Category Archives: Thinky Thoughts

What Do You Value?

It’s a simple question, on the surface.  One that most of us have thought about, whether we’ve pondered for hours or defined immediately.  What do you value?  Asked to make a list of our top ten values, I’d put money on most people having “health” and “family” somewhere on the list.

I took a time-management class through work a while back.  (I was heartened to learn that I’m already really good at time management.  I was less heartened to learn that the reason I can’t get everything done is because I straight-up have too much work assigned.  *sigh*  ANYWAY.)  One of the questions was “what do you value?”  But then the instructor qualified it: the question is not “what do you THINK you value,” but rather, “what DO you value?”  In other words, what values are demonstrated in your behaviors already?

Do you think you value your relationships with your spouse/partner and/or kids?  Great!  But do you then work 80 hours a week at your job so you can earn an income in the high 6 figures?  Hmmmm . . . that might demonstrate that you value your work more than your relationships.  Alternatively, it might show that you place a high value on being able to provide nice THINGS for your family, but again, it’s not a reflection of valued RELATIONSHIPS.  If you valued the relationship more, you’d probably work fewer hours and spend more time with your family.  See how that works?  You can say you value health, but if your actions don’t reflect that, then you don’t really value it – or, perhaps more accurately, you value something else MORE.

I’ve been noodling on that idea for a while.  And along the way I remembered  (what I call) the Geneen Roth Theory of Actions: that everything you do is the effort of your mind and/or body to achieve something productive.  The most maladaptive behavior is still a result of your search for something beneficial.  If you can find the (beneficial) result you were after initially, you can deal with it directly instead of going through the maladaptive/destructive behaviors (which, let’s be honest, probably aren’t getting you what you’re really looking for, anyway).

Still with me?  Ok, then!  I’ve been spending some time thinking about this.  First I made a list of things I THINK I value.  That included everything from relationships to health to whatever else I could think of.  Then I set that list aside for a couple of days.

After a few days had passed, and I didn’t have that list fresh in my mind, I sat down and asked myself the following question: “If someone were to observe my life day in and day out, and draw conclusions about my values based on my behavior, what would those values be?”

HOO, boy. Different answers.  And yet . . . they still made sense.  For instance, if I were to examine my behavior from the outside, I might say that I value television and wine.  On the surface, that sounds awful, doesn’t it?  But if I look beyond the television and wine to the REASONS I (seem to) value those things, I find something else: rest.  I come home from work and stay up too late and drink too much in an effort to find some mental peace and quiet.  Late at night, watching TV, I can be assured that my phone won’t ring, my email account is quiet and (since it’s late) I’m not obligated to be doing any chores (can’t run the vacuum if it’ll wake up the neighbors).  Now, in practice, staying up late, watching TV and drinking means that I’m tired the next morning.  I feel sluggish, run-down and depleted.  But I still need to get up and go to work, expending energy I don’t have.  By the time I come home, I’m even more desperately in need of rest, so I stay up late, watching TV and drinking.

And thus, a vicious cycle is born.

But back to the value list: what I value then, is not drinking or television; what I value is REST.  If I start there, the question then becomes, what do I do that will get me more rest?  I know it’s not staying up late, and I know (let’s be honest) that I’m not going to go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00pm.  Personally, the solution I hit on is to take a nap.  Seriously.  I come home from work, and doze for 20 minutes.  It dissipates any stress I’m carrying from my workday and provides me with a discrete break in my day, so that when I wake up the night no longer stretches before me like some wasteland.  I feel like I have some time to get things done, and the mental space to do it.  I still watch a little TV before bed and have a glass of wine – but it’s not 3 hours of TV and 3 glasses of wine.  That 20 minute nap makes all the difference.

Not only that, but by taking care of the values (needs?) on the 2nd list, I have the time and energy to start a 3rd list.  My 1st list was what I THOUGHT I valued, right off the top of my head; my 2nd list was what values my behavior demonstrated; the 3rd list is for values I’d like to develop that aren’t reflected on the 2nd list.  (And they may not be the same values as reflected in the 1st list either, although there will likely be some crossover.)  So if I’d like to place a higher value on my health, that 20-minute nap (rest) gives me the mental space to do it.  Maybe valuing my health means walking in the park for 30-45 minutes 2 or 3 or 4 days a week.  Maybe it means cutting back on sugary afternoon snacks (Frappucino, I’m looking at you).  It probably doesn’t mean going from sedentary to 90 minutes in the gym, 7 days a week, simply because that’s not sustainable, and won’t make me healthier in the long run.  (I’ve done it.  I know whereof I speak, ok?)

