Ending the Fixation on Fixing
I have spent a metric crap ton of my lifetime trying to fix myself. Fix all the things. My weight. My hair. Notice I start with the physical. I was going to revise that to show you that I understand that it’s what is inside us that matters - but, I’m a woman who is a product of the American Marketing Machine - and as a woman I have been drowning in messages most of my life about what my body should look like, what my hair and my teeth should look like and “blah, blah, blah” … and I’ve been taught that fixing my physical flaws and shortcomings will bring me happiness and fulfillment and sex - so that’s where the fixing habit started. Side note: I once had a guy come up to me at a party and say, “Wow. You’d be the perfect woman if you had a tan.” Really!?!
Anyway, that’s not what this is about. Well, it is. But it’s not the whole story. I’m going to tell you a story about how this blog came to be. Hold on till the end and you’ll know if this is for you or not.
This story is about the time in my life I have wasted trying to be something other than, better than, more than, and less than who I actually am. This story is about how I plan to declare and end to that crap. I’ve also learned that “that crap” is so ingrained in my thinking and perspective that it takes a daily Declaration of Independence from it in order to claim my freedom.
My hell-bent mission to improve myself and fix all the things landed me in an MBSR class. MBSR is an acronym for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. My motive, once again, was to fix myself. What I learned, however, was the complete opposite of the verb “fix” - maybe "break open".
Inspired by what I was learning and beginning to understand about not fixing myself in the MBSR class, I signed up for another class with the same teacher. This class was called Eat for Life. Even while I was beginning to understand that fixing myself wasn’t the answer, I was still fixated on fixing myself. And the number one thing in my life I have spent time trying to fix is my body size. Even when I weighed 115 pounds as a teenager, I was too fat because I wanted to be a ballerina and at the time the average weight of a proper ballerina was about two ounces.
This obsession with weight led to a lifetime of torture and self-hatred. And I’m not going to dive into the guts of that right here and now because I get triggered. And, when I get triggered, I’m pretty sure anyone else who has spent a lifetime loathing and battling their body could be easily triggered by the details as well. I don’t want to inflict that bullshit on anyone else.
For me, the gist of the learning from both classes is to give up the battle and take the time to feel what I actually feel and regard those feeling with kindness and curiosity instead of stuffing my body with food until I don’t feel anything anymore - other than stuffed.
I’m learning to appreciate my physical self for all the rockin’ things it can do and for the life I experience through it rather than valuing my physical presence as a mere decoration. In other words, I’m not a mannequin. I’m a human.
Based on the book we bought for the class, Intuitive Eating (which sounds terrifying, I know), I learned to pay attention to sensations of hunger and satisfaction. It’s mind blowing for me to experience these sensations even today after more than a year of practice. It’s so simple. And a total paradigm shift at the same time.
Paying attention to the sensations of hunger and satisfaction also led to paying attention to the sensations of sober and drunk. Which led to giving up my nightly bottle of wine. I really, really, really, really did not want to give up my nightly bottle of wine, but I couldn’t deny anymore how crappy I felt going to sleep and waking up with a headache every night and every morning.
I drank my last bottle of wine on December 3, 2016. Since then I’ve tried to have just one beer, or just one glass of Chardonnay and quickly learned that even one of anything containing alcohol causes me to feel like an ax is cleaving my head into two pieces and permanently separating the right and left hemispheres of my psyche.
So here’s what happened. I was sitting in the Eat of Life class and the exercise for the day was to share with the group the ways in which we “used” food (“used” in the way an addict “uses” heroine - my words not the teachers) - to share the ways we used food other than to nourish our bodies. We were sitting in a circle sharing one at a time and everything everyone shared before me was a “Yup. I do that too.” I eat because I don’t want to say what I want to say. I use it instead of getting angry. I use it instead of being intimate. I use it to take a mental vacation in the middle of, at the end of, or before the beginning of a stressful day. I use it for entertainment. I use it so I have something to do with my hands…it was getting closer to my turn to share and I was running out of uses.
