Procrastination is a drug
Heady and sweet
Need more to make it through the day
I am an addict
In the moment I feel relief
The monster slinks back into the closet
But only momentarily
Returning full force for more
And I can’t think
I can’t find my way
Stuck in this vicious cycle
Nothing ever gets done
Until I give up the drug
And fight for me
Listen to the truth
Not the lies it spews
Must, should, have to
Do it now, do it all
Not good enough
Just give up
Take another hit
Let the world fade away
Drift in so-called peace
This illusion suffices
Until it doesn’t
And the battle begins again
Break the chains
Know this routine
These crazy dance steps memorized
Embedded in my brain
Scared to step out
On a new path
Been this way for so long
So used to this mess
Take a breath
Not the end
Each moment a chance
To start again
To reach out
To reach in
Throw off the lethargy
Cast away the doubt
Lurking in the shadows
No longer will I fear
You are not in control now
I know what you are
A way to cope
A way to deal
But not real
Hand in hand with dreams of perfection
Nightmares under the guise of self preservation
Now I know you are not my friend
But my close companion for so long
Hard to know where you end and I begin
Kept me fooled
This is the best way you say
Locked in a never ending battle no one can win
Keeps me tied down
Never knowing the feel of the wind
I will take the steps to know that freedom
I will choose to see
What brings me joy
And do what takes care of me
“…be attentive to what is arising within you, and place that above everything else…What is happening in your innermost self is worthy of your entire love; somehow you must find a way to work at it.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
…Innermost self…worthy of your entire love…
Empowerment. Ultimately we are the only ones who can give ourselves permission to love, “what is rising within us,” above everything else. How many among us are able to grant ourselves that? I was born into a culture that revers ideals that represent the opposite of what Rilke encourages; self-sacrifice & martyrdom are fed to us, especially to females from the time of conception.
We are guided and prized along a path of continuous service. Service to our parents, our siblings, our faith. All needs, wants, desires, that rise within us are set aside to attend to the others: warm your father’s and brother’s tortillas; wash their dishes; do their laundry; make their beds; sweep the floors; mop…an endless circular list of chores. The older attend to the younger, females to males, younger to elderly.
We are encouraged to yearn for the day we will be the zero to the right of a man that will choose us based on our virginal worth. A silent partner that will give him courage, strength, and value. To raise our children in line with the values we have been raised with.
We have, many of us, been raised to distrust what may ever happen in our “innermost self.” We are provided with stories of fallen women, social discards, continuing examples of what could happen to us.
And then there are those among us who–so loved, were they, for their uniqueness by their mothers, fathers, a “strange” aunt or grandparent–were allowed, and who allowed themselves to escape to their innermost selves!
I will not hide my laughter–
I will let smile burst forth
and shine upon those in whom I delight
I will not be robbed
of my light and my joy,
I will glow in spite of
those who would snuff me out
I will not cower in fear–
for those who prowl
cloaked in the coward’s cover of dark
shall have no power over me
I will not shrink with shame–
I will walk tall and courageous
for I did not inflict this wound
but I have chosen
to become stronger
to not stay silent
I will not diminish the curves of my body–
I am a vibrant and phenomenal woman
My figure does not give anyone permission
to plunder at will
I am mine,
to give and
upon my word
I will not hoard my trust–
I will discern those
who are worthy
who are undeserving,
I will not punish all
for the crimes of a few
I will not make myself less
because all that I am
makes some uncomfortable,
I will live
with every exquisite
inch of my soul
and will do so
with resilient abandon.
Half- truths marinated in mango juices
traipse slowly down the back of an arm
The eager tongue of naiveté sweeps them
onto the palate where
taste buds are obliged to slowly absorb
You just a little on the chubby side
Baby here, have some more macaroni ‘n’ cheese
A young lady never finishes everything on her plate
But honey you have such a pretty face.
