It has become popular in social media to use other people’s quotes and slogans in place of thinking up one of your own. I have been guilty of this myself; thinking that if I use quotes I wouldn’t have to get into internet arguments. I promised to keep the quotes simple and not in any way controversial. . Yet, I’ve noticed that it is hard to use a quote that is both passionate and universally agreeable.
My twitter page inserted quote is one of these I think-EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVER WANTED IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FEAR
I am fairly sure this quote is not combative but yet I can imagine an argument against wanting everything. I don’t really want everything. I want something but most of all I am trying to say that fear can hold us back from what we are striving for.
I am not a fan of stuff. We had a recent hurricane scare that sent most people on my island of Oahu in search of water, toilet paper and rice; in that order. I was late to that party and found myself in an rehearsed scuffle for the few small bottles of water left on a shelf. A young man at the supermarket on the day of supposed disaster was desperate and ready for action..
He would take one bottle, and I the other until most of the water was gone. When the last two bottles were left, feeling ashamed yet thirsty I asked him if he wanted the remainder. He said yes. I already had toilet paper at home and couldn’t think of a scenario where the storm would leave me in that desperate a situation where I had to go to Costco and stand in line for hours for well almost anything. And really how much paper or cloth does a person need to wipe one’s behind for a few days?
Back to quotes, I began to question my passion for quotes when a local politician on television used a quote I can’t agree with” Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me..
I have been fooled more than once, more than twice ok, more than a thousand times and I can’t put the total shame on myself.. Shouldn’t the shame go to the person who commits the offense? It seems like this is victim shaming and I don’t agree with it. It also sounds so immature. Yet this a politician so I can’t expect much can I?
There is also a lot of quotes about war, peace, love, you name it and some of them are quite good. I’m not knocking quotes in the least bit. I think we learn from quotes. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ― by Oscar Wilde is one I like.
I used to like “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”- Eleanor Roosevelt – but it isn’t true for everybody. I felt inferior my entire life and couldn’t seem to not consent to it without a lot of work. However sensible the sentiment is; it does tend to shame the person who can’t shake the feeling of inferiority. It’s not that simple.
Napoleon had a lot of quotes. This is one I don’t agree with Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools.” – Napoleon Bonaparte – didn’t he end up isolated and defeated on the island of Elba or something? I don’t think he thought that was possible or preferable. However, I used to feel there wasn’t a word like insane or impossible and it did lead me to a lot of wild adventures so I shouldn’t hate on Napoleon too much.
I recently come upon a quote that reflects my present feelings about the world, my place in it and life in general “.All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”
“Mom, I can’t believe you followed me to Japan and taught there for three years; you’re so adventurous, “my daughter Desiree says to me”
“I’m not adventurous I’m like Cyndi Lauper without the fame, money or talent
“Oh, you just wanna have fun?”
“No, I’m just unusual”
I didn’t want to tell her I’m also insane, it’s too complicated, besides, she already knows it. She just can’t understand how someone who has panic attacks can travel all over the world and attempt what others call courageous acts, like dancing in public.
I always feel more like myself when I’m far, far away. It is not unusual to travel to Spain, Millions do it every year. It is unusual to believe, I mean intently believe you will be the female Jose Greco who went to Spain from Brooklyn and became a famous flamenco dancer. Insanity taught me how to live my life between the mundane and the extravagant. One day I’m at the food bank so happy that people in my town hate whole wheat bread and the next year, I’m dreaming up a way to live in a foreign country with young men clamoring to take me out to fancy restaurants. One day I am cowering in my closet afraid to go out and then wham, I am living in the Philippines invited to nightclubs where a community of dwarfs now called “little people” climb on tables to serve me giant cocktails where only movie stars and unusual blonde foreigners are allowed.
I pride myself in never getting fired from a job. I always quit when I sense anything foul a brewing. If I can’t be perfect, I’ll be gone. But I have to admit that there were times when I might have gotten fired and never knew it. As my mother always said
“You’re a liar.”
I might have gotten fired for opening a door in Minnesota but I refuse to believe it because my worst fear at the time was that I was too ugly to live. Since this happened in Minnesota, it couldn’t have been that I weighted 180 pounds. That is average for a Minnesotan of five feet one. It had to be my appearance.