Right now the things I value most are rest and recovery from exhaustion.  In turn, getting enough rest is giving me the mental space and energy to focus a little more on other things – things that got kind of back-burner’d as I felt more tired and depleted.  Funny how that works.

So.  What do you value?

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I’m really kicking butt at this whole “Start Writing Again” thing, huh?

Yeeeeaaaaaahhhh.  But! I console myself with the thought that I didn’t exactly kick butt with the whole “stop dieting” thing when I first started last year, either.  (Add to that the fact that it’s easier to STOP doing something than to START doing something, at least in my experience: one requires taking something out of my day, but the other requires finding the space to add something new.)

And I actually have some things to share (LUCKY YOU – ha!), but am late for work.  I needed (for myself) to post something (anything) though, just to freakin’ DO IT ALREADY.

I”m going to try and bang something out later today or tonight.

For reals.  I have THOUGHTS, yo.

(Oh God, I should never use the word “yo” again.  NEVER.)

Thoughts on last year, this year, and why I’m just like Jesus.

I don’t particularly make New Year’s Resolutions.  My personal experience has been that if I want to fail at something, I should pick a day that everyone in the world is aware of and announce my intentions for all to hear.  Any time I do that, some inner-5-year-old REBELS like crazy.  I find myself enmeshed in this weird attitude that hollers, “Who do they think they are to have expectations of me?  How dare they tell me what to do?  I’LL SHOW THEM!!!”  And then I quit doing whatever it was I was doing.

It’s just as highly productive as you’re imagining right now.

But last year I’d spent several months thinking about Geneen Roth, and Intuitive Eating and all that jazz.  It had been rolling around in my head for a while, and sinking into my brain in bits and pieces.  (I call this process “percolating.”  Any time I have a new idea, a new theory, a new decision to make, it has to percolate for a while.  I have to roll it around in my thoughts, like a shiny new marble, getting to know its shape, its texture, its weight.  It has to seep into my brain and my emotions until it feels like it’s coming from inside me, instead of like some external thing I’ve put on.)  (I know that sounds weird.  Just go with it, ok?)

And last year, it just so happened that right about the time I finished percolating  about all the Intuitive Eating stuff, it was my birthday.  To be precise, it was the day before my birthday on the morning that I woke up and said, “Yes.  Yes, I definitely do want to do this.”  So I started on my birthday, which happened to be my 33rd – which was a significant birthday for me.

See, when I was little, we weren’t a particularly religious family, but I was FASCINATED by religion (still am, to be honest).  I read various stories from various religions, but Christianity was the most accessible, just based on my extended family.  I remember the year my mom was 33, realizing that she was the same age as Jesus when he died.  That stuck with me, because even though 33 seemed far away as a kid, I knew that it wasn’t really OLD in the relative sense: I knew it was actually really YOUNG.  (I breathed a secret sigh of relief when my mom turned 34.  Why, YES, I WAS a dramatic child; why do you ask??)  (True story: on my birthday, I called my (formerly Catholic) dad and announced, “Hey, guess what!!  I’m the same age as Jesus when he died!”  Dead silence on the other end, followed by incredulous laughter and his pronouncement, “God, you’re so weird, Marste.”  :D)

ANYWAY.  All that to say that 33 had some MEANING for me, ok?  So, what the heck, I figured.  I’d change my entire way of looking at food: I’d stop dieting, I’d eat what I wanted, I’d probably gain weight while doing so (*gulp*, but all the books said it was likely in the beginning).  It was time for my old, neurotic self to die, and for a healthier mind to be resurrected.  Being the same age as one of religion’s Big Kahunas just seemed like a freakin’ sign, ok?

(I  swear, lightning will strike me dead any minute for comparing myself to a godhead!  Dear Mom, I leave you everything I own.)

Hm.  That actually got a lot more religious-y than I meant it to, especially considering that I’m not religious at all.  But I DO still find myself fascinated and enthralled by the scope of the stories, and drawn in to the metaphors and metaphysics of the whole thing.  (I actually do believe in god.  I just don’t necessarily think any one god story is better or worse – or truer or falser – than any other.)  (Yes, “truer” and “falser” are TOTALLY words.)  (At least they are NOW.  The English language evolves, people!)

ANYWAY, AGAIN.