And - at the same time. I could feel an inkling of something - some new information bubbling up from somewhere inside me - and when it was my turn to share, I erupted with, “I use food to make up for the lack of relationship I have with any sort of purpose in my life. I’m 50 years old and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I’m completely unsatisfied with what I’m doing with my life.”
Wow! Where did that shit come from? My own eruption stunned me into silence. There was a little pause. The person sitting to my right, whose turn it was to share her “use” for food, was staring at me and her mouth was a little bit agape. I guess my little eruption had come out more forcefully than I expected it to. The teacher said, “It’s never too late.” And I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes and we moved on.
The teacher said, “It’s never too late.” And I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes and we moved on.
You know those moments when you feel like you revealed a bit more than you intended to reveal and you feel somewhat naked - or completely bare-ass naked with a giant pimple on your right butt-cheek? This was one of those moments.
We all got up at the conclusion of the class and started to gather our things. And two women from the class approached me. I was sure they were going to give me the number for their therapists, but they didn’t. One said, “I’m so glad you said that. I feel exactly the same way.” And the other one said, “Me too.”
I said, “Wow. I didn’t even know I was going to say that until it came out of my mouth. It helps to know I’m not the only one.”
“Oh, you’re not the only one.” They were both genuinely kind and made me feel much better about my emotional lava fart in the middle of class.
When we returned to class the next week other classmates came up to me and said almost the same thing. What I shared about purpose had rung true for them too.
And, in my little head, I thought, “This is a thing.” And later, “This is an important thing.”
Purpose and the lack of relationship with a purpose that leaves women feeling empty and sometimes desperate is an epidemic. And all the things we “use” to avoid feeling this emptiness have the potential to become instruments of self-torture. I know that sounds extreme, but I believe it’s true.
I believe it’s especially true for women “of a certain age” who’ve had multiple careers (or jobs), raised their children (I say this in the past-tense, but I know this job is never done), started and left long-term relationships, loved and lost the precious people from previous generations of their lineage (or God forbid lost those younger than them).
We’ve all spent lifetimes doing what’s necessary to pay the rent or the mortgage, we’ve driven cars that have left us stranded in a Target parking lot or on the side of a highway … we’ve done all the things that we had to do to survive and most of the things we're told we should do until we reach some point in our lives where we ask the question, “If I’m lucky, I’m facing another 20, 30, or 40+ years of this. Is it enough?” Then we head to the kitchen to cook a lasagna and open another bottle of wine because the answer is, “No.”
That’s what this blog is about. Purpose. Cultivating a relationship with purpose that is fulfilling, loving, and exciting.
I've thought a lot about my purpose since that class and lo and behold a memory bubbled up from my deep dark past.
When I was in sixth grade or thereabouts, I read a book called, The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski. I read it because I found it on my parent's bookshelf and I wanted to read the books the grown-ups read. This wasn’t a new ambition of mine.
When I was in second or third grade, my mother sent me to school with a note to my teacher asking her to let me check out books from the “other side” of the library. The “other side” of the library was where the books reserved for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders were kept. And I had shared with my mother how frustrated I was (read: downright pissed-off) that my teacher wouldn’t let me look at or check out any books from the “other side” because I was too young. I was especially covetous of a book of poetry called Songs of Experience by William Blake.
Back to The Painted Bird,I read it with the eyes of a sixth grader. I stayed up late reading it when I was supposed to be sleeping. And when I finished reading it, my world had changed. I had discovered that writers can write about anything and make up anything. They can make bad things happen, and good things happen, and they can write about ugly things and mean people and they can make up worlds and places full of scary and sad and magical things. Beyond the story, this is what I grokked from The Painted Bird. I shut the book and got out of bed. I found a notebook and a pencil and sat down at my desk. I sat down ready to write about those “things”.