With sticky sweet fingers
A little girl stuffs teachings of
‘not good enoughs’
under soft mounds of insulated flesh
that rises and falls in sighs of longing and discontentment
periodically whispers reminders that
Daddy’s love is dependant upon
the number that spins into view when he places her upon the scale
Eyes running over with pity and concern
look down upon her and say;
“If you lose weight you can be in Uncles wedding”
But in her mind a translation is made
And its mantra dances within the folds of her brain
Every pound lost is a pound of love gained
Insecurity seasoned with jerk sauce
pass between lips that wish more to be kissed
than to be fed the spicy morsels of
why she should not be loved
The young lady passes the peppery doctrine
to Teeth which set to break them down
make them more manageable
She swallows with a chaser of ginger beer Allowing lies to coat Esophagus run into Stomach who then
digests and files them in her Heart
And with each beat of life force
Sour reminders of
Why it is such a chore to embrace her
Bubble up in the back of her throat
Once upon a time a beautiful little girl was born. She was precious, sweet, joyful, and full of wonder. She loved nature, laughter, windy days and cute kittens; her horse was one of her best friends in life. This lovely little girl could be found helping creatures in need – trapped lady bugs, snails stuck on the sidewalk, cats in the rain, and hugging homeless dogs.
Some days the little girl would curl up on her bed, read a good book, stare at the clouds, or listen to her music and dream of other lives and lands. She had a talent for drawing and painting. When words would not work, she expressed herself in colors, art and poetry. She loved butterflies, and sparklers, and kites, and coco, and dancing, and swimming, and climbing trees….and twirling around and around for no particular reason.
The little girl was a good student when she wanted to be; she had a flair for organizing her work and attending to details that helped her and others shine. Her appearance was also very unique as her hair looked golden some days, red on some days, and still other days, it was a rich dark chocolate color! Her eyes had the unusual quality of appearing green, brown, blue and hazel…all at the same time! Often people did not know what to make of this little girl – she was both light and dark, happy and sad, graceful and clumsy, outgoing and shy.
In many ways, she was every little girl.
As the little girl grew, she was known for her kind heart, great sense of humor, outgoing personality, and quiet intelligence. Even though life wasn’t perfect [and some days could be pretty hard, lonely and scary], this little girl had a secret…a secret that only she knew about. Deep inside she knew she was different and special…she could just feel it! She knew this to be true because when she stopped and listened to her heart, the steady beat reminded her over and over again:
You are precious
You are special
You are unique
You are valuable
You are a princess!
This little girl held onto to her heart’s secret knowledge of her special inner princess. She feared that no one would really believe her if they found out, or worse yet, maybe they would even make fun of her. Truth be told, some days when bad things happened, it was even hard to believe it herself!
Especially the days when she felt like SHE was the bad thing. The days when she was hurt, abandoned, disappointed, wounded, shamed or pressured by someone she loved. And sometimes, the voice of her heart felt muffled when she told a lie, or when she was mean, manipulative, secretive, or when she gossiped, snapped at her mom, stole something, kicked, stomped, sulked, slammed…and was generally pretty miserable.
Sometimes it got so bad, that she would actually have a:
Sometimes her tantrums were loud and proud, sometimes sulky and…well…kind of obnoxious! As she got older, she learned to hide her tantrums on the inside where no one was the wiser. Where no one could guess what she was feeling – especially not the little girl. She would smile on the outside, but hidden away deep down inside, were numbed feelings that she had been told were bad. And the weirdest thing of all..she did not even know it! It was as if something was trying to silence her heart’s secret princess message.
The years continued to unfold and the little girl discovered both the joys and pains of life. While there were many adventures and lovely memories and moments to cherish, she also discovered that people sometimes leave you, hearts can be broken, that lies are told with smiles, that rain falls on sunny days, and that people and pets we love and cherish pass on to other places. At times the little girl felt lost, alone and frightened. Other times she felt angry, resentful and filled with hurt. And sometimes, well…she felt just plain hopeless.
Where she used to draw hearts and rainbows, where she used to dream of love, joy and adventure, where she used to dance naturally and organically with abandon, where she used to wish and pray….little by little this began to fade away and was replaced by other ways of coping in order to silence her wounded heart.
One night as the little girl slept, a dream monster revealed itself to her. This monster was responsible for stealing the hope and confidence of girls, and had been stalking this particular little girl for many, many years. The monsters name was:
S H O U L D
Monster Should reminded the little girl that his job was to creep around feeding his fiendish friends: Doubt, Dissatisfaction, Envy, and Apathy. He would drown out her beating heart’s message of hope with his loud ticking clock to remind her that she was slowly but steadily… running out of time.
Monster Should informed the little girl in no uncertain terms that he and his cruel friends were going to continue to set up home in her mind for as long as they darn well wanted to. And that the only way she could banish them was by listening to her true heart’s voice of hope.
