Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Need You

Yesterday I had lunch with two friends with whom I had not connected as a long time... one longer than the other. With one (M.) I'd connected, maybe a year ago, a year and a half. With the other... it's been at least five years. We knew each other initially through our children, who all were in class together at a pre-school years and years ago. After they all went their separate ways (into separate school districts) we lost touch. Recently I'd been contacted by one of them on a famous social networking site, and, well...

There we were, yesterday, having salads.

I arrived late, coming from a 12-Step meeting, ordered my food, and then joined M. and L., both of whom had already begun.

First item of business, as I sat in the booth next to M., was raised by L.:

OK, tell us about your weight. How much have you lost, and how have you done it?

I talked for a while about the 12 Steps and how they are working for me, which led naturally to a conversation about midlife health issues. One woman has had major back problems, for which she worked to avoid surgery through alternative methods, including chiropractic and water therapy. One woman's husband had a heart attack (same diagnosis as Beloved), which led to a conversation about... the changes in my life. Including the fact that I have a girlfriend.

M. already knew the story. L. reacted with warmth and support. (I never imagined she'd do otherwise). And it felt really, really good to enter into a circle of friendship I'd imagined might be past for me, but which is, apparently, still available, in a new configuration.

We talked of families, including the concerns that come with aging parents.

We talked of our beloved partners, and the complications of how we deal with major health challenges.

We talked of children (but not as much as you might imagine we would).

As we talked I noticed a young couple from my congregation across the room. I don't know whether they saw me, but if they did they honored my privacy and my day off by not approaching me.

I've been driving around all week with this song playing in my car.

I think it's about God (I'm sure it is). But as I've sung along, I've been aware at different times that it's applied to different people in my life as well.

In the midst of crisis I was singing it to Beloved.

After lunch with my friends I was singing it in honor of those deep and sweet connections.

On my way to meet my daughter for dinner, I was singing it to her.

An anxiety circled gently overhead, like a seagull contemplating a minnow. Am I singing to the wrong people? Is it wrong to sing it to people at all? (Seeing as one of the lines is you're all I'm living for...) Should it be only for God?

Am I the only person who has these conversations with herself?

Is my need for something, someone else at the heart of all my addictive behaviors?

Is there a way to make God the only one I need, so that I can be free to be in my relationships, rather than bound by them in a way that's well, needy?

For now, this is the song of my heart.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Calmer Waters

I don't know how it happens, how it works, but somehow we undo the knots that have been strangling us all week, and then we look around and laugh and wonder what all the fuss was about.

The therapist and I are talking about what the fuss was all about.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Mark 1:23-24

de-mon, n. 2. A persistently tormenting person, force or passion.

Beloved and I have some experience with demons this week. Maybe we should have seen this coming, but somehow, we didn't. Why should we? We are two intelligent, sensitive and loving women, devoted to one another, with many resources available to us, including good and thoughtful friends.

Here's why we should: Faced with a significant health crisis, one of the first things we ask ourselves (I think) is: Am I safe? Will I be ok? This is a question that, for Beloved, conjures up nightmares I can only imagine, being the victim of a predator in her own home from the age of 4 until she escaped the house at age 19. Faced with ongoing concerns about her heart-- her dear, loving and wounded heart-- Beloved has asked this question again, and it has caused her to go into dark places.

On the other hand, faced with a health crisis in a life partner, most of us ask the question (implicitly or explicitly): will I lose her? Is he going away? Will I be alone? And that question has taken me into my own dark places of loss.

We have both had to do battle with demons this week. It has taken its toll. Even the simplest interactions have found a way to go funhouse-mirror wrong, even today, even after days and days of trying to figure it out, trying to say What's wrong? and come up with an answer that might help us find our way out to safety.

We're still working on it. We're still for each other, no matter what. We know that. But... the demons are with us still.

Monday, January 26, 2009


We are in a fragile place, as a couple.