By the way. I still have that desk. It was an old school desk with an attached seat and the top of it opened up so you could store your schoolwork inside. My grandmother rescued it from an elementary school that was condemned and about to be torn down. I got in trouble for carving my initial into it with the beak of a metal penguin figurine. I still have that desk stored away in my basement. I’ve never been able to let it go. (I’ll dig it out and take some pictures to share with you.)
I sat there tracing my finger over the 'K' I carved into the surface thinking, “I’m a writer. I’m gonna be a writer. I want to be a writer. I’m a writer.”
In that moment I was connected to a new kind of relationship with myself and my life. It was my first memorable experience of being passionately connected to purpose. Since that moment, over forty years ago, I’ve flirted with, searched for, fought with, abandoned, and kissed and made up with multiple purposes. And I’ve spent a lot of time, calories, and bottles of wine avoiding The One.
If you’re still with me, I’m guessing you and I may be on similar journeys so I’ll tell you what I’m hoping for by showing up here on the interwebs.
I’m hoping to start a conversation about purpose. There’s loads of literature out there and I’m wading through it. I’ve decided to devote myself to learning more about purpose and how our relationship or lack of relationship with purpose impacts our lives. I’ll share what I discover with you and connect you with any valuable resources I find along the way.
I’m in the process of cultivating a new love-affair with my long-lost purpose. The one that got away - writing. And I’ll share that process with you. I think it’s helpful to know you’re not the only one. I know it was helpful for me to know that when my classmates shared their stories with me after my eruption in the Eat for Life class. I also hope to become a better writer by communicating with you to the best of my current ability.
I hope that we can become a community of women passionate about the lives we are creating for ourselves and that we can clear the way for others. I hope we can leave some valuable breadcrumbs behind.
Some things you may want to know about me before you bookmark this blog or sign up for the feed:
- I cuss. If you’ve read this far, you already know that. I know cussing is offensive to some people, but “bad words” come out of my mouth and I’m not interested in trying to edit myself in that regard.
- I’m what I call “a little woo woo”. I have a strong spiritual bent that isn’t anywhere near mainstream. I talk to God as I understand God not as any religion dictates the rules of God to me. Angels, Tarot, and Oracle cards play a big part in that dialogue and I’m going to share that here as well. If you think those things are delusional or “of the devil”, move on. This is not the blog for you.
- That being said, I’m all about the practical. For me, “woo woo” is practical, but I understand how some people think of it as extraneous to practicality. Being effective and taking action is synonymous with being connected with our purpose and in love with our lives. I want to learn what works and what doesn’t. I’m all about experiments in action. My current experiment is to write 1,000 words a day. Since this post is closing in on 2,500 words, I’m considering myself in bonus territory for the day.
- I’m focused on the female experience here mostly because that’s my experience not because I want to exclude men. I don’t want to exclude anyone, but I’m not going to argue with anyone about the gender gap stuff. I believe our society throws a lot of crap at women that is confusing and detrimental to the mental health of our nation and our world. Yes, I said world. A world that includes men and women. I think it speaks volumes that there was only one man in our group of thirty taking the Eat for Life class. I’ll rant about that bullshit from time to time because I think it’s one of the largest barriers that exists between us and our purpose, but this will be a political debate free zone. I’m setting a clear boundary on that. If you are a human who is getting any benefit from what is shared here, you are absolutely welcome, but please respect that boundary regardless of gender, sexual identity, or romantic orientation.
- I’m writing from the American experience because that’s the sauce I swim in. I hope to expand my travels before my time on this earth is done, but I’m a white girl from Midwest USA, and my experience and my interpretation of that experience is limited by that perspective. Just know I’m open to expanding my perspective. Please give me a shout out when I start sounding overly white-bread-fed.
- Lastly, I reserve the right to revise at will and without warning. I’m learning too. I’m not an expert or a guru. That word gets bashed and beaten over the head quite a lot in the web-o-sphere. I will share as I learn and I promise to always be honest about that. All of this is written with love and vulnerability.
That’s it for now. If you identify, if you want to play, if you’re all in and ready to write your own romance, leave me a note. I mean it. Please, reach out. You can leave a comment or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you.