Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Brain Cloud

If you haven’t seen the movie, Joe vs. The Volcano, get to that crusty video rental store and find a copy this weekend. Here’s the IMDB synopsis: When a hypochondriac learns that he is dying, he accepts an offer to throw himself in a volcano at a tropical island, and along the way there, learns to truly live.

Though it’s a simple concept, this little film is packed full with moments that are hard to forget. Tom Hanks is terrific and Meg Ryan plays three distinct characters. I do wish she would do an entire film as the second LaLaLand sister, Angelica; a fabulous little gem of a character.

So our hero, Joe, was diagnosed with a “Brain Cloud”. He was told it was fatal and he believed the doctor because he wanted to, being a hypochondriac and all. Slapped with that wet fish of information, he faces a choice to either give up and live the last days of his life like he lived the previous thousands or to do something new until the end. "Live like a king and die like a man".
I’m on the fifth day of a monster cold. That’s why I’m thinking about brain clouds. The sensation I have with all this sinus pressure is a brain cloud like disconnected zombie march to the refrigerator when some errant thought triggers a need that is too vague to name. It’s like the mucus has entered between brain synapses and impaired the higher functioning of my mind. Problem: my feet are cold. Solution: go to the kitchen and get a cup of cocoa with marshmallows and some graham crackers. I’m not intending to put my feet into the cocoa for warmth and it doesn’t occur to me until after my trip to the goodies that a pair of warm socks might have been the wiser choice. Hmm. Brilliant.
Isn’t that the root of all mindless eating though? Not the mucus part, although that could be  more of a problem than any of us recognize. I mean the impaired higher function of our minds.  When something gets in between the short and direct connection from the cold foot problem to the warm sock solution, we get carjacked and taken somewhere we really don’t want to be going. Let’s call this phenomena "brainjacking".

The truth is, if we were thinking clearly before we head towards the food or the booze or whatever it is we have selected to use as emotional duct tape, we’d be changing direction and heading for a far more appropriate tool for resolution. Colds and flu are a lot like “brain clouds” and while they have us in their grip, we’re facing an even bigger challenge of maintaining a food program that we chose to be on and would really like to stay on while we get ourselves over the illness, nourished and healthy again.

Let’s pretend that every year there’s a visit for us from a cold or the flu and that we don’t know exactly which day these unwelcome guests are going to show up at our door and move in until we kick their sorry rear ends out. With this foreknowledge, next time you go shopping, how about grabbing one grocery bag full of things you’re going to need to get through a few sick days? Find some canned soups that are low point value and that you enjoy eating. Get some fruit or vegetable juices, teas, low fat crackers and even a few frozen meals while your head is cloud free and you can make good decisions about which to select. Just stick them in the cupboard or the freezer and they will be waiting patiently for you when you need them.

I share this because I’m sitting here with my cocoa and my feet are cold and if I could drive right now, I’d be out buying things to make a pot of delicious soup instead of starring at the bag of chips across the room that’s asking me to jump into the junk food volcano with him.

While you’re watching the movie this weekend, think about how it felt before you decided to start a food program like Weight Watchers. I don’t know about you, but for me, I faced my closet and a lot of things in my life the same way Joe Banks faced his dehumanizing job each day. When we finally stand up and make a choice to change our bodies and change our lives, our posture in the world is instantly transformed and we don’t want to go back to the way it was before. Having this cold producing brain cloud has reminded me just how many times I was brainjacked into zombie-like decision making in years past and that I am in charge of changing all that.

There’s a scene in this movie that is one of my most favorite in any film, ever. Joe, adrift on a raft for days in the South Pacific and nearing the end is startled by the giant rising moon. He struggles to his feet and flings his arms out wide and says a line of dialog that I would chisel on a headstone if I were to ever have one (which I won’t, but that’s another story).

He says, “Dear God, whose name I do not know, thank you for my life.”  

BRILLIANT. Stunning. 
There was never a more perfect prayer written and I try to remember it every day. 

For me,I'm working on shaking off the brain cloud and getting back to conscious decision making after a few days of struggling with my cocoa vs. socks dilemna. You need to get to the store and pick up your stash of cold & flu goods. And, hey, before you go, could you pass the Kleenex?

Here’s a link to the movie trailer from1990

Monday, February 14, 2011

Not Your Average Valentine

Valentine’s Day~

If you’re over 20, then you have an eclectic collection of emotion swirling around you on a day like Valentine’s Day. You’re feeling love or loss, anticipation or frustration, expectation or disappointment, touched or forgotten. By the time you’re this age you will have given cards and gotten them from raggedy cut out hearts with glitter glue to elaborate store bought numbers with sentiments that could only have been created by the writers at All My Children, circa 1979.

