Homeless Heart

This afternoon I came home from work exhausted and fell into a deep sleep. Two hours later I woke suddenly from a dream. I was in a large church; it was stone and had many rooms. I had past knowledge of the church; I remembered rooms and secret passageways but when I searched for them they were either walled up or I could not find them. I knew my office was there, but it was not the office I currently work in. The walls of the church were high, very high and made of large, tan carved stone blocks. The rooms and inner courtyards were large and airy; beautiful. The sense I got was that it was familiar but no longer intimately known by me.

I thought I had discovered one secret passageway from long ago, but when I lifted the tiny access grate, there was a small pregnant cat sitting on a tiny shelf inside a clean, unused fireplace. I felt surprise at her presence and uncertain how to proceed. She sat motionless, and I slowly lowered the grate.

In one room, I watched two men tune guitars as they prepared to practice. I wanted to play with them, but knew I was not good enough. I had been good enough 20 years ago, but now would only be able to play simple chords to their advanced finger strumming. In another large room, two more men were preparing to play; again, I faced the same issue of past but not present knowledge or skill.

In a large courtyard I talked with one young man; we looked at the carvings that circled a young tree. I thought the carvings in the stone were Celtic or Catholic. They were old, ancient. But then, when I touched them, they were really just part of a grey rubber mat. Not special at all.

In another outdoor section a tall and handsome man was speaking with me. We were just getting to something interesting when his young son arrived with an extremely tall and handsome man. The son was as tall as his father; he had something private to share and they excused themselves from where we were. The very tall man remained. I realized he was the brother of the man I had just been speaking with. I asked him how tall he was and then apologized for my rudeness. He bent down, lightly touched my nose, and said yes, he was 6 feet 9. In reality he was much taller. He then threw a tire into the air, which spun in a large circle and I realized he controlled with his mind. He was darker skinned, Mediterranean, and I felt small next to him.

Then, I was with a Greek man. We talked for a few minutes and then his mother arrived. Suddenly we were outside in the sun, on a large concrete or stone area. It was sunny, beautiful and white. Everyone but me was dressed in black and white. He was a minister and he took his mother up the four or five stairs to the front of the stone area to introduce her to the congregation. After telling everyone she was his mother, they came back down the stairs to join six other men and women, and shouted “Opa!” They started dancing a traditional Greek dance, the ladies lifting their skirts. The mother lifted hers up so high I could see her white granny panties, her black stockings and garters. I thought about how unashamed she was, and how happy she was to be dancing with her son. I saw that they were a family and loved each other.

Then I woke up. My immediate thought was “I am emotionally homeless.” I felt grief that I am alone, an outsider, an observer but not a participant. I am in the church, looking for my place. I remember what was, but am not part of what is. I do not know what is to come. I have memories of the past, but the present is oddly unfamiliar. I have no home. My sadness is acute. I am the outsider, the observer, hungry for place but not finding one. I have a homeless heart.

The tall man was an angel, of that I am convinced. Others might have been angelic, particularly the brother of the tall man. I think the church symbolizes my life. I have a deep faith in God, a faith that crosses cultural boundaries and continues to be refined. The church was large, beautiful, complex, intriguing. I loved it and wanted to explore; but I also could not find a place for me. I felt alone.

I wonder when, if ever, I will find a home again. The odd restlessness of my heart continues. I love my desert home, land, trees and quieter living outside of the city. I love the peace God has given me in a time of great upheaval. And yet, I yearn for something I cannot name or find. My homeless heart hungers, and I feed it food or media or busyness. I keep looking for where I can rest and truly be home.

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Weddings and Grief

My son is getting married in a few months. This week he and his love put up their wedding website. In it they named the bridesmaids and groomsmen. None of my son’s siblings were included in that list. His fiancé is an only child and did not included any family members, either. I was grieved by this but could not seem to say why.

 I asked my son if he told his younger brother that he wasn’t included in the groomsmen. My son responded back strongly that it was really none of my business. On one level – I agree. Who my son has in his wedding is his and his fiancé’s choice. On another level it brought up an incredible amount of pain for me.

