One of the major visions/goals that helped me write through, and edit through, and self-publish through the doubt, skepticism and fear of creating this book was the vision of at least one person being helped by it. I told myself that I was writing for that one person, and if it reached them, my reason for going through all of this mess was worth it.
Well here I am, on the other side of getting through the creation and birthing phases, and I gotta’ tell you it’s a weird feeling. To date, I have had at least three people write me and tell me how my book really helped them with their food and body issues (not including my editor, as synchronicity would have it!). And in the moment, the warm honey-like glow that came over me as I received their feedback felt like Yes. This is the reason I wrote this. My work has been done.
I received most of this feedback from women, but there was one man who responded and this was the one that took me. He spoke of his struggles and his healing path, how it mirrored a lot of mine, and how it was helpful to read someone else’s journey that wasn’t of the “perfect recovery in a box ilk.” And that also wasn’t like the typical female struggle, so that it was one he could relate to. This was my biggest hope, not that my book would provide “linear steps to freedom,” but that my words would be read, my cyclic journey with healing felt, and that this would resonate and give hope to the less linear journeyers out there. Regardless of gender. So yes, this reflected a dream, a hope, accomplished, and my gratitude for this healing effect on others was sated. Temporarily.
It’s now been almost a month since the release of Food Memories and all the flurry of facing my fears of what would happen if my story went public, of the release party and appreciations, of these dear people who bought and reviewed and wrote to me and told me of the impact of the book on their life. It’s been almost a month and at this point, it is very, very quiet.
No sales. No new reviews. No more feedback.
I knew this might happen. I allowed, of course, for the shiny possibility of the book finding its way to people’s hands and building an organic, magical following without my effort. That was another dream–that if this book (and my friggin’ private insides) needed to be seen by more people, it would happen in this way. I had no interest in forcing that, through marketing, etc then, and I still have no interest in doing this. But now, as I suspected might occur without my direct involvement, I am in the dead zone, or at least seemingly so.
I have done some work to move the book into the world, in ways that don’t just blurt out and splay said insides to as many people as possible. I’ve mailed it to several healers, therapists and experts in the field. I even mailed it to a father of a young woman who is struggling with severe Anorexia, to help him with perspective and to offer my time as a guide if needed. This all felt good to do, putting copies of Food Memories in the mail to do its work in the world. But now, after some weeks, there is just this silence. Who knows how my story is working its ways with these people, or whether they’ve the chance to read it in the craziness that is our world predicament these days.
In this silence, I am left to wonder what I am to do next, and whether I should force the publicity of this book or wait for it to simmer. I wonder what the most aligned thing is to do. I am terrified, still, of having masses of people know my story, but am willing if it is the best for all concerned. I am not really concerned with the sales for money sake, more just wanting to see the book–and all I was “guided” to put into it–out and fulfilling its purpose. I fear it will just die if I don’t feed it in some way. But how? What is truly authentic for me to do?
I plan to follow up with these people I’ve sent the book to. I wish I didn’t have to, that the book would have affected them so that they would feel compelled to contact me. That something bigger than myself would move this into larger fields. That something bigger than my own need for feedback would take place. To prove it was worth it. But that’s not how it’s panning out, and I’m making this mean that there is still some part I have to play in bringing the book to more people. Maybe it is part of my life-game, to explore polarities further from silence and humility. Who knows.
All this silence has put me back in touch with that expansive, universe-wide space of void that I feel inside regarding my purpose here on this planet. Without the momentum and hopes of writing the book, without the way the initial feedback felt, and without the clear desire to market it like mad, I am left here to wonder what I’m really doing here, what I really wrote that book for, whether there was guidance in all of that or just some fantasy crafted life meaning I whipped up to quell the existential angst inside.
Don’t know. But what I do know (and am hanging onto with dear life so I don’t slide down that precarious dark slope) is that the goal, the vision, the dream that kept me going in writing Food Memories came true. A major life goal…and fear…was accomplished. And that one person, to my astonishment, was helped by the words I bared on the page.
Blessed, blessed be.
~Food Memories by Reagan Lakins, is available in all online bookstores. If you want to support a small bookstore, you can purchase it through Bookwoman at: https://www.ebookwoman.comor request it through your local bookstore. If you feel moved to purchase and read my story, thank you! I would love to know how and if it affected you :}
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the state of the universe. The state of our species and the species we live amongst. Whether the Earth is in danger or just waiting to flick us off like fleas. Whether there’s really anything we can do about that, this, anything.
I’ve always had a pretty intense existential streak, and while there is a percentage of me that plays pollyanna optimistica, it is this part that often takes up most space on the stage. The other day I found a journal entry during a low point of my struggles with food, and it rung with this existential, purposeless tone. After reading it, I honored that it is of course my own struggle, but found myself wondering if what I am feeling with food is indicative of the soul loss of many of my species. And whether those who struggle with food issues, in emergency ways, are canaries in the coal mine rather than disordered weirdos. There again is my pollyanna optimist.
I am full. I hate this feeling. Fullness. Why? Most people want to feel this, but me? I hate it. Because it means I don’t HAVE to eat, that I have to wait for a long time to feel hungry again. It means I don’t get to eat for a while and if I don’t HAVE to eat, if it isn’t the most necessary thing…what else do I do with myself? Everything revolves around controlling my food so I can eat as often as possible with the least discomfort of this fullness. Moderating everything so I am hovering around emptiness. Everything. What the hell would I do with myself if I wasn’t so focused on this? It really is a question.
It is why the vision quest was a good practice, and a terrifying one, for me. Ironic! For a restrictor! Being with myself for a day without the focus of food, oh the incredible grief that comes! Sitting in the vast desert, wishing and wanting to be inspired by something else but only finding silence and sadness. Grief. Wishing for a vision to come, but…nothing. Feeling abandoned by my own soul. And the same silence, this sense of purposelessness when I’ve been in treatment, sitting with my feelings of fullness, waiting for something else to inspire me, to take my mind off of this hounding obsession, a bigger purpose. I’ve put myself through treatment over and over again to find that, and all I’ve found is nothing. Whether hungry, or full, there’s just this vast empty desert of purposelessness.
At least when I’m hungry, I know I need to eat. I know I need to go get food for myself. So I keep myself as near to that as possible.
Some people I know only eat once or twice a day and that’s also amazing to me…what do they do with the rest of the day without food breaks to bring purpose to their the day? I can’t really imagine. It is so important to me. And I’ve MADE it important…like emergency important. It’s my “issue” so I have to eat, or I have hypoglycemia so I have to eat little bits every few hours for my blood sugar, etc…but is that true? Are these all just elaborate stories to make eating more important than it really needs to be?
I often wonder what it would be like to just eat and move on. Move on to something I am more passionate about, something I enjoy more than eating. I wish I had that. But nothing compares to the comfort I get from eating. Nothing. Is that ok? Is it just my passion, food? And if so, how can I make that a fun thing rather than a tragic thing? Where I’m like Pippin enjoying his Elevenses? Or the kitchen witch?
I love food so much. It is kind of ironic that I struggle with restriction when this is the fact, but here’s why: restriction makes it okay to eat. Restriction makes it NECESSARY to eat. Do you understand?
Somewhere I got the programming that it is not okay to just want to eat all the time for the joy of it, beyond what I need for survival, but if I am restricting then eating is necessary, important, urgent. There’s something too about feeling an undeniable signal from my body, undeniable direction, that I treasure. Nowhere else do I feel this clarity from my body in what to do with myself. When I am hungry though, when I am starving, I know exactly what to do, the most important thing to do to survive.
What life would be like if I had an internal guidance system that told me exactly what it wanted in other areas, too. If I had inner direction that was so strong to focus me on tasks, I wonder if my need to have hunger as my direction would fade? Hunger is really the only clear conversation I seem to have from my body…where I know what it wants, where I know how to decipher its messages. Otherwise, I’ve not a clue what my body/soul is communicating to me most of the time, what it really wants and needs or what it wants me to do with my life, in this big, overwhelming world. Everything, besides the clarity of hunger, is so cloudy, murky.
And there is of course the shame of making this my purpose, when so many people don’t even have enough to eat. Layer on some of that and it is a wonderful soup to be swimming in. But I cannot pretend it isn’t true for me. It is blatantly and embarrassingly clear.
I hope someday I find some other purpose. For now it is the reason I have for getting up in the morning, what makes going through my days tolerable. To have to create hunger to have to feed myself. And as someone who has walked the line of death in that struggle, it is always somewhat of a dramatic issue. My own little dramatic issue. Or is it ours? Yours?
The ironic truth is that as a restrictor and controller of food, I definitely live to eat. Do you understand? It is astounding to me, the energy spent in this, and the paradox. And that there seems to be nothing else. Maybe someday I will find out how to eat to live, a purpose beyond hunger.”
*I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I am not looking for advice or sympathy, more for a dialogue about the parallels to soullessness in our society and what we do to feel any sort of purpose within it. The extremes we go to to find something, to feel something, to be involved in something important. Do you understand?
For lack of an idea of what to share with you in my weekly post, my tarot deck wanted to help :} The card that came forward to share about was Knight of Wands. Let us unfold this card to see what its teaching is for me…and perhaps you…today.
In this card, we have an armored Knight on their steed, passionately galloping into an unknown future. S/he carries a flaming wand aloft and into this, determined and confident, ready for anything.
S/he often carries the energy of impulsiveness, s/he is often one who will take action for the sake of taking action, not necessarily because it is what is truly aligned to take. Bored and frustrated with the current situation, the Knight of Wands will travel, move, start a relationship, do something drastic just to get the energies moving. Sometimes this is wise, often it is not. The Knight has much valuable energy but needs to find ways to balance this drive with listening, patience, grounding. To make sure their energy is not wasted, or to prevent a decision from being made that is unwise and cannot be undone.
At this time, I can relate wholeheartedly with this card. Inside, I have a Knight of Wands raring to go…to make some sort of major change. It’s not enough that there is so much upheaval in the world today, strangely. There is this part in me that feels the need for change and wants it NOW.
Like the Knight of Wands, I am feeling the need to move, shift, burst forward out of the monotony. I have several offers of places to move, even though where I am isn’t the most ideal but it’s not all bad. Struggling whether just because these offers have come really means it is time for me to move. There are many things in my life at this time that feel stagnant…and I am raring to just change SOMETHING. It does seem like it would feel good, to just do something to shift this sense of urgency inside.
Yet I know enough about my sensitivity to get that perhaps I am feeling the collective—pissed, frustrated and raring for action in a new direction than the stagnant one it has been in. Perhaps it has nothing to do with me, and so me taking it personally and making some drastic move or job change wouldn’t be wise at this time. This is where listening, patience and breath come in handy.
What about you? Can you relate with this figure? Are you feeling frustrated and making rash plans to change things, anything, to just be out of stagnancy? Is it a wise, grounded decision? How do you know? Are you breathing, listening and balancing your passionate fire and desire for change?
Have you heard this one before? Has it been a way to help you navigate your life direction? I’d love to hear, both what your childhood joys were as well as if you followed them into your life’s work.
I can share that ever since I found out that college + degree + well paying job does not = happiness, my aim has been in exploring this concept to find a more fulfilling way to earn income and invest my energy. I have followed pretty much all of my childhood joys:
*playing music (with cardboard cutout instruments and gogo boots!)—>being in a band, recording an album
*working with animals—>becoming a recreational therapist specializing in animal assisted therapy
*playing in the forest—>taking people on medicine walks, teaching about/working in herbalism
*watching horror movies and novels—>working with Metallica’s Kirk Hammett at his Fearfestevil Festival (this was SO great :})
*watching witchy and fantastical movies—>working at fantasy fairs and festivals, working for priestess/witchcraft organizations
*building forts and rehabbing abandoned houses—>building my own caravan trailer and helping to rebuild hostels and retreat centers
*eating yummy food—>traveling and working in kitchens with amazing and magickal chefs
All of these things I have explored fervently, they were often the only compass point in my times of darkness. In these times all I could do was to ask myself which childhood joy I hadn’t explored and to make it my goal to experiment with that. And woo, have I learned a lot, grown a lot, from that process! My inner kid certainly appreciates it.