I did really well last year.  And this year I percolated some more, rolled around a new thought (more or less since January), examined a new idea, and tried to decide if I was ready for that next step, or if it was too soon and would just make me crazy (again).  But I decided I was ready: last year I worked on a healthier MIND. This year I have 2 goals: a healthier BODY, and to finish a book.  The latter is something I won’t talk about a lot here (I don’t think), but the former is the one I was the most concerned about.

And this is getting WAAAAAAY too freakin’ long, so more later.  In a Part 2!!!!  (Maybe Friday.  Or Saturday.)  (Or maybe Monday.  Heck if I know.)

Is this thing on?

So.  It’s been a year (for all intents and purposes).  After I started my no-more-dieting project last year, I discovered that trying not to think about dieting while WRITING about trying not to think about dieting was sort of . . . well, impossible.  Kind of like the old line, “Quick!  Don’t think about an elephant!”  Aaaaaand, what are you thinking about right now?  Yup.  Thought so.

So I quit for a while.  And now my year is up.  And no, I’m not dieting (still).  I have a new thing that I’m working on this year – well, a couple of them, really.  I spent the last 12 months trying to get my brain healthy, and I decided to spend the next 12 trying to get my body healthy: not thinner per se, but healthier.  I also decided to write about the last 12 months, and probably the upcoming ones, too.  Not just here, but in an actual, honest-to-God book.  (NO idea if it will sell, but what the hell, right?  At the very least I’ll have something super-cool to leave my kids when I die.)  (Yeah, I know.  That was morbid.)  (And yes, I know I don’t even HAVE kids.  Just go with it, ok?  Geez.)

So posting here will likely be sporadic, just because I need to work on the actual book thing.  But I miss blogging – plus it’s a handy tool for overcoming writer’s block.  😉 Less structured than an official book, but good for getting things on the page and getting some feedback.  (Not that I’ve left anything worth feedback today, LOL.)

Aaaand . . . that’s it.  We’ll see how things go.

Farmers’ Market Shopping – and Some Other Stuff

First of all, the Week 2 kickoff over at “Eating from the Farmers’ Market” is over here!  So go and read it!  🙂

In other news . . .

I don’t normally make New Year’s Resolutions.  There is too much pressure around them, and most people fall off the wagon in the first month, anyway.  And when *I* fall off the wagon, I use it as an excuse to rip myself a new one.  It’s more than a little counter-productive, you know?

I started that Geneen Roth project back in May, and one of the things I’ve been working on is being gentle with myself.  It’s not reasonable to expect that if I never go to the gym that starting tomorrow I’ll go 7 days a week, or that if I never eat salad, suddenly I’ll eat 2 salads a day every single day.  No wonder I can’t keep up with that, and when I can’t, I feel like I’ve Failed Life.  (Please say those last 2 words in a deep booming voice.  And point dramatically, too.  That helps.)  (What?)

And now I’m halfway done with my great experiment, and am starting to feel . . . well, normal.  I’ve gained a lot of weight, which I’m not happy about, but I keep reminding myself that I said I’d give this a year.  And in all fairness, my brain only started to feel normal in the last couple of months, and I’ve only started to eat measurably better in the last couple of weeks.  But after 2 weeks of eating better, I should have dropped at LEAST 20 pounds, right?  Right?  Oh . . . maybe not.  *SIGH*  Those unrealistic expectations are the source of a LOT of my angst and neuroses. 

So I decided to make some LITTLE changes.  And then I saw a post over on Lifehacker about New Year’s Resolutions/adopting new habits, and how to make them stick and I thought, “Huh.  That sounds like being gentle with yourself.”  So today (comfortably past the pressure of NEW. YEAR’S. DAY.) I sat down and wrote some things out, following (some of) the guidelines in that Lifehacker post.  I did it so that each month had a couple of incremental changes, and one or two months just had one big change.  And when it was all said and done, the “end of year” column looked intimidating, but no individual month looked hard.  And I realized how much I could really accomplish by being gentle with myself.

And you know what my first thought was?
“I don’t want that much power over my life.”

Interesting, huh?  I was actually kind of taken aback by my own thought, and I really had to stop and think about where it came from.  The first answer I got was that if it’s really that simple, then I’ve been MASSIVELY failing for YEARS.  Like, why haven’t I already accomplished this stuff?  What the hell is wrong with me?  And so forth.  I’m invested in failing now, because if I don’t fail now – which is to say, if it’s not too hard to do – then it means I’ve BEEN failing for YEARS, by not accomplishing it.  See how that works?  It’s diabolical, really. 