If I was not so weak
If I was not so cold
If I was not so scared of being broken, growing old,
I would be...
I would be...
I would be...

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Perhaps I should have said "suggested" blockages. The stress test suggested the presence of blockages. I am grateful beyond expression to tell you that the stress test was wrong.

Beloved was wheeled out of the holding area at 11:35. At 12:25 her cardiologist was explaining to me and to one of her best friends that she does not, in fact, have any blockages. What she has is an artery that goes into spasm. There's an article all about it here.

The attitude of the doctor when he was talking to us was "No biggie." He was very pleased that there are no blockages, and felt that it could be easily treated with medication. I see by my further reading that it is not exactly "nothing to be concerned about." It can still starve the heart of oxygen and cause muscle death (i.e., heart attack). But... this is still a better diagnosis, it seems to me.

Anyway, Beloved and I are greatly relieved, and happy, and... relieved.

Thank you for your prayers. This community lifts me up.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


My Beloved has a pain in her heart.

She wasn't really aware of it, though she did notice little things: a tightness that seemed like she needed to cough, but which a cough did not relieve. Jaw pain, scary enough to send her to the doctor's office last summer... but he found nothing.

Last month Beloved had a scan of something else entirely, but which captured enough of her cardiac tissue for the doctor to notice some changes that concerned him. He sent her for a stress test, which revealed blockages.

Tomorrow morning we go to the hospital for Beloved to have a procedure that is very routine for many people... but there's nothing routine when it's the love of your life. It could go swimmingly, and she could be home the same night (I'm hoping she'll consent to coming to my home, so that I can care for her... but she's a funny one. She'll want to be in her own space, even if it means I can't stay with her). She could require some additional procedures. Or, if the situation is more advanced than expected, she could require major surgery.

A friend told me she was quite anxious when her father had to have this procedure, but a wise friend with medical knowledge said. "Don't worry about the heart. Worry about getting hit by a bus. The heart, we can fix."

So, ok. I'll do that. But in the meantime... for this decidedly non-routine experience of my life and Beloved's... I ask your prayers.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Personality Types in Love

Below are descriptions for extroverts and introverts, as found at the Myers & Briggs Foundation website.

Guess which one I am? And which one Beloved is?

Extraversion (E)
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
  • I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
  • I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
  • I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
  • Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.

Introversion (I)
I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.

The following statements generally apply to me:

  • I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
  • I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
  • I prefer to know just a few people well.
  • I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.
  • I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.

Adapted from Looking at Type: The Fundamentals by Charles R. Martin (CAPT 1997)

How I'm Feeling Today

Friday, January 16, 2009

Good and Challenging

Here are some good things that happened today:

* I am abstinent, day 5; probably I won't be reporting on the number of days again unless I slip back into a struggling mode. But things are good and calm and feeling like they're where they should be with food. Hallelujah!

* I spoke to my Beloved on the phone this morning, and we are... so in love, and very committed to one another, and grateful we have one another when we face life's challenges.

* I spoke to my brother yesterday... a fairly rare occurrence... but I am grateful that he felt he could reach out to me during a tough moment.

Here are some challenging things that the people I love and I are facing in coming days and weeks:

* Beloved will shortly be scheduled for one of those "should be routine, unless things really, really go wrong" procedures... and I wish I didn't know that things go wrong close to 5 % of the time in this case. One in twenty. These are odds I don't like for the love of my life, but it is what it is.

* As a result we've had to cancel what would have been a fun little trip we're going to take, and I've had to cancel other plans I was looking forward to as well. It's ok. Those other things will happen.

* My brother is one more victim of the current economy. If you are inclined to pray, pray for "Stanley", and God will know who you mean.

* A dear woman is beginning to learn what it is like to live without the man she has loved and lived with for many, many years.

Life is good and life is hard. Don't feel compelled to comment. Just keeping you posted.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thank You Notes

Thank you. As ever, you my friends are filled with wisdom and kindness and just the kinds of words of support a girl needs when things are rough.