But now, I am kind of at the end of the line, having tried and exhausted all of these things and wondering…now what? After one has done this exploration, what then? I incorporate a lot of these activities in my hobbies and free time, yet I yearn for a career that satisfies my deeper soul. That includes these passions in ways I haven’t imagined, or better yet, that involves something I don’t even know about yet.
After the publishing of my memoir, Food Memories, I started to wonder more about this, about stepping more fully into the world with my soul work. In the book I discuss my thoughts about living with a restrictive eating disorder, about my struggles with the concept of linear recovery, about the hope and despair I have gone back and forth with when trying to live up to the mental health system’s definition of “full recovery.” I started to wonder if my particular struggle was my unique gift to offer others–to provide a place to be “imperfect” in the recovery world and still acknowledge and work on healing within oneself. A place to honor the darkness rather than diagnose it, and to see what occurs in this cauldron of holding.
But it terrifies me that this is an irresponsible offering. It terrifies me that I will keep people from fully healing by encouraging the exploration of this perspective. It still terrifies me that I will hurt rather than heal.
I think this is my ego talking, and I am thankful for its wariness. But I also feel it is holding me back from my next leg of offering what my soul truly wants to offer in the world. I have spent many years in the dark shadows of what the mental health system deems as “healthy,” having to wake myself over and over again to the possibility that I am under some sort of unhelpful spell that disempowers me. That the terror of claiming my imperfection is healing too, and that it is actually the exact task for my growth and service to others. This is what I attempted to do with my book.
Yet now, as I contemplate how to work in the world, I find myself interacting with old systems, creating resumes to try to seem appealing to them, and it is challenging me to my very core. Do I really believe in the health of my imperfection? In the ability I may have to help others with my experience? In the face of the typical requirements for these treatment facility jobs, I find myself wondering if working for the traditional systems is really not in my best interest. That instead, I am to incorporate my childhood joys, and my life lessons into a coaching based offering to others. To work for myself…in service to others? Terrifying.
I am exploring both routes. To give respect to that little inner child who is waiting for me to create a more aligned life for us, as well as to give respect to that part of me that kind of wants to charge into the traditional systems and shift them from the inside. My inner child isn’t really into doing the latter, so perhaps that’s a sign. And who knows, I may find out that the System has changed and working within it will teach me in powerful and fulfilling ways.
As always, my agnostic fence sitting is helping me explore them both with equal curiosity. And some frustration and a whole host of other uncomfortable emotions, honestly. But hey, I’ve been gifted this life, and somehow have landed in a body and climate where I have so much to be thankful for. So I’m using it as best I can, and I hope both me and my inner girl can find a way to rock it together.
Tell me, how about you?
~Food Memories, by Reagan J Lakins (ISBN-10 : 1689839074), is now available through Amazon and all major booksellers. To my surprise, you can even order it from a little bookshop called BookWoman in Texas and they get some of the proceeds to stay functional during the pandemic!
Today I sat down at the computer, wondering what to write and quite frankly wondering what to do with my life. Yes, one of those days. Since the release of Food Memories, I’ve been half waiting for magickal things to happen, and half trying to detach from outcome. I’ve been feeling a soul pull to “change in big ways” but as for any direction or vision, it’s just crickets.
So as usual I am balancing the tension of the opposites–between naive hope and bitter despair. It’s usually from this place that I reach for divination. Could the tarot have anything to share with me about this quiet aftermath?
Today I received Eight of Fire/Wands.
As is often the case, I snort “Really??” at the cards. This is usually followed by, “What the hell is THAT supposed to mean??” I get frustrated, and distrusting. But then, Something tells me to chill.
I wait. I look. I write. I listen.
Sitting here, trying to understand. This card usually represents fast moving matters, sometimes air travel, but always a sense of things galloping forward without obstacle. The exact OPPOSITE of what I feel right now in my life. Again I ask, “What could this possibly have to say about my situation?”
Silence. For a moment. I breathe. And then I hear, “Things change instantly. You know this. One moment you are sitting on the curb daydreaming, and the next moment you are swept up by a life-changing event. Remember? How many times this has happened to you? This is the energy of this card, and the possible way that things will unfold very shortly. It is not a card suggesting you to wait for incoming rapid movement, but to snap out of your lamenting that things will never change. Shortly they will…prepare for it. It may look calm, silent, stagnant now…but this will not last for long. Be prepared.”
Hmm. This message feels wise to me. As I have a skeptic-in-residence in my head, I will never put all of my eggs in the tarot advice basket, but it does help to hear some sort of advice within, instead of just silence.
To prepare. Okay. Preparing has been something I’ve felt called to do lately–work on my resume, pack most of my belongings to be ready to move. Everything seems to be wanting to change, and the only thing I can do is prepare. Now I see how I have been stuck in the place of lostness, instead of trusting in the ever-changing nature of life. Things always change. And often it is clear what to do when that time comes. I am grateful for the moments of pause I am being given before the rapid shift comes. To prepare.
I look back at this card and I can’t help think of the recent fires sparked by lightning all across California. In an instant, things changed, lived changed, some lives lost. I think of the silence and stillness that those who are disrupted might be wishing for right now. And how, if they’d known what was coming, could have used the time to prepare.
So I shift from frustration, to gratitude. Gratitude for this notice, gratitude for this time to get ready. Even if the cards aren’t predicting anything, I know that life can change in an instant.
Understanding, I prepare. For the Eight of Fire, swift movement…for the ever changing nature of life. Thank you.
~The image above is sourced from Tarot of The Spirit, by Joyce and Pamela Eakins.
~This poem was recently published in a women’s literary anthology! If you’re interested in all of the other amazing reflections on this timely structure, check out Death: Deep Reflections from The Sisters of The Holy Pen, ed. Pamela Eakins at:
You know how weird it feels to wake up on the day of your birthday and feel like nothing is really drastically different, despite the utter impossibility of the new number you now inhabit? That’s how I’ve been feeling this past week, not because it was my day of birth, but because it’s the “after” of choosing to press publish.
As mentioned last week, it was unexpectedly quiet after doing so, aside from my internal revelations. And this past week has been similarly quiet, a few emails from friends and colleagues cheering me on for my accomplishment were all that seemed different than my pre-published state.
My original plan was to let this book float out into the universe and to see what happened, without engaging in the weirdness that is marketing. And I’ve kept to that, aside from alerting chosen friends and those involved along the way (including you :}) with the completion of the goal.
In the relative silence of this choice, I started to wonder about that plan, whether I should be doing more to encourage my book’s success in the world. Again I picked up sassy marketing books, contemplated entering contests, sharing about the publication with social media. Again I balked. Something, at least right now, doesn’t feel right about it. All the advice screamed, “Get on it now, or your book will go unnoticed! Pre-launch and post-launch are perfect times to run a book giveaway!”
Yet with these suggestions ringing in my mind, all I could envision was my book as a very small baby, and what it might feel like to be marketed and sold to the world, social media, etc. And of course this made my skin crawl…an obvious reaction with that re-frame. I also thought of my new-born vulnerability and how crazy it still feels to have my soul out there to be read by anyone. Do I want to gather millions to ogle at that? Um..no. I for one don’t even want most people to know I’ve had the baby! Do many new parents face this conflict?
Herein lies the strange and complex journey of following the soul’s guidance to do something scary, sometimes kicking and screaming whilst doing so. Whereas what a writer should want is many readers, I am the opposite, at least in having the desire to find them. I am open and willing to be seen by those who somehow find the book, but to call attention to it en masse does not feel right. Am I making a mistake, letting my book die on the vine? Who knows. All I know is I feel like puking every time I look at marketing material.
I’ve been going through pictures from my mother’s recent passing, and in them I found one of me as a child on stage with my mother. I’m in a blue and white polka dotted bathing suit, and there’s a sign behind us, “Tri-county Beauty Contest.” I’m probably about four years old. She has a marvelous bouffant hair-do and is dressed to the nines. It brought me pause to think that she did that, enrolled her four year old in a beauty contest, but the age span made me think. Perhaps it will be when my babe is four years old that I will feel ready to bring her on stage to the wider audience. Who knows?
For now, I’m letting it be. I’m enjoying the silence, although a little uncomfortable I’m doing it “wrong.” I’m gazing at my babe poised on my ancestor altar, amazed by it. I’m waiting. I’m asking for its journey to unfold for the greatest alignment of all concerned. I’m holding it, and my vulnerable self, like a baby not yet ready to face the screaming, blaring, honking, critiquing world all at once.
This blog seems to be a safe place to show her off, in a non-smarmy way. To share about the process of her in-utero growth, the ups and downs, and finally her birth. I’m so grateful for that, for you who make it here to read. Thanks for being the small community that I can share her with.
Some part of me thought mountains would shake, arrows would fly towards me, or some other crazy result would occur from doing such a thing. But that Wednesday morning after pressing the button, things were pretty quiet ((aside from the entire West Coast burning around me–prayers all around)).
What did occur was a series of internal earthquakes. The first rippled through as I stepped out of the shower post-publish. I suddenly realized:
I just completed a major life goal. Something I committed to doing before I die.
Waves of pride, and amazement, flowed through me. And then, a powerful surge of wanting to volunteer somewhere! I was a bit puzzled by this reaction, but then thought how it made sense. I’ve been spending the last however many years plotting, crafting, writing, anti-socializing, editing, etc to get this task done, and now there was a well of energy being released for a new use. So I’m working on that.
The next boom that happened was the realization that I had taken a step to finally become visible. My words, my story, the fact that I struggle with eating and body issues, my ideas (and I’d like to think teachings) about all of that–these are all now able to be seen by the public eye. For so many years I have kept these things hidden from everyone save for a few trusted souls. Now for all to see? How terrifying…and exciting. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to hold this possibility. A few years ago I was still in too much of a Hermit mode, alchemizing. But now, it feels right.
The last boom (at least for now) was an image of my ideal reader, in my mind. I had to draw her, and I do hope she is out there reading somewhere, being comforted by my words. Here she is :}
Hello amazing people. I hope this reaches you and your loved ones in a well place…so much going on these days.I send my love out to you.
I am so grateful to have this outlet to share this process. Thanks for tuning in with me. Especially anyone who has followed my journey from the beginning, to finally seeing this completion.
So. I finally received my proof copy in the mail. I waited two days to open it, nervous. Nervous it would look bad again, requiring another round of fluffing. Nervous it would look good, requiring me to finally push the publish button. Despite my quaking, this morning I drew a tarot card and decided to dive in. Here’s what happened.
The first card I draw is the Nine of Pentacles. A lovely lady in her fruitful, peaceful and protected garden. She is admiring the completion of a physical creation. This gives me solace as my hands shake whilst ripping the package open. I certainly want to have the calm, full of gratitude kind of aura this lady has, but all I am is nervous! My breath shallow, I slowly lift the copy out of it’s package…would this copy be the one that urges me to finally release it into the world?
The first view is of the front cover. I chose to change the arrangement of the picture and title so I could use a different template for the back cover. It isn’t the most amazing arrangement, but it ain’t half bad. I kind of like it, actually. I also chose to switch to a glossy finish, which looks classy too. I’m kind of feeling more like that lady in the garden now. I flip through the inside, I really like the look of the formatting. I really like it. I feel…gulp…it is time to decide to be done. To press print.
I am drawn to choose two more cards now that the worst part is over…ones that exemplify my next step with the book. I choose the Tower and the Knight of Wands. Double gulp!
Satisfied with the front and inner matter, though a little nervous about the nature of these cards, I turn the book over to inspect the back. I like this view a lot. I included a picture and a little bio here and it looks nicely spaced out. Triple gulp…I think it really is ready.