The second answer I got was that if I really exercise that much power over my life, then I’ll have no one and nothing to blame but myself for not liking my life.  As long as I keep failing as per usual, then I have something (ok, a lot of things) to blame for whatever other circumstances in my life that I don’t like.  Craziness. 

So I went back through my list of goals to see if I’d really overburdened myself during any given month, and the answer was no.  I really hadn’t.  Each individual month was do-able, building on the month before it.  So I took a deep breath, looked over January’s goals (some of which I’d already started informally), and decided to move forward.  It will be really interesting to see how this all plays out.

Losing My Mind, Finding My Self

It’s been months since I wrote, I know.  At first it was just inconvenient.  I had other things to do.  And then I was just really busy, all the time, and I stopped really reading, too.  And then a month had gone by, then two.  I spent time going through the 1st phase of the Geneen Roth stuff, where eat what you want and work toward eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.  And I put the scale on the top shelf in the closet in the guest room.  And I gained weight.  And then some more (I’m guessing about 20 pounds over the last 4-5 months).  And I didn’t get on the scale, and I didn’t read any blogs or write or anything else.  And even though the weight gain bothered me, I felt better. 

But I would think about blogging, and I it just made me feel . . . ANXIOUS.  I was trying really hard not to focus on my weight, and I was finding that I couldn’t even read general-fitness blogs without feeling like I should get up, go to the gym, eat better, eat less, lose some weight, it’s so SIMPLE, what’s wrong with me, I should just suck it up, get on the treadmill, cut out the carbs, it’s fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, fine fine finefinefineFINEFINE.

I’m FINE.

So I didn’t come back.  Not even to say, “Hey, I love you, I might come back or I might not, but I’m ok.”  I just couldn’t do it.  Everywhere I looked it seemed so simple to just lose! some! weight!  Not easy, necessarily, but SIMPLE.  And if I didn’t write, if I didn’t read, if I didn’t think about anything other than whether or not I was hungry or full or lonely or anxious, if I ate more mindfully . . . I felt BETTER.  Calmer. 

Anda few weeks ago I got on the scale at the doctor’s office (there was a possibility I’d broken my foot, although it turned out to be all soft tissue damage – all better now!), and even though I tried not to see the weight, I did (on a piece of paper I didn’t think would contain it).  And it bothered me.  A lot.  I haven’t been this weight since I was in my early 20s, and bingeing every night.  So I came home and cried.  I kept thinking, “I’m becoming what I’m most afraid of becoming.”  I kept thinking about how I should just go on a diet, and deal with it, and THEN I kept thinking about how doing that has NOT worked, so maybe I should give this Roth thing a shot for more than a couple of months. And then something else occurred to me: when you run from something, it controls your life.  Fear rules your thoughts and behaviors.  So maybe I need to be what scares me most so I can get through it.  Ok, then.

And so a few weeks ago, (when the new pants I’d bought that were a little too big in August became almost too small) I decided that maybe it was time to stop wondering if I was hungry, deciding that I wasn’t, and then making a conscious decision to eat anyway.  (Yeah.  I know that’s not how it’s supposed to work, but I was willing to do it if it was something I needed to get through, first.  And it was.) I finally got to the point where I decided to start thinking about nourishing myself, not just feeding myself.  So I’m trying to meditate every day and drink more water.  That was what came to mind, rising up out of my unconscious when I asked myself, “What do I need next?”

I’ve been reading various blogs here and there again.  Just lurking.  And most of the time, it’s ok.  Some days I don’t read, and I don’t know how often I’ll write.  I’ve taken to calling this project, “Operation Normal.”  😉  And I don’t go the gym, but I do go to my dance classes, and I even bought some new ballet shoes, although I haven’t sewn the elastics on yet, so I haven’t been to class.  But even buying the shoes was a victory: ballet was what made me the craziest, way back when.  And now I stand in a studio, where I’m the biggest girl (even in jazz class), and most of the time, it’s ok.  I feel a little bit like I’m not so much reinventing myself as re-finding myself, or reclaiming myself.  I’m not actually sure who it is that I’m reclaiming – I haven’t seen that person in years.  But I’m kind of curious to find out.

Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me . . . Nah, I draw the line at eating worms.

Soooooo, last night I realized something.  (Cue the drumroll!)  I think I spend my life as a 7-year-old.  Ish.  7-ISH, really.  But in that general vicinity. 