To answer the most recent question (by Processing Counselor), the therapist agreed to see me, and we have an appointment soon. I was surprised at how quickly that happened, but I told him my situation (X years post separation/ divorce, stuff's coming up, I'd like more peace/ resolution) and he seemed cool with that.

Arkansas Hillbilly, I understand the nicotine addiction rivals cocaine for its intensity, so I am filled with admiration for your having kicked it.

Klady, your words about baptism moved me... and, yes, I took great comfort this week in the words I preached to my congregation about the opportunities for fresh starts being ever before us. Amen! Blessings in your efforts to grow in health.

Suzer, you and I are at similar points on the journey (though you have more abstinence than I do today). It's an old, old and ingrained habit, using food to manage emotional highs and lows. I hope to build other habits that eventually become stronger. But forty years of coping in one way will give a certain strength to certain behaviors.

Sarah, Lying Little Mind says "ok." Meekly. And thanks you. (You made me guffaw in my office!)

Thanks August. This community is amazing. And, apparently, this is what my blog is for as well!

Jennifer: noted. That's something that's hard for most addicts... we're either the lowest worm that ever crawled the earth, or the most grandiose piece of puffery in existence. 12-steppers (of all stripes) are always striving to be "right sized", a term that takes on all sorts of extra significance for food addicts, but which means having the proper perspective on where we fit in the universe.

Jan, to my embarrassment: I know Merton only through the quotes of friends like you. What should I read first? That's a wonderful and reassuring idea for all spiritual pilgrims.

LittleMary, all I have is today. And the love of people like you, thank Godde.

Jane R, yes, yes, yes!! One minute at a time, sometimes. But thank Godde for those minutes... they can save your life. And yes, it is hard to share the good news. There is a feeling of immediate pressure. Years ago, I lost a lot of weight (not this much), and the next time I was at a family gathering, not one but two of my loved ones said, "Now KEEP it off!" I showed them.

Songbird, thank you. Your reflections on the epistle really, really spoke to me, right where I am.

Sophia, thanks. Your love and prayers mean so much to me.

All of you... what can I say? On to day 3.

Monday, January 12, 2009

That's What You Get (Said My Lying Little Mind)

Remember all my postiness about diet and 12-step groups and related issues?

I am struggling. For the first time in a long time, since, say, back in April and May. I am on my fourth "Day 1" in about the space of ten days.

"That's what you get," said my mind to me as I sat down and tried to write this. "That's what you get for bragging."

I had an uneasy feeling after I posted the New Year's Day post, which was only made exponentially worse by the one in which I'd put my high weight out there the next day. The feeling was "You'll never make it. You'll never hold onto it. You'll slip and slide and gain it all back, just like you have each and every time before."

And I found myself over the last ten days slipping and sliding all over the place, like someone trying to navigate black ice on crutches. This morning I talked to my sponsor about it... again... and we agreed that I needed to make some changes.

One of them is that I'm getting back in touch with my therapist. Not with the one who got me into the 12-step program, the one I saw when my marriage was unraveling. I have spent the holidays living in echoes of that lost relationship, so much so that I have found myself really, really grieving.

At this point in the blogpost, I am going to feel under pressure to reiterate how much I am in love with Beloved, how she is one of the best things that ever happened to me, yada yada yada. You know it all. All true. But the other truth is this: I jumped into this relationship headfirst while I was still mired in devastating grief, and I simply walked away from the work that grief entailed. Not so smart, really. But you know the heart, and what Woody Allen says about it.

So today I'm trying to be gentle with myself, and I'm waiting for a call-back from that nice couples' therapist who I'm hoping will see me solo.

And also I'm weighing and measuring my food and striving to get through just this one day.

Thanks for listening.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Having Their Say

I received a letter at the church office this week. It concerns the upcoming votes in my denomination on the matters of ordination standards-- whether we will allow GLBTQ people to be ordained to the offices of the church, including minister of Word and Sacrament.

