DAY NINE


your road

I have reached the point in the cleanse where I no longer care about eating. Now I eat because I have to. Because I’m so plugged into how my body feels, I’m acutely aware of the plummeting energy levels when I don’t eat. So, I’ve reached that wonderful point where I’m feeding my body food for energy. And, I love that. I was in the grocery store today replenishing some of my vegetables and I wandered around a bit, realizing that there was no place for me to go in the market outside of the produce section. It was a little bit disappointing but much more comforting because all temptation of snacks was off the table. I exited the store without the guilt or angst I sometimes feel when I have snuck in a treat for myself that I really have no business smuggling into the house.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana
  • Baby carrots with guacamole
  • Sliced apples
  • Sweet potato with sea salt and pepper
  • Lentil soup
  • 6 dates
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

How I felt:

Today was a good day. I felt energetic all day and was in a fairly upbeat mood, for the most part. I’m managing some big challenges and trying to stay focused on positivity. I did have therapy today, which helped to maintain my sanity. I sensed my therapist’s amusement at the random thoughts flying out of mouth, creating a verbal tennis match as I explained to her the myriad thought processes that I have been partaking in over the last week. This was the first time, outside of my blog, that I have had a chance to expel all that has been in my head and it felt really good to let it out!

My hunger pangs have diminished significantly and, overall, I feel healthy and fit. It is a nice feeling that I am not ready to let go of anytime soon.

Physical Activity:

I did not get a chance to make it to the gym today because of a very hectic work schedule and commitments with the kids. I gave myself the night off so I could do important tasks like folding the mountain of laundry that has piled up.

This afternoon I wandered into my husband’s office and looked at his computer screen which had Facebook opened. It felt like I was eyeing the forbidden fruit. There was a temptation to sneak on under his profile and see what was happening with my Facebook pals. I tiptoed over to his desk and, just as gingerly, backed away. I did not want to break the seal. I’m really proud of sticking to my commitment to stay off of Facebook during this cleanse. It’s still the biggest craving I have every day, especially when I have downtime and want to just mindlessly escape. Without access to Facebook, I continue to feel incredibly disconnected with what is going on around me. And, frankly, even admitting that makes me really sad because, as I have mentioned before, Facebook has become my main connection point to the world around me. Then again, maybe that is not all that terrible. I like the ability to catch up on what my friends are doing in a succinct manner. While it would be great if I could find time to text or call all the people I would like to, it’s simply not a luxury I can afford these days and scrolling through Facebook allows me to accomplish some of that quickly and easily. The part of this that actually is most disappointing is that my dependence on Facebook is directly correlated to how overworked I am and how little time I have to devote to tending to my personal life and my emotional gardening.

I was talking to my therapist about my Facebook hiatus and she commented that she expected I would return to dozens of friend requests. “Because that is how popular I imagine you are,” she smiled. I laughed because I know a lot of people assume that about me. In fact, I am one of those people who knows A LOT of people. Everyone assumes I know everyone because I travel in lots of different circles. But, in truth, I live on the peripherary of them all. I could not tell you the last party I was invited to or the last time anyone invited me out to dinner. Usually, I run into people and we smile and chat and that’s the extent of our connection. Or we banter on Facebook. Sure, I also have those friends with whom I share a more intimate relationship but those relationships usually exist primarily in the land of text messaging. Lots of text messaging. We should get together. I miss you. How ARE you? All genuine and heartfelt – and beginning and ending on the screen of my phone. I don’t, in reality, have that many friends and I often tend to isolate myself – especially when I am under stress. I wall myself off and keep everything on the inside. For, as extroverted as I am, when it comes to crisis, I tend to lock myself up in a hole and manage it independently.

When my therapist asked me about my experience with the cleanse (she clearly has not read my blog), I shared that being confronted with an array of emotions is good and bad and, really, all I wanted to do is curl up like a little kid and have someone take care of me. “I want my mommy,” I whimpered. Ironic, for many reasons, most importantly because my mom was never the kind of mother who would comfort me in that way. Yet, even though I never experienced that level of contentment with my mother, I know for certain that it is exactly what I need right now. I just need nurturing but, as usual, with the swarms of people I know, I can’t find a single person to help me out. Not because of them – that’s all on me.

I go back to therapy on Day 19. Let’s see if I just walk into her office and curl up in the fetal position. At this rate, it seems inevitable.

