Friday, January 23, 2015

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might...

"Be careful what you wish for..."

I can't remember the context or even the specific moment, but I am certain the first time I ever heard these words they were spoken by my mother. I'm sure they were fairly cryptic, but they have come to mean something like, "You think your boss is bad now? Wait 'til you see her replacement!" Today they mean, "So you wanna be healed of your eating disorder, huh? Get a load o' this!"

Mom was always a terrible eater. From time to time she was known to eat dinner from a clear plastic bag labeled "Cheese Crunchies," or something reasonably healthy like that. (Cheese is dairy, right?) Well, the apple didn't fall far from the tree on that one. Factor in an awkward preteen with "daddy issues," and you have a recipe for bulimia. Without going into detail, I sort of hit my stride in that department sometime around my thirties. I distinctly remember being doubled up in the backseat of our sedan, looking up at the stars, and with tears trickling down into my hair, I prayed God would make the pain stop. At the time, I meant the physical pain -- the aching, nauseating feeling of a stomach lining dissolving as a result of constant abuse. Years later I wanted to be free of the emotional pain as well.

Well, my marriage is stellar, my life is glorious, my daddy issues are all but eradicated, and my soul is wonderfully new. What on earth would a bulimic be doing in a place like this? OK, here's where I'm going to require you to use your imagination a bit. Picture Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof -- if you're under thirty, Google it) boldly belting out "Addic--tion! Ad--dic--tion!" Silly, I know, but it's how I heard it when I began writing. (Humor me; I'm not well.) Yep, the relentless pursuit of addiction, the deep rut of a bad habit. Little by little some of the old "techniques" have disappeared; others have not. And my self-consciousness about fat is as bad as it's ever been.

This is nothing that I'd ever really prayed about. The addicted part of me is still reluctant -- even before God -- to admit I have one. "I can control this." And so I still try. "Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I will fast." Weird food rituals. Increased exercise. Suffice to say, treating an addiction with the means to the addiction never works. You can't cure an alcoholic with a hair of the dog. So one day I did; I prayed about it. Not with great intensity, no crying or pleading. It was just a simple request.

Last Friday I went to the doctor. In preparation for an upcoming test, I have to cease taking my medicine and maintain a low-iodine diet. Iodine, my friends, is in durn near everything. Most of the things I enjoy eating are off limits. My medicine is what helps me stabilize my metabolism. No cute little yellow pills? A metabolism somewhere south of Elvis Presley's -- not the young Elvis, or the later, older, sweaty, obese Elvis; the dead Elvis. So now I have to be as careful about how much I consume as well as what I consume. (I'm picturing myself as Violet Beauregarde by the time this is all said and done.) But I am learning what it means to control my eating rather than allow my eating to control me. I have to make wise choices and plan meals, rather than skip them.

Call it irony: someone so obsessed with food, or weight, having her control over those things almost completely stripped. Call it karma: some cosmic payback for all the times I hissed, "Man! Is she packin' on the l-bs or what?!" I call it God, answering my prayer in His time, removing an issue that at various points in my life had taken precedence over my commitment to Him -- a god, if you will. I call it the Refiner's fire, burning away the dross to bring me yet a little closer to the masterpiece He designed me to be. I call it Love, releasing me from something that has held me in it's grasp since elementary school.

And that's more than I ever wished for.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Enjoying Life From My Perspective

Well folks, the holiday season is upon us! Super Bowl Sunday, Groundhog Day, and Valentine's Day, all wrapped neatly into Black History Month! When we were homeschoolers, this time of the year was primetime for F-U-N! Winter doldrums? No way! It was time to get out the scissors and red construction paper, rustle up some pizza rolls and wings, take a road trip to Punxsutawney, and read about heroes like Sojourner Truth and Booker T. Washington. Trust me, there was plenty of time in there for education and all that, but life was about relationships -- mine with my children, brother with sister, ours with the folks we met along the way -- and how to get along with this big orb, Earth. Our life was one big road trip, learning and laughing along the way. I miss those days. (Can you tell?)

Adults are always talking about how quickly time flies, and kids are always talking about how they're going to die if their birthday doesn't get here. I guess perspective is everything. Well, I'm on the dying end of perspective -- Deal with it! This year I will be the Fabulous Five-O. It's all down hill from here. So, here is my advice to those who can't wait to grow up (or can't wait until their children grow up):

  • The dishes can wait. Don't stress about tomorrow. Hop on the tire swing, get sent back to Start, Go Fish, lick the spoon and be a kid again. Don't just let your children have fun, have fun with them. (Anyone who really knows me knows what a big deal it is to suggest dishes remain unwashed for longer than five minutes, but I have grandchildren now.)
  • It does go by -- very quickly. So turn the camera around; forget about the "selfie" and document all that's going on around you. Minus the eyebrows -- you'll still look the same twenty years from now. The folks on the other side of the lens may not stick around to see it.
  • I'm having some great times with my children now! A) It's never too late to start, and B) life doesn't stop until you do. With every stage, I wish I could say, I lived in that moment. I can't. But if you -- yes, you -- the mother with the bags under her eyes, the essence of Butt Paste lingering in her nostrils, and the crusty sweet potatoes on her shoulder choose now, you still have lots of time.
  • You're doing it right. When your children cry, it is not because you have severely, irreparably damaged them. When they fight with one another, it is not because you have created some Freudian sibling blah, blah, blah. When they are sick, it is not because they contracted some life-threatening disease from the window latch you failed to scrub with bleach and an old toothbrush. (I did this. Weekly. I am not kidding. I wish I was.) At the age of one, my son ate a fly he snatched from the floor behind a toilet. He is still alive. See...