As the little girl awoke with a start, and shook off the bad dream, Monster Should chuckled to himself, knowing full well that it was very hard for little girls to learn how to listen to their authentic hearts. The evil monster knew that he had a lot of support in the outside world that would happily assist him with his nasty cause.
And he was right. For a very long time, the little girl learned to should all over herself. The monsters ticking messages within her head said things like, “I should be prettier, I should have a better education, I should have more money, thinner thighs, a better job, a cuter hair cut, a nicer home, a fabulous car, a man to support me, a work out schedule, more discipline, more friends, more, more, more, I should, I should, I should….”
In the harder moments, sometimes the little girl ate too much in order to sooth herself. Other times she took a pill, smoked or drank. Sometimes she slept..and slept..and slept. Sometimes she watched TV, or stayed on the Internet for hours on end. Sometimes she clung to the shredded tatters of old relationships that no longer fit. Other times she shopped and dieted, and exercised herself silly! And many times, she worked her fingers to the bone to keep herself distracted from what really matters.
And…what really matters?
One day, many years later, the little girl found herself living in a land that was flanked by mountains of both flame and snow to the north, and a vast and mysterious sea to the south. It was filled with palm trees, hidden trails, sparkling streams, dessert canyons, and flowers of every kind. After some time had passed, a new season came to be known in the land, and it was proclaimed:
The Compassion Season
As this new season arrived, for the first time in a very long time, the little girl began to stand still in her life and listen to her heartbeat. Monster Should’s ticking thoughts grew fainter and fainter. And as she settled down into that familiar feeling of knowing that she had a special princess deep within, she began to trust her heart again. Beat by beat, the language and lessons came back to her. Her heart was telling her so many things that she had forgotten, and some things that she was hearing for the very first time!
She even found out that her secret princess name was Tout Le Monde!!
As the season of compassion matured, Monster Should and his vile buddies fled one by one for other habitation. And this beautiful, precious, sweet, creative, funny, intelligent, artistic little girl who was now a woman, began to express her authentic self, to honor her heart’s voice of hope, and to awaken to a life that was like a new present each day to unwrap. She discovered that some days the presents were just what she asked for, and other days, it was a gift she needed, but had not known.
Again and again, she realized that life did not have to be perfect, people did not need to be perfect, situations did not have to be perfect, and best of all she did not need to be perfect either…Hurray! And even in the imperfect moments, with imperfect people and her imperfect self, she could still be grateful and she could still create new possibilities each and every day of her life. She even created a princess tiara just for herself; she decorated it with all the colors and designs she loved, and on the inside she wrote her secret princess name Tout Le Monde so she would always remember she was a gift and a blessing, and that she had value and meaning in this world. In fact, her secret princess name meant “all the world.”
As we say farewell to Tout Le Monde, we leave her with our good and healing thoughts, our starlit wishes, and sweet sister prayers as she continues to discover all of the wonderful gifts that are just waiting for her.
And now, we bring the story to ourselves, to our own life and journey and precious inner princess. We now know that the road ahead will be filled with both harsh stones and refreshing streams. Yet we can breath easy on the more difficult parts of the path, as we listen to our own authentic heartbeat reminding us that:
This story is my story.
I am that lovely little girl.
I have a life that is worth living.
I have talents that are uniquely my own.
I am a valued child.
I am a woman of strength.
I am an over comer.
I am a gift.
I am an authentic being.
I am worth loving.
I parked behind a flashy car
out of which a woman stepped
I noticed her license plate
around which these words proclaimed:
I’M BAD…because the men like it
and I thought about
all the decades
all the centuries
all of history
during which womyn
have been taught
ourselves into some more
“palatable” version of womyn
in the end
we are not womyn
and for those who resisted
and still do resist
there awaits her
sentencing to solitary singleness
without the possibility of parole.
we’ve learned that
if we like men
if we hope to be liked
we need to be
what the men like
pushed things up
cinched things in
stuck things out
“because…the men like it”
gave things up
kept things in
went with out
“because…the men like it”
but now here I am
what is not me
by striving toward
in which I
do not believe
all because…the men like it?
Now, I cannot lie
I do love a good man
but I gotta love myself more
because a man?
well, he may stay
or he may go
’til death do us part
I’m bound to my self
authentically ever after
so here is how I plea
sentence as you will:
I’m me…because I like it
As a sex and love addiction therapist who is passionate about my work in private practice, and as a counselor who celebrates my client’s courageous efforts in their own healing process, I realized it was finally time for me to come clean.