But what of the cards? The Tower, showing a lightning bolt decimating a structure, ablaze and people jumping out of it, is not exactly the warm and fuzzy nature of the Nine of Pentacles above. A peaceful garden it is not. And the Brother of Fire, he’s also not just sitting around being grateful. He’s moving quickly, aiming towards his goal with passion and determination.
What this means to me is that in the course of just a few minutes–before opening the package to now holding the final proof in my hands and writing about it–I have gone from a safe, contemplative place to one of readiness for a powerfully transformative stage in my creative process. One that requires strong and determined action on my part. One that requires the risking of heading into major foundation shaking. Often the Tower card might indicate to not do a thing, but coupled with the Brother of Fire, it feels like it is saying, “Yes this will totally rearrange you, to hit publish and release this into the world…but you must! You must! We must! Let us ride into the fire and be transformed!”
I think I just might be crazy enough to follow that guidance. By the next time I blog, I very well may have pressed “Publish” and have Towerish experiences to report to you. For now, I am sharing these images with you, shaking in my boots but also feeling the Brother of Fire within me. I do believe I am about to ride into the Fire.
*Nine of Pentacles from the Golden Universal Tarot by Roberto De Angelis; Tower and Brother of Fire from the Tarot of The Spirit by Pamela Eakins.
With the world in flames–virally, socio-politically and literally–I have forgotten to mention a most powerful occurrence that has happened in my world. The passing, and honoring of, dear Serena Toxicat.
Serena passed in late July and an online memorial was created by her community, led primarily by Sumiko Saulson. It was this event that I want to write about, although there are many things I could say about dear Serena.
I knew Serena through a mutual connection with Isis Oasis and the Fellowship of Isis, both of us having ordained through the organization for Priestesshood. As it is a large, world-wide group, even though I was connected in this way, I rarely came into contact with Serena. On occasion I was able to witness her performances as a musician at the Fellowship Grand Temple. What I remember about Serena was her absolute uniqueness, her dedication to working with cats, and her creativity. Yet I have to also say that one of the things that most struck me was her appearance and energetic vibration. Although (at least not in the performances I witnessed at the time) she did not mention it, I knew that in some way Serena had walked with the struggle of Anorexia. I had no idea whether she was currently struggling, or had “overcome” this when I witnessed her performances. I just knew that somehow she had also been initiated through these struggles in her life. And of course I dare not ask her, as “Hey so have you, or do you currently struggle with, Anorexia?” isn’t the most becoming way to create connection. Especially with someone with Anorexia. At least that’s from my personal experience.
Anyway. At this memorial, not only did I witness the confirmation that this was indeed one of her struggles, but that she also wrote and shared publicly about her struggles with her community. I had seen some of her writings on her struggles with depression in general, but this was the first I had heard of this…that this struggle was much more widely shared and known about. That she did public readings of her writings about it, that she had book launches widely advertised, that many in her circles knew about this that she struggled with.
This is what struck me so profoundly, on this day of her memorial. As a fringe member of this community I watched as friend after friend talked about Serena and the effect she had on them. Of her graciousness, of her creativity, of her spicyness, of her mystery. But they also spoke of how authentic she was, in the sharing her struggles, and how much that affected them just as deeply.
As I am on the edge of readying myself to release my own memoir about my struggles with restrictive eating challenges, bracing myself for what may come of my revealing this publicly to the world, the witnessing of this honor to Serena took my breath away. The sheer number of people that showed up to honor her, appreciate her, showed me something I had really needed to see: that I can share my own deep inner struggles with the world and still be connected to community. That my struggles might not ostracize me as much as I fear, but may actually bring me closer in contact with real relationship. That the sharing of my struggles, and my authenticity in doing so, might actually help others.
I saw this unfold before me in such beauty during her memorial. I was juggling my sadness with her passing, but also this overwhelming sense of inspiration I was receiving from her community’s honoring of her. It was almost as if Serena, from beyond our distant, earthly connection, was standing next to me as I listened.
“See here,” it was as if she said, pointing at the Zoom screen. “See how the sharing of your struggles can result in Love. Go forth, dear one, as I have, and see that you too can be held, and hold others, while being seen in your wholeness. Go forth. See here.”
I felt like on that day I received such an empowerment, that it is hard to explain, only through the possibility of her spirit infusing me. I am struggling with focusing my writing today on describing my experience instead of listing the ways she effected the world, using my words to honoring her. But it is this I wanted to share–her death, her memorial, her loving community–and how seeing this seemed to be encouraging me, supporting me, lifting me up as I quake in my boots envisioning disaster from releasing my story publicly.
I feel it is kind of morose, and hopefully not disrespectful, to share how someone’s eulogy has inspired me tremendously…but it is true. On that afternoon, and by the grace that is Zoom, I was surrounded by reflections of the community’s love for her. Whatever she considered her Priestess work in the world I don’t know for sure, but that day this was her Priestessing for me. Thank you, Serena. I will go forth.
She was also a life coach, certified in Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and had a YouTube channel dedicated to her coaching tips, readings and strange and wonderful musical craftings. Find out more here if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/c/SerenaToxicat/videos. Her books are available on Amazon.
I decide to drive south to hopefully reach cooler climes and a quiet beach nook to begin the task of facing my book one last time before its printing. Wind in hair, and sweat already forming on skin, I head down Highway 1 to the Monterey Bay.
First stop, ACME coffee in Seaside. I’d never been here, but at the suggestion of a good friend decided to try it out. It’s a hidden gem in an industrial area but it’s known for strong brews and I certainly need one for this task. I settled on the Mexican Mocha. Lovely.
Back in the car, and curving down the highway I reach Pacific Grove and Asilomar State Beach. It’s only 10:30 am and the sides of the road are already packed. I’m a bit bummed I’ll have to stay in my car to have any privacy. That is if I can find a parking spot.
I do, and decide to get out and take a look around. The 80 degree, slightly cooler breeze hits my face and I’m glad I made the trip. It’s not much but I hate the heat so it’ll do. I walk down the planked path to the edge of the sea, its rhythmic waves and seagulls honking in my ears.
I grew up on this coastline, and each time I make the drive down a certain familiar comfort comes over me. I have a few family members I visit here–although they are all dead. My trip usually includes the cemetery (a few streets down from here) and this oceanside where my mother’s ashes have been absorbed into the great liquid mystery.
Amazingly, when I look down from the plank path, there are only a few people here on this plot of sand. I am urged to hunt out the perfect spot for my morning, and perhaps afternoon, editing adventure. I find a nice little shady nook and set up my place, nestling my Mexican Mocha and water into the sand, extracting my proof copy, pen and notepad.
I lean into the nook’s sandy dune wall and look out to the sea. I take a deep breath in. Ahh. This scent, this view holds so much. As mentioned, it literally holds my mother, as well as memories of sitting on this white shore with my now dead boyfriend. It feels incredibly ironic and meaningful to be heading back into that story as I sit here on this same beach.
This coast. Beauty, interlaced with decades-old grief. Refreshing coolness, mixed with the dread of whether my book will be too horrid to put out. Or rather, whether the experience of others reading it will be. I face these fears every time I pick it up.
Not today. Today I commit to walk past those fears and to dive in. I begin.
Over the course of the next few hours, I am totally sucked into the story. I am laughing, I am crying. I am proud, I am nervous. I can’t believe I wrote this. The formatting looks more beauteous than it did a few days ago, and the story reaches me more emotionally than it has in a while. The pages seem to glisten, sparkle. I wonder if it is the Mexican Mocha, the level of caffeine running through my veins. It’s possible, yet I feel it may be more related to what has happened inside of me in my readiness to be seen as an author. To be able to stand in my story and share it with the world.
I hold this book in my hands and feel so grateful. I close my eyes and let the waves comfort, and remind me. I feel the sea breeze whisking across my shoulders, and wonder if my ancestors are here with me, supporting me, pointing me. I rise and make my way down to the lapping waves, letting them cool me. I lean against a crystal embedded tan boulder and look at the equally crystalline waters at my feet. I sink into memories, these memories, of mother and death and love and struggle. I cry again.
I look up and through the rocks in the near distance there is a family of Sealions basking in the unusually warm rays of the sun. One of them lifts its head up and peers at me. Again, I feel as if the more than human world is speaking to me, supporting me, seeing me, getting ready to finally do this.
I nod at the furry creature, he (?) seems to feel satisfied and lies his head back down. I turn from the sea and find my way back to my nook to carry on with the task at hand. I am filled with determination and confidence. I feel more ready than ever to move forward for whatever strange reason. I lean back against the dune wall and tip the edge of my sunhat to shield the now blaring sun. I take in another deep breath and dive back into the final pages of what will soon become.
Well folks, Food Memories arrived in the mail on Thursday.
I waited another few days to open it.
I was nervous. Nervous it would be ready, nervous it would not.
I finally decided to open it, and lifted it from the envelope to rest on my lap.
Thicker this time, from the formatting and added content, it was heavy, solid. Of that I am proud…I have written a real, materialized thing.
But that satisfaction was quickly distracted by the image, the cover image–the one I am using to sum up the story of my life. Staring at this image, it was pixilated, grainy. I felt my heart sink, and the inner voice of “Here we go again, another round…”
I could leave it be, call it “rebellious art.” I really do just want to be over with it! But there is something else inside of me that wants to push through and make it look exactly as I envision. It is not good enough for me to release to the world yet. I am good enough, that is not the issue here. It is a quality of creation I want to accomplish, and try as I may, I do not have the tech skills to pull it off on my own. Believe me I’ve tried. Researched and fumbled, but could not shift this image to clarity.
It is oddly ironic, how fuzzy I still feel about my identity on this planet, and the struggles I am having in making my cover image read clear. The level of frustration and anger I felt at not being able to accomplish this graphic imagery feat also feels directly related.
Anyhoo…now I am with that. Needing to ask for help, again, to do a cover overhaul. Needing to delay this process for a few more weeks…Harumph.
And that’s just how it looked on the outside. I peeled open the fresh pages to reveal to myself the Inside, and the formatting is pretty. The layout I am satisfied with. There are a few typos only a print proof could reveal, so it’s another on the list of what I need to get outside help for to fix as my formatter has my manuscript held captive in her InDesign program. Another place I feel I wish I didn’t need someone else but reality bites with my level of tech. Someday I hope that to not be true!
Flipping quickly through the book made me wonder if I dare actually read the entire book again to see if there are more typos and edits I want to do. Overwhelm and frustration whacked me as I thought about this. A part of me wanted to say “f*ck it!” and hit the publishing button. So DONE with this. But that other part, that determined part, is somehow stronger. It urged me to put the book down, to close the computer, and take a few days off of thinking about it…but to definitely go through it one more time. To definitely ask for help with the cover. Harumph!
So now I am with all of that. And I will side with this part that wants to persist…at least for one more print run. But if all doesn’t work out, I might just say “f*ck it!” and let the “rebellious imperfect art” thing a try.
Feeling all the feelings, and grateful for all I have at the same time. What a weird tension of opposites to hold, especially during these times.
Well folks, it’s almost time. My memoir, Food Memories, is about to be published. Yikes!
I finished the final formatting and updated the cover (this image is of the first draft, had to work on the drawing’s roughness) and have requested a proof copy. If it looks groovy I will be moving forward with publication. Soon.
I will say yikes again, I am terrified! I am a very private person and this revealing is crazy. Writing this blog has been great practice, thanks friends :}
But I am also very ready. It’s been over 4 years now (at least in the actual writing of it), this process simmering and writhing and pushing to emerge from me. I am glad to see myself seeing this through.
I have many hopes for this book, and what its publication may unleash…and yet I am trying to not be too attached as it is my first. Trying is the key word, how does one not have some expectations for something that’s been sweated and cried over for years? Trying.
The whole marketing thing zaps my brain into freeze mode, so we’ll see how that goes. For now, all I can say is look at my cover :}
TW: I by all means do not mean to disrespect the Black Lives Matter situation with this entry. It comes from a recent personal experience and I acknowledge the layers of complexity and privilege with what is happening.
