(Sorry...I typed this all out about a week ago, and never got around to posting it!)
1. The title of Chapter 3 is based on the writing of Buddhist teacher
Pema Chodron. Author Geneen Roth begins the chapter recounting
the story of feeling out of her mind and trapped at a meditation retreat in the middle of the desert in Joshua Tree National Park. What situations and feelings in your life have you tried desperately to escape?
The most significant was when my mom was sick. I spent a lot of time in various forms of denial and avoidance- either through being silly and lighthearted with her, or by hiding out in my friend's dorm room. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want THERE to exist, if that makes sense. In normal life, I want to bolt pretty often- when things get scary and there's an element of the unknown (this can range from facing a meeting that I know will bring bad news to sitting on hold to reserve a hotel room for vacation). I
don't like...no, I HATE...situations where I don't feel like I have some control. Has that word come up for me before? I think it has.
2. On page 37, Geneen describes compulsive eating as "a way that we leave ourselves when life gets hard. When we don't want to notice what's going on. It's a way to distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be." How do you use food as a way to bolt from yourself and your life? What is the story you tell yourself about why you do this? What do you think would happen if you didn't bolt? (That's the story!)
When I was talking about wanting to have control in the last question, what I wanted to write was that I "can't stand" not feeling like I have control. I often think to myself that I "can't stand" things. I don't know what that means, exactly...like, do I think I'll spontaneously catch on fire, or disintegrate, or what? I think that I think I am not strong enough to deal with the things that come up in my life. This can't be true. I've gone through divorce (as a child and as a spouse), I've lost a parent, I've gained a child, I've fought to keep my marriage together (and have actually kept it together
this time!), I've made it through college, and graduate school, and basic training, and numerous promotion panels, and job interviews. I've dealt with hostile co-workers and parents of students who are looking for a fight. I've dealt with employers who wanted to get rid of me. And I'm still here. I'm still here! And I've learned and grown from each one of those experiences. Why would I want to deny myself those learning opportunities? Every time...even when things have been too painful to bear (or so I thought), I've learned something. Okay. I don't know that I "learned anything" when my
mom died except that I would not die when she did. Beyond that, it's pretty much a really shitty thing to recall. That's going to be a topic that comes up again later, because I'm REALLY resisting even thinking about it.
3. Geneen writes that "weight loss is the easy part because anytime
you truly listen to your hunger and fullness, you lose weight." But
ending the obsession with food is all about the capacity to stay in the present moment. You don't have to make a choice between the two.
What do you think it will feel like to live your life in the present
moment? Take a few moments to imagine yourself free of both the
obsession with food and the many ways you diminish your
experience by leaving yourself.
Count the number of times today that you bolt from your experience, your feelings, your life. When you get to 100, start again at the number 1!
I've noticed that every time I think about food when I'm not hungry is an attempt to "bolt". So, it happens A LOT. One thing that I feel compelled to point out is that EVERYONE does this. We're not broken, us in this little group. It's not like this attempt to avoid things is unique to people who use food as a coping tool. DH does this by listening to music or watching TV or making bad jokes. I also appreciate that Geneen frequently points out that this is something she still works on every day, too. It's not something to be "cured"- it's something to be understood, and hopefully, used as a tool for a
way to figure out when things are getting hard in our lives.
4. If, as Geneen writes on page 37, "compulsive eaters have anorexia of the soul" because we refuse to take in what sustains us, ask yourself what you are really depriving yourself of in your live. Look around you right now. What do you see that you have not been seeing? A color? A person's face? An object you've walked past
many times but not really stopped to "take in." Take a moment now
and let yourself take in something you find beautiful. Notice how that impacts you.
LOVE the phrase "anorexia of the soul". Just wanted to write that down.
Just for kicks, I walked through my (really, REALLY messy) kitchen. And I noticed that I seem to be a little obsessed...and didn't even realize it...with symmetry. I should take a photo of the dirty dishes stacked up in the kitchen. It's almost artistic (and it's really embarrassing, how many dishes there are to wash, so no pictures for you!). But, everywhere I looked, I saw that my disorder is actually pretty orderly. Hot damn, I AM a control freak, aren't I!
