Books, I Sing the Body Electric

Women, Food and God

Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost EverythingWomen, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not the first Geneen Roth book I’ve read. I remember feeling like her other books were on fire in my hands–20 years ago? A long time. Her stories horrified me because in some ways they were so much worse than my own, but really weren’t that different at all. I was not ready to try what she was suggesting because I was not ready to feel the feelings that I feared would somehow have the power to kill me.
Two divorces later, I’m ready. “Women, Food and God” added a spiritual element that I found helpful, but mostly it was the right time for me to read her thoughts again.
Here’s Roth on “bolting”–
“But if as adults we still believe that pain will kill us, we are seeing through the eyes of the fragile selves we once were and relying on the exquisite defense we once developed: bolting. Obsessions are ways we leave before we are left because we believe that the pain of staying would kill us.
But the person who would be killed, the ‘I’ in the ‘pain is big and I am small’ belief, is an idea, a memory, an image of yourself left over from childhood. You already felt destroyed. That was then. You will never be that small again. You are not dependent on someone else to hold you, to love you so that you can continue breathing.”
In my 30s, with no career, and no sense of self, and young children, I had convinced myself that if I could somehow morph into the perfect Anima woman for my husband, all would be well, and really I had no choice but to fit my round body into some square hole, because I couldn’t cope out there by myself.
Even at 40, I still believed that validation would come in the form of a man-shaped object.
It’s nice at 50 to be over that, and to recognize that sadness, anger, grief are not going to kill me. If they could, I’d be dead already.
Roth retains the famous Eating Guidelines that freaked me out in the 1990s, and I still find them challenging.

Eat when you are hungry.

Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.

Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

Eat what your body wants.

Eat until you are satisfied.

Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.

Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

For those of us who grew up in the era of the TV tray, she’s heretical! But I’m going to try. I ate breakfast this morning without the early news, my laptop, my iPhone, a book or a newspaper. I did have a big dog drooling at the sight of my toast…but that’s a distraction I can’t fix instantaneously.

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All the Single Ladies, I Sing the Body Electric, Pray First

All Yours

This week I went for an annual physical, and I had that mammogram I mentioned the other day, and then the next day I got a call saying they needed to take some more pictures, and oh by the way it needed to be an appointment right next to an ultrasound appointment, just in case.

It’s been a hard few months, and I will admit that I sunk to the floor, even though this was not bad news, actually, only a request to have me come in and give them a chance to get more clarity. But in this era of being afraid to wonder “what’s next?” it felt like hard information to take in, emotionally or intellectually.

Over the next two days I told a few friends, employed avoidance/denial as a spiritual practice, cooked soup and baked muffins from scratch, wielded a shovel with unexpected power and wrote a sermon.

Today, I went for the second mammogram, and I had to admit I was terrified. Suppose something was actually wrong with me? I have a new job and I’m newly divorced and I live alone with a teenager and I have no family in the area and  not a long list of the kinds of friends locally who would see you through a crisis because I stopped being a regular person when I became a pastor and became all about my work and my friends are also clergy who work too many hours and…

then I was standing in the dressing room in a gown, waiting. And I prayed.

“I’m all yours. No matter what. I’m grateful to be alive and grateful for the love I have in my life. I’m all yours.”‘

It should not be amazing how much better I felt after that. I mean, I am a pastor. I am living a committed spiritual life. Not that the two necessarily go together, but I’d like to think they do for me. Mostly. But I am so easily spun off my stem, so ready to throw my own petals onto the fire and send myself up into smoke, when there is no need.

It felt good to stop that and pray.

Various new views were taken, in an attempt to get a better view of a suspicious area that might be nothing. The technician was fabulous, explaining exactly what we were doing, as if we were teammates in this effort, which was basically to compress the tissue (aiyiyi!!!) exactly right in case all they had seen was a wrinkle or something, in hopes that the wrinkle or something would clearly not be there after all.

I sat in the dressing room waiting, surprisingly calm, wondering if it was better or worse for her to come back quickly. Did it resemble how long a jury stayed out? I thought about the many women in my new church family who are breast cancer survivors. I thought about how they are thriving, in fact. I thought about how bad news doesn’t have to be the end of the world and wondered why I always assume it will be? I thought all this in an oddly calm fashion, for me.

Then she reappeared, smiling, and said, I kid you not, “Yay!!! We made it go away!!!”

I had to listen hard to understand what she was saying, but then I smiled, too. 
And I prayed the same words again. “I’m all yours.” And then, “Thank you.” And I thought, it’s not in my belief system to believe that God would make something wrong suddenly disappear while we were taking more pictures today, but I feel just as grateful as if that had happened exactly. 
(Not a picture of me, or my technician, but you get the idea. And weirdly, this was the poem on Writer’s Almanac today: Mammogram.)
I Sing the Body Electric, Physical Therapy, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Best laid plans, or how snow messed with me

Two things have messed with my adherence to the plan laid out for me in physical therapy.

1) Snow. When I spend half an hour or more working up a sweat shoveling snow, and thereby also using my bad shoulder a lot, I am not going to get on the elliptical.
2) Snow. When I wipe out on the steps leaving my office, I am compelled to rest the shoulder I jam by putting my arm out to break my fall. 
I am very, very lucky that I jammed and did not tear, sprain or break. But it’s frustrating to be thrown off my rhythm. I’m up to about 20 minutes on the elliptical. I’m aiming for 30, though that all depends on how my ankle responds to the increased time. I have added two more stretches, for a total of eight, each of which I hold for a minute. The next thing I might do is add another set of stretches in the evening. 
I hate to write about this stuff, because in my blogging years, there have been many commitments to one program or another, and then a sense of failure when there are interruptions or diversions from the course I’ve laid out for myself. It’s not like blogging actually makes me accountable, but more importantly it doesn’t guarantee that nothing will go wrong. So this is just a check-in, not a pledge. I’m following the instructions, and I think the PT is a great resource.