I am sitting in the car. It is just past midnight.
The crinkling of the wrapper crunches in my palm
As I gobble down the night’s protein bar snack.
I look up to see a white car passing slowly by.
It suddenly swoops into a parking space several cars ahead.
I think nothing of it.
A few moments later I sense the air thicken.
A primal fear swells in the space
As a black man walks down the sidewalk
Towards my car.
I try to squash this fear,
Rejecting any sort of possible racism I may be feeling about
Of black men in the night.
I have black friends
And I stand with people of color
And I hate that there is this fear, rising.
But the feeling is real and I taste it,
Along with the chocolate and grainy bits of protein crumbles in my mouth.
In seconds the passenger door rips open
And the scent of cool air and wet pavement whooshes in.
My heart is pounding in my chest
As the black man…kid…reaches over
To try to wrestle my car keys from my hand.
I scream, “What the fuck are you doing??”
The words stream effortlessly from my mouth.
I feel his own young primal fear body thicken as if surprised.
As I sit here today, I realize this blog has become a mish-mash of sorts: updates on my memoir publication process, random spur-of-the-moment rants about my relationship with food and body, and an occasional burst of poetry.
My original intention for this space was to recount my adventures with trying to eat more joyfully despite the physical pain and discomfort of it all, and while I have done that to a degree, this blog has seemed to take a few turns from that place. So hats off to those of you who are still with me on this twisting theme roller coaster :}
Today I am pulled to give an update on the progress, albeit slow, of my upcoming memoir, Food Memories. Thanks also to those who have stuck through this with me as I wriggle my way through this process.
There isn’t a whole lot to say aside from the fact that I am closing in on the final touches of the last edit, have a cover/format assistant helping with its appearance…and am really close to hitting the upload/publish button (gulp). I still think it is a totally crazy thing to be doing this, but I am doing it anyway. I still tremble in my boots in thinking that the private thoughts, memories and revealing nature of my book will be out available for public viewing. For public commenting, kind or nasty.
And I still also fear that nothing will happen after I release it. Silence, grasshoppers, nada, nilch. That all of the years and money and fear and hesitation will have been for “nothing.” That is one voice in my head, of course. I know that the “process is the journey,” and I’ve learned so much from it. Yet there is a part that still really wants this book to have a powerful meaning and effect on its readers. This part wants to experience validation and proof that my urge to write and share this sensitive information, to splay myself out naked in front of the world, had some reasoning behind it.
Yet there is a part of me that is bracing, and accepting the possibility of only the chorus of crickets. And for that to be okay. For the fact that I had a powerful urge to create and share this thing, before I die, and that I did it. I’m really feeling more and more okay with that being it if it turns out to be true.
The ironic thing here is that I am not feeling pulled to do any marketing on the book, other than here, to get more people to view it! It is terrifying enough to have it available for public viewing, let alone me actively parading it around trying to get people to read it. I simply am trusting that it will find who it needs to find in the river, and if there is any kind of need for interaction that comes of that slow burning fireball lobbed into the universe, I am available. But purposely putting effort into getting thousands of people to read it? Sheesh no!
I have to laugh at my complicity in my own possible authorship demise, lol, but it’s true. And I am sticking to it unless some other opportunity reveals itself.
So. The update:
~Final edit, check.
~Cover and formatting, almost check.
~Boots quaking, definitely check.
~Acceptance and (mostly) non-attachment to outcome, check, check and check.
Thanks again for following my loopy process :} When I hit that publishing button, you’ll be the first (and probably only!) to know.
The saga of loose GI symptoms continues. It’s like there’s a party down there filled with drunken sailors, crashing and banging around, spilling drinks, causing mayhem. In the midst of the turmoil of the the outer world, I feel like riots explode within me. I am doing my best to do what helps, but they are all a bit out of control!
In my attempts to see if different foods might help the symptoms, I found myself in the familiar land of focusing back on food and the effects it has on my gut. I’m having to be really careful about everything and it reminds me of the old days of restriction but from a completely different angle. Which is frustrating…and ironic.
You see, just before all of this partying started, I had begun feeling a desire to go back to work in the eating disorder treatment field again, and was set and ready to interview with a local treatment center. But then this hit, and I felt thrown back into a place of having to so carefully monitor my food that I wonder if I can be of any help to anyone in that setting. After all these years, of healing and study and realizations, I wonder how I can put these things to use if my main focus is that of concern of food and what it will do to my symptoms. Do I forgo my initial desire to return to this work because of this turn of events? Or do I proceed, but in a different way? I decided on the latter.
I decided to instead do what is called an “informational interview” with a few places, so there’d be no (at least outside) pressure to be the perfect example of recovery to them. I started thinking of questions I’d ask them to see if I want to work in this field at all. Fact is, I’ve been pretty conflicted about going back to work in this field because of my views and personal experience of “recovery” and the very linear model most treatment centers hold for this concept. In the linear model, recovery means battling the demon of the eating disorder and becoming completely free from concerns about food and body image. Recovering the healthy self from the evil witch and whisking her away to Neverland.
For me, “recovery” has been more of “uncovery” or “discovery,” a circling on a spiral of healing lessons, each turn teaching me new things about what my body wants me to know. Teaching me new things about what the eating disorder wants me to know. One where I’ve spent time sitting with that demon, in dialogue with it, and actually learning valuable things. It’s been about deepening into relationship with my body and this force that is so powerful to stop me and everything in its tracks.
So to work at a facility that is more linear in its approach would feel a bit like me as a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Or maybe vice versa. Or maybe the treatment world has changed and isn’t so linear. Hell, I don’t know. I certainly can’t tell from inside my room, over the internet, in my mind. Therefore, my decision to do informational interviewing is an attempt to get out into the world and to survey the industry to see what the landscape of “recovery” really looks like. This terrifies me for some reason. I’m doing it anyway.
My list of questions:
What is your view of what “recovery” looks like from an eating disorder? Are there general commonalities of what full recovery experience looks like for most people?
What methods does your facility employ to help someone “get there”?
How do you treat those who have eating issues as a result of (or at least mostly complicated by functional GI issues (ie IBS, celiac, ulcerative colitis, etc)?
Do you believe/have experience of patients with these GI issues ever experiencing full recovery? What does that look like for them?
Do you address possible somatic/spiritual roots of the eating difficulties, ie Family Constellation, Ancestral Healing, Trauma, Hero/ine’s Journey, etc)?
How do you deal with clients that have re-occuring symptoms that they cannot seem to “conquer”?
How often do you see clients come to you without body image/weight issues but with serious GI issues that they’ve only been able to help by seriously altering their food? How do you work with these clients?
Do you work with older clients that have had struggles for a long time (SE-AN)? How do you address their despair and hopelessness?
Are your clients encouraged to explore being on anti-depressant medication or not? Is there space to try healing without medications?
I am a person who has both been a patient and professional in ED treatment centers, who has undergone many layers of healing of self, and who still has functional GI issues confirmed by a physician. It is important for me to eat some foods and not others to help my condition. I love myself, my body and have much heart for this population and would like to be of service in some way to help them. How, with this condition, do you see (or not see) a person like me assisting in your facility or the field?
I am not sure when I will head out to actually do these interviews but the list is complete. I am trying to see this as an adventure, although like I said it terrifies me. All I want to know is, can I help? Even though I am not perfect…can I help?
Pardon me for getting into the nitty gritty, it is what is coming through (literally) at the moment. A writer gotta write what’s true. Much gratitude to those who choose to read on.
So, for the last few months, following an intense stomach flu, I have been experiencing constant GI issues ((of the liquid kind)). Add to that gut-wrenching bloating, cramping and nausea. Having decades worth of knowledge about what foods tend to help or hinder the situation, I’ve attempted to alter my diet to see if this would help quell the situation.
At first it seemed that the BRAT (Banana, rice, applesauce, toast) thing was helping. The symptoms would go away. But then, they would return, in full force, having me doubled over in pain. I experimented with adding back in my normal foods to not get too restrictive or phobic about what foods might be causing what–I know I can slip down that rabbit hold very easily. That, again, seemed to trigger painful episodes. So I returned to the bland land of BRAT foods.
I went to the doc after a few weeks of this. Although I am not someone who takes pharmaceuticals often I do believe in at least getting a thing checked out. After blood tests and the lovely stool collection, what she found was zilch, nada, nothing “serious.” She said, very plainly, “I think what you have is something more functional, like IBS.”
To most people this statement would suck. A long term, chronic diagnosis is nothing people want to hear. But to me, these three letters bring a certain sort of heavyweight despair.
You see, I watched my mother turn cold, bitter, isolated and mean as a result of (or at least mostly due to) this diagnosis. Constant trips to the doctor, only to have them tell her there was nothing they could do, that she’d have to just “deal with it,” chronic dehydration and pain…it just destroyed her. She couldn’t go anywhere without having to be in the bathroom most of the time. She avoided eating much so that she wouldn’t feel the symptoms while she was out. Eventually the symptoms happened no matter what she tried, and were embarrassing and disruptive to any kind of social/recreational activity. I watched her wither and vacillate between boiling with rage and resentment to being utterly hopeless and wanting to die.
So these letters–I.B.S.–have a horrible weight to them for sure.
I am still reeling from hearing those letters come out of my doctor’s mouth, I am still deciding whether to take them in and accept that they are indeed also what I may have to deal with for my whole life. I find living in the present to be much more helpful than spiraling into worry about a chronic condition, and I am trying to do this. Yet the image of my mother (who by the way died in the bathroom!) irritable and bitter keeps pummeling into my mind.
But I didn’t come to the page wanting to write about this. What I came to the page to write about is the intersection of eating disorders, disordered eating and IBS symptoms. Through this experience, and through watching what happened to my mother for so many years, I begin to wonder who wouldn’t become avoidant of food, who wouldn’t create and follow a list of safe foods and eating rituals to try to help avoid these horrid symptoms. I began to wonder whether what is considered “disordered eating” is in fact not disordered at all but a very reasonable attempt to do whatever could be done to avoid the body’s painful reactions when no one can figure out what is happening.
I began to wonder if there was a subset of people that do not drastically alter their diet because they think they are fat, or worthless, or dirty, but rather because what they are doing seems to help them avoid the very real physical pain they are having that no doctor can help them figure out.
I began to wonder whether some of these people feel so out of control with what their bodies are doing, and what they are trying to do to control it that they themselves wind up in treatment but then feel misunderstood when the typical diagnosis doesn’t respect their experience.
I began to remember that this person is me.
I’ve been to so many dietitians, inpatient, day programs. I’ve tried following so many meal plans and eating rituals to attempt to help this situation. But during these last few months, when the symptoms have escalated from more than just discomfort with fullness to a painful experience upon eating just about anything–I have reached a sort of end of my rope. I’m not sure what to do.
Yet in the midst of that, what I do know is that I am curious and filled with deep compassion. Curious if there are more people out there that experience this, who are misdiagnosed with eating disorders and who feel lost and misunderstood. Somehow, through this life, I have found compassion for myself, for my mother and now for others who may be going through this experience. Somehow I retain curiosity about what deeper messages and purpose these symptoms may be leading me and other towards.
My “recovery coach” is also stumped, having only tools to help me battle ED voices and thoughts about calories and fat grams. I am not having these voices and thoughts. What I am having is layers of despair, frustration, hopelessness and pain and an inability to absorb nutrients that I can’t seem to control. These are not things that a recovery coach help with, aside from being there with me as I go through it, with words of support. Is this experience with me teaching her that not all people who struggle with food issues have a body-dysmorphic eating disorder? Are my symptoms a teacher for a new paradigm? Pardon these crazy thoughts.
So where does this leave me? With IBS? With an eating disorder? With, for now, an irritated gut that may soon find itself healed? Did I ever have an eating disorder, or has it only been my attempt to avoid the very real physical pain I feel with eating anything more that what is needed to survive?