It was lunchtime and I was eating a huge sandwich at my desk. Along comes a contingent of suits for a meeting with the boss. I’m the lowly and only temp in the office. The door is locked as it is every noon and they can’t get in. So, smiling my widest smile not checking if there was any spinach in my teeth, I opened the door and said “good afternoon” The next day I was fired. I questioned my temp counselor on why my long term assignment was terminated when just the prior week the boss had complimented my work.
She stuttered and said, “Well, in this business, nothing is for sure.”
You can say that again.
I also got fired from Burger King, but that doesn’t count. I got confused with the different kinds of buns. Who knew there were different sizes for whaler, whopper and burger buns? My visual perception was never that accurate. That was probably the reason I had so many boyfriends. I don’t count the Burger King incident because I already had a fulltime job when I took on fast food. I should have gotten the hint when the manager abruptly took me off the line and told me to clean the tables and sweep the floor but I was too stressed about bun size. When my shift was over, he told me to eat the free lunch and never come back. He never used the word “fired.” I’m ashamed to say I ate the burger and fries. Working makes me hungry.
In New York there is no “Minnesota nice” especially back in the 60’s. There was no pretense that time of why I wasn’t hired. I’m interviewing for a school cafeteria lady job, (the one with the hairnet). Excited and happy I sit down across from a man with a dour expression. It is hard not to stare at his bulging stomach over his belt but I have been groomed in good interviewing techniques and politeness.
“What’s wrong with your face?”
My smile freezes at his shaking head.
“I can’t have you working with food. You look contagious.”
“It’s acne, I whisper, it’s not catching”, but he is standing up.
“You’ll scare the kids.”
He dismisses me with a wave of his hand and I back away to the door, my face now bright red, acne being the least of my troubles.
I leave and go to my favorite book store in Manhattan, where I am invisible to the owner. I stay until the store closes, deep in a universe where looks don’t matter. I give the owner a ten dollar bill for a book I had been lusting over for weeks called “Mankoff’s Guide to Lusty Europe” It is more than I could afford or carry and this gives me hope. I then go to my favorite Chinese restaurant in a few blocks away, where I’m known to be a good tipper and where the waiter pulls out the table for me and with a flourish and a napkin tucks me in. It is a bit tight against my stomach but somehow physical pain comforts me when I’m in mental distress
I pretend I am royalty as I get lost in spare ribs and fried rice while reading how rich people are traveling to Europe to get lusty sex. It’s all very secret and comforting. I almost forget the cruel words of the cafeteria man, but vow to learn how to become pretty if it kills me. It almost would.
I wrote about how I feel about groups in my first memoir-”From Agoraphobia to Zen” “It’s not that I don’t like groups, it’s that group’s don’t like me.Well, I decided all these years later to join a group I had tried before with negative results. But this would be different. It’s a phone group. I wouldn’t have to go out or have anyone comment on my appearance, personality or how I used to say “you know’ and like before I spoke. How progressive, how efficient, how cool?
This particular step group is for people with eating problems and it’s based on the principles of A.A. I’m not an alcoholic but I am told it doesn’t matter. The principles work well with any addiction. My addiction is food. I chose this particular group because they proclaim that I don’t have to give up bread and flour and for me, life without bread and pasta is not really worth living. Most of all they proclaim they can cure me of my addiction to food if I follow the “rules.’ I know I’m in trouble here because rules and I don’t agree. However, I like the idea of being cured and not having to give up white flour, Oh, I said that already.
