On Saturday, 2/20, on day 42 of my journey towards myself (brought to you by eliminating the following ingestible items: grains, sugar (including fruit and vegetables that grow under the ground) and sugar substitutes, cow dairy, alcohol, caffeine) I gathered with the other members of the One Spirit Medicine group and went on a Vision Question.
At the end of Villoldo’s book, the Vision Question is the culmination of the experience, in which one receives One Spirit Medicine. In other words, this is when/where/how you get divine guidance. You’ve eaten in a way that removes all barriers from your authentic connection to earth and spirit and as such you are open to receiving what the universe really has in store for you. Villoldo’s idea of a vision quest is 3 days in the desert with just yourself, some water, a notebook, and a pen. I’m into the idea (call me crazy), but it wasn’t part of this program. Our Vision Quest was more of a bourgeois Vision Quest. 3 hours instead of 3 days. At Descanso Gardens instead of in the desert. And fasting was optional (I opted for it, but I wasn’t even done digesting the enormous breakfast I’d eaten that morning in preparation by the time we were done).
We were instructed to go find ourselves a place to be (maybe we’d stay there the whole time, maybe we’d move) and then be open to the possibility that more could happen in those three hours than had happened in the last 40+ days. Okay, sounds reasonable.
I was scared. And very frantic. I had forgotten my chap stick, and my totem rock, and some other thing(s) I can’t remember now. I had done SO well, what was I going to do now? How was I going to keep from slipping back under?
I’m not going to tell you all about what happened on my Vision Quest. Either because it’s sacred, or because I’m saving it for a book. Only time will tell. But I’ll tell you we were advised to write and journal and let ideas and thoughts come without judgment. And we were told that the thoughts that came that were the juiciest, so juicy that we could’t imagine coming up with them ourselves, THOSE were the messages from spirit. That was One Spirit Medicine. And THAT was the vision the universe had for us, and the one we were destined to follow.
A few tidbits from the universe’s vision for me:
- Alignment – I cried for most of the first hour because I was overwhelmed by gratitude. I had never taken such good care of myself in my life and as such I was finding myself (for the first time EVER) completely aligned. There was no part of me and how I showed up in the world that was not aligned with my values, beliefs, priorities, etc. I was no longer a wonderful person who pushed her beliefs aside to gorge on McDonald’s, I was just a wonderful person.
- Children’s Book Author – Then I wrote a children’s book about a daffodil and a lilac
- Memoir Author – Then I outline a whole other book about being a mother (that I’ve been afraid to write for years because I have this belief that my story will be unwelcomed because my child is far from a model of perfection).
- Children’s Series Author – Then I outline a whole series of other nature based children’s book characters
I guess I’ll be doing a lot of writing on my destined path. Sounds like a plan.
So, it’s over… in that the 6 weeks have passed. I was successful, by my own evaluation. These are my before and after pictures. Let me just tell you, the light that appears to be illuminating my face in the 2nd picture, it’s coming from the inside.
I plan to continue this way of fueling my body (and being this aligned, because let me tell you — that shit is AMAZING. Can’t beat it).
The night after the vision quest I “broke the fast” by making these (I didn’t have coconut water so I used 4 TB of water and 1 TB of coconut oil, and I only had sweetened coconut so I opted out of mixing it with the chia and just rolled some in plain chia and saved the coconut for others) and eating 3 of them and having a few parsnip chips. The energy balls made me a little antsy (caffeine?) and the parsnip chips were sweet (yuck). I am not missing anything. How could I miss the suffering that comes from being a victim of my own habits?
I FINALLY understand the “we admit we are powerless” step in AA (et al). I used to have SO much resistance to that idea… how would feeling powerless inspire or motivate me to change? That’s not what it’s about at all. Knowing when you are in over your head is strength. Knowing how to walk away from what will hurt you is courage. Being powerless over a substance or behavior isn’t weakness, it’s brain chemistry. It’s life. And the choice to realize that truth is when, where, and how you get ALL THE POWER BACK.
