Seek Out a Fresh Perspective

During my years of viewing food as my enemy, I knew something was not quite right with me. I did some research. This was over forty years ago. No one seemed to know much about anorexia except that it killed this amazing singer named Karen Carpenter. But people were more than willing to present their theories of what was wrong with me.

“She is exerting control in the only way she can.” The implied blame here is that my parents somehow caused me to do this by being over-controlling. Ha. This was NEVER the issue in my house.

“She is vain; she wants to be the next Twiggy.” This was sarcasm. No way was weight the ONLY issue that kept me off the cover of Vogue.

“She is insecure and is trying to fit in.” I was insecure. But none of my friends were living off of twigs and coffee. Why was this my coping strategy?

In the end, I batted away all their theories with a barely lifted hand. My eating disorder baffled me and no amount of theorizing made me well. Today, researchers have tools that allow them to study our brains in amazing detail, with the added bonus that their subjects are still alive. They can watch the brain function, tracking damage and repair in real time. Researchers have learned, for example, that excessive use of alcohol shrinks the brain. This shriveling effect literally leaves the person with less brain to work with than a brain that is not pickled by alcohol. It matters where the brain shrinks too. Addiction is particularly rough on the cortex, the outer layer of the brain. The frontal lobe plays key roles in memory, judgment, impulse control, problem solving and other intellectual skills. It also serves as a regulator for both social and sexual behavior. Can you imagine how challenging it is to make decent recovery decisions with a compromised frontal lobe? I am not sure about all the technical effects of starving one’s brain - but clearly it was not making me smarter, faster, or wiser. The longer I used, the harder it was to THINK. But I did not know that and if I had, I would have not known how to stop the chatter! I believed I was in control; I thought I was making choices; I did not realize that it was the disease doing all the talking.

Getting help usually involves finding a fresh perspective. Who can help you?

Listening to Experience

Years ago Dale Ryan recorded the voices of some recovering folks; those interviews are available in their totality at www.nacr.org. You should check them out! But I particularly loved this quote...

I really feel like I left no stone unturned in looking for something that would fix me...I could run down a laundry list of things that didn’t...Despite my most sincere desire to never repeat that experience and use that [experience] as a springboard to change my life and make something good come of it, I still used...What other human power is there? So if no human power will save me and I see something working in the lives of other people...just like me...can I afford not to try it? That’s the question I needed to ask myself.

By the Book

If your life is rocking along without crisis or drama, cool. But if it isn’t, perhaps the wisdom of others can provide you much needed support. Maybe you need to look outside yourself for the support you need today. Who can you reach out to that has what you need? Reach out!!

Source of the quote: https://www.nacr.org/center-for-12-step-recovery/by-the-book-doing-the-twelve-steps/by-the-book-step-2 at 12:50 - 14:20.

Walking a mile in someone else's shoes

Everyone has power. Not everyone is wise. But we can become more wise!

My barista has power to bless or curse me even if she is at the bottom of the power chain. Last week she accidentally doubled down on the turmeric in my mocha turmeric latte. Broke my heart. It was undrinkable. The temptation is to judge the barista’s competence. And perhaps that is valid if this is a regular event. But this particular barista also asked about my day, was kind in the face of rudeness from another customer, and was the only person working the register and filling the orders. Oh, and school was out. The place was packed with children running wild in an enclosed environment that felt safe enough for their parents to ignore them. My barista has the power to bless or curse everyone who enters the coffee shop.

But there was a problem with my latte. How do we deal with THAT? First, wisdom demands that we identify the correct problem. Is the problem that needs to be addressed the double shot of turmeric? Or might it be…

* Too little staff expected to handle too big a load

* A weather event that changed the normal workload in this shop

* Other employees unable to get into work because their cars were stuck in snowbanks

* It was the end of a long shift and the employee was completely frazzled.

We get focused on a particular failure when we are more interested in policing people and demanding that they not make mistakes then we are on taking a longer view. This is especially true when SOMEBODY else made the mistake. My husband could criticize me for any number of household snafus. I could criticize him for a few too. But what works better for us is seeing mistakes as opportunities to take a longer view.

My husband and I are practicing the discipline of not blaming. It’s hard not to complain when we believe someone else made a mistake whose consequence we live with, but the damage done by criticizing and blaming is harder.

How can we make it easier for people to admit mistakes and “get it right” as they learn? Taking time to identify the root problem requires strength, stamina and patience. What spiritual practices are you using to strengthen yourself?

In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.

Isaiah 30:15 NIV

Wisdom for the Holidays

Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;
    collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
    set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
    and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.

~ Proverbs 2:1-5, Message

The goal for us, at all times in life, is to live out of our certain way of seeing to the best of our ability. Sometimes there are constraints on that ability. In ideal circumstances, let’s say, I may have the potential to be 100% compassionate. Under stress, maybe the max number is something more like 50%. We don’t need to live in fear of God or shame of ourselves because we aren’t able to reach 100% compassion under stress. We’re better off realizing that 50% is the best we can do and then brainstorming how we get to that number (as opposed to tumbling down to something like 10%).

Perhaps if you spent less time with your family, you would be more likely to reach 50% compassion (or loving or gracious or merciful or whatever), than if you spent more time with them. So often we think being loving and compassionate is giving people whatever they ask for, but, sometimes when we give people everything they ask for we lose the ability to fully display our certain way of seeing. If boundaries help us get closer to our “max number”- then why not consider implementing those boundaries? Everyone wins.