  • Children remember less of what we tell them and more of what we show them. I'd like to believe my children will grow up to be involved parents; parents who hang construction paper snowflakes from the Living Room ceiling to ward off cabin fever in the dead of winter; parents who wake their children up at 2 AM to look at meteor showers; parents who play the pot rack in a Calphalon cacophony, go wading in the creek in their Sunday best, and serve dessert before dinner (at least once). I'd like to know that because of my interest in them, they will demonstrate a deep interest in their children. Develop a genuine interest in the people that matter to you.
  • Volunteer for something. You might be looking to reduce your carbon footprint, reduce your debt, or reduce your waistline; think about growing your legacy. Everybody should have one, so why not help somebody while you're forming it?
  • "Wag more. Bark less." (I saw this on a bumper sticker and thought it was poignant. I think it means we should be a little happier.)
  • Love. The verb.
And if none of this makes much sense to you, there's one last thing you can do:
  • Grab a spoon from the silverware drawer. Go ahead, I'll wait while you do it. Now stick it under your pillow. Turn your PJ's inside out. Sleep like that for the next couple of nights, and when the Big Snow hits, head outside to catch snowflakes on your tongue, or build the world's best snow fort, or barrage the plow with snowballs, or make snow angels. If you can't stop the hands of time for a few minutes in a snow storm, you just might want to consider calling the coroner and calling it a wrap.
If you need me I'll be tuning my saucepans.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ergo, My Ego

It started with Facebook, this silly lesson in life. "How Good Is Your Grammar?" I consider myself pretty meticulous when it comes to wordsmithing. wordsmithery? Language Arts. So, I took the quiz for a little self-aggrandizement.

"There, they're and their. Fewer vs. less. Parts of speech. Pluperfect tense." yada. yada. yada. Calculating your score...

"13 out of 15!"

13 out of 15? 13 out of 15? Oh, HECK NO! I'm the one who secretly corrects your grammar as you chat happily about your two-year-old's potty training success. I'm the one who even searches for the correct tense and meaning when I pray -- silently. 13 out of 15? Oh, there must me some terrible mistake. I'll simply retake it.

Calculating your score...

"13 out of 15," the ethereal proctor announced, once again. I vowed never to rest until this injustice had been undone.

Days later a dear friend, a most invaluable comrade brought justice straight to my door -- or, at least, to the other end of the phone. He had bedeviled by the same troublesome test, and the same vile 13 out of 15. Ah, sweet relief! Commiseration!

"You know P*t S****ds got a 15."

WHAT?! My Snuggie, my soothing balm of Gilead had just casually informed me, the guy who pushes the "pull" door, the guy who goes to the library looking for Facebook, the guy who could fail a blood test -- has just smoked us on a grammar quiz! Whatever whiff of satisfaction I experienced was hopelessly lost in the gale of humiliation and abject failure.

The sad part of all this -- and this is where the lesson comes in: I'm not kidding. Well, maybe a little, but not much.

When my initial score was revealed, I was perplexed. "I expected so much more of myself." The reality is: It's a quiz. On Facebook. I really need to get over myself.

When the quiz did not allow you to review your answers or even determine which were incorrect, I was annoyed. Because I wanted to study up for the next one? No. Truthfully, because I wanted to prove the test faulty. In other words, "No way I got those wrong!" Am I really that egotistical?

I didn't just retake the test. I re-re-retook the test. Yes, I took that stupid quiz four times. Each time with the same outcome. 13 out of 15. Exactly how much time did I spend? I'm not sure, but I do know I'm not getting it back, and it wasn't spent wisely.

And days later, when I had ceased to think about my "dearth of intellect." The minute my friend broached the topic and I was reminded of the whole sordid affair? I found relief in knowing he -- a man of great intellect -- shared my less than perfect score. Why? If I'm going to be labeled "stupid," I want some company. What is that all about? If my friend had gotten a perfect score, would I have even been able to laugh about my shortcomings?

And lastly, and probably most ashamedly, my less than complimentary judgment of our mutual acquaintance, Mr. 15-out-of-15. My friend actually questioned him with regard to his grammatical prowess. His answer? "Just because I can't talk doesn't mean I can't write." Classic! This guy is fully aware of others' opinion of him. And yet, it doesn't bother him one bit.

I wish I could say the same.