ENDURING BONDS


enduring bondsThe friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most.  I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me in the sunshine of my prosperity – Ulysses S Grant

Growing up in my family, forgiveness was never an option.  Although my mother often spoke the words “I forgive but I never forget,” I knew implicitly that her memory was sharp and every infraction was stored in her mental filing cabinet BUT she did not have the capacity to ever truly forgive.  She harbored anger and resentment towards me and my siblings for every misdeed, every step over the line, every sideways glance.  And, she taught us that crossing the line was unacceptable and unforgivable.  Misdeeds were punishable by a lifetime of resentment and isolation.  In my teens, it was commonplace for my mother to ignore me for weeks at a time as a result of an argument or her displeasure over my behavior.  Then, as the temperature warmed and the ice started melting, we would return to some form of interaction but there was never closure, never a reassurance that I was still loved.  It was erratic and black and white.  Today I love you, tomorrow I do not.  The next day, perhaps I will welcome you back.

As an adult, this behavior morphed into months, even years of disconnection.  Anger the beast and you will be frozen out, disowned, disregarded, unwanted, unaccepted.  She would surgically remove me from her life.  One day I was a beloved daughter and the next a pariah.  This pattern of behavior traveled throughout my entire family with my sister and I spending years not speaking to each other and then trying to reconcile, only to replay the same behaviors and fall out for many more years.  I had to give up.  I raised the white flag and surrendered because the emotional battle tested me beyond my limits.  Despite mastering the ability of turning myself off when the battles began, as I matured and began to try out more healthy dynamics with my own family and friends, I realized that the price tag for engaging in the impermanence of these relationships was too high.  I could no longer endure being bathed in the sunlight of the love of my family and then watching the deterioration that would ultimately result in rejection and isolation once again.  So, I walked away.  I cut the ties.  I ended the torture.  I realized that the good was not good enough to support the bad.  The risk was too great, the reward too small.

In a perfect world, I would have the ability to compartmentalize that portion of my life and, once I walked away from the dysfunction of those primary relationships, I would leave that behavior locked away in the room with them.  However, as a human being, I am a product of every piece of my life and my cells are infused with the shrapnel of all of my tours of duty, leaving me challenged to constantly be aware of my behavior and attempt to isolate every situation to allow it stand on its own legs rather than resting on the foundations of history.  Sometimes I am really good at that and sometimes I pretty much suck at it.

As I have shared before, relationships are challenging for me.  Trust is an enormous struggle.  I want desperately to have intimacy of all kinds but I have yet to figure out how to navigate through the rough seas that accompany that degree of closeness.  Even the most blissful relationships hit bumps.  No matter how much you try to pave the road to avoid them, there are potholes and speed bumps that appear – sometimes out of nowhere – that slow you down or test your driving skills.  For me, those tests often break me.  More often than I care to admit, I fall into the hole and struggle to get out.  I am challenged to figure out how to pull myself back up and can’t find the right way to ask my ally – who might feel like my enemy at the moment – for help.  I fall into that same black and white pattern of behavior.  I operate from my unconscious core.  For every time I think I have managed to rise above my roots, I find myself succumbing to my history.  I play out the same behaviors that I abhor.  I behave like the imperfect human that I am.

I can count on my one hand the number of people who I truly trust in my life.  The people with whom I have relationships that are worth fighting for.  The ones who can shatter me.  And those are the people I struggle the most with.  The level of vulnerability that exists in those relationships often overwhelm me.  The rules of engagement scare me.  They are etched in my soul and I grant them the power to love me and destroy me and hope that they will opt for the former…most of the time.  I know we will stumble and fall and I just hope that we can always pick up, hug it out, and move forward.  I pray that there is no winter of discontent, trapped in the forest, cold and abandoned.

With each of the people in my inner circle, I have tripped.  We have battled, sometimes in a bloody fashion.  We have hurt each other, we have broken each other down and, in every case, we have relented, recognizing that there are few people who come into our lives to touch us in such a meaningful way.  We acknowledged that our connection, our love, our bond was too valuable, too precious to allow to be destroyed.  Several years ago, I fell hard with one of them.  I watched as a relationship slipped through my fingers.  I sat by idly, playing out the same tune that was the soundtrack of my childhood.  We fight, we hate, we ignore, we isolate, we cut out the disease and never look back.  However, this time it was different.  There was no disease.  There was no reason for hating or ignoring.  There was a disruption.  There was discomfort.  But, unlike my own family, this time there was so much love at the foundation yet, unfortunately, I was unable to feel it or see it.  I was incapable of honoring the value of the relationship.  I operated on auto-pilot and handed the wheel over to my demons.  I walked away not looking back and assuming this was another stitch in the pattern of my life.

