Brains and Behaviors

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “emotional eating” and how, for me, I think that’s an actual thing. But more than that, it’s a subconscious emotionally and chemically-driven behavior, so it’s not like in the midst of a come-apart, I go to the kitchen and start shoving food in my face. Instead, I think my brain is on autopilot where food and comfort are concerned, and I’m trying to figure out how to interrupt that when it happens – because it happens a lot, in all kinds of circumstances.

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Another Saturday spew.

Wherein I dump all the things I’ve been thinking about, with the potential of some of them warranting posts of their own:

  • I’m reading Ijeoma Oluo’s new book, “So You Want to Talk About Race,” and I’m only a chapter in but it has me THINKING. A lot. I’m grateful for that, and there will likely be a lot more posts to come.
  • I keep thinking about the quote (which I can’t seem to attribute to one particular source): “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” I think it’s the one thing that helps me keep from going all the way off on white people who can’t seem to grasp the concept of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression, and how nothing got fixed just because we had a black president. There’s a whole lot more to it than that, but I am just grateful to have this to hold on to.

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Sing this corrosion.

I’ve been thinking a lot about when, how, and why things fail. It sounds a little grim, but it also feels really practical. If you want to know how or why things work, then it stands to reason you might want/need to know why that thing might break down or fail, too. Right? I mean, you may not always understand or get to know the why, or want to accept the why or how… especially if the failing impacts you directly in some way. And REALLY especially if you would have to admit that you (or someone you love and admire) contributed to the failing.

Seeing your part in things is hard when it’s a painful loss. Looking for someone or something else to blame seems like a better, easier path to follow, until maybe somewhere down the road you realize you’re a common denominator, or you are (or that person you’ve been idolizing is), in fact, fallible and complicit.

The falling apart of a thing – whether it’s a physical thing like a bridge, or a relationship, or an idea, or a state of being like sobriety – generally begins well before it actually happens. A slow erosion… a disintegration… a chipping away in the background.Read More »

Looking back and up. (Part 2)

“What are you willing to give up to get what you (say you) want?”

Some months ago, I saw a post that said something to this effect. I’m pretty sure it was my wonderful therapist who posted it, which damn well figures. She’s great at asking the tough questions, even unintentionally, even when they’re not directed at me, even if they don’t seem so tough at the outset.

This one planted a seed. I woke up this morning, the first day of a new year, first day of a new week, first day of the rest of my life, contemplating just what it is I (say I) want in life, and then what it is I currently say, think, do, or what it is I’m holding on to, that’s standing in the way of me getting it. Easy enough, right?Read More »

Sharing is (caring is) creepy.

I don’t like to share.

It’s one of the more “interesting” revelations I’ve had lately, I suppose.

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how, when I was younger, I had no sense of self so I tried to be what I thought other people wanted me to be. And how, because it was too confusing to be all things to all people, I limited myself to either a boyfriend, or a best friend, but rarely both, and certainly no more than that. Acquaintances aplenty, but only one special person at a time.

What I realize now is that’s only part of the story. Read More »

Hello, My Name is Human (and so is yours)

(with a nod to this great song by Highly Suspect)

November, 1998: It was a beautiful morning in Buena Vista Park, in the Upper Haight district of San Francisco. The sun was shining, the air clean and crisp… a perfect time and place for a father and his daughter to walk through the park, enjoying the great outside. As they ambled along the path, the young girl saw someone lying in the grass on (and under) some cardboard, appearing to be asleep. The girl, curious, asked why the person was sleeping there. The father responded, “Because they’re a loser and need to get a job. Either that or they just need more coffee. Maybe we should bring them some!” and started laughing. The girl laughed a little, too, and they continued to walk.

I was the person feigning sleep on that cardboard in the park, and I heard every word.Read More »

Battle of the body and the brain (aka facts vs. feelings), Part 1

Do you ever have days (or weeks or months or years) where you feel completely at odds with your own body? Or your own brain? Maybe both at the same time which is always a joy and a pleasure?

I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that I can know – with every fiber of my being – that certain foods make me feel terrible… and yet, as soon as it crosses my mind that I want one of those foods, it’s like I’m powerless to resist and all that sense flies out the window. Cheez-Its, mac & cheese, cookies, pizza (this is the hardest one to admit and accept), popcorn, anything with sugar in it, anything made of bread… you get the idea. The ONLY time I feel good physically (and mentally) is when I eat lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and the occasional dairy or brown rice. Everything else gives me heartburn, gas, indigestion, foggy brain, lethargy, body aches, weight gain & bloating… it sucks. A lot. If I eat too much sugar or too much salt, my heart pounds out of my chest and my brain goes on overdrive.

And yet, KNOWING this does little to prevent me from shoving any and all of it directly in my pie hole, when given the opportunity. Why is that?Read More »

Ding dong, the witch is dead.

Every year about this time, I reflect on where I was – WHO I was – in November of 1998. For those of you just tuning in: I was an IV drug user, addicted to heroin, cocaine, and anything else I could find… and for a brief time, I was homeless on the streets of San Francisco.