I listen in on a few groups and am strongly encouraged to leave my number so a sponsor can call me back. In fact most of the meetings focus on service and giving back what you have been given. I’m not sure what I’ve been given yet but hey, I can understand giving back. I gave away most of my possessions to a local charity; mostly because I have trouble taking care of stuff that doesn’t breathe; like dogs. I keep my dogs. There is also a lot of talk of prayer and the Lord even though they say you only have to believe in a higher power which I do. At first everything goes well. I like all the calls I am getting asking to sponsor me. I have never been the popular girl and now it seems I’m most wanted. One caller candidate tells me she is a medical student and has been with the program for three months but assures me she has already brought two people through the steps and is cured. I don’t pick her because she is young and I would have to tell her stuff no eighteen year old should hear, medical student or not. I pick a woman who lives on the West Coast and whose voice has a hippy mellow feel. I revert to childhood when I call her and shyly say “I choose you.” She is pleased and then tells me she is a Wiccan and I don’t have to worry about her telling me to believe in one creator. She is into goddesses (not that there’s anything wrong with that) I once met a Wiccan princess on a breakup online group and she helped me cast a spell against an evil man who was messing with my head so bad, having a witch in my life seemed like a good idea. I ask my new sponsor if she has any problem with the religious feel of the program that we both agree are ingrained in the foundation of A.A. “I was so desperate for relief from my disorder; I would have followed anything at my lowest point. This program will work if you work it” Good answer, but where have I heard that before? I am impressed; well until she tells me I have to complete multiple forms and have a three-hour session with her early in the morning after which I will be cured. It does sound magical but I’m not a morning person. But I’m docile so I fill out the papers thinking what my mother said about that note on my fifth grade report card. My mother told me the word “docile’ was an insult. “Horses are docile,” she had yelled. The night before my session I become anxious. I had been feeling good for a long time. I had fought a lot of trauma and came out on the other side reasonably functional. I had to fill out forms that asked who I resented and what part of my flaws caused that resentment and “was it sexual” (ok, that was another form but still). My first thought was that I don’t resent anyone; well anyone except this person who was making me anxious about both waking up at the crack of dawn and having to search for people or things I resented.
I used to be full of anger and resentment but after I read my mother’s diary and other books like the “four agreements” I began to understand where my panic attacks and other anxieties had originated. In 2000, I had an epiphany and no longer had the compulsion to stay home literally in my closet and eat everything in the house.
In the first chapter of my memoir I had written about being raped and almost killed on my 19th birthday by a stranger. Yet the last chapter of the book has this quote “I almost wished I could blame the panic attacks and agoraphobia that plagued my life on the obscenity of that night but the truth is much darker and started long before that small death” The epiphany was that my anxiety had originated from living with a bi-polar mom and being mentally and physically abused. I later had lived a double life; half the time locked in my closet, the other half roaming around the world escaping my fears by living on the edge. I was obsessed with food, whether eating it or planning to eat it or beating myself up for eating it. I was fat, then thin, then afraid of gaining weight, then fat again, and then finally writing the book and letting go of most of the pounds of pain. Three recent deaths in my family and a gain of 15 scary pounds had brought me to this 12 step meeting.
I filled out the papers and discovered I did have small resentments at various people and things in my life but I still didn’t see how I was at fault for the neighbor who constantly parades his shirtless body in front of my house to make my dogs bark. But maybe I resented him because he was invading my boundary lines which I fiercely protect. As I child I didn’t have that power. Can this resentment be my flaw? Ok, I’ll accept that, I thought. It’s my fear of being taken advantage of. Usually, I say the wrong things, ask too many questions or my appearance bothers people in general and in groups it’s much worse. I tell myself I would be silent. I would not let anyone’s remarks about anything make me do something stupid, like speak my mind. I promised to be good. Where had I said that before? This group would accept me and I would be cured I told myself as I filled out paper after paper admitting my sins, I mean faults and promising to make amends. But there was one problem. I had to tell one person something I had never before told another person. Now, I am the author of a no holds back memoir telling everything from the most terrible insults, rape and even a botched abortion I had regretted and forgiven myself for. What secret did I have left? Oh, I had a secret all right but how could I tell this woman I had never met? We went over the sheets of resentments and fears that were still deep inside bleeding out on the paper and I told her my deep dark secret with horror and sorrow in my voice.
“I’m not here to judge you”, she said.
But I’m perceptive and I noticed something in her voice. I realized I was telling my secret to someone who had more problems and less healing than I, no matter what group she belonged to. I was triggering her in some way and her voice betrayed her fragile mental state. “What was the exact nature of the defect within me that allowed the fear to surface and block me off from God’s will”? She read.
I don’t answer and she said, “You are recovered and restored to sanity. Restored to Sanity? Heck, I’m now writing a book where I proudly wear the title of insanity which to me means capable of rational judgment and behavior and reasoning and having good sense in the best meaning of that phrase.