What I ate today:
- Hot water with lemon (I am over making green juice for the time being)
- 2 over medium eggs on a green salad, 1/4 avocado, 2 slices of the Focaccia from the Wheat Belly Cookbook (it’s almond, garbanzo bean, and flax seed)
- Green salad with egg salad and another 1/4 avocado
- A handful of almonds, pecans, and cashews
- Shrimp curry over sautéed kale
- (I went a little off book and ate) blueberries with some stevia sweetened/poisoned coconut whipped cream I had made from 1/2 a can of leftover coconut milk
- roasted seaweed snack
Yesterday was the first time in 36 days that I ate when I wasn’t hungry. It wasn’t a binge, per se… but I went back to the container of salted cashews for a few more small handfuls knowing that I was not doing it for nourishment, but instead for the entertainment that peanut oil and sea salt provided to my mouth.
Turns out it’s a damn slippery slope too. That night, as I sat in a forward fold during a Yin Yoga practice meant to reveal negative patterns I realized what had happened. I sort of knew it in the moment, but I REALLY knew it when the backs of my legs screamed at me about it. That entertainment was a distraction from how I was feeling – which was overloaded. I had taken The Boy and his friend to the CA Science Center that day and it was loud, and dark, or sometimes bright, and crowded, and loud. Did I mention loud? I get overwhelmed very easily in big, crowded, dark or sometime bright, loud places. And apparently the one hour I spent alone in my room after we got home was not a sufficient recharge. I was feeling uncomfortable and I tried to mask that discomfort with salted nuts.
And I realized then that I had already made up my mind to have a wedge of goat brie with the fresh crackers I was pulling out of the oven in just a few minutes. I did some mental gymnastics, sitting still there on the mat until I decided not to eat. It was 9pm, dinner had been hours ago, and I had not eaten after dinner in 36 days. Why start now?
Yoga ended and I ate the wedge (albeit a smaller one than I had originally planned) and a few of the crackers. I didn’t feel any better, fuller (I wasn’t hungry to begin with), more satisfied satisfied… just disappointed. JH asked me, upon giving voice to my shame (aka confessional), if I was worried about myself. I wasn’t. I saw what had happened and I didn’t want to go back to that way of being. If I was going to eat “off program” it was going to be with intention (more about that in the coming weeks).
Apparently whomever runs the Universe thinks I needed another opportunity to see my own behavior and its potential detriments because today…
Today, The Boy (who is both allergic and addicted to dairy like his mama):
- took a discarded mac & cheese hot lunch from the Donation bin at school
- put it in his backpack
- took his backpack into our friends’ house where I was dropping him off to play while I went to an appointment
- told me he wanted his backpack because it had a toy in it (<–lie)
- and then sat outside (alone) to eat his mac & cheese (<–like the people who go on The Biggest Loser –and me– do with their donuts in the car)
Cue opening of flood gates of shame.
Seriously? I STOPPED this behavior. I am 2 fucking days away from being fully engaged in my new relationship to food (and myself, and the earth, and everything in existence) and TODAY I have to see that I somehow taught my child to behave in the same way that was killing me?
I don’t know what to do. I told him about my experiences with food and my feelings of powerlessness. I empathized with him about the discomfort of craving (especially when in withdrawal, he had just returned from his dad’s where he ate pizza a couple days before). I explained my disturbance at the lying/sneaking/hiding. I expressed my concern about his wellbeing. He doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter to him. It’s not a “big deal.”
Perhaps I am overreacting. Perhaps any given reaction is as much reaction as is warranted in the moment by the person having the reaction and to say that someone is overreacting is to invalidate their experience as a person with emotions.
It wasn’t a big deal to me either… for let’s say 25 years. Until it was. I hope he doesn’t have to wait that long.
So, now I just let it be. And I don’t eat to cover up the feelings. And it sucks. And I’m sad. And I’m worried. And I feel ashamed.
