Nesting

With a blog named “Life on the Skinny Branches,” you might surmise that I have a thing about birds. And you’d be right.

I have always felt drawn to birds of all kinds. I think the connection began when I was young when I was first introduced to the great poem by Maya Angelou, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

Maya was speaking of many things, experiences that I do not pretend to know about. But also, for me, she spoke about something that I knew firsthand: feeling locked in a cage, grounded, longing for freedom. You see, I, too, know why the caged bird sings. (Maybe in some ways we all do.)

Perhaps that set up my lifelong affinity for and sense of connection to birds, and flying.

In 2016, my words for the year – for what I was calling in for myself – were: Emerge/Celebrate/Express/Reveal. It was a year all about self-expression, growing confidence in myself. And it definitely was that kind of year. I started this blog last year — it was a big deal for me to begin to share my words in a public way. I began intentionally living on the skinny branches, and it has been thrilling.

This year, when I soul-searched for the words to guide my year, they were: Daring Greatly/Stretch/Curious/Creative/Depth/Credibility/Courage. So I expected to be soaring, having jumped off those skinny branches. I expected to be flying high.

And the year started off strong. I was in a play. Then a play reading. I did a short film. Took an incredible trip to Spain.

And then, in March, I was suddenly grounded.

Literally. My whole system shut down.

It was if my body went on strike on behalf of my spirit and said “No more, sister. You are gonna stop and sit for awhile.”

I was forced to stay home. A lot. This was not easy for me. I have always been driven. Have always sort of hurled myself through life, a bit desperate to make up for lost time.

It was humbling to have been so completely drained of vitality that walking down the street was a challenge. But that was my reality.

So I had to stop many beloved activities. And somewhere along the way, I began to listen to whatever it was that my body and soul needed me to hear.

(I also sought professional medical help, and received it. I made many changes in what I was putting into my body and began to look at how to approach my life better, aka how to lesson the internal stress I create for myself as I interact with the external world.)

I am realizing now that it was in this being stopped, it has been in this time of recovery and healing, that I have learned to appreciate the nest.

When I got stopped, I got quiet. I had a great deal of solitude. I have been depressed before. This was not that. It was…me with me. (It was awful at first because a part of me feared I was “losing” more time. That part of me fears it is already too late. That part wants me to run around like a chicken with my head cut off. That part is misguided. I help it along today with a firm but loving hand. No more shoving myself through the world.)

In time, I began to see that this being stopped was helping me to ask new questions and to also really listen to the current answers of old questions. The answers have changed since the days I first asked them. Who knew my body was so very wise? She made me listen. She made me pay attention. She had lots for me to re-cover.

And slowly, I began to heal, and my vitality began to come back. I can say with joy today that I am almost 100% back. But I am not the same.

I cannot run around like I did before. I could, but I do not want to. I am finding new ways to do the things I want and need to do. I am giving myself more time to do these things, to process, to absorb. I am nipping stress in the bud — I simply do not want to waste my precious life energy on certain things any more.

It is a new day. It is a new me. I am finding out all sorts of things. I have much to do, but it will be on new terms. I think they are much better, frankly, than the old ones.

I appreciate the life force that calls me to soar, to live life on the skinny branches and beyond. It is a huge part of who I am.

But every bird also needs some sort of place to call home. A place to hatch their young. A place to refuel.

And so, it is so very clear to me now, do I.

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: nest

Control Much?

I developed a disordered relationship with food practically from birth.

Food and eating have long since been very complicated for me.

Food was never just food. Sustenance. A source of energy.

The act of eating was never just a means to satisfy physical hunger, fuel the machine, fill the tank.

It was security. A best friend. My lover. My mother. My father.

Relief. Comfort. Excitement. Joy. A distraction.

A way to protect my self. A weapon. A protest sign. A lockable door. A “Fuck you, world.”

It gave me a sense of well-being. It gave me something that felt essential to my very ability to exist on this planet.

But above all else, and most importantly, it have me an illusion of control.

And this, above all, was crucial to me.

As a child, my world was out-of-control. Everyone in it seemed out-of-control. Every thing happening seemed out of my control.

Inside of me, good gravy, things certainly felt out of control. Feelings, thoughts. Wants. Needs. All felt huge and to a small person who felt they had no voice and no power, they were simply more than I could comprehend or cope with.

Enter food.