The letter was from a coalition of churches which are organized along racial/ethnic lines-- one particular ethnic group. They want the governing boards of every church in my denomination to read the letters telling of the impact a vote for inclusion will have on their churches.

We [fill in ethnicity and denomination here]'s strongly believe that God will bless the [denomination] and we will have prosperity if we love the Lord our God and observe his commandments, decrees and ordinance (Deuteronomy 30:15-16), and when we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1).

I too believe that all people should love God and obey God's commandments. I too believe that Paul was right on target in his theology of the incarnational nature of faith: as Beloved says, we are what we do. But I do not believe one bit that God's love for us or God's intention to bless us and make us "prosper" are tied to our worthiness as defined by one standard which, in all truth, is quite arbitrary: the standard of sexual behavior and identity. Arbitrary, please understand, because it has been cherry-picked out of scripture to trump all other conditions and actions.

Yesterday's New York Times featured a blogpost by Stanley Fish, an academic about whom I know very little. But I was intrigued by his take on the current kerfuffle over Senator Barack Obama's replacement. Fish uses Augustine's arguments against the Donatists-- those who believed the efficacy of the sacraments were contingent upon the moral rectitude of the priest who was administering them-- to argue that Gov. Rod Blagojevich has the right to make an appointment to the United States Senate. The office of the governor is what contains the power to make the appointment, Fish points out. Not the moral character of the governor. The office.

The same is true for the ordination of ministers and other church officers. Our ability to preach and preside over worship, to administer the sacraments, and to serve both the local church and the denomination are not dependent upon our morals. The office is bigger than the people who fill it, and our authority comes not from our "perfection" but from that of Jesus Christ. Should we aim to have people fill those positions who are doing their very best to lead good and moral lives? Of course we should. But when good people are divided-- and my church is divided pretty much down the middle-- should even a 51% majority have the ability to declare that all gay and lesbian people (who are seeking to live moral lives as God created) them are unfit for ministry on principle? Should that 51% get to declare that a woman in a committed relationship with another woman is by definition immoral and unacceptable material for the pastorate?

I am supposed to share this letter with my governing board. Honestly... I don't want to. It feels like emotional blackmail. I am proud of the job LGBTQ folks and our allies are doing to advance the cause of full inclusion. We are inviting people into conversation, as I described here. We are not threatening to leave if things don't go our way (though the losses of God's beautiful servants from my church over the years are steep). We are willing to bend and to wait and to be patient. We are not saying we don't want to be in communion with anyone. We are letting everyone have their say. I wonder when the gifts we offer will be deemed acceptable?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Mundane, Plus an Epiphany Blessing

Back to the routine of church following a post-Christmas break. How does the work pile up so?

A fun and unexpected thing: Beloved consented to watch a TV show that would normally be way outside anything I'd expect her to like. She really is a culture snob... watches primarily Masterpiece and Nova, and the occasional guilty pleasure (she loves that girl on "Cold Case")...

My son asked us all to watch the first episode of the first season of "24" the other night. I'd seen it when it aired... we were all quite addicted to it in those days. And because it's about the first African American major party presidential candidate, who is under threat of an assassination attempt, it carries an unexpected freshness. Lots of talk about his significance, the historic nature of his candidacy, how critical it is for all these people to do their job and keep him alive. The story is also about the lead character's family being in jeopardy, and betrayal upon betrayal both at work and at home.

Anyway, Beloved said, "Sure." And she absolutely loved it. So much so that she kept saying, "Another one?" until we'd watched four hours worth. She came over last night for dinner and we watched another four hours (after eating the last of my homemade lentil soup). Oh my... it's just like winter 2001.

Except, Beloved's here.

