Where unicorns live, mud and sparkles

Said I’d write about this a long time ago. Finally writing about it. Not the fantasy unicorn that people fantasize about, but an actual unicorn – that is, something that can’t be seen because it doesn’t fit with what we know exists. Actually, that’s kind of an anti-unicorn, isn’t it? Rather than a nonexistent creature that people want to dream of, rather an exising creature that people don’t believe is real.

See, I got called a unicorn at one point by someone, and that resonated with me. It wasn’t just my rare blood type, shoe size, or IQ, all of which are in the two percent or 98th percentile. Not my spatial, colour, or verbal aptitudes, either.

The key point is just that statistically I’m not in the main trend, on numerous variables. Even gender. I’m apparently female, but often perceived as male. The big hands and feet and lack of typical female markers such as makeup, purse, fashion and high voice are enough to effect that, despite my big-ass hips and utter lack of interest in or understanding of sports.

I’m so far from the mainstream on numerous variables that you can’t see me from there. Picture people standing up on top of the normal curve. I’m down in the valley somewhere, on the tail. Land of mud and aparkles.

It sucks being invisible. It’s not the kind of invisibility cloak that lets you sneak into the opposite sex locker room and ogle and pinch bottoms wtih abandon. It’s more like invalidation, something I was raised with. Yup, I was a unicorn to my mother, too. Must have been a painful birth, or maybe unicorns are born without horns.

 

 

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sorrow, loneliness, and purpose

I need purpose in my life, something more than just taking care of me.

Yes, I had to put myself first, take care of me, since no one else ever did – not my mother, family, husband – I had to put me first.  Unlike my dear cousin and probably many others, I can and did look in the mirror and say, “I love you no matter what.” No one else did this for me, not my mother, family, or husband. Ex-husband is the worst.

My mistake: I thought we were twins, forever. I thought it was eternal love and security conquering all. I never had this closeness or love with anyone, in 50 years. And then it turned out to be false. I can see it was a mistake and could never work because only one person, me, wanted it to work. My mistake. Mea culpa.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know the best I can offer. I am over 50 and supposed to leave the active stage, supposed to retire, supposed to cease to exist. I am invisible.

I’m not ready to give way or die. I need a place in this world.

I don’t know what to do.

 

 

 

Triumph

The problem had dogged me my whole life, apparently, until a couple weeks ago. I mean I’ve been struggling with it a few decades, but really there were long periods when I didn’t even try. Nothing seemed to work. When I was about 12 my mother took me to a doctor who gave me a diet sheet. I took one look at the first breakfast,  which was something like one boiled egg, one piece of dry toast and some milk, and I just snorted. I think my mum brought the paper home, but I never saw it again.

I’ve always been fat, as others have pointed out most unkindly since about Grade 1. But I’ve always been healthy because I eat real food and I do strength training. This was enough to make up for any number of bags of potato chips and fast food indulgences and masses of cheese – because mostly I ate my five a day and cooked everything from scratch. But now… the fat is disappearing. Simply, I wanted to feel light, to do things with ease, and to have more opportunities in life. Greater agility for dance, perhaps the ability to do more intense field work in my area of interest. It might even help me get hired in a new line of work, given so many preconceptions about fat people. But anyway, the main thing is I wanted it for myself, absolutely wanted it, and realized I was going to have to have a meal plan. I wanted to feel good. And now I feel good.

I plan my meals the day before, and I don’t snack. No, I’m not perfect, but basically that is what consistently happens. Three five to six hundred calorie meals, and my morning coffee with 18% fat cream because that’s how I like it, and maybe a protein shake in there if I’m too hungry in the morning or late at night. If everyone on Supersize-Superskinny can do it, then I can do it. Your appetite adjusts to the schedule and amounts given, even when those amounts are half of what you used to eat. (For us overeaters, anyway.)

I haven’t quite figured out how it is that the emotional eating is gone. Maybe it’s that I pursue many other things seeking pleasure. I’m consciously choosing to turn away from a path that brings me much pain in the long run. I’m consciously choosing to lay down new neural pathways in breaking that habit and looking to create new ones. But it’s not that everything is just hunky dory now. I have the same problems in life – need a new job, hate the noise and stink, feel lonely as hell often, am ageing – all that. But I’ve knocked off a long-standing problem – two, actually, both struggling with food and weight and struggling with the emotions around food – and that is a glorious triumph for me.

 

PS the four blocks of cheese I have in the fridge that were on discount a while back are gonna last me till next year now, for sure.

NLP fallacy and the body rules

NLP fallacy and the body rules

It seems to me there is an important misunderstanding at the centre of NLP. I can only guess it comes from a cultural perspective, a blindness, really. I’m reading the classic text shown in the image above. (And I chopped up the book cover a bit so you could see it all in the wide format image.) “NLP, the new art and science of getting what you want,” by Dr. Harry Alder.

