In Who Ya Gonna Call (10/21/10), I asked you to stay tuned to laugh and cry with me over Life’s Latest Smack Upside My Head. Some of you may be saying, “It’s been five days. You’ve published two chapters in the interim and now another one today but we still don’t know what happened?”
Other readers have been annoyed with me for even longer – since The C Word (10/12/10), when I casually mentioned losing 80 pounds last year. I’m sure you’re saying, “You’ve published seven chapters counting this one. You lost 80 pounds last year, you’ve kept it off, and you’ve found deeper peace and more lasting joy. Enough with the peace and joy – how did you lose the weight and keep it off?”
Please hang in there. I will get to how I lost the weight and all the other stories I promise along the way. Each chapter tells you more of both – how I lost the weight and how I live each day. It’s just much more comprehensible (and humane) if I break it into manageable installments. I’ve found it’s not simple to tell the story of a life, certainly not my life and I suspect not anyone’s life, in a way that is meaningful, complete, comprehensible and engaging. This experience is giving me much greater appreciation for what it takes. Using food metaphors, I could serve you a multi-course meal at one sitting that would be so overwhelming you’d experience the reading equivalent of food coma after consuming it. Not pleasant or kind. Or I could spend a bit more time analyzing my experiences, break them into component parts and communicate those to you in smaller, healthier, much more digestible mini-meals, each time leaving you just a bit hungry for the next serving. I’ve opted for the healthy, more frequent, mini-meals and there, my friends is today’s first diet tip. I know you’ve heard it a zillion times. You may have even tried it for a day or so but given up before the new behavior had time to become a habit. I’m here to tell you, it works. But more on that later, I promise.
With all these food metaphors flying about, it feels like the right time to introduce the concept of balance – a major weight and life altering discovery. One day last year, I received an insight from the Universal Intelligence (much too profound to have originated with me). In my role as Perpetual Transmitter, I now pass it on to you. It went something like this, “Deborah, if you feed all of your senses in a balanced way, you are more likely to live a happy life. If you neglect to feed one or more of your senses, there’s a greater probability that one of the remaining one’s will try to fill the void and take over your life in an unhealthy way.”
For example, I believe both anorexia (which I suffered at age 19) and obesity (which I suffered at age 50) both have their roots in an unhealthy relationship with food – trying to use food to fill un-food needs. They also share lots of other commonalities, chief among them for me, an attempt to deal with the anxiety of uncertainty – yes, a misguided attempt to gain a sense of CONTROL over a life wildly spinning out of control (you had to know that baby would come up again). And while anorexia – starvation – looks more like control than overeating, they were both about control for me and I suspect are for many.
Feeding my senses in a balanced way means not just the standard five senses of sight, touch, sound, smell and taste, but also my higher five senses of spirituality, creativity, purpose, physical flow and connection. Paying attention, being hyper aware, of how I am feeding all of my senses – content and frequency – and whether each is being healthily sustained, starved or smothered.
What might that look like specifically? In the time we have left today, let’s explore the sense of sight – the satisfaction supplied by your visual environments. Surround yourself with colors, patterns, objects that please your eye in your home and at work. Do you prefer variety or consistency? As an artist, I love every color in every shade imaginable. I use all of them in my art and my environments, but my favorite colors are purple, orange and green. It’s downright funny how often they end up in my art, in my living space and on my body, without any conscious intention. In fact, even when I try to exclude them in a design, they sneak in no matter what. They feed my soul. Together, in combination. I do light hues in spring and bright hues in summer and dusty hues in Fall and darker hues in winter, but they are always present. They comfort and delight me, providing a needed sense of consistency.
I also love cats. I live with three – Sid, Morty & Maisy. Okay, I live in their house, they let me sleep in their king size bed and eat in their kitchen. They are all ragdoll mixes (yes it’s an actual breed, unbelievably affectionate). We’re crazy about each other. Sid holds my hand or plants his big head on top of it when I write or type – seriously. It makes the progress slower, but the experience richer. So every time you’re reading one of my chapters, realize that Sid had a hand – or paw or head – in each and every one. Morty’s my empath. He always knows when I’m crying and he plants his body on my lap, rubbing his face on my face and won’t stop until I stop crying. He doesn’t rush me. He doesn’t say anything. He just stays there with me, literally drying my tears. The perfect model for how best to be with someone who’s grieving. Don’t do or say anything. Just be fully present. And Maisy, well she’s all about satisfying her sense of touch. She’ll snuggle with anyone, anywhere for any length of time. I know in the human world that might earn her an unkind label (easy, slut, tramp, ho) but she’s my daughter so I just call her loving and you’d best too. DEBORAH, YOU’RE DRIFTING. ENOUGH WITH THE CAT STORIES. BACK TO SENSE OF SIGHT.