I can see my family getting more and more comfortable with her... that's not hard to do, she's warm and funny and truly loves them. But I am also getting more comfortable revealing myself to them. The other day one of my children asked how long I'd known I was a lesbian. That's a question that's actually kind of hard for me to answer, and I'm not sure I answered accurately. I shared that I'd been attracted to women since college. But I actually had my first experience with another girl much younger than that, at about 13. But I sort of blocked it out, because, for a long time, I didn't let it into the narrative I told myself about my identity. I was a straight girl who'd "experimented." Except, I never got over the effect my experimentation had on me. Something kept nagging at my identity until I had to admit, in the midst of my marriage, that I was truly attracted, both physically and emotionally, to women.

That last point is critical. Sometimes it seems to me that those who attack LGBTQ people with religious arguments get stuck in the sexual component. (I truly believe they get lost in the "ick" factor... it's not something they would ever want to do, so they can't imagine why anyone else would do it... or, perhaps, it's something they very much want to do, and so they're terrified and react with verbal or even physical violence). But part of sexual identity isn't just who you want to make love with: it's who sparks your soul, who makes you get lost in a conversation until the wee hours of the morning because you can't get enough of their sweet company, who makes you laugh and forget all the terrible things about yourself you walk around believing most of the time. Attraction isn't just physical. It's emotional. It's affectional. (A real word? Who knows?)

A friend who reads here pointed out to me recently that I've backed way off some statements I made last year about coming out (setting a year-long time period for doing it). I waver. I think it gets harder to imagine coming out the more invested I become in my relationship with the people of this church. I have more to lose. But then I remember how sweet it is to have that experience: to trust someone with your soul. And I wonder about coming out into the light.

For Epiphany... a blessing, courtesy of the marvelous Barbara Lundblad:

Now may God who said 'Let there be light' and there was light - be light in your life.
May Jesus Christ who said not only, 'I am the Light of the World', but 'You are the light for the world' - give you courage to be that light.
And may the Spirit which descended upon the disciples like tongues of fire be fire of light within you.
And know this - The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Grace, Or, Figuring It Out

I am so grateful to have all your lovely and supportive comments.

But I am also sort of... ambivalent about the last two posts.

I do not, in any way, intend to convey that I have "figured it out." This is such an incredibly complex matter, and so intensely personal, and, frankly... sometimes the attitudes of "saved" 12-steppers sticks in my craw just a little bit.

Interesting metaphor for a woman with food issues, no?

What I want to say is, I'm living by grace... it doesn't feel at all that this has been my doing, that I get or deserve kudos... though, natch, I love it when I do.

Every day is a gift. Let's just leave it there.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Year of the Big Change: Part 2

By April 21 I had, as they say, hit bottom. While I was probably 10 lbs down from my all time high of 347 lbs., I was done, I was beat. Food had kicked my ass and kicked it good. I was desperate.

Not desperate enough to have surgery. I had decided several years ago, in the wake of learning of two ministers in my extended circle who had died of complications following the surgery, that I would not do that. Ever. It was not an option to sacrifice myself on that particular altar. If pharmaceuticals could help me do it safely, I would. But since they didn't... my only option was to figure out a way to change, to interrupt the addiction, to stop killing myself with food.

I walked into that meeting and met a woman I'd known slightly from work circles. I'd known her about 100 lbs heavier than she was when I saw her that day. She became my sponsor. Beginning that day, I started doing a number of things:

Down on my knees first thing in the morning to ask for help from God, to commend this impossible situation into her hands.

Calling my food for the day in to my sponsor. Then, eating what I had committed. No flour, no sugar, three meals, all weighed and/ or measured. Lots of green vegetables and fruit. Good amounts of protein. No starches to begin; a couple (potatoes and rice) were added after about four months.

Taking a daily time of quiet and prayer.

Making phone calls to other folks in the program... three per day.

Attending meetings... three per week.

At the end of the day... down on my knees again, to thank God for an abstinent day... or even for a non-abstinent one in which I gained some insight on my addiction.