One of the aspects of life that inspires me is the belief in a greater power, a greater force that guides you through life.  If you have the ability to tap into it and listen hard, you will find the truth for your life.  After I walked away from this relationship many years ago, I started paying attention.  The pain of the fracture was so great and the loss so significant that I knew I needed to learn.  I knew I needed to understand more.  I realized that part of my challenge was that I was not traveling my journey with consciousness but, instead, unconscious acquiescence.  I looked for familiar clues and traveled the road following a trail of breadcrumbs.  Instead, I needed to brave a new path.  I needed to wander into the woods and find a new trail that took me where I wanted to go, not back to where I had come from.  After this relationship abruptly exploded and, once I took the time to lick my wounds, I decided to wander off into the forest and find my way.  And miraculously – or perhaps, appropriately – my travels took me on some windy roads, visiting a lot of destinations but led me back to where I was supposed to be.  Right back into the warm embrace of this relationship.  Right back to the love and comfort that so eluded me because I was operating from an outdated guidebook.  When I allowed myself to open up and explore the truth of what makes me happy and who I want to be, I knew that this void was not one that could be filled by anything other than the real thing.  I knew that this relationship was far too important to be disregarded or discarded.  It needed to be mended.  It needed to be reconciled.

Unlike my previous endeavors with my family, I confronted my fears and trusted that I could be honest.  I pushed past my steel armor that protects me from emotionally engaging and allowing myself to get hurt and put my vulnerable self on the front line.  I tried on some new behaviors and the payoff was rich.  I learned, I grew, I was rewarded with a prize that I already had but did not understand the value of.  I was – I am – grateful.

Last night I sat with my friend, ensconced in warmth and love.  I looked at her and her family and knew, deep in my soul, that this was where I belong.  I felt the energy that exists in only the most magical of places.  I understood, perhaps for the first time, that forgiveness is possible.  That it is ok to trip and fall and the courage it takes to ask for a hand, when the correct hand is being outstretched, can be met with acceptance and love.  I looked at her and her family and knew that they had carved a place in my life and in my heart that could never again be eradicated.  We had tested our relationship.  We hurt and struggled and found our way back to each other because that is where we were meant to be.  Like a good marriage, we fit together like puzzle pieces.  There was no pushing or shoving to make the pieces meld together.  They seamlessly connect and the picture falls into focus clearly and beautifully.

I regret the time we were apart.  I will never forget the pain or the disappointment that accompanied the break.  Yet, I will cherish the power of our bond.  I will be forever grateful for the learning and the healing that came not just from the reconnection but from distancing me from my past.  I am buoyed by the confidence that my cells can be cleansed and I can, even at 46 years old, adopt new beliefs and behaviors and that I am blessed to have my precious inner circle to help me along the way.  I feel loved.  I feel thankful.  I feel happy.

To my friend, I offer a toast.  Here’s to the highs, the lows, the love, the pain, the bounty that comes from sharing a life together.  Watching our children from those early days of infancy to their adult lives when they share their families with us.  Here’s to dancing at their weddings, snuggling with their babies, rocking in our chairs as our hair grays and our hard edges soften.  Here’s to starting our day with bloody marys and ending with a glass of champagne to toast enduring friendship.  I love you.  And, bring on the bumps.  We can handle them.

DESPERATELY SEEKING GIRLFRIENDS


It has been a busy few weeks for me with the onset of a new year and all the business opportunity that comes along with that.  I am fortunate to have been traveling around a bit and have had some time to catch up on my reading.  Normally, my daily reading involves lots of web browsing, perusing the online versions of The New York Times, Huffington Post, Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal.  It is all very interesting but rarely does much to fill up my soul.