And I remember that control is an illusion.
And I search around for hope. And I find a glimmer of it.
And I keep doing my best.
And that’s all I can do.
What I ate today:
- Green drink (collards, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon)
- sautéed yellow squash, broccoli, and two over medium eggs
- 8 multi “grain” crackers, 2 slices of goat cheddar, slice of roasted chicken, roasted seaweed
- 8 multi “grain” crackers, slice of goat cheddar, slice of roasted chicken, 3 walnuts, 3 pecans
- quinoa, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, chicken sausage from TJ’s, turkey meatball, goat “ranch”
I long for the feeling of having “made it.”
Yes, it’s about the journey I understand. The destination is fleeting if it exists at all, but there’s something comforting about believing that I have arrived.
Despite having 5 more days in the 40 prescribed days of this detox, I had started to feel (without noticing) that I had made it. I wasn’t taking risks with food. The power of my old habits weren’t pushing limits to see what they could get away with. I just stopped taking care of my feelings.
I wrote a lot less. I engaged my body in intentional movement (usually yoga) even less than that. The illusion of process being the same as journey allowed me to believe that I had accomplished a singular task.
I cleansed my body of toxics
I cleared my mind of habits and patterns
I released deeply held emotions and experiences
I was done, right? I would keep eating like this and I would just be okay from here on out. I had a GREAT week this week. I noticed a shift in the way I do my work from transactional to transformational (which is the goal, so go me). I heard myself speak clearly and bravely with the voice of an advocate who was still fair and empathetic. Again, I wore jeans sans muffin top.
And then anxiety started creeping up on me. I thought to myself, I should probably do yoga… and then I didn’t. I decided if I pooped I would feel better (not that I have any control over that).
The poop came and the pressure in my chest was still present. I wasn’t plugged into my thoughts anymore. Questions were answered with a quick “I don’t know” before I considered what was going on and why. I threw a tantrum and was (tough) lovingly sent out of the bedroom to do some yoga. And on the mat, as the deliberate breath acted as a release of fear and tension, the information came.
This ain’t ever going to be over, girl.
Every day in every way, you will be releasing and receiving.
You haven’t received all of the gifts. You haven’t released all of the burdens. And even if you had, there is an abundance of new in each day, hour, minute, moment…
I long for the destination, but the destination isn’t meant to be indulged in for more than a moment. It’s absolutely true that I made it. I made it to this morning, and yesterday, and the day before. And those were beautiful destinations. Now is the next destination. I’m on my way.
What I’ve eaten today so far (I just woke up 90 minutes ago):
- Trader Joe’s Wasabi Roasted Seaweed snack
I said before that I would write when something was significant. The last couple weeks have been full of significance, and today isn’t particularly significant in any way… other than I have enough free time to sit down and put finger to keyboard. The weeks’ significance hasn’t had a lot to do with food and has come more in the form of needing to move (because the owner of our rental house is selling), exploring shame, safety, and commonalities between my attitude about food and the issue of money (because I managed to accumulate credit card debt again), and having a much smaller (in fact some might argue, none at all) muffin top when wearing jeans.
What’s possibly most significant about where I am here on day 29 is how insignificant my “new” routine feels. I wake up, I juice, I pack food, I feel hunger, I eat, I taste, I delight in flavors that seem new, sometimes I poop (still not enough!), I sleep, and I repeat. It isn’t hard, or laborious, or challenging. I don’t find myself wanting or feeling any lack. I have enough and I am satisfied.