For many years I led a double life where I hid a secret affair. An affair, that for a time, became the most important relationship in my life. My love affair with Chip. Chip consumed my daily thoughts. Whenever I was away from Chip, I craved the dark sweetness of our passion, the warmth that I felt, and the unconditional love. Chip was there for me, never critical, always comforting, day or night. Through the highs and lows of life – Chip’s tempting embrace was only an arms reach away.
Sometimes I would indulge with Chip in the same bed where only moments before I had made love with my significant other. Other times, I would sneak away to a clandestine spot and nibble on Chips delights. Chip was everything to me and I craved those satisfying offerings like no other. Shameful I know, but I ask that you try to withhold your judgment, and please understand…I simply could not help myself!
The years went by, and like most guilty secrets, the price I paid was shame, sorrow and low self esteem.
My affair with chocolate chips came to a screeching halt in my late 20’s when I finally came face to face with my inner food addict. Until that time, I had been blessed with genes that allowed me to consume large quantities of ‘Chip’ in the form of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip ice cream, chocolate chip brownies, and just plain old bags and bags of…you guessed it – chocolate chips! Equally important was the other Chip in my life: Potato chips. Pringles was my drug of choice. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with Pringles, this is a potato like product that is perfectly shaped and comes stacked in a foot tall tin can – it is not a stretch to say that Pringles are the food equivalent of a salt lick.
Clearly I did not have a discriminating pallet when it came to self-soothing.
And that is exactly how I used food – to soothe difficult emotions. Food was my opiate, my heroin, my sex. If I felt sad, overwhelmed, angry, joyful, confused, elated, or just plain bored, I turned to my drug to comfort me. Comforting was something that I could find in food, but could not trust in people…at least not for a very long time.
My background includes years of abuse in the foster care system, followed by a hellish adoption situation, which ended with me moving out on my own at 16. By then, my chip affair was well under way. My food addiction was steeped in neglect and abandonment-the cornerstones of my early years. Eventually this led to a foundation of dissatisfaction…an underlying assumption that there was something fundamentally wrong…with me. Much like the alcoholic drinks his sadness, or the smoker smokes her anger, or the gambler gambles away their stress – I ate my emotions. I ate and ate and stuffed them down in an avalanche of sugar and salt.
Still, it was easy to deny food addiction because that label did not exist back then. Even if it did, food addicts were fat, right? Or at the very least, a person with an eating disorder must be ‘scarfing and barfing’, or ‘splurging and purging’ as my pack of teen friends and I would carelessly joke about. We did not understand the serious ramifications of eating disorders, including food addiction. We were young, thin and beautiful…so no biggy, right?
At 30 years old my denial finally caught up to me. Over the next two years, as my hormones changed subtly and somewhat insidiously, and as my career transitioned from very active, to sitting behind a desk for a decade, the pounds crept on, and with every expanding inch, my love affair came into light. Having been blessed with a naturally slim figure, it never occurred to me that my food seduction would inevitably sell me out – enough so that eventually my health was jeopardized.
It would take pages (chapters really) to recount the years of yo-yo dieting, fad eating plans, liquid lunches, and you name it before I finally stood still enough in my life to hear the heartbeat of what was motivating my acting out with food. When I finally gifted myself with the chance to gently uncover the roots of my addiction and what I was really hungry for, it was then that my journey toward well being and healing began.
A journey that continues today.
An important discovery during those years of early exploration is that my lack of setting boundaries with food was a direct manifestation of my lack of setting boundaries with the people in my life. I spent the first three decades of my life overcompensating in relationships with others. I put on a happy face – the mask of a people pleasing good girl who was desperate to be accepted. Eventually, this pseudo self would not tolerate anything less than perfection…no mistakes were allowed in others, and God forbid in me! When I suffered with bouts of depression, I soothed my broken heart into silence with junk food.
Yet, as my road to healing continued, I knew this way of coping had to change. As I allowed my truth to surface, and as I began clearly identifying triggering situations and people, working through early trauma and abuse, and recognizing and accepting my limits – I was then able to set and maintain boundaries with others. And slowly, I began to replace my life long habit of numbing with salt and sweets, with foods that felt restorative. Papaya, berries, and nuts became my new snacks. I learned about moderation in love and in life as well as with food. I discovered that eating joyfully and healthily were actually synonymous after all!