I don’t know. I do know I am probably not alone. And if you are reading this and can relate, know you are not alone either. I’m not sure how I will deal with this, if I have some sort of chronic thing and will twist myself into a bitter haggard old woman dealing with it like my mother did. What I do know is that I am here, now. Things are okay–here, now. What I do know is that I still have a fire inside me that wants to understand the deeper layers of my body’s message, if I can find some way to find light in it all for myself and for others. This is all I have, and hopefully I will have more to share about it as the research continues.
Without knowing it while writing it, this is mostly what my memoir, Food Memories, is about. Only after writing it, and experiencing this again, do I understand more. I keep understanding more and more in each re-read as I prepare it for publication. How Food Memories is about my struggle to understand, cope and find help with this mysterious and frustrating experience of being in a body. How it is about at first trying to fit into the ED paradigm to hope for some cure, to feeling lost and disappointed with not finding relief there, to now, struggling with increasingly painful symptoms that doctors have no idea how to treat. It has been many months of attempting to birth this creation and perhaps it is because I need to understand more before I release it. Perhaps I needed to have this experience and its layers. Regardless, I am trying with all my might to push this text out into the world, hoping to find others that can relate, hoping to find some magic, healing and connection in the sharing. As always, I will keep you posted about when it is fully born.
My heart goes out to yours if you are dealing with this or some other chronic condition. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want to share more.
Behold, Pandemic Corona: Poems of Shock, Fear, Realization and Metamorphosis by The Sisters of The Holy Pen!
The “Spirits of Illness” poem I posted about a month ago was taken on by this anthology, along with several other poems of mine and about 30 other poet sisters accompanying. It is a wild ride of the various emotions, ponderings, thoughts, and energies that rode through us as the COVID situation was first beginning to take hold. Included are many different photos of each poet, masked, in their daily world during this global experience we all share.
So there’s that. Let me tell you it’s a weird thing to share about myself in this way. Although I express much here on my blog, there are a lot of people in my closer community that don’t know much about my blog, my memoir, my story, and I have kept it that way for a reason. Part of it is not wanting to expose these tender innards to those that could come up to me daily and spout their condolences, ideas, suggestions, etc at me. Part of it is that I just am not ready to be seen fully. But there’s also something about doing the whole “look at me and what I did” show on social media. I think it’s cool when others do it, but for me it feels a bit off of my way of being. And then there’s the whole marketing thing. Something in me shudders when book marketing tactics are mentioned, especially when “heart-based book marketing” techniques are mentioned.
Yet here I am, a part of a group project, one in which exposure will help my sisters and editor to be known. So I thought–what the hell? I’ll market or at least blurb for them…and in doing so, I’ve gotten a little practice in preparation for when my much more personally revealing memoir comes out. It’s been a lot less weird than I imagined it would be, actually. I’m considering even taking a selfie with me and the book for this situation, which is kind of strange. We’ll see how it goes. Needless to say, there’s been a quiet, subtle transformation inside me as a result of this, and I’m thankful for that as I continue to hack away at the publishing of Food Memories and the thought of bringing it into the world.
So I did it. I picked up my book, Food Memories, again.
I lit a candle and settled in to read the words I have been avoiding reading for months now. My intention was to review my memoir as a whole and to have a bird’s eye view of its message, to have some thoughts to dialogue about with my cousin. If you didn’t read my last post, I mentioned that my cousin has a connection in publishing, and upon reading my writing, he had a few suggestions before he felt comfortable forwarding it to his contact.
His suggestions were kind, but clear. He asked if I would attend to them and get back to him in a couple weeks. Its been 2 months now.
I finally felt ready to re-read this weekend. This time, it was easier than expected to look at my creation. I found myself transported from my childhood, through my teen years, the hospitalization years, the professional years, the vision quest years, the atheist/agnostic years. I remembered my dead mother. I remembered my dead boyfriend. I remembered my dead vision to become a healer. I remembered my poet. I remembered my writer. I remembered all of the years I have put into this book, its writing, and all the amazing people I have had cheering me on, reading beta copies.
I noticed typos, minor but there. I was not deterred. A crisp, truly shining manuscript will arise from my corrections, I found myself thinking. I even noticed where there were some holes in the story, and a few more food memories that might want to be added to fill the tale more. I also realized the gargantuan task I face in having to completely re-haul my book proposal, now that my promotion section is basically null and void. Book tours and conference workshops aren’t really viable in the foreseeable future, eh?
But all of these things did not make me stop reading, as they did before. There is a new determination burning in me, and I will do what it takes to get there. I will call my cousin, and tell him my findings. I will see what comes of that. I will contact my writing teacher, my editor, for their support and guidance on how to reformat my proposal for these times. I will ask for guidance on how to craft my query letters, how to hone my message, how to forge ahead.
I have absolutely no idea what I am doing. Marketing and business is not my schtick. I don’t have an Instagram account, or even a webpage. (Hell, I still have a flip phone! By choice!). Yet I have spent over 4 years writing and crafting this book into being, and I will not let it be stillborn. At least I will not let it die without trying. This is part of why I keep writing and sharing here about it.
Thanks for coming along with me if you’re here. I hope to announce the release of Food Memories someday very soon.
The other day I was sitting by the window, and happened to look down to the book stack resting at the base of my cushy chair. At the front, facing me, was my not-yet-published memoir, Food Memories. In this moment, I realized that it has been many a day since I have mentioned this creative baby of mine here. I also realized it had been many a day since I had done anything to further its physical manifestation in the world. Somehow, I had completely left it sitting, stagnant and gathering dust.
Now, of course there’s The Virus to take into account for this stagnation. If you’ve been following me, you might remember my post about sending out query letters to publishers and agents, and my determination to do so despite receiving rejections. And that was my sincere intention, no matter how it hurt my brain to wander in marketing-and-selling-myself-land. Yet when this craziness started, I suddenly lost steam, reading left and right about how publishers and agents weren’t exactly excited about taking on new projects at the moment. This mixture, of my hesitancy to market, and the current publishing landscape, brought my efforts to a screeching halt.
I had also finally made the decision to allow one of my distant family members to read my memoir. My intention was to overcome my fear of them knowing these things about me, but also to possibly have him introduce me with a publishing contact of his. He read the book, and liked it, yet had some serious suggestions about its format and asked me questions about my message. He encouraged me to go back and read my book with these suggestions in mind. I picked up my book and began to read it, and my brain started turning to mush around how to, and whether I needed to, rearrange things. I noticed typos and passages that sounded not great. I heard my inner skeptic rushing in loudly that I needed to just give up this silly effort. The push of this was overwhelmingly strong. This was around the same time that The Virus hit.
So into the book stack my proof copy went. Into the shadows, underneath windows, not to be noticed. To give surface to spider’s crawling, a nook for a fly or two, for the dust to settle. There, Food Memories waited.
During this time, and although a bit hopeless and confused what to do, my focus directed in other ways. One of them being leading a group of women through a series of rituals to connect them with The Dark Goddess archetype within. Part of this work is to go into the metaphorical underworld, releasing all which we think makes us who we are. On that list was of course Food Memories. Years and years of effort and hope and purpose have gone into this book. For the first time in a long time I felt inspired like I never had in its writing. Yet having stalled, I felt at an impasse and perhaps like maybe it wasn’t my destiny to release it after all. So on the underworld altar went my memoir. I let Ereshkigal take this possibility from me and rested in the darkness of who I am without it.
Several weeks went by. We all went into the collective underworld together. The moon waned and went dark, calling us all into stillness. I let go. I let go and let myself float in Being.
And then, the moon’s crescent sliver smiled at me and I knew it was time. Time to rise, time to start taking action again. Time to pick up Food Memories and start again.
I began reading yesterday and felt carried through by my own words. I noticed typos and things I might change but I wasn’t affected by it as once before. Overall I felt a renewed vigor to do what it took to carry this book back into the world. I felt, once again, the spark of inspiration and vision I originally had while writing the book. Although the agnostic inside huffaws at the thought, perhaps in releasing the book to the altar of the underworld, a new life and motivation has come back to me. Perhaps. Whyever it has returned, I am thankful.
So, ascendant and waxing as the moon in the sky, I begin again. I ready myself to edit, I ready myself to draft yet another query letter, I ready myself to possibly re-haul my entire proposal to reflect the external and internal shifts that have occurred as a result of The Virus. I will report here, as I was before, how it goes.
Ascendant and waxing, I begin again. Thank you for staying with me.
Yesterday, I sat down to write after having had a conversation with the “Recovery Coach” I’ve spoken about in previous posts. One of the main things gleaned from this conversation is my desire to fully face the panic and terror I feel when I approach the sensation of “too full.” The fear of this feeling really kind of controls my life: I arrange my eating patterns, my exercise patterns and my life patterns to avoid this sense of being full.
I’ve got lots of theories about why this feeling brings such terror–none of them related to fear of getting fat by the way–yet despite the mental explorations, one thing remains clear: the fear of feeling full rules my life choices. I value the possibility that it may be because in past lives I was an ascetic monk/Buddha/fasting spiritual leader/single mother dealing with famine and plague, but another thing remains clear: I want to face this fear. I want to face it so many times that the feeling no longer has this much power over my life. I have faced this feeling many times already, still it has such a hold on me. I have lost hope in facing this fear, after it so doggedly reappears, time and time again. Yet for some reason, I keep trying.
Which brings me to Temperance. Before I began writing yesterday, I chose a card that represented what might occur if I chose to once again face this feeling of fullness and the terror it evokes: That card was Temperance.
(Now, just to be frank about my emerging proclamations of woo: I have a fairly loose attachment to what tarot cards are “supposed to mean,” and find much more value in what the image evokes in my mind at the moment I ask the question and see the picture.)
This time the image evoked a sense of facing an addictive pattern, finding balance as a result. And that there is a bigger force in me, my inner alchemist, that will help me do this if I choose to do so. Transformation through facing old, unhelpful patterns.
So I began the not so new pondering of my attachment to the feeling of emptiness as a sort of “high” (which is literally true as our bodies make endorphins to help us feel better about being in famine states) and that letting go of it is like putting down a drug for me. To wholeheartedly sit with being really full is like going through detox for me, strange as that may sound but it is true. My body actually seems like it sends me information that emptiness is preferable to fullness. Fullness is painful, nauseating, etc. Sitting through that feeling until it wanes (which I know it does, I just always wrestle with the unexplainable terror like it never will), is I think my task, my way of “sobriety” or at least finding something new on the other side as a result. I struggle with this concept of addiction, and 12 steps and all that, but for some reason the perspective really works here. To transform, I must go into the fear. I must stop using “nothingness, emptiness” and embrace what it feels like to feel fully in my body, feeling its pulsing, churning, yearning and sorrows. And all of what comes with that.
To realize that my whole life revolves around avoiding this is kind of embarrassing, especially in light of thousands that starve or can’t find enough to eat everyday. Especially in light of thousands dying on respirators from this strange viral pandemic. Surely I have some shame around this. Yet despite that, I can’t ignore that it rocks me terribly. I can’t ignore that it is my shadow, something I hide from others. I can’t ignore that deep in the layers of my unconscious and cellular matter, this sits in me. And this is how I know it is my work, to find freedom from this fear controlling me. To find why being full–and not just with food, but with sexuality, sensuality, pleasure, with life force, with responsibility–why this terrifies me so.
I look at the androgenous towering being in Temperance, and there is a peace on their face, a peace I want to have. A peace that comes from both being in a body–fully–and from being connected to the radiant lightness of the above. I feel my toes, naked, like theirs, feeling the cool waters and the deep, dark soil between toes. I feel the sense of balance and the path beyond that may be shown to me as a result of this tempering, balancing. I don’t know how I will do this, but somehow I feel this energy, this archetype, within me calling me towards it. Perhaps, this time, I won’t feel so alone in my facing of fullness. Perhaps this time I will experience true Alchemy. And maybe not, as my trusty inner skeptic reminds.