Back in December, I was reading the “Women” section of Huffington Post (my favorite, by far) and I read a review of a book about women’s friendships: MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend.  I typically opt for nonfiction and this one caught my eye.  I was intrigued by the premise of a woman who had spent a year trying to find best friends after she relocated to Chicago from NYC.  As someone who has gone through my share of relocations and quests to find girlfriends who could tolerate my sarcastic wit and understand that I do not have the time to chat on the phone on a daily basis (along with my love of going to the movies and great need to find adult time away from my kids), I was curious to hear about the author’s search.  I figured, since I was going to be doing a lot of plane, train and automobile travel over the middle part of January, this would be the perfect book to download to my Kindle and be my reading companion for my journeys.

While I cannot relate to the author of the book who is a newly-married, childless 20-something who fancies herself an avid book grouper and hard-core New Yorker (well, maybe I can relate to that a bit!), what struck a chord with me was her research and commentary on the importance and power of women’s friendships.  Frankly, I was shocked at how much research exists and how much has been written about friendships between women.  While reading the book, I began to really appreciate how many amazing women (and some great men) friends I have in my life.  Friends have always been a critical component of my life.  I recall being newly married and sharing my frustration with my husband that, newly transplanted to suburban NJ, I did not have my normal posse of pals to hang out with on the weekends, catch a movie with, go out to dinner with or just chat about anything and everything with.  I felt extremely lonely and isolated – very similar to what the author in this book experienced after she relocated to Chicago to be closer to her boyfriend (whom she ultimately married).  The void of girlfriends could not be filled by my husband because he simply was not a woman.  He did not understand the secret language we share.  He did not want to go bra shopping with me or run out for a mani/pedi on Saturday afternoon.  Our relationship, as newlyweds, did not need to be stressed by my forcing him to fill every gap in my life.  I had to find friends.  Not just work friends but women in my community that could be my connection to my new home.  Of course, this became much easier after I had children as, suddenly there were limitless opportunities to bond with other women who were looking for companionship and ways to entertain their new babies.  So began my journey to find new friends and years of trying on many women for size in hopes of finding a rare few who could sustain the many life changes that occur during your 20s, 30s and early 40s.

According to the book, psychologists have long described four major types of friendships:

  1. The Acquaintance – someone you’d chat with on the street or at a local cafe, who gives you a sense of belonging;
  2. The Casual Friend – a ‘grab lunch’ pal who often serves a specific purpose, such as a tennis or running partner;
  3. The Close Buddy – an intimate, trustworthy comrade you can say anything to;
  4. The Lifer – someone who is as deep and forever as family.

According to this research, women should have 3-5 lifers, 5-12 close friends, 10-50 casuals, and 10-100 acquaintances.  Wow!  That is a lot of friends.  Now, certainly, between work pals, people I know from my kids and around town, old high school and college chums and others I have met through volunteer work, school, etc, I probably have lots more than 100 acquaintances.  However, when you start looking at the numbers of close pals and lifers, it sure does seem like a lot of friends.  Furthermore, according to anthropologist Robin Dunbar who, while studying the behavior of primates in the early 90s, noticed that social groups were limited in size.  He determined that the size of our brains determines how many relationships we can sustain.  For the chimps he found that number to be about 50 and, for humans, that number jumps to 150.  So, essentially, our maximum capacity for our social network is 150 people.  If we have them filled up with acquaintances and casual pals, it kind of jams things up for the close friends and lifelong buddies.  Naturally, in order to achieve and maintain those important close connections, we need to continually do a little housecleaning with our friends.  And, as someone who lives in a small community with lots of friendship circles, you can see how fluid those relationships are.  People gossip equally about which couples have split up as they do about which girlfriends have had a falling out.

Another interesting piece of research comes from a 2010 study that found that social integration improves a person’s odds of survival by 50%.  In fact, the researchers found that having low levels of connection is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic.  It is more harmful to our health than not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity.  So, essentially, having friends, particularly girlfriends, is good for your health!  I think most of us instinctively know all this to be true.  The time we spend with our girlfriends typically ranks as some of the most meaningful, powerful and enjoyable moments in our lives.  While we love our partners and our families, our girlfriends provide an outlet that cannot easily be replaced by anyone else.

Now in my mid 40s, I am grateful for all the women (and men) that I call my friends.  My relationships  definitely fall into the different categories and I am fortunate that I know who fits which bill.  I know who my lifers and close friends are and I value them dearly.  As I do my causal acquaintances and my extended social network who continually make me feel connected to the world that I live in.  Take a moment to take stock of your friends and appreciate all that they bring to your life.  And, if you are at a point where you are in search of new friends, I highly encourage you to read the book!