I’ve told the story of Thanksgiving, when I sat in the rain in Golden Gate Park, eating food prepared for the homeless by a Latinx family who spoke little to no English, who wanted simply to feed everyone they could. I’ve talked about knowing my sister, her (future) husband, and their/our friends were having dinner together just miles away in Oakland; knowing I was invited, and also knowing I was too full of shame to attend. Thankfully, it wasn’t much longer after Thanksgiving that I finally had enough, finally hit the low emotional point where I was ready to accept the consistent, gentle, and loving offers to help from my family… finally willing to admit I deserved to live, and that somewhere deep down, I still wanted to.Read More »

What you are in the dark.

“Character is what you are in the dark.” – Dwight L. Moody

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” – John Moody

“Character is what you do when no one’s looking. Or when you think nobody’s looking. Or, when you KNOW someone is looking but pretend like you don’t and you change your tone or behavior to gain favor. Oh, hell. Character is WHO YOU ARE ALL THE TIME. Except maybe in your sleep, but I’d imagine jerks are still jerks when they dream. Do jerks even have dreams? Aside from making other people miserable, that is? Anyway. Where was I again? Oh yeah… character.” – Me

I’ve been giving a whole lot of thought to this. Where is the line between “a person is not what they do” and “a person is absolutely the things they say and do?” I realize the latter appears to be the better answer, but think about a person who lies, either to get what they want or to get away with something. A kid who breaks a window, or steals something. Are they a liar, or a person who told a lie? Are they a thief, or a person who stole something? Do we brand someone for life, based on a thing they’ve done?Read More »

Deciding what matters, and then choosing it.

Anyone who knows me hopefully also knows that I will fight to the death when it comes to body- or appearance-shaming as a means of character assassination. So, like, judging a person based on what they do? Totally fine. Open season. But judging a person based on how they look? Totally NOT OKAY. Especially equating being overweight to a character flaw or moral judgement. It’s lazy, it’s flawed logic, and it’s unkind… for starters. It’s not even necessary. Chances are, if you’re feeling the need to slam a person using physical traits,  there’s likely something else you could be using instead (example: Chris Christie is a turd, and there’s a whole host of reasons why, but NONE of them have to do with how he looks). A person’s appearance has nothing to do with who they are as human beings, and is not a reflection of character, mind, or heart. It IS, however, a reflection on us as a society, that we use those things to condemn other people.

So, it’s interesting for me to note that I have been beating myself THE HELL UP for not losing weight before the wedding. Like, suddenly I am a failure, a horrible human being, I’m going to hate seeing photos for years to come because it will remind me I suck, and everyone who has ever wished me harm will revel in seeing me be overweight on the most important day of my life… every time I look in the mirror, every time I’m putting on clothes, I’m these saying mean things to myself, I’m flailing on the inside wondering what I can do to lose weight and get in shape in 6… make that 5… and now 4 weeks.

But this post isn’t so much about that, because here’s what I know: C loves me for who I am, not how I look; in 4 weeks, we will be married to each other, just as in love (if not more so) and happy together as we are right now. We’ll be surrounded by loved ones, eating wonderful food and drinking delicious cocktails, and we’ll get to share this most important event with each other and our friends and family. None of that has anything to do with my physical appearance, and EVERYTHING to do with my mind, my spirit, and my heart.

I recognize that a lot of this self-deprecation comes from external programming. Growing up surrounded by messages that enforce the focus on appearance as a measure of worth, it’s hard to overcome that sort of thing, and just as I said about other people judging – that it’s easy, it’s lazy, and it’s unkind – that’s the default setting for my own brain directed toward myself when I’m looking for something to stress about, some sort of outlet for the pent-up stress and frustration I’ve got going on.

I am stressed OUT. About a lot of things. And apparently the first easy target is me, and how I look, because hey… I’m right here, right? So instead of dealing with stress in a healthy way, it just shows up as my own worst critic.

But this isn’t really about that, either. I mean, it’s good insight, and I’m glad to have it, because it’s keeping me from losing my mind and bursting into tears as I head to my next dress fitting.

What I want to know is… how do priorities form? How do you decide what’s important to you? Is it something you’re born with, or do you learn these things because of the world around you? How do some people decide that fitness is important to them, while others decide they’re just not interested?

And, more specifically, how can you be totally overcome with thoughts of, “Oh goodness, I’m getting married in 6 weeks (or a year or three months or whatever), and I would really love to lose about 5 lbs and get my arms in shape before the wedding!” and then not do anything about it? Like, how can you say and feel with every ounce of your being that this is a priority and it’s important to you, but then not actually do anything about it? And not only that, but do things that are diametrically opposed? Eating ice cream and pizza and drinking wine and doing all the things that you enjoy but you know fly directly in the face of what you’ve stated is your desired end result?

How do make a decision on what’s really important, say it out loud over and over, and then actually flip the switch so you’re working toward that goal? Or is it just that my brain is so determined to have an easy enemy that it’s intentionally sabotaging whatever efforts I might have made? Is it that I have so much other stuff going on that I only have so many spoons of discipline, and they’re all used up before I can get around to the food and exercise regimen I know would get me where I want to be?

And in the face of all of this… how do I just be okay with the apparent reality that losing weight and getting in shape just wasn’t really a priority after all? And then be okay with the outcome?