Sunday, June 1

Center of the Universe

It was a dark and stormy night.

Really. Northeastern skies were filled with electrical storm lightning, these constant flashes of diffused white intermixed with jagged sharp bolts, playing on the screen of the sky without any sound at all from that distance. It was like God's Tesla-ball above my Sharper Image world... seen from the Wal-mart parking lot.

Maybe it was because it was so humid I was sweating three steps out of the house at nearly midnight, after carefully hiding from the outside world all day for exactly that reason. I hate being hot, and having enough thermal layering for a walrus does not help.

Maybe it was because my nearly-12 year old is starting to get more exasperating and our mutual frustration level suggests she is heading for teenager far too fast. I feel near despair sometimes at the emotional trauma of it on my end.

Maybe it was because I hadn't had enough sleep, or was irked at myself for the growing list of things I "should" do and haven't, or some other dissatisfied sort of reason.

But whatever the reason, I started thinking about "selfishness"; and about autonomy.

About this dilemma that most all of us have in some respect, where priorities between our eating plan and others around us, our time for various activities vs. what others want or need us to spend time doing, come into conflict.

My buddy Sara had been talking about it in her journal and I guess it just took several days to incubate in the back of my brain. My subconscious kicked it till it worked, repainted it with my own issues, and when it was presentable, dropped it into my conscious mind against a backdrop of stormy sky. So one minute I was minding my own business, and the next moment some life-sized "personal issue" was staring back at me.

I hate it when that happens. I resist evolution, dammit. Single-celled organisms are happier from what I hear, and I'm all for simplicity. But sometimes it's like my body, mind and spirit are several meshed identities, of which my surface personality is just one. It's like they let me be King and face for the world and feel all cocky about how I'm in charge but really, they just move on with doing whatever they feel like doing regardless of my opinions.

Such as "dealing with personal issues." I think I'd be ok with not worrying about those until about 17 minutes before death, when I plan an accelerated chant through a rosary of apology to God and the Universe for everything I've screwed up in my life. I grant that doing this correctly would take vastly longer than 17 minutes, given my genuine gift for screwing up, but that's the glory of impending doom, you see. It'll be too late to worry about the fact that I'll be behind schedule for yet another thing right up to the moment I keel over. As long as "Sorry I'm out of time, Lord" gets in there before the final moment, my bases are covered.

I don't really feel like dealing with all my personal issues before then. What I'd like is for them to shut the hell up so I can get on with my life already.

But it has now come to my attention that I spend an inordinate amount of time doing completely useless things with my mind, such as:

* Feeling guilty about everything I didn't do
* Feeling guilty about everything I'm probably not going to do
* Feeling guilty about why I'm feeling guilty rather than doing them
* Feeling guilty about what my kid wants to eat vs. what I want to eat
* Feeling --

-- well you get the idea.

I realize the Virgo x4 thing is a born curse. But it's more than that:

I'm starting to realize that a good chunk of my life that should have been devoted to my own self improvement, has instead been repressed, suppressed, marginalized, ignored, and shifted aside for things like what someone else wanted, or I thought they needed, or for what my job demanded (I felt), or what my family was pressing for, what "seemed" acceptable, what seemed like "should" be done or would be "reasonable" of me to expect of others.

It's my life. My reality. My subjective universe. I'm supposed to be at the center of it. Yet it seems like I have spent a lot of my life almost apologizing for being at the center. And seldom doing a proper job of protecting that center.

I don't think I've given myself enough space. Privacy. Autonomy. I've based far too much of my life, and this includes lowcarb, on what people around me wanted to eat, wanted to do, or thought I should be doing.

This manifests up-close in small ways.
* Whether I need to resist crappy food in my kitchen because someone else wants it.
* Whether I need to allow myself to be interrupted constantly, any waking (and many sleeping) moments of my life, when I'd like to be left alone to DO something.
* Whether I am truly obligated to various social obligations.
* Whether I have to sit through food that tempts me somewhere.
* Whether I have to argue with stupid people I cannot avoid who think 'gluten intolerance' is a food fashion statement I should get over, who think it's nearly child abuse not to give my kid pasta, who want to lecture me on why I should be having a variety of bizarre invasive 'tests' just to see if I have cancer for no reason than besides they want to project it on me.
* Whether I should be not listening to music lest it wake up someone who wants to sleep during the day.
* Whether I should be cleaning the kitchen instead of doing something I want.