The other day, as I was dancing around my bedroom with candles alight, I received a question. It’s not a new question, it’s one I’ve been trying to wrap my head around for a long time, going back and forth on the level of sanity in its asking.
The question is this: Could it be that for at least for some people that have struggled with an eating disorder, that our behaviors are mostly an attempt to clear ourselves of introjected energy from the toxic environment around us? Or even an attempt to get rid of cellular matter (by trying to lose weight to the extreme) of ancestral trauma and ghosts of the unwell ancestors living in our tissues? That the fasting and exercising and obsessions (and perhaps purging, although I don’t have direct experience with that), are merely an attempt to do this?
In a world that doesn’t validate that there may be toxic energies that invade and take up space in our minds and bodies, there’s little talk about tools to deal with this kind of thing, and where there is talk, it is usually of the ungrounded crystally new-age type. I have done research on this–mentally, but also experientially. I’ve actually seen an exorcist (weird and campy but too shame based), I’ve undergone shamanic extraction work, done a lot of listening to the Shadow, and recently experienced something called “Compassionate Depossession.” This and what is termed “Ancestral Lineage Healing” have so far been the most grounded, wholistic approach to dealing with the root causes of the behaviors I have struggled with all of my life.
But even so, there’s always this part of me that says, “Really? This new age crap? The institutions and doctors have certified you as someone with a disorder, and this all seems like a rationalization to not just accept how messed up you are. Surely you mustn’t believe that you are wiser than The Professionals on this, and least of all with these non-scientific claims. Surely!”
Yeah. That voice.
But lately, especially at the culmination of the Ancestral Lineage Healing work, my heart and soul have really resonated with this wider, energetic, “non-scientific” possibility. At least it being partially true, with all of the other obvious therapy, dietitian, etc treatment teams involved in what is often a life and death struggle. So I’ve been thinking of claiming that this is a truth I want to explore, and possibly even stand behind in working with myself and others with these issues. I’m contemplating getting trained in some of these techniques, and I guess experience will show me if it really is a load of crap like my old friend the skeptic likes to believe.
In researching this topic today, synchronicity would have it that I found this article https://www.brightwalldarkroom.com/2018/02/14/living-with-ghosts/, which literally blew me away. All of the issues this person brings forward are things I have thought and wondered, in solitude, for decades. Perhaps in my willingness to claim this new stance, to at least allow myself to explore it, I am being led to others with similar thoughts, to community to explore this with. Or maybe I’ll find myself swimming in a pool of weirdness. Who knows! All I know is that I am incredibly fascinated with these kinds of synchronicities, and with this witchy, animistic, wider perspective on experiencing and treating eating and embodiment difficulties. Feel free to reel me in from the Woo if my posts start straying into ungrounded territory. Or just unsubscribe.
I do hope though, that you’ll stay with me, and take the journey of searching into preposterous crevices and parallels of what that which we feel is wrong with us actually being our best attempts at dealing with the unseen and overwhelming energies that affect our minds and bodies all the time. Will you join me? (Or at least laugh along with me in case this is a result of too much shelter-in-place time on my hands :})
Lately, I’ve been having a lot of dreams of cats. Big black ones, forcefully crawling into my arms and caressing my skin with velvety fur. I’ve also been seeing them in my meditations, as gifts, as guides. This is not new, cats have always been a sort of spirit animal for me, in both their physical and ethereal forms.
Yet this morning, I read a friend’s lament over how it seems there has been some evidence of cats contracting the COVID-19 virus, and the potential for them to spread it to humans. Mind you, I don’t just accept that as fact, firstly doubting “news” until clear evidence and trending is shown. The CDC has not stated that this is a threat as of yet: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html.
However, I know how we react as a species overall, and it saddens me to think what might happen as people start fearing their own companion animals in light of this news. I hope reason makes this not so.
Whatever the response of the rest of my species, it got me thinking. It got me thinking of what I would do if animals started exhibiting signs of being able to spread viruses to us. Of course I don’t know how I’d ultimately react in the moment of this being reality, but my first response was “Hell yeah. About time. I will die for you. Or at least risk it.” Would I give my cat away, abandon it, avoid its touch in fear of this? Would I stay away from the oceans, the trees, the creepy crawlies that touch me as I wander through them? I don’t think so. I welcome the possibility that if Nature thinks its time for us to go, then maybe its time. And hell NO would I harm or abandon an animal because of this.
It reminds me a bit of my journey with a restrictive eating disorder, actually. I’ve often likened my own experience to “fasting for a vision” in the desert, learning from the animals and plants in the circle around me, making the Sacrifice. I feel that in some sense, I have played this out, eating less, living lightly, humbly, respectfully, in the great shadow of the largeness of nature. Taking up less space so that She may have more. Granted, I am working on this, accepting that maybe both me and Nature are worthy of space on this planet, but boy have I had practice with surrendering my health and happiness so that She may not be decimated.
So this reminds me of that. It reminds me of so many things. One thing I know for sure: I will not turn away from the big black cat in my dreams, nor the one snuggling on the top of the red dryer in my laundry room. I will welcome them, into my arms. Even if it means I may die.
Yesterday, I had a call with this new coach I’m working with to experiment with changing behaviors for “recovery.” We made some goals, one of which was this: If I wake up at 3 am hungry, and eat, then I should eat a snack midmorning to not have such a long break in eating before lunch. Especially if I wake hungry at midmorning as I have over the past few months.
So this morning I woke up at 2 am, ravenous. This isn’t new, I’ve been waking at 2-3 am for a while now, needing to eat something substantial just to get back to sleep. But today, after eating the same thing I usually do, I was racked with waves of paralyzing cramping throughout my torso for hours.
This is also not new.
This is one of the reasons why I have resorted to limiting the kinds of things I eat, when I eat them and how much of it I eat. To avoid the strange and overwhelming discomfort I feel at random times when I eat.
I don’t think I’m fat. I don’t think eating certain things are “bad” or “good.” I don’t think I’m a horrible person. I’m just trying to understand the patterns of my body and setting up systems that help me seem to not trigger these attacks. It just seems that sometimes, oftentimes, my body reacts in big ways to what I eat, in ways that debilitate me.
My word, how weird and unnecessary it feels to be whining about this in the midst of this larger, scarier pandemic state we’re all in. I’m aware of this. Yet I write this because even so, it is my experience. And I write because I feel confused. Confused because it felt like the most loving thing to do to let my stomach rest when it was toiling this morning, but this action goes directly against my goal set yesterday. And then I begin to wonder–are the two related? Is there some sort of trickster being lodged in my appetite center that uses body symptoms to keep me from changing?
I did what I always do when I feel confused, and started to write about it. What came foreward is that there is some part of me that feels this coaching “technique” is not aligned with my truth, and my lack of ability to stand up and say this warrants my body needing to scream “STOP!” for me.
This is also not new. As a child, the emergence of insomnia, depression and Anorexia was a way to verbalize to my abusive mother that she needed to STOP. That something needed to STOP. She of course didn’t listen, but social services eventually took me out of the situation and the abuse did stop. So in many ways, I honor my body, or Anorexia, or depression or whatever title you want to put on this force that screamed for me when I couldn’t scream. There is a hint of that now, that if I don’t voice the unalignment of this process, my body might just keep throwing wrenches in the mix for me. Through pain.
The thing I keep wondering is whether the need for this to STOP is an old reaction, one that doesn’t belong anymore, or if it is indeed wise and one I should follow. Do I recognize the pain as an outworn messenger and eat anyway to challenge its old process? Or do I continue to stand steadfastly by it, trusting that to follow its guidance is leading me to my own truth on this whole eating disorder business?
I wish I could just accept the views as they are in the recovery community, that this is a demon that needs to be battled, and to do that I just need to ignore the pain and push past it. Yet for whatever reason, I feel it is more complex than this. I don’t know why I feel this, I just do. And my body, screaming in pain in the wee morning hours, just as I was about to implement a new goal…well it makes me shake my head in such confusion as to what the hell is really true.
As I write this, I allow a chunk of raspberry dark chocolate to melt on my tongue. I take a sip of strong, dark coffee to swirl the flavors around my mouth and taste the concoction glide down my throat. I savor these tastes, this treat I give to myself. I am ready for food now, I am enjoying food now, my body does not rebel. I feel in alignment with my own desires. My body is at peace. Any normal person would trust this. But as someone who has been in and out of hospitals and institutions, diagnosed and labeled, I am confused about whether I am truly able to trust myself, what I want, what feels comfortable to me. Is it my body’s wisdom I follow, or the ED voice tricking me to not push past my own safe limits? This question has haunted me for years, and is one I carry even as I try when I can to go directly against its seeming wishes. I hope someday this all becomes clear. I hope someday I will look back on this from a place of “full recovery” and laugh that it was such a big deal. I’ve been hoping this for decades, and its why I’ve chosen to try one last time this coach.
My body screams STOP. My psyche screams STOP. Or does the “eating disorder” scream STOP? Hoping someday I’ll know for sure.
In other news, I wish all of you health and wellness. I hope that the news is not infiltrating your being so much as to cause you to be in great fear and panic. May we be wise and take precaution, but may we also realize the power and sacredness of our own mind and thoughts.
May we be happy. May we be comfortable. May we be healthy. May we be at peace.
I read a post the other day that reminded me of Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. In this book, one of the most powerful passages for me was his thoughts and experiences getting rejected in his early days by publishers. It is especially relevant to me now as I am poised at the edge of publishing my own first book, and am having to go through the torturous process of describing and summarizing and marketing of my work to companies that I hope to work with. It is the antithesis of what I enjoy about writing, and often makes me want to hide my head in a hole.
Which I could do, of course, but I chose not to. Partially because of the words of Stephen King, who has been by my side since I was a child in my reading escapades. And so of course, I knew I would face that first rejection someday, if I did keep going. And yesterday I received it. It was a kind note, and sent within a day of my query to the editor. It read:
“Thank you so much for thinking of XXX for this important proposal. Ultimately, this isn’t quite a fit for my list, so I’m going to step aside, but I really appreciate the opportunity to consider and wish you all the best in connecting with the right publisher for this project.”
I had several internal responses to this email, but surprisingly none of them were disappointment. I was actually really blown away that this person got back to me so quickly and especially because we are in the middle of plague craziness in our world. Secondly, I felt giddy that she called my proposal “important.” Important! I know this might be a polite way of responding to shit you don’t really like, but it felt very good to think she might have been telling me the truth, too. Ah, my feather’s ruffled and stroked :} And lastly, I reveled in the fact that I, like Mr. King, had just gotten rejected. The first one was over, and the blow didn’t feel as bad as I thought it would. In fact, in reading the response I instead had this unexpected surge of desire to keep going, to write as many queries as I could just to see what would happen.
I printed the letter and stuck it to my wall. I plan to wriggle a few more on that nail over the coming weeks, assuming editors are still functioning as the country goes into panic mode (which honestly makes this post and my feelings about being rejected pale in importance but I share nonetheless). The worry I have had, the one that has kept me circling over and over again about what I should write, how I should say it to best be accepted…well, it’s a bit lessened.
Who knows what successive experiences like this will do to my novel and perhaps naive sense of adventure, but I’m up for it. And I’m so glad to have Mr. King in my head for the ride. Over and over I will tune into his voice cheering me on, imagining him saying: “It doesn’t matter if you get rejected. Just keep querying. Just keep writing. Watch the nail get heavy with slips and enjoy how its weight peels the stucco from the wall.”
