This past weekend, I enjoyed another Mindful Yoga/Mindful Eating classes. I first started going in February and have only missed one class - which was the weekend that Joe and I celebrated our anniversary in Steamboat with a 10 1/2 mile hike.
I love these classes. There is a lot of discussion about how we can all be more mindful about food and our eating; about how we can have a more harmonious relationship with food. There is some really gentle yoga (it's gotten more passive/gentle as the months go on) and then there is a mindful eating exercise...which basically means that we sit around in a circle, chewing the food slowly and trying to taste every morsel that should be tasted.
I love these classes.
We're also talking a lot about Geneen Roth's book "Women, Food, and God." If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend that you do.
There are several things that have struck me as profound - and I'll share some in the weeks to come.
This past week, Erica, our leader talked about Geneen's chapter titled: Never Underestimate the Inclination to Bolt (which is actually a quote by Pema Chodron). And in this chapter, she talks about how bolting - by vegging out via TV, binge eating, drinking, or even checking out mentally is a way to avoid our lives.
Geneen writes about how she tells the people that come to her retreat and might want to bolt:
I tell them that if compulsive eating is anything, it's a way we leave ourselves when life gets hard. When we don't want to notice what is going on. Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be. I tell them that ending the obsession with food is all about the capacity to stay in the present moment. To not leave themselves. I tell them that they don't have to make a choice between losing weight and doing this. Weight loss is the easy part; anytime you truly listen to your hunger and fullness, you lose weight. But I also tell them that compulsive eating is basically a refusal to be fully alive. No matter what we weigh, those of us who are compulsive eaters have anorexia of the soul. We refuse to take in what sustains us. We live lives of deprivation. And when we can't stand it any longer, we binge. The way we are able to accomplish all of this is by the simple act of bolting- of leaving ourselves - hundreds of times a day.
But that doesn't touch the sudden realization - and the subsequent panic - that they really don't want to sit in the center of their own lives. It's one thing to say you want to stop using food to numb yourself. To be miserable about the size of your body. To feel as if you are killing yourself with double cheeseburgers and fries. But slowing down, asking yourself what is actually going on when you want to eat when you aren't hungry, watching how you inhale three muffins before you even realize you're eating - that's going to far. There is something about accepting the unpredictable fragility of this life that is just too much. So the very minute they begin feeling or sensing or thinking something that is uncomfortable, they want to get out of Dodge. (emphasis mine)
Wow. To me, that's profound.
Last week, I started asking myself if this whole mindful eating thing could actually work. Sure, Geneen says it's possible. So does my therapist. But the harder I try, the more elusive it feels.
How could I be successful with this long term?
I felt like a rat in a maze - and I was SO tempted to go back to the points system via Weight Watchers. At least that was something that I knew...something that has worked for thousands of peoples. I know because I see commercials. I read your blogs.
But this weekend, after Erica read the excerpt above, I remembered that my problem isn't about food or portions. It's about how sometimes I want to leave my life SO badly, I'll do anything to check out.
To me, it's about vulnerability. Sometimes, I'm so scared of what The Voice* will say when I'm quiet. When I'm sad, I'm afraid I won't be heard and that I won't be understood. When Joe and I argue, I'm afraid he'll leave. When I think about getting a puppy or a cat, I'm afraid of it dying. When I make a new friend, I'm sometimes afraid of her turning on me.
When I post something significant to me, I'm afraid of the negative feedback I get. I'm afraid I'll lose more followers. I'm afraid I'll disappoint you.
But really, I'm not afraid of vulnerability...I'm afraid of being afraid of vulnerability. In other words, when all the negative things that make up The Voice start combining and I know I'm going to hear awful things about me, I bolt. When The Voice just opens it's mouth, I check out and run. I don't even want to hear what it has to say - what if what it says is so horrible I can't go on?
This past weekend, after the yoga class, Joe and I got into a fight - about women's clothing of all things. He got SO frustrated...and I couldn't understand why clothing that he had no intentions of wearing was making him so upset. The more I tried to understand, the more frustrated he became and it culminated in us raising our voices, which is very atypical.
He went to go take a shower, and I felt so sad. I actually thought about binge eating while he was in the shower.
But instead I stopped. I shut the door to the bedroom and I cried. I decided to practice listening to The Voice.
So I did. The Voice said this:
"You are a horrible girlfriend. You could tell that he was getting frustrated, but you kept pushing! Why would you do that? You're just like your mother...always nagging. Didn't your dad tell you that men don't like nagging women? He's going to leave. You know that, right? He's going to come out of that shower and say that this isn't working and that he wants you to move out. Just like your dad did. What will you do then? You'll be all alone. Just goes to show you shouldn't trust anyone. And who are you going to find who will love your fat self? No one. You are a failure."
So I heard her out. And after a while, The Voice didn't have anything original to say. In fact, The Voice has been saying those same things my whole life. How did I not realize that until now?
And they aren't true. If my relationship with Joe ends, then it ends. Life goes on. I'm not a horrible girlfriend. I'm thoughtful, considerate, giving, and compassionate. I don't always nag. I was trying to understand why he was so frustrated - it wasn't nagging. I *can* trust people. And as for who will love my fat self? Well, I think it's about time that I do.
And just like that, The Voice lost it's power. I stood up, wiped the tears from my eyes, and got some water. I waited until Joe got out of the shower and I calmly explained why I was pushing so hard for an answer - I wanted to understand him. He apologized for getting so frustrated. I explained that sometimes I feel like a bad girlfriend when we fight. He said that all couples argue. I said I was worried that this might make me a bad wife. He said that my thoughtfulness, compassionate, and willingness to try again will make me an excellent wife. I explained that I love him - and that out of all the people in the world I wanted to fight with, he would be last on that list. He said the same about me.
This weekend, I had the courage to stay, to not bolt or check out when my life seemed scary. I stood up for myself. Even though I was vulnerable. Even though I was scared. Even though I felt bad for myself.
Like any good episodic movie/TV series, I know that I will have to face The Voice again and again. But by facing it when I was most vulnerable and defeating it, gives me hope that I can do so again and again.
*No. I'm not schizophrenic. The Voice is basically my own self negative thoughts that I really do think - a mixture of parents or parental figures throughout the years that have told me I wasn't good enough - and that I should be better.