Best of friends – an untangling post on eating

IMG_7201 false comfort Do you eat when something is troubling you? Why is it that most of us would have difficulty admitting that? Somewhere along the road we managed to add guilt to the basic need of eating. To eat food for comfort is for many of us equalled to eating junk food, to not being in control of our lives, to suffocate our real longings with unhealthy cravings. On the other hand comfort is good and food is necessary, so what if we could enjoy the fact that life’s necessities could be a comfort? Are we perhaps not taking the time to understand what really comforts us?

IMG_7204 trueThe woman in my office that fall morning was crying. This was her third visit. I knew her story, out of work, old, almost out of hope. She had told me of her usual tools to get back on track. She would go for long walks and she would sort her priorities. She would go to bed early and she had talked to all her friends. Still her tangles was worse, she did not see how to go on. As I looked closer on her, I saw that she was trembling. Did you drive her, I asked. No I am too tired to drive, she said. I  suggested we stopped looking for solutions for a while, perhaps we had jumped into the surgery without doing the first aid, what could we do now, just to give her strength?

I poured her a cup of tea and pushed the tray of biscuits over. She did not touch them.
“Do you eat?” I asked.”How could I,” she retorted,” if I got fat nobody would hire me! ”

As she was neither fat nor thin, this was a field that I had not thought would be essential to tackle. I realized I had been wrong. Until she was able to love, accept and cherish herself, her tangle would be a mess even when she got a new job. I am not an expert on eating disorders, but as our psychiatrist was out-of-town, I wanted to give her just a small tool, to tidy her over until she could have another appointment.

“Let us forget about your troubles, just for a moment, while you are having your tea,” I continued. “If your best friend came to you and was exhausted, what would you do?”

“I would let her sit with her feet up, give her a blanket and go make a bowl of creamy soup,” she did not have to think long about her answer. “My grandmother used to do that, she always made food that was healthy and good tasting, we all felt that she loved us through that food. But then she died and my mother never did that to me” she said. We talked for a while on how it was to miss her grandmother. We talked even more on how she missed a mother that never mothered her.
“So who is the grown up in your life now,” I wondered.
She just sighed, “it is just me I guess.”

We were silent together as she was realizing that she was responsible for her own comfort.
“How should I do that,” she mumbled. She already knew the truth, and together we put it into words, as an exercise for the next week.

“This week I will be my own best friend and serve myself comforting and nourishing food” she decided.
She left me and is now in therapy. I met her on the street the other day though, looking healthier and happier than I  ever saw her before. ” I think I could be the best-of-friends and the best mother there is,”  she told me and smiled.


To walk without going

IMG_0158 ladestienFor years I was ill, for days I would vomit if I moved my head or faint if I tried to stand up. I would be lying in my bed tormented with pain and not able to fulfill any of my obligations. Still, the memory is so painful that I prefer not to write or talk about it. I was eventually healed through surgery, today only extreme exertion will trigger a new attack. Needless to say, this gives a special glow to every ordinary day, as to me the ability to live an ordinary life fills me with wonder and gratefulness every day. Even so, in the middle of it all, for all these years I did not know how it all would turn out, I did not really dare to believe that I would live through it, this side of heaven. Gradually I am able to look back and search for the tools that helped me through it all, even when I had no hope for it ever to end.
I read the amazing book “The diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominique Bauby some years ago. The author wrote the book by blinking his left eye, and told the story of living with locked-in syndrome. One of his tools was to go for walks, at once I recognized my own treasured walks when I actually could not walk at all.
He never left his bed, I of course had quite normal days in between. He died, I am very much alive. He wrote his book by blinking his left eye for four hours each day. I have all the tools and time I need and still are not able to concentrate on writing. So of course I do not compare my life to his, what we share is the gift of walking while lying absolutely still.

IMG_0205 winterwalkHere is how I would do it. I would savor and scan every beautiful place I saw. I would look for the details, I would stop and feel the breeze in my face, I would pick flowers and smell them, I would feel the sun or the wind in every limb, then I saved it all in my soul. When I was in bed, I would start trying to recollect as many details as possible. I would tell my self that my pain would not go anywhere so I could safely leave it with my body and take my mind and soul for a walk. Most times I returned to the same morning in the spanish highlands, where I now know every stone,in my mind. Did it take away the pain? No, not to me. Did it make me heal sooner? No, i do not think so. Did it take care of the tangle of the life on the other side of my bedroom door? It did not sound like it.

What it did was to remind me, life is worth living. What it did was to keep me believing that “this too will pass”. What it did was most of all to keep me knowing that I would be carried through this ordeal too. To me it made the promise of the Bible real, there was pastures of green, even close to the valley of death.

In my stride- another post on walking

P1030587 going uphill Solveig

“I will walk this road a while, I will walk it with a smile, I will take it in my stride, someday I’ll be satisfied”
Allen Reynolds, My Ship will sail

As you can see the weather last Sunday was glorious. The air was so clear that the whole world looked different. The road you see far away is HW101. From our climb up to Gaviota peak it was nothing more than a line running through the hills. The speed and traffic down there was nothing. As we went up I did not really think about that, I just enjoyed, and obviously I took my time, as the picture is taken by my husband, waiting for me further uphill.