With just two weeks until this “detox” is over and I see some of my peers counting down the days until they can have a piece of bread or scoop of ice cream, I sometimes wonder if I miss sugar (I tend to lump all of the things I’m not eating into the “sugar” category in a grand generalization) and the answer comes quickly… Yes, there is something I’m missing. A nostalgia for carelessness, or the belief that a discomfort could be easily erased with a snack cake–if only temporarily. The recovered heroin addict or alcoholic misses the high on some level, and I am the same. But the truth is If I were to miss sugar I would really be missing:
- Feeling prisoner to cravings
- One night a few weeks ago the image of a bean & cheese burrito popped into my head at bedtime. Oh crap, I thought. This is it… this is a craving… my first big one. What am I going to do? In the past a craving lead to a binge. I would obsess about a certain food until there was nothing to do but have it. Often in mass quantities. AND because the fulfilling of the craving was never all that satisfying it would lead to mass consumption of other things that should have made me feel good. This time. I closed my eyes, went to sleep, and was not thinking about burritos again when I woke up. It’s a miracle.
- Intense anxiety about hunger
- What if I get hungry and have to wait to eat?!?!?! I might DIE!!! Hunger, when it is simply a request for nourishment from the body instead of a desperate fix to fulfill an addictive pattern, feels SO much different. I can be hungry for a couple hours before hAngry sets in. And I don’t have to eat past the point of full to feel confident I’ll be satiated for long enough.
- I lived with it so much I didn’t notice it, but now that it’s gone I can feel what it is like to walk around with joints that work as intended. I ate Korean BBQ last week for lunch and I’m guessing the meat had some sugar in the marinade… Not only was I suddenly hungry for most of the rest of the day, but I ached. Like my bones were made of glass and someone had come through each joint to shatter it with a hammer.
- Eating in my car what I didn’t want to let others see me eat. Bingeing before meeting a friend so I could eat minimally and still be full (although I never did, I still overate in front of them). Looking over my shoulder while shoveling things into my mouth at the kitchen counter hoping not to be caught by a family member.
- Ignorance, denial, and blindness
- It felt blissful in the moment, but on the other side I realize I was living without access to my power. I was a victim of everything, most of all myself. Everything was “just a little” or “no big deal.” And because I never bothered to count how many times I said that all those little bits added up to more than a hundred pounds gained and several thousand dollars lost.
Never before in my 35 years have I understood the value of sacrifice. I lived with the idea that I deserved to have everything I wanted, and as long as I could make that happen without hurting anyone else (too badly), then I should have it. What refusing to live without drove me towards, however, was an absence of discretion. I took, consumed, and accumulated all without considering whether I wanted it, it served me, or if it would better serve someone else. Now, after a simple shift I do not miss having what I want… I get to relish in receiving the things I need:
- I wake up in the morning ready to be awake and alive. I breathe easily. My body moves and bends and twists. I make it past 3pm without feeling like I need a nap under my desk. My creative juices flow and flow and flow and flow. I can turn them on and off at will.
- Abundant Resources
- Guess what. When you do not spend your money carelessly… you may actually have money. It’s amazing! I thought that being rich would mean I could buy anything I wanted. Turns out buying everything I wanted made my poor. I feel richer having less.
- Available emotions
- I feel alive. When I’m sad I cry, angry I rage (within reason), frustrated I grumble, joyful I sing, grateful my heart swells. The first few weeks were horribly uncomfortable. I had been pushing the feelings away for a long time for a lot of reasons. But they’re really quite amazing. With enough breath, having these feelings is like laying in a grassy field watching clouds go by in a soft breeze (if every couple of clouds is a total asshole).
- A heightened connection
- I am plugged in. I have found that when in conversation if the other person is trying to think of what to say or how to answer I hear their answer in my head before they say it (super fun!). I notice smells, sounds, shapes, colors. I am here, on earth, by choice, and it’s really quite beautiful.
Totally worth it.
What I ate today:
- Green drink: kale, ponderosa lemon, cucumber, broccoli stalk, celery
- Over medium eggs and broccoli
- 12 multi “grain” crackers with 1/4 wheel of goat brie & 1 TB of peanut butter
- Green salad with broccoli, over easy egg, avocado, & tzatziki (made with goat yogurt)
- Super Bowl Snack Dinner: crispy baked chicken wings, goat yogurt ranch, hummus, celery & cucumber sticks, a few more of those crackers!