Sorry about that. Anyway, I love cats and living with three is not enough. To avoid becoming the weird old lady living alone in one room with 50 cats, I find other ways to include them in my life. Pictures, quilts, vases, dishes, jewelry, whatever. And I love the symbolism of butterflies – patience and hope for the fertile possibilities of life transformation during incubation in a dark void. So they are sprinkled liberally throughout my life. And books, I love books too. The power of human thought shared. I love to see them in my space and be reminded that, even when I sit alone writing, I am not alone. I am surrounded by everyone who ever had an idea or experience and felt compelled to share it with someone else for the benefit of writer and reader.
Don’t get hung up on my colors and my choices – the point is to figure out your own purple/green/orange and cats/butterflies/books. There are books on standard reactions to colors (blue is soothing, yellow is cheerful, red is energizing/irritating, black is depressing, etc.). But I’m not interested in standard reactions. What matters here is your reaction. Some people find being surrounded by their favorite colors the most soothing and stimulating environment. So if you’re one of them and you love red, have at it. Experiment with it a bit and determine the optimal amount of red and other favorites in your world. Maybe you’ll want all your red in the den or your office, but want blue in your bedroom. Or blue and yellow because you want to be soothed at night and cheered in the morning.
Remember that clothing is your portable environment. As a fashion artist, I’m especially attuned to it. But I think it has an impact on all of us. It’s the house we wear on our body and carry around all day. So try starting each day by consciously picking clothing that expresses who you are so that you feel comfortable and centered. While I’ve started by tackling one sense at a time, you can quickly see how interrelated they are. For example, clothing should be considered under both sight and touch.
Provide a pleasing visual meal in each room of your house (yes, even the bathroom – we spend substantial time there too). Pay attention to portion control, avoiding the visual version of gluttony by overwhelming your senses with too much stimulation and thereby numbing them. Go for healthy digestible meals that leave you hungry an hour later for more visual stimulation outside your home and work location. Include regular outings to places that augment your visual diet with special snacks – botanical gardens, galleries, the mountains, book stores, pet shops, the ocean, fabric shops, art supply stores, whatever delights you personally.
We’ll discuss the other senses in more detail soon. Meanwhile, keep getting to know yourself better and find a healthier balance. You’re worth the effort.
You are loved and loving. You are blessed and a blessing. Namaste.
I like the way you are equating the senses of taste/smell with the visual/tactile senses, since they do have indeed much in common.
I personally need to have an organized space in order to feel comfortable – clutter just disturbs my esthetic sensitivity and makes me nervous, if not downright anxious.
Same goes for auditory stimuli: I’ve never understood why in all the restaurants and certainly public places there has to be this background noise in the form of TV or music. Oftentimes the music bears no relationship whatsoever to the them of the space and just jangles my nerves. Maybe I’m becoming hypersensitive with age, but I do not have the radio or TV going on all the time nor in all the rooms of the house. Even in my car I sometimes turn everything off just to be able to concentrate on driving or to digest what I’ve just experienced. Again, this is an outcome of my “spiritual journey” if you will and does not have to be the norm for everyone. Just s.th. for people to think about in this society: the overload of stimuli and choices. Can you just imagine those poor folks who hear “voices” in their head as well??
Balance in eating: I now have learned that I can manage quite well with smaller portions (well you would never believe it watching me @ Sweetoms, but that’s mostly rabbit food and does not really stick to your ribs) and keeping a food diary has certainly helped me to plan my meals, so I don’t prepare them when I am hungry. Likewise, there is no need to eat more just because there are more supplements to take or I want to finish the chapter of the book I’m reading while eating (actually a no-no of mindfulness, but I am doing it anyway, mea culpa.)
Also, after a work-out @ the gym I now have included a little prayer of gratitude (after all the stretches etc.) that God granted me the opportunity to nurture my body in that way – certainly there are many who cannot. And, while I am in pain almost all the time, I am still ambulatory and in much better shape than others. Gratitude is clearly called for.
By the way, my motto for today was to participate (just for today) in this dance called life with as much internal and external grace I could muster. I did alright until about mid-afternoon by which time I had forgotten my motto, which happens often. But that’s alright, tomorrow there’ll be another and maybe, eventually, I will remember them until I retire for the night.
Take care, namaste.
I read your book today after work “WOW” I love it. I read every chapter and look forward to the next. I could not stop reading, the whole time my dog big black Lab Lexi and Siamese cat Kitties were trying in sterio to get my attention one dog paw on the left leg and Kitties on my right. Now I’m off to bed thanks for sharing it was very meaningful and insightful. It gave me alot to think about….WOW!!!!!!!