Then, two miles into the hike my knees told me that they were not happy. I was surprised, “you have never complained before, what is this all about”, I asked my body.  Pain and more pain was the answer, until my right knee locked and would not bend at all. As this was new to me, I just told my husband to keep going. I would turn around and slowly start going back. He would join me when returning.

I started to walk, slowly. I am used to pain, but this knee did not only hurt, it alternated between being locked and being all loose so I could not trust my leg. Gradually my thoughts got all tangled, with anxiety, with fear, with resentment, and well…with pain. What if I tumbled down the ravine, what if I fell in the grass, where were the snakes and the mountain lions, was that a turkey vulture? Then, what if I had to do surgery on my knees, how should a helicopter be able to pick me up if I gave in, and oh, there was no phone service.. You see, pretty pessimistic for a normally sunny soul.

As my steps were only inches long, as I had to stop and hold on to every tree, stone or gate I found, I had lots of time for thinking, and for reflecting on my own thinking. As I slowly eked forward I tried to focus on what fear was real, and what was fear for “could be real”. The fact was I was outside, I could enjoy the vistas, I had not seen a dangerous animal at all. And later, rather than sooner I had to be somewhere were my phone worked and where I could be picked up. The knee hurt just as much when moving as when resting. There was only one thing to do, leave all the worries in a tangle to be dealt with if their time came, and keep walking.

So I did. I took pictures when I rested, I inhaled the crisp mountain air, and of course I sang, of course I prayed. No one else was around, and the hills got a consert of my whole repertoire from Bach’s “Ich Halte treulich Still” to Cash’s “I’ll take it in my stride”. Three hours later I was back in our car, knee throbbing but none of my other worries had materialized yet. Then Stig came, and we drove home.

The next morning my knees were good. I do not know why. Unfortunately I know too well that most problems won’t go away just by me plodding and singing along. Some of them do though, and for those that don’t, at least it helps to take some strides at the time and let the other wait their time. And then of course, praying, singing and smiling are untangling tools by themselves.

Walk it off!

IMG_0053 knot“I try to think, but nothing happens”

Sometimes my thoughts are all entangled. Especially if I am angry.  Even if I know I have to sort it out, and know I have to find a solution, nothing happens when I try to think about it, as Winnie The Pooh says. Even worse, to me more often than not, too much happens, at  once.

As in this tree, where the saplings were too close. Even if they were growing, they were stifling each other. It is just too much going on, at the same spot, at the same time. Even if there is lots of energy spent considering the mess of thoughts in my head, there isn’t actually any thinking going on. As these saplings could have grown into two big trees if they only had been rooted a bit apart, my thoughts get so much clearer if I am able to view them from a distance.

This is not a parable or a spiritual exercise, even if it works as both, it is just a very simple thing to do. The walking solution is not mine. To go for a walk when things get entangled has been the tried and true go-to solution  for ages. The old greek philosophers did it, Soren Kierkegaard did it, and every angry teenager still does it, when storming out of the door, slamming it and running “out of here”. It works. Not as solution, but as a tool. To me it is as if my body tells me, you are too much part of this to think clearly, get out of it so you can view it all from a distance.

Of course this is a walk that has to be done in circles, when I have cooled down, when I have got a new perspective on things, I need to get back to the persons or problems I left. Hopefully I had  been able to leave without doing anything that makes it difficult to apply my calmed down reason on it all. And sometimes, well even if it is hard to admit, sometimes it is not even a problem anymore…..which leaves me pondering what was this all about? Which actually could set me off on another walk.

“I have walked away from all my sorrows and illnesses…just keep going and it all goes well”
Soren Kierkegaard

Pick a stone

IMG_1030 stonesI collect stones. Stones with strange patterns. Stones with holes in them. Stones with fossils. Stones in wonderful colors. Most of them are polished by sea and wind, each season more beautiful than the last. A couple have words on written on them, all have a story to tell.

I keep some in a glass bowl on my table.
We were having coffee, she was crying. Everyone is against me, I can not go back to that job, they all say different things on what is wrong with me, she sobbed. It could be true, I did not protest. She wanted to know what she should do.

Pick a stone for each of your colleagues and tell me about them I said. She did. The stones were evaluated, this black one is a doctor, this aqua one the other nurse, and so on. They were all placed on a long line. Where are you then? I asked. She searched through the bowl once more and finally came up with a small grey rough stone. Put yourself in the middle I said. She was not able to do that. She choose a spot outside the line with the other fifteen.

No let’s make some piles I said. What do they say to you. She remembered something that everyone had said, and I made her think it over. Was it really about her? Was it about her way of reacting, was it something she really had done wrong, were they actually ganging up on her? She talked, moved the stones, sorted them. Close to the end of the session there were two piles and two single stones, herself and her boss. She was able to start thinking about the messages the person in each pile sent her. Perhaps there was things she could talk through with them?

There still was the issue with her boss. In some way or other that had to be resolved.  We did not go into that yet. We did not talk about how to approach the others. In fact we did not do anything else than take another look at the mess, trying to find the elements that could be left for now, trying to select what would be the first step.

Her exercise until our next talk would be just that, to remember, they were not all against her. Next time we would practice the eventualities of her talk with her boss, we would perhaps schedule an appointment for both of them. Not know, for now she was just to find strength in the fact that there was another way of looking at life. She was not alone.