The program is simple. Not necessarily easy, but I found it to be much more so once I "detoxed." About 2 weeks after my last flour and sugar I felt the obsession and addictive feelings lift. They have returned occasionally. Sometimes I have managed to get through, with the help of others in the program. Other times I have succumbed (I have had exactly one flour/sugar item in the last 8 months. My reaction to it: it wasn't really worth it. It tasted ok, but I am not longing for any more).

I ended 2008 more than a hundred pounds lighter than I began it. And I ended it far healthier by every measurement. Elevated blood pressure? Gone. Choleseterol level? Better than ever. Knees (which were, to be honest, starting to be creaky, especially in the mornings)? Perfect. I can run up the stairs. I can walk long distances (and I do). Though I fit no one's definition of "thin," I love getting dressed to go anywhere... I don't dread shopping for clothes, and I enjoy adorning myself in ways that are attractive.

Do I think I'll never eat flour or sugar again? I have no idea. Today, I don't really care. That in itself is an amazing, almost unbelievable sentiment to have flow out my fingers and onto this screen. Today I am looking forward with enthusiasm to the meals I have committed to my sponsor. I know that if I continue to put one foot in front of the other, continue to do these simple things, my body will ultimately settle into the weight God intended for me to carry. (I have a way to go).

Beloved is so proud of me. So are my children. And so are the members of my congregation, who have been watching me "melt away," as someone has said. I have so much to do... so much I want to give and share. I feel that God has called me... into ministry, into family, into my relationship with Beloved. And now... I may just be around for long enough to enjoy all of it to the fullest. Maybe.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Year of the Big Change: Part 1

Time, dating, calendars... they are all arbitrary. You know? It could just as easily been the new year three or four months ago... as it was according to the Jewish calendar, for instance. It seems so funny that we make the fuss we do over the turning of a page, the inching forward of a second hand, when even in our day many cultures keep different calendars and engage in different ways of marking time's passage.

I must assume there is something deep in the human psyche that desires-- needs-- to mark time, and so we do. With the rest of the world, I acknowledge: it's a new year! Yay for that.

But I am approaching this new year very differently than I have many in the past. A few years ago I stopped making new year's resolutions, essentially because my inability to do the one that mattered most to me seemed impossible, and after a while, continuing to put it on my list seemed like... masochism. I refer, of course, to my weight. For more than 20 years I was more than 150 lbs overweight. It's shocking to write that, it's probably shocking to read it. Beginning when I was a young mother, I began to pack on pounds at a prodigious rate. No: I can't let that idea stand. I began to anesthetize myself with food, and to use it as my pharmaceutical of choice for absolutely every contingency, every symptom, every joy, every sorrow. Food and its ability to alter my mood (and, I presume, brain chemistry) became my friend, my lover, my confidante... my god.

For the last several years something radical has begun to shift. It all started with entering into a relationship-- with Beloved-- at an all-time high weight for me, well over 300 lbs. For years I'd reasoned-- in therapy, in private conversations with friends-- that one "reason" I kept myself at a high weight was that it kept me safe, sexually. As someone who was married to a (good) man, and who continually was falling in crush and in love with women, it seemed best to cut off my options. No one would fall in love with me at that weight, I rationalized. (Meanwhile, please understand that there was nothing like a logical argument taking place between the impulse to eat and the fulfillment of that action: it was an addiction. But like all good addicts, I had my excuses.)

Then: I found myself divorced, and I found myself attracted to Beloved, and I found... WHAT??!??!?... that my feeling were reciprocated. So much for the "safety" of being fat.

About a year into the relationship we had our first serious and somewhat difficult conversation about it. "I waited my whole life for you," she said. "And I don't want to lose you." She was concerned for my health. I, who had been incredibly lucky-- good knees, good back, excellent bloodwork every time-- began to see signs that my body wouldn't take the abuse forever. It started with slightly elevated blood pressure.

For several years I "tried" several things, but food always won out in the end. Beloved and I had many hard conversations in which she told the truth and I dodged and lied and evaded and tried to wriggle out of things. An addict, you see. Finally, last April 21 I walked into a 12-step meeting.

To be continued...