I’ve written ad nauseam about childhood bullshit, so I’m going to keep this as short as possible:
Smart kid.  Really smart.  REALLY smart.
Knowing, even as a kid, that I was different.  I did not fit in with my peers at ALL.  (And not even the best parenting can stop all awareness of one’s own circus-freak-ness.)
Starting school – private school, zero tolerance for bullying and shitty behavior.
Transferred to a public school – not so much with the zero tolerance rule = lots of bullying and shitty behavior.
No learned skills for dealing with the bullying and shitty behavior (due in large part to aforementioned “differentness”) = spending a lot of time wishing to be left alone, but getting bullied mercilessly instead.
Wishing desperately to fit in – to be thinner, blonder, more affluent, more self-confident, more popular.  To be anything but different.
Knowing that the only people in my corner were the adults, which in turn, made things worse.  It made me MORE different and led to all kinds of “teacher’s pet” crap. 
Knowing that if I pissed off the adults, I was REALLY up a creek.
Bullying got so bad that Mom pulled me out and homeschooled me.
Started college at 14.
Spent a year on the sidelines, still insecure, watching the groups around me.
Deciding to become someone else – I spent a year watching the “popular” girls in the dance dept (my major at the time), analyzing power dynamics, clothing choices, conversation topics, attitudes, etc.  (Me and Jane Goodall, man.  We are SOUL SISTERS, ok?  LOL)
Showing up the year I turned 16 as a WHOLE DIFFERENT PERSON:  I became my own avatar.
WDPerson is wildly succesful: liked, pretty, popular . . . also kind of mean, but I DID NOT CARE, because you know, LIKED, PRETTY, POPULAR.
WDP sticks around, gets nicer, but otherwise stays pretty much the same.

WDP has been around for more than half my life now.  I’m 33.  I’ve been WDP Marste for longer than I’ve been Marste.  Man, THAT’S weird to think about.  I don’t know how NOT to be that person anymore.  And honestly, I don’t even know how or if Marste is any different from WDP.

But inside, I am still 7 years old.  I still spend my life in abject terror (and that is NOT drama – there are not words strong enough to describe the level of that fear) that people only like WDP, that if they really knew me, they would laugh and point and confirm all over again how different and unloveable I really am.  I eat and drink to squash that terror.  I eat and I drink because that 7-year-old is anxious ALL THE TIME, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I eat and drink because that 7-year-old is struggling against being wrapped up tight and stashed in the closet, even though she scared to DEATH of what would happen if she came out.

It seems funny, because everybody likes me.  I mean, I’m sure there are individuals who don’t like me after getting to know me (not in an insecure way, just that not everyone likes everyone), but on a purely superficial, see-you-at-work, hang-out-in-groups level, everybody likes me.  I have worked damn hard in my life to make that happen.  But on the flip side, no one likes me – they like the persona I’ve constructed.  No one actually knows me. 

And that in turn, informes my WHOLE FREAKING LIFE. 

If I eat compulsively, I don’t have to feel the 7-year-old: not her anxiety or her constant whispering (man, THAT sounds horror-movie psycho, doesn’t it?).  If I stay fat, I can say that it’s the reason I don’t date (not much, and almost never seriously).  If I stay busy, I don’t have to have close friends who might catch me in an unguarded moment and glimpse the 7-year-old circus freak.  If I excel at my job, then those in authority will never be unhappy with me (hello, teachers!).  When those in authority ARE unhappy with me (or even just offering genuinely constructive feedback), I panic, I get flustered, I get angry: I AM DOING MY BEST, CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?  YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IN MY CORNER, GODDAMMIT!!  WHY ARE YOU TAKING AWAY THE ONE THING I AM GOOD AT?!

That persona informs EVERYTHING.  People are shocked when I tell them that I am an introvert.  They’re incredulous when I admit that I’m almost cripplingly shy.  Because see, those are things about ME.  But WDP can walk into a room and work it like a public relations professional.  (I figured I’d better clarify what KIND of professional there, LOL.)  Most of the time, anyway.  Sometimes the anxious 7-year-old wins, and I spend half an hour at the party, cowering in the corner, trying to bully myself (yes, I see the irony) into socializing before making an almost panicked break for the door. 

No fucking wonder I’m always so tired.  It’s not a sleep issue.  I’m maintaining a fucking PERSONA 24/7.  It’s exhausting.  No wonder I go home from work and don’t want to see anyone after: when I’m home by myself I don’t have to maintain that performance.  But then, that’s when I have to deal with the anxious 7-year-old, which is also exhausting. 

So.  Right now I don’t have any non-depressing way to end this post.  So I’m just going to call it a day and go do some of those damn Geneen Roth exercises.  (Which, supposedly, will eventually help.)