‘Round about page 91 the book gets to a key issue that was pointed out to me by a friend who swears NLP is the reason for his success and happiness: That every action fits a belief. But what is a belief? Dictionary definition says there is conviction attached to a belief. It’s not just observations and conclusions, something I as a scientist can hold for now and change tomorrow when I have new observations. I understand it’s tentative, not a conviction. Or more to the point, it’s a logical expression, an inference, a bit of truth given a certain set of facts. I try to avoid having beliefs. Maybe my belief is that beliefs are dangerous. Certainly many of them are limiting, and that limit can be protective or harmful, depending on the situation.

The woo factor kicks when people turn that around and claim that beliefs can free you from limits, can open you up to abundance in substantial elements of your life. You can choose what to believe. It starts to sound like “The Secret” or “Law of Attraction” and magical thinking like if you write things down they’ll come true. Wouldn’t have thought of that myself, but was recently told that by someone I know. No, you silly bunny, it wasn’t the magic of writing that did it. You set down the problem in an email and sent it to people with the power to do something about it. That’s not magic, even if the relief of a solution feels wonderful and delightful, almost like a magic trick.

I suspect that even tentative opinions or predictions can trigger emotional reactions. If I think this noise is going to go on all day, I will be more stressed than if I know it is temporary. But just telling myself, “All things must pass” isn’t enough. I don’t need a mantra or a soothing lie. I need to know I’m going to get relief from this torture of constant interruption or jarring bodily sensation, or both, from noise. No matter what I think, a day without noise and interruptions is going to be superior peace-wise, than one without.

It seems to me that logic and probability are much more exciting and useful ideas than the idea that you can limitlessly change your beliefs. Positive affirmations only make sense if they are logical and probable. My friend telling himself repeatedly, “I’m attractive to girls,” a sort of brainwashing attempt, doesn’t help him as much as smiling and improving his hairstyle would. It’s logically possible that doing those two things could make a difference over the long term. “Every day I am getting better and better,” as explained by Robertson Davies in his lovely book, “Fifth Business,” is just silly.

So, where does this idea that beliefs determine actions come from? Well, back on page 89, right before the aforementioned important pronouncement on page 91, Seligmann’s famous learned helplessness research is described. This rendition includes an interpretation I hadn’t heard before when my intro psych text covered this concept. The horrible experiment torturing dogs made them give up in terror, but this book actually describes the dogs’ belief process:

He saw that the dogs had learned helpness. Their interpretation of the situation was that it was hopeless to try further, so they stopped trying.

To say that the dogs had an interpretation seems a tad abstract. Sure, maybe dogs have thoughts and ideas like we do. Would it be better to call that an expectation, akin to a prediction? I think so. That is more in line with the problems we have, as well. It’s not that we necessarily have a definite belief, a conviction. It’s that we have an expectation. We don’t expect things to change…and yet that’s exactly what we logically should expect. Habits don’t tend to change, ruts don’t tend to change, and then suddenly they do. More importantly, they can if we work at it.

NLP says to work at changing beliefs, which I would call expectations. Probability – 70-90 percent? That’s pretty high, but it’s not a conviction, a certainty, a belief. The sales cliche is that  you get nine no’s out of 10 queries, and maybe you get a yes. Playing the numbers. Expecting the worst, but keep trying for that nugget of gold. You don’t need much gold to make all the sand worth it. Kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince, that kind of thing. (Yes, I realize the first NLP book wsa called “Frogs into Princes,” way back in the day.)

Alder’s book talks about the patterns within the belief of helpnessness: permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization. (Same section, page 89.) These are useful concepts that align with the ideas of probability and scientific thinking.

We cannot know that things are permanent. We want to feel secure, but the world is not secure. We are surrounded by ambiguity and cognitive dissonance and uncertainty. But corrolaries are the power of probability as well as the opportunities of choice. Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule – 80 percent of value will be in 20 percent of the volume. You could say everything is 80 percent crap! And you can then go looking for the 20 percent.

Pervasiveness is similar to permanence, an idea that whatever is at this moment extends throughout time or our lives.  Similarly, personalizing or identity attributes character to an entity, oneself. I do not have much sense of self. I feel we change a lot. What is permanent? Neither I nor many meditators can find something permanent. We are Heraclitus’ river. We rise and fall.

A few pages later the book says there are degrees of belief. I feel this would have been a much more useful approach than focusing on beliefs as entities and rather black and white thinking.

In a way, it comes down to what Bertrand Russell said in his book “On Happiness,” that if you can’t bear to think about certain things, then think about something else. The power of focus and all that.

So, there are some useful scientific and logical ideas in NLP, but they tend to get lost in a simplistic barrage of claims about belief, which wander into woo territory when they are used by everyone I’ve met so far. These ideas are popular and silly. The best part of NLP is the next part, about somatic responses.