I was fishing around my emotional cabinetry as this day approached and I found an anomalous emotion rising like a chunk of parmesan rind in a pot of simmering red sauce: anger. I grabbed at it and started to pull the feeling towards me to find out what it might be anchored to and up came a memory of my mother.

Not a huge surprise given that she passed away on Valentine’s Day in 1998 after losing a long battle with emphysema. She loved her cigarettes. Even after the diagnosis, she was the one pulling off her oxygen mask and trying to reach for her cigarettes as we flew out of our chairs to stop her before the living room became a scene from a Transporter movie. She didn’t get the whole oxygen/fire thing. Her doctor told her if she quit right then, she could have at least another 10 to 15 years. She said she didn’t want to “get fat”. She’d rather be dead than fat. Wish granted. She weighed about 87 pounds in her casket. Very Nancy Reagan-ish.

I realized that I was mad that her use of cigarettes as a dieting tool meant that she never saw my daughter play soccer or volleyball or my son play lacrosse; both kids as captains of their varsity teams. I was mad that she wasn’t at any of their graduations from high school or from college. I was mad that she was already too sick to travel and her last years were spent, not near her beloved Lake Michigan and the fresh green smells of the Mid West, but in the cement and scorching heat of Phoenix; a city she reluctantly moved to when my father was transferred and vowed to leave one day.  I was mad that she couldn’t, no scratch that; wouldn’t do the one simple thing that could have let her be there for all the kids, grandkids and great grandkids, at least for a little while. Put down the cigarettes. I did it. She could have too. She could have been here right now.

As I was swimming around in the angry soup that morning, I reached for my blood pressure medication and holding that bottle in my hand the divine irony of the situation poured like ice water over my head. How is not taking care of my own body any different from what she did? Who am I to hold a grudge about her stubborn continuation of a lifestyle that, literally, killed her when I was doing so little to improve my own?

The Hawaiian Huna culture has a beautiful practice called Ho’ Oponopono. It’s a healing ritual of forgiveness and completion and though the traditional practice is a much longer prayer, I can boil the essence of it down for you. There are four things we must voice if we want to be healed and complete with any one or anything in our lives and it does not matter if the other person is present or not, living or not. This is between your own higher self and theirs. The words are simple and profound. Here they are;

Thank you.
I’m sorry.
I forgive you.
I love you.

That’s it. There is nothing that can’t be covered within the boundaries of those four statements. Think of them as a mantra.  I am spending a little photo visit time with mom today to tell her this and then I am going to say this to myself and start to do for my own kids what she wasn’t able to do for mine; be there as long as I possibly can. 
Happy Valentine’s Day Mom.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Who Ate My Stuff?

I've been out in the world this week and away from my blogging. I am squarely in the middle of the event planning, for the fifth year, for our local food bank fundraiser called "Empty Plate". The irony of writing a weight loss blog and working a job on either end of the plate too full and the plate too empty spectrum is not lost on me. In fact, it's helping me this year as I am consciously making a connection between my too much and the hundreds of locals who have too little every time I really, really, really want to go back to the kitchen for "just a bit more" of something delicious.

Here's a little tool I'm using to try and slap my coma eating awake again- I have made an agreement with myself to never eat anything (except single serve yogurt), out of the container it came in. If you're like me, you'll settle in to the comfy chair so you can spend an hour with Nathan Fillion on Castle every Monday night and you'll pop open a bag of something crunchy and cheesy and yummy and eat without ever looking down to see where the food is coming from or how much is left in the bag. Heck, I could have eaten a flattened cockroach for all I know. I really didn't look. Eating without looking creates the surprise when you go for another cruncher and the bag is empty. Who ate my stuff? Oh yeah. That was me.

I have some beautiful bowls that I've bought from our local potter's guild at their yearly sale. These are nice, single serve size bowls with gorgeous blues and greens and coppery colors that I've used on party buffets and the dinner table for years. I sometimes forget that they are really mine, so they sit on a shelf looking lonely most of the time, like I'm waiting for permission from some other adult to let me use them. I am taking them out now and when I want a bag of Cheddar Twists, I pour the contents out into my pretty bowl and I eat only what is in that bowl. When it's empty, I am done.

I like the way the bowl looks and feels so now I look down to admire the glaze and the color and, AMAZING!, I also look at the food when I eat it. This way I know for a fact that it was me who ate it all and not the neighbor kid wearing his cloak of invisibility.

Honor your food and honor yourself by using those bowls and cups and glasses that you usually save for company. Guess who you're entertaining tonight? The new healthy you who is here as honored guest. Mangia!