I won’t try and fool you; it hasn’t been an easy road. I have stumbled many times and have fallen right back into the arms of my old love affair with Chip (and have had an occasional ménage a trois with his buddies pizza, cupcake and cheeseburger). But, in these times of relapse, I have learned to be gentle with myself and to look at my acting out as a barometer for what currently needs to be addressed and balanced in my life. And, best of all, I am learning to love (yes, love) my curves, my softness and my femininity.
What I have discovered is like so many women my age, I experience vicarious trauma every day as I am constantly surrounded by images that ‘should’ all over me – what I ‘should’ look like, how I ‘should’ dress, what I ‘should’ eat. I am aging, year-by-year, yet the faces on the magazines that surround me at the grocery are forever young. My 40-ish friends and I don’t see “us” anywhere anymore – not in commercials, magazines or billboards.
Here is the battle cry that echo’s off the voices of women my age everywhere – my friends, my sisters, my clients:Youuu whooo world of patriarchal advertising mad men. Hellloooo out there…where are the beautiful 40, 50, 60 and beyond women? We are not unicorns – we actually do exist!
Researchers have discovered that we are shown 3,000 images a day that are designed to appeal to our sense of vanity, of indulgence, of sexuality. Question: How am I supposed to feel good about buying a cream for my crow’s feet that is being sold to me by a photo-shopped 17-year-old print model? And while I am on the topic, I truly loathe that expression, “Crows feet”, what sadistic advertiser came up with that zinger anyway?! Don’t even get me started on that vial label, “Cougar.”
In the words of this modern Dorothy: Unicorns, crows and cougars – oh my! These images and accepted expressions are created to shame us into grasping for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: the fountain of youth, beauty and perfection.
Yet, this is an impossible standard to live up to because, well, it doesn’t exist. Airbrushing is hardly a secret anymore, but so many of us have grown accustomed to feeling ‘less than’ in comparison to the impossible standard that has been shoved down our throats, that eating disorders are now at an all time high!
It is shocking to consider in the United States alone, as many as 10 in 100 young women suffer from eating disorders, and 1,000s of young girls have been on diets by the age of 10 (source: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org,) In an article written for www.abc.net, Bulimia is the third most common chronic illness for adolescent girls, causing more deaths than any other psychiatric disorder. Some authorities estimate that as many as one in five female students are bulimic.
In the face of so much bleak information, perhaps it is time to go back to basics. Adequate sleep, clean, clear water, exercise that is fun and fills your heart. I love hiking, getting out of the city and embracing nature. I recently bought a pink opalescent beach cruiser that brings me great joy. I named her “Pearl” and enjoy many hours a month zipping around my neighborhood ringing her cute heart shaped bell. I also relish yoga and dancing. And foods that nurture both the body and the soul.
And yes, that means chocolate too!
The bottom line for me is this: If I set an intention for myself [example: “This week I will make healthy eating choices and ride Pearl three times and allow enough hours to rest and sleep”], and then the week rolls out and I am rushed, eating without awareness, and sleep deprived, then I have not kept a promise to the most important person I will ever be in relationship with…myself. And if I break enough promises with me, then I cannot trust my own word…to me. And if I cannot trust me, then I will never be able to trust another person. And if I can’t build trust with me first, or another person, then I will never be able to trust that God has a good a perfect plan for my life.
And that just doesn’t work for me any longer.
I still love Chip. And I always will. But Chip and I have a much better relationship now that our secret life is over and I have defined and maintained boundaries around our time together.
So here’s to growing trust with self in 2010 – and cheers to that!
Be well, be boundaried, be bodacious and…be beautiful.
Mari A. Lee, MA is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist who trained with Dr. Patrick Carnes. Mari counsels men, women and couples dealing with the impact of sex, pornography and love addiction at her private practice located in Pasadena, California. Mari facilitates weekly therapy groups for men [SRS – Sexual Recovery Support group for men], for women [H.E.A.R.T – Heal, Encourage, Accept, Restore, Trust support group], and for couples recovering from the devastating impact of sex addiction in their marriages [S.T.A.R. – Strengthen, Trust, Acknowledge, Repair].
Mari also speaks and writes on body image and self esteem and created her healing workshop called, “From Fairytales to Facelifts: Learning to love the image in the mirror.” Additionally, Mari is currently writing a book for women dealing with the impact of love addiction. Mari can be reached at (818) 521-4370, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may visit her website at www.marileetherapy.com to learn more about her work.