The one area I felt I had any say in was with food. What I ate and how much.

Especially how much. Any hint of the slightest suggestion that I might begin to think about considering becoming open to the idea of portion control still brings up a deep revolution within me. A protest begins without my having to even rally the troops. Big signs flashes in my head: “Fuck you!” “Over my dead body!” “Not while there is still breath in my body!”

You’ve got to be kidding. I’m supposed to let someone else tell me how much I am allowed to eat? What?!

Seriously, I get so defiantly enraged at the concept I literally feel nauseaus.

To a non-disordered person, it may be very hard to comprehend. It may seem or sound absurd.

But trust me when I say that my being able to eat or not eat what, when, and how much of something I wanted was (and sometimes still is) of incredible importance to me.

Almost feels life and death to me to be able to choose and act as I want in this one area of my life. It looks very much like addiction and obsessive-compulsive behavior because it is very much both of those things.

As you can imagine, such a relationship is doomed from the start. It is not healthy. It is instincts gone awry. It is a coping mechanism that brings an initial and momentary satisfaction followed by an ever-deeper, never-to-be-satisfied longing.

Such a relationship with food and eating skews all other relationships. It is a poor substitute for a real solution to the problem. And the problem, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the food or eating. They are merely the symptom.

So the solution, for me, has not and never will be portion control. I do not weigh and measure my food. (That still sends waves of dread through my body.) I do not label foods good or bad, or blame dieting or fad diets for my problem. Fad diets and the “diet” industry are only potential triggers or tools for my own kinked relationship to food and eating.

The problem was not and never will be my willpower.

The problem is how the funky-ass relationship to food and eating developed the first place. What was missing that led to the kink in my connection to regular eating?

There were circumstances. Maybe something ancestral, genetic, sure. But truly, there were circumstances and my response to them. My best solution for coping happened to be really distorted and led to many years of suffering.

Around all of that, I have done a great deal of work. But in terms of healing, it has come  down to this: addressing the part of me that developed such a relationship in the first place.

What did that part really need? How can I help that part trust other ways of meeting those needs? (The second question is almost more important and takes a great deal of patience to answer and to implement.)

I began asking these questions, and learned to really listen for and then to the answers.

The needs and wants came first.

The answer I heard most is that part of me wanting something for herself, just for her, that no one and nothing can interfere with. In unlimited amounts.

This seemed key to the whole thing, this need.

This longing for something just for me, that no one else can have, that only I can have, that no one can take away, mess with or hurt.

Woah. Logically, it is clear when I really lay it out like that that food and eating never had a chance at solving that problem. They do not contain the ability to solve it.

But that part of me was working from a different logic that makes total sense to the information it had at the time. Given the limited resources and the level of maturity of that part of me at that time, I can see how the dots were connected to the one thing that was available and that seemed to work.

Problem is, that part is hungry for something that food and eating can never satiate.

But that is where the real work lies. But as in all things, hard work does pay off. Yes, it does suck to have to do anything at all about a problem that I wish had never started in the first place. But that is just reality and once I accepted that, things began to get better.

That is my job now. To give myself that indefinable…something…and to give it in unlimited amounts.

Sometimes it is my own attention. Support. Kindness. Comfort. Bolstering. Appreciation. Soothing. Excitement. Stimulation. Fulfillment. Fullness. Rest. Recovery. Quiet. Peace. Stillness. A sense of being ok. Safe. Whole just as I am.

These I can give myself whenever, however I want in whatever quantities that part demands, cries for, deserves. I get to pour unlimited amounts of these things into myself, and no one and nothing can interfere or mess with that.

But what about the act of eating? What about that part of it all? That part of me wants to consume, wants to be filled, wants to take in and become one with something.

No, I cannot actually physically have the experience of filling myself with something, taking a substance into my body and becoming one with it.

That is the physical aspect of the whole, and there is another series of solutions to address that part. That I can satisfy in other ways. That is a different blog for another day, perhaps.

But the rest of it, I got in spades to give. Unlimited amounts.

It took some experimentation to help that part of me trust that letting go of the old mechanism for the chance that something new would ultimately be better and actually, really work, for real. That is where patience and gentleness and compassion pay off.

But it is all worth it. The meeting of those needs of my self by myself — that, my friends,  I am in control of.

At long last, I have the power that I have so craved.

 

Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: portion

For JC and anyone else who hates the idea of fucking “portions.”