5. There are many ways to bolt. Blaming someone else for your
feelings, getting into a fight, comparing yourself to someone else,
dreaming about life in the future, regretting or resenting the past.
Eating. Drinking. Surfing the Internet. Take a moment to think about the many ways you run from uncomfortable situations,
circumstances, people and feelings in your life. What do you think
you've gained from doing this? What do you think you've lost?
Well, life is way easier when you don't have to deal! I know for an
ABSOLUTE fact that I am a much more self-absorbed person than I want to be. I'm self-centered. And that's something that does not happen as much when I'm fully present in my own life. It would be great to really notice the people around me instead of being so damned worried about the way that they're seeing me.
6. On page 40, Geneen writes that "obsession is a way of organizing
your life so that you never have to deal with the hard part—the part
that happens between two years old and dying. But the glitch in living life this way is that it is not a life lived in the present moment because the pain you are avoiding has already happened. You are living your life in reverse."
In your life, what are you afraid will happen that you won't be able to handle? Has it already happened? Do you believe your relationship with food helps you tolerate events in your life you don't feel you have the resilience to withstand? Is that actually true? Ask yourself if those events are still affecting you after you eat.
Right now, I am afraid that I won't have a job next year. Or that I'll choose the wrong job. Or that my husband or son will be negatively affected by the job I choose. Or a million other job-related things. My most recent inclinations to eat have happened while filling out job applications or while getting interview stuff ready. I don't want to be rejected. I don't want to suffer more job disappointment. I don't want another confirmation that I am not good enough, and that I am not worthy of being wanted. And yeah, food is an AWESOME distraction from those feelings. Honestly, eating
does make those feelings go away for a while. It doesn't cure them,
7. When you don't use food to shut yourself down or to leave your
body, you'll feel more alive. Just for this moment—here, now—feel
what you feel. Feel what is going on in your legs, your arms, your
chest. Be specific. Notice particular sensations and if they are cool or
warm, pulsing or vibrating. How does feeling what is here differ from
what you thought was here? When you sense yourself directly,
immediately, right now, without preconception, who are you?
I have a little headache. I feel tired and have some eye pressure stuff going on. I just feel very, very tired. My head feels tired. And I'm starting to feel hungry (the way that I know it's actual hunger; it's up at the top of my stomach, not lower in my belly). I don't like feeling this. I feel so freaking tired all the time, and I don't think I should be THIS tired. I really don't do enough to warrant this sort of feeling. I preferred feeling like I was just here and accomplishing stuff.
8. On page 44, Geneen recounts spiritual teacher Stephen Levine
saying that "hell is wanting to be somewhere different from where
you are. Being one place and wanting to be somewhere else. Being
constantly agitated or nonaccepting about the inevitable." Do you
want your life to be different from what it is? Consider the possibility
that you leave yourself because you believe you will be left, and so
you want to "get there" first. You want to protect yourself from the
pain you imagine would happen if you were left. (In this case, being
left can mean being hurt, being rejected, being disappointed, being
sad. It can mean any time you are left with your own uncomfortable
feelings). Is it possible you are living in your own self-created hell?
Is it possible that this is a real question? Do people really not do this all the time, all over the world? Because seriously, I've known that this was a self destructive thing for decades. I've known that I have a tendency to "hurt before being hurt" for a long, long time. Fear of rejection, fear of loss of control (which can lead to rejection/loss)- yeah, I already knew that.
9. On page 47, Geneen writes that "to stay, you have to believe there
is something worth staying for—and then you have to bring yourself
back, again and again. The initial glimpse of wonder…becomes a
commitment to bringing yourself back each time you bolt." What do
you believe is worth staying for? Can you make a commitment to
bring yourself back over and over? Are you willing to start now?
I can do this. I've already felt how awesome it is to deal with this stuff openly, without being afraid of being destroyed. And it's a good and powerful feeling.