I never had traditional good sense but my own path has led me to survival. If I had sense I wouldn’t have made half the mistakes I’ve made but I also wouldn’t have had the experiences and self-awareness I have now. Yet, when it comes to food and life I was not functional for a long time. In my opinion being sane means being functional and “the same” which is not what I usually aim for.
I have not followed the path my parents would have wanted for me. And that’s a good thing.
I would have been miserable being a secretary living in Brooklyn in an apartment with a man my mother approved of which would have been impossible because she wouldn’t have approved of anyone; not even a Jewish doctor. She would have said that he couldn’t be trusted because why in heaven would a doctor want someone like me?
I am a survivor and I figured out how to be a functional insane person. I also figured out how not to eat myself into an early grave and I did it without any step program. I do not want to be restored to sanity. I want to lose 15 pounds. I want friendship or “fellowship” as they call it. I’m a writer. I don’t get out much. I still have more than a touch of the agoraphobia that has plagued me my whole life. But I am functional and reasonably happy
Yet, old habits are hard to break and I am still a bit docile so I told my sponsor my big secret I’ve never been able to tell anyone and be free from my my addiction. I also agree to go along with all the rules of the Big Book.
After finishing all the work, I was emotionally exhausted. I forget to read the part that was called an 11th step review. She was going so fast and I was so stressed I did not follow the rule which requires me to email her about my day and where I had done wrong and pray and ask forgiveness.
I am supposed to ask myself, “where were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid” Do we owe anyone an apology and have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once.
The last part stopped me in my tracks. It reeked of confession, mind control and of the book 1984 where Big Brother is watching you. It also talked around religion and prayers indirectly. Now I’m a spiritual person with my own beliefs and I am not about to give up my life to this person I’ve never met even if she knows my deep dark secret. I don’t really know her and the more I know of her the less I like.
She got testy with me when I told her I didn’t know if I can email her every night to focus on my faults and pray with her. It didn’t even sound rational as she is a Wiccan anyway. Who would we pray to? Is she so indoctrinated that she will give up her goddesses and pray to the Almighty? And if she is, do I want to be brainwashed as well? She was also very adamant that I go to the phone meetings her sponsor and her sponsor’s sponsor goes to and always to offer my service to newcomers. This was going so fast, too fast. I told her it stresses me and I hate when she was stern and strict with me. When I told her this, she said adhering to the rules would make me sane and that is how her sponsor taught her and what she needed to heal.
Well, I don’t need strictness and meanness. I’ve had that my entire life. I want my life to be one of beauty and freedom and creativity, all which would be compromised by joining such a full time program. I’m not even going to debate if A.A is applicable or works for food addiction. There is a saying in this program: In A.A you can lock up the tiger and throw away the key, in this program you have to take out the tiger three times a day.” An eating addiction becomes part of who you are if you regard food as a dangerous animal. It just perpetuates the self- hate and puts a label of life long food addict on the sufferer.
To be fair, this group did not tell me anything about food at all. To me, this group felt more like a religion to me than a self- help group. I would become a better person, pray, read the literature, confess and recruit other sufferers. It seemed cult- like to me.
Freedom is one of my main values. I will not give up my freedom to recruit members to something I don’t even believe in. I did pray and mediate and my decision is based on my opinion about groups. This group, like every other group I’ve ever been rejected or have rejected are run by people; people who make and follow rules and are fallible. I call it self- hypnosis. If a person believes something is working and healing, they will not listen to other ideas. It’s their way or the highway.
I will say, the abracadabra, you are recovered worked in one way. I didn’t have the urge to overeat after the three hour “indoctrination”. The magic worked. I also don’t have any urges to be associated with them. I do respect their right to exist and if it helps someone, I’m fine with that.
My secret was much less drastic that many I shared in my first memoir. “From Agoraphobia to Zen”. It was about something mean and petty I did to a friend. But somehow I was more ashamed of that incident than others I could share with the world. When I came clean to my ex sponsor, I felt cheated and dirty because she didn’t understand how such a little thing could be my deep, dark secret and when I started crying she seemed flustered and read from her book with phrases that didn’t mean anything to me. I realized that my higher power and I will figure out how I can live group free. I have friends, a partner and a beautiful mind; quite enough to thrive in this beautiful terrible world.