This NLP book goes into a lot of practical detail on how to identify your own somatic response preferences, i.e. , how your body reacts to different situations, memories, thoughts, and so on. We’ve crossed the body-mind dualism into the rich territory of the body, now. The body is easier to pin down, doesn’t require tricky word and concepts. The body gives direct experience. Seems to me that it is more economical to explain the helpless dogs’ behaviour this way, also.  Their bodies learned to expect a trap, just as ours do. No words are needed. I’ve felt trapped and in a panic when I seemed to be locked in a room at one point. The panic made me unable to see a sign that pointed to exit stairs.

Most importantly, the body is an important source of healing and doesn’t get the respect it deserves in our culture. I think this cultural blindness is quite pervasive. I find rare pockets of freedom from it. Our world is dominated by body oppression, I suddenly conclude as I am writing this. Our bodies are far more important than words and beliefs, given that most of us are primitive and ignorant with words and ideas. Let’s at least go down to the bottom, “where all the ladders start,” to the body, the apparent locus of emotion.

 

Announcement

Announcement

Don’t you ever pull up anywhere with your music blaring, ever again. Don’t you dare. You’re harassing people, you and the team of hundreds of other people that pull up or drive by at high speed during the day and night. Yes, it’s a public space, but it’s right adjacent our living space. It’s not a nightclub zone. People live here. People that like to relax, read, and think. Some of us, at least, who aren’t deaf yet.

I remember going to the Ridge Theatre in Vancouver, as a young adult, even though I didn’t live in Vancouver, Burnaby, or Richmond. There were signs all over the neighbourhood, including inside the theatre, because the Ridge had become a destination. No longer a neighbourhood theatre, it was the home of midnight showings and cult films that attracted a more boisterous bunch. Punks and other loudmouths with plenty of attitude, having good times. The Ridge didn’t want the neighbours to hate them, so they didn’t want to bother the neighbours. No doubt the neighbours complained – as I am doing now.

Would you stand on someone’s front porch and yell back and forth to your car, after dark? Or anytime really? Why not go talk to your friend face to face. This ain’t a party zone. We could be dying in here. Hundreds if not thousands of people live in these towers, and we don’t have AC. We have windows. If you pull up with loud music you’re like the dimbulb greaseball with the duck’s ass in the back, in a 1950s movie, updated for the 21st century, but still a jerk.

Just don’t. Ever.

Massage and music

Just had another fab massage by one of the expert final-year students at WCCMT. After the assessment part of it, I was under the sheet waiting for the student intern to come back. I noticed the music was different. No longer the generic spa music or  nonmusic that past students had mentioned they were dead sick of. It seemed to have been replaced by 1960s doctor’s office Muzak. In my head danced visions of 1950s housewives and plastic-covered sofas in empty living rooms.

The next song was a change from the doctor waiting room music, the elevator music, though. It was a pseudo-classical arrangement of “Hey, it’s a beautiful day.” Still sappy as hell, but without the taint of actual Muzak. After that came Chopin. I flinched. It was like a can of precooked noodles in sauce next to Duck a l’orange. Yes, I’m a music fiend. I can’t ignore sounds, but least of all music. The spa music never bothered me. It was so generic, and none of the pieces went anywhere or did anything. Each of these pieces today was going in a different direction.

The Duck a l’orange was followed — the Chopin was followed by a balance sheet of all the safest and most boring notes on the planet, by Kenny G. Kind of like paper on a roll, with a delicate print to give it a hint of character. Good to wipe your mouth on after the duck, I suppose. Duck can be a bit rich and almost greasy. After Kenny G’s account, the soundtrack of my massage swept right back into classical music, an instrumental version of the aria of Madame Butterfly. The familiar strains danced elegantly to their conclusion, and I was taut with anticipation as to what would come next. I tried to relax, because I was getting a massage and that’s my job in that room. I couldn’t help but flinch, though, when the next sound I heard was apparently pan pipes of the Andes – no, wait, this must be Yanni. I think so, anyway. It was a kitsch masterpiece of clattering hammer dulcimer and trembling flute sounds, and towards the end even some folky vocals. I had to picture Madame Butterfly crying in that bathroom in that point. I gasped.

“Does that hurt?” asked the student. “No, it’s just the music messing with my head.” Puccini followed by a kitsch masterpiece. I must know what radio station — or whatever this is. I see nothing in common between these pieces, except that they are all light in texture and mood. The Chopin was very restrained, an old muddy recording, not a flashy close-miked performance where you can hear the very wood and metal of the piano humming.

Yanni gave way to some pablum with forgettable vocals and lyrics – I did try to remember them, but the intense pressure on my quadratus lumborum and piriformis muscles obliterated the words. I couldn’t help giggling. “You okay?” “It sounds like Paul McCartney on Valium, after a lobotomy.” McCartney can be great, and he can be a marshmallow, but he could never sound like this bad imitation. Not unless he was on his deathbed with dementia, as I have seen my mother, and probably not even then.