 My oldest son suffered greatly in his relationship with his father. In the end, the relationship broke apart. Now, at 28, my son has his own “family” in a new town, stellar men and women who fill the roles of father, mother, siblings, and grandparents. My son has always included me in that family and sees me as part of his inner circle. He loves, respects and cares for me.

 But it is not my family. As the wedding plans are made, I feel anew my grief over all that we have lost.

 What am I discovering?

 I am discovering a well of self-hate. It’s deep and dark and ancient. I am shocked by the waves of it that crash onto the shores of my heart. I blame myself for so much: failing in my marriage, getting fat, not communicating well, not being good enough. I push myself so hard; I realize it is because I do not believe myself to be a person of value. That ancient message, planted in dysfunction and abuse when I was very young, still speaks to me in the wounded places of my soul. While I am able to give grace and mercy to almost everyone else, I cannot seem to extend it to myself.

 I am discovering that I feel voiceless. I yearn to bury my head in the sand. In fact, I woke up this morning and told God I was going to do exactly that. Bury my head in the black pit of loneliness, grief and self-hate. And stay there for a long time. I have allowed too much suffering and participated in too much brokenness. I feel on the outside, invisible, unprotected and without an advocate.

I am discovering that there is much here to explore. Why I feel without a voice. Who took my voice away? Why is it so hard for me to care for myself? To create margin, to cry, to let myself be weak? Why do I hide away when my heart is broken?

I had coffee with one of my closest friends today. We talked about the usual stuff, and then I told her about the above and how I had been crying all morning on and off. She listened and then said, “It sounds like you feel your family is being torn apart again.” Which, of course, is how I feel. And then she said, “It’s hard to let go of control. To let your son have his own life, his own say, with his fiancé.” She is right.

I do have to let go of the wedding, who is and is not invited. I have to let go of having someone there for me, who knows me and all that was lost through abuse and divorce. Someone who understands that weddings in broken families are both celebrations of new love and reminders of the ache of loss. My children don’t know that for me; they know their own pain, but they do not know mine.

Somewhere on this journey of healing the place in me, I will need to find my voice. I don’t want my voice to be buried in the food or sorrow, in eating what does not feed my soul. I don’t want to bury my voice in silence, either. I will need to be wise in sharing my mom-pain and my single-mom pain in the proper places – with my friends and not with my son or his fiancé. I will work on this, on leaving bad food and mom-drama alone, and in nurturing myself through good food and letting go of control.

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I woke up this morning feeling depressed. I had two disturbing dreams and felt so alone. I instantly said to myself, “It’s too much to do school. I just need to quit.” Then, of course, I remembered that I actually really enjoy my school work, it’s just everything else that I am responsible for weighing down on me.

I got up, made coffee, fed the dog and went to sit on my deck. It was early morning, quiet, cool breeze, no one else awake. I looked at my planters where the few flowers left are wilting from lack of water and thought about how they represent me. I feel unwatered, unkempt, dried out from the heat of life. I know I should get up and water the flowers, but I just don’t want to. I feel the same way about getting up and doing all the things that would care for me. I just don’t want to.

This month my oldest daughter told me she and her husband will be moving out of the country by the beginning of December. They will live in a more remote area of Canada, accessible only by boat or seaplane. I am happy for them – it’s been a long dream of theirs and it will be a great place for them to live. And yet, it makes for a very long travel day for me via car, ferry and water taxi. Not the simple 3 hour drive I now make to their home.

Shortly after my daughter gave me her news, my oldest son let me know he had proposed to his girlfriend and was getting married in early January. Again, great news, wonderful news, and yet – transition and changes and learning. Both these life events will happen at the same time my first year doctoral work is due. It will involve a lot of planning and staying on top of my schedule to pace myself through the fall and early winter.