Acknowledge and honor the past But let go of the archaic ways that no longer serve you Let the Old Bear grieve Take him into your arms Dance Like a jaguar Merge the opposite energies Harness your focus Disperse to unifying
Own the story of your journey Of Meaningful Coincidence Of The Chosen One Ripped apart Into disbelieving embers And Rise from the underworld of nothingness
Hold the opposites Dance with skeptics and believers Start with the Dream
Ironically And perhaps Crazy making To some
How to be more confident Involves Paradoxically practicing The wisdom Of insecurity
As a result of contacting a prior boss to have her review my memoir, I found out she has now started training what are called eating disorder “Recovery Coaches.” These coaches meet with you in person or on line in your everyday life to provide support in facing eating disorder behaviors. They text you, they meet you for meals, they go grocery shopping with you. They do all the things it is so very hard for therapists and regular treatment team providers to do. And all of this is done towards the aim of facilitating “complete recovery,” not just feeling like you’re getting through life but not fully living it.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, “recovery” is an uncomfortable word for me, partly because of the sound of it, to re-cover myself doesn’t sound appealing. Yet it is also uncomfortable for me because as far as I have experienced, a life without some form of these thoughts or behaviors, or at least the awareness of them and needing to set boundaries with them…this kind of life has never become a reality for me. After countless attempts to reach this state. To hear someone say, “Yeah, I don’t really think about it anymore” just floors me. So of course when I heard that there were coaches to help one get to this idyllic place, I was skeptical.
Yet I was also sad. I’ve tried to “get over this” for decades. I’ve turned away from traditional perspectives on treatment, and took my own journey deep into my heart, made sense of it, made it sacred, loved and accepted myself despite my continued cycling up and down with these symptoms. I worked really hard at learning to honor the fact that I may just need to learn how to “deal with it” at this level forever. So to hear that there are these coaches helping one to get to that place, over the rainbow, hearing this brought up so many feelings. There was a disbelief. There was anger. There was confusion.
But there was also a longing. This paradoxical longing stirred into that skepticism. And the fact that there was an opportunity to work with one of these coaches for free, at least initially, feels important somehow.
So I decided to give it one more try. Sure I could pose all skeptic and doubt this possibility that these coaches could somehow work utter magic on my decades-old eating struggles. But I could also be curious. Which is what I chose, to be curious, and now have started working with one of these coaches to see what is possible. To give the longing, the sadness, the yearning to actually experience this sense of moving beyond, to give this a chance. Again.
So this “recovery coach” is texting me at challenging times where we’ve set up goal behavior changes. This person is hearing me yodel about my small but annoyingly restrictive behaviors that keep me bound, in fear, anxiety. That keep me smiling to the world–functioning–but not really fully feeling free. I have hope, but I also know this road could dead-end and the skeptic is here too. The skeptic is ready to be disappointed.
So far, the focus on behaviors is making them stronger, and I hope that does not continue. There is a sense that whatever I am dealing with is bigger than me, and has been with me and my ancestors for many generations. There is a sense that a “recovery coach” may not be able to handle and work through this layer of bigness with me. Yet that doesn’t mean I will discount it. I have also enlisted some support from a spirit-worker I trust to help me see into the bigness of this energy I am wrapped up in, to see if there is anything bigger than myself that is opposing my attempts at shifting behaviors.
I am so ready to transform this, and the coincidence of the recovery coach concept coming to me at this time–when I am about to publish my memoir about my lifetime eating and body struggles–is one I am definitely taking notice of. With the recovery coach helping me with the behavioral moves, and the spirit work helping me to explore and possibly heal the bigger energies tied up in this epigenetic illness pattern, I hope to really feel into this sense of “moving beyond.”
For me, however, I think it may result in a more animist way of being with the spirits of illness rather than never thinking about them again. For me, as I’ve written about in previous blogs and in my memoir, I think that the ED is an initiatory energy, and if it can be honored as an archetypal, transformational force but not allowed to destroy one’s body, then the work is truly done. I feel this is my path, to learn how to work with the spirit of this illness, and to possibly help others struggling, but not to let it take me down. This is where I am letting my curiosity with the concept of “full recovery” and recovery coaches take me. Hopefully I will come out the other end with an uplifting story to share around the fire.
Last weekend, I sat in on a workshop entitled “‘Shamanism” and Cultural Appropriation: Indigenous Perspectives.” This was a workshop discussing the use of the word shaman, as well as its tools by non-native people. I attended this workshop as I have been tremendously affected by the lens of shamanism in understanding and working with my food/body struggles on deeper levels. Yet as a white person, I’ve always been sensitive to that which I am swimming in when using or attending any kind of training on this subject.
During this particular panel, the intensity of feelings was almost unbearable in the room–so much pain and lack of understanding about this word. I felt myself struggling, as I feel so very called to this path and using its tools, but don’t quite know how as a white person, to honor this and also be in right relation. My work with Ancestral Healing has been helpful, yet the ache in my heart is still so strong around it all.
I started realizing that some of the chapters in my memoir directly reference my use of these tools, and that I neglected to mention what tribes the tools I used originated from, neglected to give respect. I realized I am pretty indebted to these paths and that actually the core message of my book-that an eating disorder might be a “call to initiation”-was resting on this wisdom.
I feel the “shamanic” and/or animist path has helped me re-vision my struggles with depression, with being in an ill body, but I know my awareness rides on the back of privilege. I know that is where a lot of my “unexplained” grief stems from, where symptoms in my body point to, even if I cannot completely vocalize it clearly, even if I feel so crazy and confused around all of it. I feel somehow that the deathly pull towards starving and restriction has relation to the unhealed woundings and ghosts of the traumas of existence. I wrote this poem to try to explain the complexity of what I feel, trying to also respect, and am wondering if it might belong in my acknowledgments section.
To the first peoples of Switzerland, who were colonized
To the first peoples of Germany, who were colonized
To the first peoples of Scandinavia, who were colonized
To the first peoples of Lithuania, who were colonized
To the first peoples of the Netherlands, who were colonized
To the first peoples of British Isles, who were colonized
To the first peoples of the Americas, who were colonized
To the first peoples of The Great Utah Basin, who were colonized
To the first peoples of the West Coast of the Americas, where I stand, who were colonized
To the first plant, animal and living beings, who were colonized
To the meat, vegetable, herb, tree, crops, who were colonized
To the plots of land that will never see the sun under concrete, colonized
To the trauma, disconnection and forgetting that lives on in my bones, blood and gut, colonized
In my memoir, Food Memories*, the Cannery Row area in Monterey, California figures prominently. These scenes involve my first romantic relationship with a boyfriend that for anonymity sake, I call “Eric.” This picture shows the remnants of a once-lively teen hangout behind Cannery’s Edgewater Packing Company. The lighter building on the left once housed an old-time carousel, soda fountain, arcade, magic shop and antique photo booth. Now, it is a recently closed IMAX theater.
The cement sidewalk/bike trail is the same as it always was, providing thoroughfare to countless Aquarium tourists on bike carriages, drunken lovers walking home from bars, gangs looking for fights, metalhead stoners wanting to play boomboxes loud and raucous. The drinking fountain is new.
In May 1991, I had a dream that Eric was killed by a gigantic tsunami here, on the edge of this sidewalk. In the dream the sidewalk was close to the water’s edge, and I watched as the gigantic forces of water nature swallowed him before my eyes. I remember waking up, sweaty and heart-racing, and the relief of realizing it was only a dream.
On June 1, 1991, my first boyfriend was murdered here, on the edge of this sidewalk. As the gun was shot off in the midst of a crowd, there was no clarity about who shot it, nor was the gun ever recovered. This man, whom I loved immensely, died here under the not yet erected drinking fountain, in his best friend’s arms, with no one to blame. I was lucky, and not so lucky, be absent when it happened. I’m not sure how I would have handled him bleeding out in my arms.
The tsunami didn’t literally happen, but his death did. The waves of despair and unconscious devastation were likely the metaphor. And of course, for a brief moment I wondered–should I have stopped it? Could I have? Why was I shown that in the dream? But everything went blank relatively quickly in the aftermath. That questioning stopped. I stopped dreaming, or at least remembering the dreams, for a long time after that.
Just down the road from where he was killed was this place, known to us teens as “The T’s.” These are remnants of the old Steinbeck-era canneries, their skeletons slowly being whittled down by crashing waves and by corporate tourist traps infringing on the area. An early scene in Food Memories describes how me and Eric sat here, on this beach, with his gigantic wolf-dog. Here we basked in the sun, stoned and eating deli sandwiches from a local shop. Eric was fond of putting potato chips on his sandwiches, and he did the same for my sandwiches. I grew to like this combination, however sacrilegious my dieting/Anorexic/culturally/brainwashed mind considered this. Eric controlled all of my food during our relationship, but in a really non-verbal way. I just ate what he ate, when he ate. I knew there would be drama if I didn’t. But I wasn’t complaining, I drank in this structure like a starving child.
In another scene from Food Memories, I attempt to show how this man was helping me find my way back to learning how to enjoy living after descending into the realms of depression, suicidality and Anorexia. His care, concern and (probably slightly co-dependent) caretaking of me was something I had never felt before. This scene recounts the morning after my first big arena metal show with him and his friends, and how we share a moment with pancakes, oozing with syrup, and playing children scurrying by. It shows how much I look to him, and the depth of gratitude I had for his presence in my life.
So you can probably imagine what happened to my burgeoning recovery and enjoyment of food when he died.
This man, the person that was never found that killed him, and the possible larger forces that orchestrated this experience, of his loving and his dying, changed my life forever. Almost 30 years later I still feel those moments so viscerally–that sun on my face, the crunch of the chips, the seagulls shrieking overhead, his face as he looked at me. I took a deep dive into the underworlds, over and over, after he died, and have struggled to understand and thrive despite this occurrence. Part of my struggles with eating stem from that, and to say intimate relationships are difficult is an understatement. Although I have done much work on myself around all of this I will never be able to truly shake what happened.
This is where my first boyfriend died. This is where the dreaming worlds and waking world collided. This is where a shuttered IMAX now stands.
Recently, I was introduced to the band Heilung, a pagan folk metal group from Denmark/Norway/Germany that are seeking to recreate Old Ways of Northern Europe, and facilitate re-connection with the Earth through their music and performances (in a good way, honoring all peoples, not in some sort of racist way, just embracing and acknowledging the land and traditions they have come from–although I’m sure there’s shadow in there somewhere).
Upon listening to the first song on the album, I felt pulled into an older time, an older, more earth-honoring connected people. The guttoral, haunting, primal sounds being made, the re-memberances it caused within me brought forth waves of grieving for a culture me and my peeps were disconnected from during the process of being colonized and colonizing others, human and non-human.
This well of grief kept flooding me as I listened further and further, and the sadness of the disconnection as well as what the disconnection created in our actions with others and our bodies was big. At times I found myself wanting to crawl into the computer and join these musicians in their vocalizing, wailing, drumming and howling around the fires, attending to and releasing this grief together. The yearning for this ceremony to be somewhere I can step into and connect into was intensely palpable, a deep deep longing.
I share this here because although I can’t quite explain it, I feel this deep grief and disconnection is a big part of why I and several of my ancestors struggled so much with suicidality, addiction and restrictive eating disorders. I share this here because I have been really grateful to have a course and supportive practitioners in Ancestral Healing that has helped me explore this topic in deeper ways.
I share this here because I firmly believe that the cause of eating disorders is not something wrong with individuals, or even the family dynamic, or even the social/media pressure to look a certain way. I share this here because I feel that these symptoms manifest as a result of thousands of years of unresolved trauma, famine, being oppressed and oppressing others, sexual violence, racism, etc and as a result of not having the awareness of why one is strongly pulled to do such destructive things to themselves.
I don’t exactly know how this work with Ancestral Healing will help me see and heal more fully from my struggles, but I am hopeful and grateful to have somewhere to explore this weird sense and deep longing I feel is connected to releasing these patterns in myself. Seeing what I and my family have struggled with be talked about in such deep and wide ways is regardless incredibly refreshing than the typical mental health conversation.
So Heilung. Listening to pagan folk metal is an interesting way to tap into the depth of these feelings, as music exploring shadow realms often is for me. Reading about things doesn’t really tap anything but music sure does. If you have Northern European peeps and feel similar deep roots to some of your struggles, I wonder if listening to this music might also cause similar feelings or awarenesses in you. If you listen and want to share, I’d like to hear. Also, if you are interested in Ancestral Healing work, this practitioner’s work I highly recommend: https://ancestralmedicine.org/
I’m feeling really confused at the moment, not an unusual feeling, but one I’d hoped would be absent from my interactions with a recent book reviewer. This reviewer was a personal one, my prior boss from my days of working in the eating disorder treatment field.