I’m dieting again for the millionth time. I’m eating something called a granola bar. What the eff is granola anyway. It doesn’t taste like food or food I want to eat. I look at the ingredients and it has corn flour and sugar. That can’t be good. It’s supposed to stop my hypoglycemia when I’m on the go which is not often since I have agoraphobia. I hate these new effing words. Can I just say I get dizzy if I don’t eat for many hours while on the go which is not often because I don’t leave my house?
I hate dieting but it has been the bane of my existence which means a pain in my ass. So why do I do it? I do it because I don’t want to buy new clothes that I can’t afford or leave my house in order to buy them.
I remember the first time I went on a diet. I had just had a baby at age eighteen and I carried 150 pounds on my five foot frame before and after giving birth. What! That’s what I said.
I remember the shaming that went on in the labor room. What! Yes, it was 1969 in Brooklyn and the nurses thought we were too much in pain to have a brain.
I remember the head nurse parading a slew of medical professional in my room saying. “Look how big this one is:”
“Well, she isn’t as big as the one in room three, that one is enormous but yes, wow” the younger nurse said. Wow indeed! Where did you get the license to judge and shame me in front of my roommate who was Chinese and didn’t even look pregnant? She couldn’t understand English and was too preoccupied with her labor to care but still, I felt more pain than my hard labor required. So, afterwards I bought my first diet book.
It was The Stillman diet. For those of you too young to remember that piece of crap diet, It’s basically meat and water, a lot of water; too much water anyone should drink in a day. I ate two meat patties with ketchup twice a day and an ocean of water. I looked forward to that ketchup. I wanted to pour the whole bottle on that meat patty, probably because I was starved for any nutrient whatsoever. I lost five pounds a week, every week. It was amazing. I had to stay in because I was peeing more than the average bear. My boyfriend taught me to say that. I don’t really know how much bears pee but I can attest that I peed more.
The bad part of all this and believe me there were a lot of bad parts, is that I became a zealot for this particular diet, and I wasn’t even getting paid by Mr. Stillman or anybody else for the excellent promotion.
I’m persuasive when obsessed and I went to all my friends houses making sure that not one drop of milk would be poured into a coffee at breakfast, nor one vegetable at lunch or heaven forbid a grain of rice eaten at dinner. This is difficult in Puerto Rican households where husbands insist rice and beans are the meal and everything else garnish. I didn’t care. I was on a mission and pretended not to notice the dirty looks I was getting from my friends families. My husband worked all night so I didn’t realize how much trouble I was causing. I’m immune that way.
All of my friends lost weight but inevitably we couldn’t keep it off for long. So then, I found a new diet that promised if I was faithful I could keep that weight off forever, and so it went on and on until I realized diets don’t work unless you either fix what is inside your head and soul, or lose your sense of taste. I guess I haven’t done the later because this granola bar tastes like crap.
Poetry is an act of peace. – Pablo Neruda
I’ve been writing a kind of sequel to my memoir and came across this quote. I wrote poetry since I was young and it was my action of peace in a chaotic life. I used writing poetry and reading fairy tales as a way to soothe myself. Later on I used destructive ways such as gorging on food and getting married over and over. But my poetry was always a peaceful act even when my life was so terrible the tears would erase the words from the page. The poetry was within me. It was my soul talking without barriers. I never rated my poetry as either good or bad . I didn’t study the art of writing a poem. Much later I took one class in poetry and had to walk out because for me poetry was not meters, rhyme or verse; was not thought out methodically for effect. Poetry was something I did because I had to and I approached the art of poetry as mine alone. I didn’t want to share it for many years. It was too personal. But when I wrote that memoir that changed my life; my view on my other writing started to change. I saw that writing about my anxiety filled life made others feel something, even made them happy. And that was a revelation for me; that I can change someone in the world with words. I can create an act of peace in someone; a peace that I never had growing up, a peace I never had until recently. I don’t know if that is what Pablo Neruda meant by that quote but it is what I mean. And I am worthy to express my thoughts through poetry and other means. I never felt worthy until I felt peaceful. Aloha