As the news of the move and wedding settled in, one of my teenage daughters began therapy for anxiety and PTSD; another teenage daughter is thinking she wants to transfer high schools for one that is much better in fine arts – which she needs. It just involves a lot of schedule shifting for me and adjusting my work schedule. While I am the boss and have flexibility, it will still be a challenge.

Then, this past week, my college age son who lives at home injured his ankle and may have fractured it. A late night ER visit, ice, crutches, pain meds, and another shift in schedules as he can’t drive for a bit. No wonder I am feeling like those unwatered dried out flowers on my deck.

The temptation for me is to eat my way through this month. To “water” my soul with food, to feed the soil of my heart with all those things that make me gain weight and feel like shit. Eating emotionally is a long-time habit of mine. I survived high school and sexual abuse by eating; I felt comforted by the food and felt filled up though it was a false filling. Now, in these life changes and life challenges, I just want to be filled up again.

As I write this, I am sitting with my laptop on my legs. I can see my belly and the fat on it as I write. I want to find a way to be filled up that doesn’t involve eating. At least, not eating what I know is not going to make me feel good. I don’t want to give in to temptation. I want to be strong while the winds blow, strong while the sand shifts. I keep thinking, there has to be a way through all of these life events that doesn’t involve me trashing myself in the process.

I know the mantra, “One Day at a Time.” So far today, I have stayed in my eating program and have given temptation the finger. One day at a time is the way to lose weight, but also the way to creating enough space in me to water the flowers. I will push forward today, just today, looking for what nurtures me, looking for the path through temptation’s barbs. This is the most I can do and the least I can do to love myself along the way.

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Out of Sorts

I am grumpy beyond belief. I think I know why. This past Friday I drove 3.5 hours to visit my son at his college. I took my two teenage daughters with me. We had fun, but I was tired to begin with, and then slept poorly at night. I made some poor food choices, some good food choices. Mostly, I was just needing solitude and did not find any. Saturday, we drove home again and back into the heat and messiness of my house and life.

The next day, my adult daughter and I traveled 2 hours to visit family friends. Again in the heat, and again, my soul wanted solitude but it was not to be. My adult daughter decided to return home with me and stay over a couple of days; her husband will be joining us later today. My house is still messy, it is still hot outside, and I am still yearning for solitude. And yet – these times with my children at college and with friends are priceless; our visits are spread out over the year and time together is golden.

What is it that is going on with me? I think it is more than wanting solitude. I think it is a deep yearning to be different. I yearn to be at the right weight for me. I yearn to leave the desert and live by the water again. I yearn to have a partner, someone to share life with. I yearn to write and teach. I yearn to be alive again in the deepest recesses of my wounded heart.

And so, I feel restless and bored and exhausted and grumpy. I feel “less than.” Less than those who are slender, less than those who live uncomplicated lives of joy, less than those who have it together – or seem to have it together. I feel alone, solitary, unknown – and unworthy of being known.

What does this have to do with food and fat? This weekend I was with a single friend of mine who I enjoy spending time with and who enjoys spending time with me. I have ruled this friend out as a potential partner – not for the issues that he might have – but because I am overweight.

This friend and I love each other as only life long friends who have suffered great loss can love each other. We know that the other has suffered greatly. We know that the other has had significant parts of their heart die through traumatic life events. We know that the other has learned to survive, to laugh again, to begin to find new life. And yet, because I am overweight, I feel on my guard with my friend; I have already judged myself to be less than, to be failing, to be worth-less.

And so, today, if feel out of sorts. I don’t want to go to work; I don’t want to clean my messy house; I don’t want to work on my school assignment or talk to anyone. I just want to be asleep and be alone. I want to escape to the ocean and be a different me: slender, smart, funny, joyful, alive. I want to be rid of the real me.

Am I willing to accept me today as I am? Am I willing to keep eating the right things and not medicate through food? Am I wiling to love myself even when my house is messy, my life feels overwhelming and I feel exhausted? I am willing to ask myself what it is that I truly need, and to either pursue that or to give it voice while I think about how to answer that need?