The list is endless, and up close it's trivial, but when you back off and look at the macro picture, it's a life of self-imprisonment through "shoulds".

Maybe some degree of really taking your life back requires "grim determination." Not anger exactly, but a merciless recognition of the mercy you've never shown yourself and now actually NEED to, for your own good.

And if that's selfish, and self-centered, then maybe it should be. Maybe any plan for true health eventually has to look past the nutrition numbers, the scale numbers, and take a hard look at the genuine personal space and autonomy and focus that a person is allowing themselves.

Maybe demanding that carby food and gluten leave my life and veggies join it, is just an analogy to demanding that people who want to project their stuff on me, or family members who want to force me to stay in the mold they're comfortable with, deal with it. Maybe telling the world to stuff it and doing what I choose with my time no matter who it pisses off or how, is an important part of moving past the occasional blues I seem to get. Maybe more of me and less of others would be a good thing.

Have you ever noticed how people who are serious weight lifters or marathoners or musicians or whatever, seem to put their focus first, even when it drives the people around them crazy? Is it coincidence that I'm a fat woman having trouble with that? If I had more ease with that taking charge of being selfish when it's needed for my health and sanity, would I be less like me and more like them in some way?

I had the quirky thought, "I am the cheese that stands alone."

(Reminds me of the time I woke up from a dream where I'd been singing a song I wrote in the dream world, and had just finished singing, I am colored outside the lines...)

I am the center of the universe. Mine, anyway.

I think it's time I started acting like it.



Anonymous said...

Damn straight.

Seriously, I'd love to see you be as nice to your self, consider yourself and your needs as important as those around you.

Somehow empowerment doesn't seem to be on the syllabus for raising girls in this day and age. I don't know why. I got lucky and had someone in my life who had chucked the syllabus and taught me to evaluate guilty feelings and decide if its real guilt, did I really do something wrong? Or is it socially instilled guilt, because I'm fat and a lousy housekeeper, for example.

How can Ry learn to be a strong, self empowered, happy woman if you don't teach her what one looks like?

Anonymous said...

Loved your blog post!

What really struck me is your mention of those people who are marathon runners - how they take the time, make the space, demand that their lives revolve around what it is they are trying to get accomplished. What a great analogy.

It's true too isn't it? People who play the piano have to practice. Runners run, baseball players play ball, writers write, and so on.

I remember how impressed I was with my stepdaughter's dedication and commitment to her schooling. Time and time again, she'd say "No, I can't because I've got to study" or "Sorry, I can't because I'm working on a paper". Told her boyfriend, "No, I can't." Told her friends, "I'll be able to drop in later, but after I finish this paper." There wasn't anything more important than her schoolwork. She managed to squeeze in the other stuff, but the 'other stuff' definitely took a lower rung on the priority list.

I guess it's true of losing weight too huh? Or learning to eat well, or changing our habits to become more healthy.

We have to take up space. Put the goal into the priority spot. And yeah, I do think this does require a degree of selfishness.

But wait a sec - do we see the marathon runner, who makes sure he or she runs and does the we see that person as 'selfish' ? The person who practices their piano playing? The person who works on their schoolwork?

We have goals, something we're trying to accomplish here, and I don't see why becoming healthy isn't just as important as someone else's schoolwork or piano playing.

I really enjoyed this aspect of your latest blog post.

Take care, take up some space, make the demands.


Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like you have been suffering from oughtism!

Daron said...

Everything in life is a juggling act and requires careful balance. You can not be successful if you only care about yourself. And, you can't be successful if you always put everyone else first. You need to find the happy medium, the middle of the road. And, realize that if you've swung too far to one direction, you might have to go to the other extremne temporarily before you can find balance.

Pamela Merritt said...

As women, our culture socializes us to take care of everyone else before ourselves; and to feel selfish when we think about taking care of ourselves.

I say, if no one else is going to take care of us, it is our moral obligation to do so!