What confused me is that in her gracious reviewing of my book, she noted that I might want to wait until I had a more final story of wellness to end with, not leaving people with how I’m still struggling. She made the point that it is helpful to do this so that people can have hope that it is possible to “fully recover” from an eating disorder, and that it would be less likely fuel for those still struggling to use against themselves.
This of course was one of my biggest fears in releasing my memoir, Food Memories, before I had reached some sort of end all be all disappearance of symptoms. That although the state I find myself expressing in the memoir is authentic for me, and although I believe that healing is cyclical not final, I feared that my words and lack of perfect recovery might hurt someone. I also feared that my belief in the cyclical nature of healing was all rationalization to prevent me from fully recovering and that someone would challenge me on that. In a way, my old boss did, and I find myself in the wake of her feedback wondering if my message is really one ready to share.
I find myself confused at whether I am being lulled back into the systemic brainwashing of recovery, whether this full and final disappearance of symptoms is really possible, or whether the cycles and awarenesses I thought I found in my process are the actual gold I have to share. I’ve tried so much over the years to address these things, including 12 step structures and it feels like there’s something deeper that’s not being addressed. This is what I’ve found is what I try to express in my memoir: the sacredness of illness, loving oneself and accepting the struggle, not pushing so hard for perfection that strides are ignored. Yet I wonder, have I not done enough? Should I spend more time and energy and money in hiring another coach, dietitian, specialist to try to help me reach this perfect state? I wonder, I wonder.
I wonder about how it would feel if this same conversation was aimed at someone with re-occurring cancer, or diabetes, or some other chronic illness: “It might not be as helpful for you to share your story before you fully healed.” It has such a different tone, and is obviously judgmental when seen in this light. Yet to say this to a person struggling with an eating disorder seems perfectly fine, as if the person has loads more control over their symptoms than someone with one of these illnesses. Something about it all seems so wrong, separating these two.
Yet I respect this person, and a part of me yearns for what she describes as being “symptom-free.” Hearing her words made me wonder, and swirl in this confusion I am sharing with you right now. Is what I struggle with a chronic illness, one I must learn to live with or one I just haven’t tried hard enough to ‘recover” from? When is sharing one’s story too early? When is the urge to share the authentic process of struggle and awareness from such struggle an ego exercise, and when is it a service that will help others? Where is that line?
Have you struggled with an eating disorder, addiction, depression or chronic illness? When do you think is too early to share your story, is it helpful to hear others’ stories of struggle? Is it unsatisfying if the protagonist doesn’t reach some sort of pinnacle of transformation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Across the street from 857 Taylor Street was a ramshackle wooden cabin I called The Witch’s House. It certainly doesn’t look that way now, as the old home was razed and this prefab place was erected.
Sad thing, as the wooden cabin was a magickal and mysterious place for me, I wish I could show it to you. I describe it in a scene in my upcoming memoir, Food Memories called “Sourgrass.” I describe the way the collections of multi-colored glass bottles lined the windows, how they glistened in the sun like jewels. I describe the many cats slinking through the overgrown and wild property, and how there never was really anyone there.
As mentioned in previous posts, I was a pretty fantasy/magic leaning child, and this place held such wonder. Especially since there was never anyone there. I seemed to have some sort of relationship with this place, gathering my friends at times to help fix and paint its crumbling picket fence, and trying to take care of the cats that seemed to somehow get mysteriously fed. One day, I actually went into the house, it was unlocked, and cats were on the counters, licking old bowls. Again, someone there, but not there. I was fascinated by it all.
Across from this lot was another lot where the neighborhood forest was. Again forgive me for the quality of these pictures, and for not being able to show you the amazingness of what it all used to look like.
If I were an artist I’d definitely render a long ago version for you! This is the entrance to the corner of the woods, and back then there were no sidewalks or condominiums. It is quite possible the pine tree in the foreground is a survivor from those times…and the grassy earth, well its the same grassy earth. As also described in detail in the “Sourgrass” chapter, I’d go rambling over this bump of land, down the hill and take a right onto a thin trail deeper into the trees. In this scene, I described running through this forest to see if my secret fort had been intruded on. Smells and tastes were so powerful back then, as was my first meeting with the sourgrass plant (Oxalis pes-caprae). I loved this plant so much as a child, equal to my love for the forest and the witch’s house. I also described how I used the wild onion (Allium Triquetrum) growing nearby to smear a protective layer around my fortress door. This was a plant I respected but didn’t love so much :}
Pairing these two things together, the forest and the Witch’s House, I see how I was exploring the witch both inside and outside of me, already drawn to plant teachers and the familiars of cave-like fortresses and wild untamed cats. There was no Netflix then, no internet, and kids like me just ran around these different places until it got dark, or as my mom said, “come home before you can’t see the color in the trees.” My mom, in her own way, was a witchy gal, despite her struggles with alcoholism, depression and Anorexia, and in these stories I’ve spent the last few years recalling, I see that more and more. Yet she was never as accessible or pure as the energy of nature, or the fantasies of my mind where unseen witches lived. These are the places and memories I’m so very glad to have experienced and learned from.
I do wish I would’ve had an actual Aughra to go hang out with though, rather than dreaming of the imaginary Mother witch from The Dark Crystal to be waiting for me behind the Witch’s House doors :}
Greetings! I was planning on writing the next segment of my photographic journey into the past, but this book came across my path and I found it more interesting than I expected.
Almost Anorexic, by Jennifer J. Thomas, PhD and Jenni Schaefer, jumped out at me on the library shelf the other day as I was looking for titles to assist me in a current state of struggle I am feeling. I love my body, I don’t want to torture it, but for some reason I am having a very difficult time increasing my intake to address recent labwork results of deficiency. This resistance is not unfamiliar, and the immense haze and feelings of trapped-ness aren’t new either. Yet, in turning to my doctors or other health practitioners for help in this “non-emergency” struggle, I find myself lacking in ways to describe what is going on with me. This book, although I dislike the labelling and diagnoses train, felt like it spoke to what I am experiencing, and what I imagine countless others experience when they are struggling, deeply, yet not meeting the requirements for particular diagnoses, especially to qualify for treatment.
The overall message of this book is to help people feel like their struggle IS worth treatment, it IS a problem, and it SHOULD be addressed by the healthcare system…while also delineating the reality that sub-clinical symptoms rarely are treated with any kind of respect or care, nor are there any systems for handling these kinds of things. I really liked this messaging, and its what held me through the recovery lingo and anti-ED talk that Jenni Schaefer is known for in her book Life Without Ed.
The first section of the book, “Getting to Know the Ed in Your Head,” didn’t really speak to me for this reason, I’m more of a proponent of seeing the struggles as age-old and ancestral rather than a bothersome voice I need to battle or ignore. It was enlightening to see the descriptors/assessments for “Almost Anorexia,” (which in their languaging almost seems as if it is a new diagnosis the writers are proposing), including the standard EAT-26, as well as questions about behaviors like frequent restriction, compensatory behaviors, body image challenges, frequent fluctuations in weight.
I’ve seen these tests and questions a million times, but for some reason, the way they were written (or perhaps due to my particular state of struggle) I was reminded of the small ways I am still stuck in the cage of restrictive but not “dangerous” eating patterns. I was reminded that there are little ways that I still am circling around old patterns, and how in talking to medical practitioners these little ways were kind of dismissed as not that big a deal.
Yet here I’ve felt kind of dead and bored and wondering…is this really all there is? Will I always have to follow a meal plan to avoid the intensity (sub-clinical intensity, mind you) of feelings that arise if I veer from it? To deal with this PTSD-like response that no practitioners I’ve seen know how to handle or categorize? Something in me knew there was a Big Deal happening, and these reminders of the “little” ways I still cling to rigid eating as a coping mechanism really helped me validate that I’m not just being a drama queen with what I’m experiencing right now.
The next section, “Kicking Ed to the Curb,” again rubbed me the wrong way with its battle-infused lingo, but the topics it raised–the allure, even if unconscious, of being too thin, of being a part of the cultural dieting mentality, of resisting working on symptoms because the hunger/fullness signals don’t feel trustworthy–were again good reminders of ways I have plateaued with my growth and transformations. I have long kind of poo-pooed the whole process of “intuitive eating” as I felt it was pretty much bullshit for people who have messed with their appetite for so long that it feels like it’s broken. The book actually addressed that, including the reality that restrictive eating causes delayed gastric emptying which often creates a revolving cycle of finding it difficult to eat more, even if one wants to, if they’ve fallen into restriction again. It also addressed the overwhelm one might face when asked to eat new foods after DECADES of being on highly structured meal plans to either decrease, maintain or gain weight. It addressed and reminded me of the fact that despite these difficulties, that food is still the medicine.
This again I have known but have grown quite frankly bitter about, when eating literally has caused me to feel pain or overwhelming panic whenever I would get the courage to expand my joyful eating. These reminders, as well as the last chapter about not settling for “almost recovered,” got me inspired again (although my skeptic will always be in full affect around any kind of recovery lingo).
There are helpful exercises throughout the book that speak to the wider swath of people who might be feeling restricted but don’t think they’re “worth” really working on, and I am grateful for this. While reading, I also found myself getting deeply connected to a still lingering part inside (a small child it seems) that does actually harbor some body-hate. I thought, and genuinely felt, that I really loved my body through and through, yet there is this little girl I’ve found who hates the struggle and difficulty and confusion that her body, the one she feels trapped in, gives her everyday. As the epilogue in my upcoming memoir Food Memories describes, I am getting more connected to and aiming to help this part inside. I’m connecting with her in hopes that our work may loosen the need to grip onto the rigid structures that have seemingly kept me from disassembling for so long.
Lastly, I want to also mention that I recently came across the 2019 Gurze/Salcore Eating Disorders Catalogue and was pleasantly surprised at its contents: Midlife Eating Disorders, eating disorders and pallative care, understanding PTSD and eating disorders, and how the autism spectrum traits complicate eating disorder diagnoses and treatment. Although I can’t seem to find a way to access the 2019 physical magazine I read, if you search for any of these topics on the website you can read the articles there. I’m heartened and inspired at the nature of these articles and the progressive nature that the research/treatment community seems to be headed in by the way the articles read.
While I was in town the other weekend, I had the urge to do some memory lane photography (mind you these are no dazzling, skilled photographs lol). In the next few blogs, I will be sharing these photos and how they relate to various scenes in my upcoming memoir, Food Memories.
This is 857 Taylor Street. Many of the scenes from the first section of Food Memories take place in this apartment. The first scene of the book describes my early morning enjoyment of ice cream whilst watching a favorite movie, The Beastmaster. I am alone in this scene, my mother is sleeping, sleeping off the drunkenness and rage from the night before. Yet I am a happy little kid, as I remember, not sure why I’m not affected by her outbursts yet. I’m way more affected by the magickal characters on the screen, wishing to be them. Perhaps my wishing was evidence of my desiring a different life.
The surrounding neighborhood of this apartment, of which I’ll describe in future scenes, was filled with great adventure, but most of what occurred inside this apartment was kind of a lonely, twisted drag. It is understandable on so many levels why food became at first my best friend, and then a tool to manipulate my way out of the toxicity of the environment. Only where I ended up as a result of said manipulation was not in my preferred fantasy world, with Dar and Kiri, with the black tiger and the high flying hawk. My desperate manipulations did end up taking me on a pretty intense adventure, however, and in a way, I crafted my own hero/ine’s journey, with my own inner spirit animals along the way. Perhaps I have this quirky 1982 movie to thank for that.
So. 857 Taylor Street. Nice to see ya, thanks for the reminders of a time long ago, and how far I have come.