The final piece was some kind of near bebop jazz. Something with actually some character. I’d never heard this one before, and I suspect it’s Chet Baker, of whom I’ve never been a fan. Thelonious Monk is more my style, and Elvis Costello, and JS Bach, dubstep, and doumbek solos. I also love Chopin’s intensity, close-miked, but, yes, give me intensity! Passion!

This bizarre sequence of music that, individually, I would never choose to listen to, is something I definitely do want to hear again, though not particularly during a massage. I want to be able to listen to this at home, so it can spur me into a bizarre and humourous sense of reverie and creative play. It’s the opposite of what I would ever choose to listen to, and a bizarre mix. I can’t imagine where it came from and I must ask at the front desk, since my charming student is not a music fan and has no clue. He was just sick of the spa music like everyone else.

I ask at the front desk, before leaving. The staff person tells me it’s a mix of relaxation music that one of the therapists put together, and it’s on shuffle. I could create such a bizarre thing myself, because clearly it’s not a radio station I can tune into. This has been a red-letter music day, and I am going to fall asleep with a silly grin on my face, later. So glad I didn’t cancel this massage today. I’m not sure this soundtrack will last. It’s so bizarre. I won’t be the only person who’s going to have cultural chaos in the brain from it, will I?

 

Supersize v. Superskinny

Glory!

I’m late to the reality-TV party, but I recently discovered the UK show Supersize v. Superskinny, which is kinda reality-TV because they are real people taking part in a filmed interactive situation. But this show uses its shock value for a very constructive purpose rather than just for entertainment. Basically, Dr. Christian Jessen, often just called Dr. Christian, guides one obese and one near-anorexic person to learn from him and each other, in order to revampt their eating habits. Dr. C, with his sensible comments and caring voice, has taken up residence in my mind along with my favourite participants, and encourages me now.

Two different people each week meet and compare visual display of a week’s worth of food. They are each going to have to eat what the other one did in the past week, as recorded in a food diary. They enter the feeding clinic and the skinny person is presented with a vast dinner, often followed by unwanted snacks. The fat person gets some sad excuse for a meal, like a chocolate bar, a piece of toast and an energy drink, or if they’re really lucky, decent food, but a portion fit for a four-year old.

So this past week, I set up a “feeding clinic” for myself. No one else here, just the show participants and Dr. C to cheer me on. From the show, I learned that you can reset your appetite. I planned three sensible meals a day for myself, and a protein shake as an option if rushed or heading out for a long swim and the like. Currently the two key points for me are to do without snacking, and to make a plan and follow it. I already eat high quality food made from scratch, for the most part, and now that is exclusive. No more fast food burgers and other not-great stuff I’ve enjoyed in the past. Time and again the supersizers suffered through some hunger but pretty soon were okay with their tiny portions. I can only guess their bodies started burning a bit of fat.

Amazingly, most of these people started to look noticeably better after several days in the clinic, especially people who were there for a whole week, and especially the super-skinnies. Even though they were often eating takeaway food with lots of bad fats and carbs, just getting more calories put colour in their face and took away some gauntness, immediately. I also noticed after the first day on my feeding clinic, immediately my complexion looked clearer, just like most of the supersized folks on the show.

So, I got a bit of glory. I found something that I know will work. I saw it work for many others. Planning your meals is not a new thing, but it’s something I resisted till now. I like flexibility, but now I need control. I always cooked in bulk and saved it in the fridge and freezer for meal convenience, so I’m used to that level of planning, but the point is here is planning for portion control. Limit intake to three meal periods and a scoop of protein if necessary. So far I’m not defining the meal portion extremely. That will be the next step, once I have the 3 meals without snacks habit down pat. I’m quite sure this alone will make a decent difference, as I was quite the opportunistic grazer up till now.

It’s great to have a plan I can believe in, live by, and refine, and be free from emotional eating. Yes, I had a few thoughts of indulgence over the past few days, but I focused on my goal to get through to a new state of being, like the peiople in the show. They are sent off for a few weeks or months and come back to reveal their results. They are encouraged to continue beyond that. Unfortunately, I won’t have a feeding clinic buddy to keep in touch with, but I can at least remember a lot of the delightful and inspiring people who have been on that show.

Just one thing about me – I’ve never been a dieter. My life has been going through hell the past two years, due to my marriage breakdown. I did manage to lose some weight during the separation part of that, but gained more than half of it back. Yoyoing is not fun and I don’t want that pattern to repeat. I’m taking it slow, steady, and comfortable (except being willing to feel hungry while adjusting), so it can be a solid lifestyle change.

I know all the supersizers and superskinnies and Dr. C would wish me success.