Today, I think I will simply continue to push through. I will enjoy time with my daughter and son-in-law; and with my teenage daughters, too. I will let go of trying to figure out the future. I will eat well and work hard at not judging myself to be ‘less than.’ I will speak nicely to my broken heart, reminding it that losing weight takes time and that its OK to love myself during the process not just at the end.

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Week One

The title of this blog post is ‘week one.’ As I looked at the title I thought of the words ‘weak one,’ as in one who is weak. I have often felt weak these past seven days. Weak in body, weak in will, weak in the ability to stop condemning and judging myself. In choosing to stop eating sugar and wheat, I have opened the doors to why those are my main comfort foods. And into why I eat for comfort. Memories of a lifetime of eating poorly alongside of eating well are floating around my mind. Memories of my family poorly dealing with conflict. Memories of sexual abuse. I think that while I have healed from so much of the past – healed intellectually and in my heart – there are body memories and body images that remain unredeemed. More to work on in the days and weeks to come.

Another way to read my title is “week won.” This past week was hard, filled with fatigue, crazy schedule, a significant school assignment to be completed, teens and young adults to care for, work and home responsibilities. My son got engaged – another opportunity to consume food emotionally. Joyful that this next step is happening, mourning the past of his first marriage ending so painfully, some fear about the future and wedding finances and will I lose enough weight to feel comfortable in front of all those people?!?!?

And yet, the first week was won! 80% of my food choices and portions fit what I have set forth in my food plan. Maybe 85%. I feel a little less chubby – maybe that is psychological, maybe not. I felt more energy most of the time, though the past few days I haven’t had enough protein in the morning to carry me through to the mid afternoon without feeling empty-headed and empty-hearted.

I need to pay attention to the feelings behind the food.


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Beaches and Beginnings

I have just come home from a week at the beach. The Olympic Peninsula has been a haven for me for over 15 years. I camp in the same place every time, soothed by the familiarity. It is restful for me to not have to learn anything new; I know where the best sites are, where to find driftwood for fires, how to get down to the beach on the trails. The night sounds of surf and quiet are soft and simple for me; nothing is required of me except to make coffee, pack my beach bag, and head down to the warm sand.

The beauty of the beach calls to me. Long stretches of sand, few people, tide pools to explore. It has become a second home for my soul.

This year, though, was different for me. I am older, my children are almost all grown. I am 100 pounds overweight and I feel dull in my soul. It is hard to climb the beach trail; I become breathless. My body aches beyond reason at night as I toss and turn on my air mattress. I push myself but I am not happy about the condition I am in.

I don’t swim. I bring a bathing suit but I don’t put it on. I walk in the surf up to my calves – no further. Me – the champion swimmer, the one who used to swim out past the breakers, the one who used to be so strong, so capable, so eager to be in the water. Now I hide in a big sweatshirt and black stretch pants. I am ashamed of me, my belly, my thighs, my fat arms.

I have just turned 56 years old. I am a professional woman, in school pursuing a doctorate. I am single, a home-owner and a mother of teenagers and young adults. I am too young to be so unable.

As I drove home today, I thought about what it would mean to commit to losing 100 pounds in 365 days. What will it require of me? Will I be able to do it? Or will I fail?

If I truly decide to do this, then there is more at stake than just going to the gym and eating carrots instead of bread. It will mean looking within myself for what drives me, for what defines me, for what keeps me hidden beneath the pounds. I will learn things about myself that may surprise me, shock me, embarrass me. I may also find things about myself that are joyful, treasures that have long been hidden inside.

I do know this – I must do this NOW – or lose the fight and continue to decline.

And so – here I go. Whoever reads this – if anyone does – I welcome you to journey with me this year. I welcome you to set your own goal, to walk your path alongside me. I commit to sharing the year with you, I commit to honesty in my words, I commit to transparency in my writing.

Most of all, to myself, I commit to the journey of learning to accept myself as I am, and to learning to love and care for myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. With my goal in front of me, I commit to taking this one day at a time, one pound at a time.

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