at that photo might be in order.


  1. It is a time for reflection
    You have been doing your share me thinks x

  2. I have a new doctor who very kindly 'hints'.

    We could lose a little weight. We could drink a little less. We could maybe exercise a little more. Etc, etc. Nice man!

  3. Our doctor does not say "diet." She says "eat sensibly." I like to expand that to "think sensibly." "Act sensibly." I wonder if that makes me an old fogy, like my mother or my grandmother were, in the day.

  4. The doc, who lives near my former location and who suggested my wholescale change in eating said simply, "You're larger than when i saw you last. What diet do you currently have?" When i told him low-fat, high carb, mostly vegetarian so my chief protein is beans and rice, he nodded and said, "Yes, and if you'd told me this five years ago, i would have applauded you because like you i believed the 'experts.' I've now come to see this diet is really bad for many people, and terrible for you. There's a book i want to you read that will lay out the steps and diet that would work better for you. Most likely your endocrine system is damaged—out of whack—so it'll take a while to mend. Give it enough time, and it will. But it won't be overnight."

    Now, yes, he could have prescribed drugs to speed things up, but he and i both rather go for the cure than address the symptom. He took a blood sample and also laid out a supplementation plan for me to follow. Three months later, another blood sample. Everything was mending, a few of the supplements were stopped or lessened, and i've plodded along ever since.

    The doctor i have now at my new location is more interested in my giving a blood sample so he could do a complete workup since it's been quite a while from the last time i had one. I saw him on the day i fractured my fifth metatarsal, so that took precedence, but he encouraged me to set up an appointment for the baseline stuff since it's been awhile.

  5. After I had my second heart attack, I ended up having a conversation with the consultant, a South African.

    'Well', he said, 'You're alive so you can go now'

    'Aren't you going to look at the cardiogram they did?'

    'Nope. What do YOU think it indicates?' he asked.

    'That I've had another heart attack?' I suggested.

    'Myocardial Infarction. See? You know better than me so what do you need me for? Honestly, you can go now, you are just wasting your money and I could do with the bed spaces'

    I must have looked a bit confused so he continued.

    'Look, you're brought in here stinking of whisky, you smoke over 40 a day and you do bugger all exercise. You're overweight and you don't eat properly. If you can't give a shit about yourself, why should I? I have real patients out there some of whom I can help. There's bugger all I can do to help you. You're alive for the moment so why don't you just piss off?'

    You may question his bedside manner, but he was right. Instead of a real mirror, the reflection of which we see in our own minds always distorted in our favour, he'd given me a verbal mirror. An honest opinion.

    As I passed back through reception, looking at the kids burning up with malaria waiting for attention, I came to the conclusion that this doctor was a Good Man in Africa.

  6. Beautifully written..think I will go look in the mirror.

  7. Wow, Megan, are you me?

    The thing about perfectionism is that people joke about it. Oh, what do you say when they ask you at a job interview what your greatest fault is? "Oh, I'm a perfectionist."

    Not all perfectionists look great from the outside. Not all go into overdrive and get around to alphabetizing their sock drawers. Some take a look at their sock drawers and everything else, realize they're never going to get it all in perfect order and so don't get it in any order at all. And then there are the rest of us who fall (or oscillate) somewhere in between but are never content with how things are.

    Perfectionism is a misery I wouldn't wish on anyone.