Category Archives: Minding my life

I find myself in other people’s stories. Maybe you will find yourself in mine. In “Minding My Life” posts I get up close and personal with the stuff of life. Sometimes reflectively, sometimes currently, sometimes imaginatively. Always, as happens from the writing of it, mindfully.

Between binging and deprivation, a sweet spot

[If you follow Heidi’s Table on Facebook, then you will recognize some of what follows from a recent post there. Topics of food and eating are —for better or for worse— very near and dear to me. Today I’d love to bring some fresh air to a topic which can sometimes be fraught.]

I’ve come a long way from the eating disordered habits of my teens and young twenties, but food, and eating in general, remains an area where I meet my edge.

A few weeks ago I binged on a pint of Coconut Bliss, a delicious frozen treat which, sure, doesn’t have dairy (something I don’t do well with) and, sure, doesn’t have refined sugar or corn syrup (which are the equivalent of crack-cocaine for me), but still: we are not talking healthy here. Agave, which is what it is sweetened with, is sugar no matter what label of good or of bad we slap on it. And it was a binge. I didn’t even kid myself when I bought it: my lover was out of town and I got it with the intent of going home and curling up on the couch to binge on Coconut Bliss and Orange is the New Black. All of which I did.

When it comes to eating well and cultivating a loving relationship with myself and with food, what comes to mind is what the parenting and step-parenting research has shown to be true for bringing up well-adjusted and balanced kids: authoritarian (rules- and judgment- and punishment-based) doesn’t work. Neither does permissive (everything and anything is OK). Both authoritarian and permissive styles can actually be quite harmful. And neither sees the actual child. (The authoritarian parent’s eyes can’t see the actual child what for all the rules and judgments in the way, while the permissive parent can’t find the child because, oh well, whatever! I don’t know… Do whatever you want, honey, it doesn’t matter… Both styles can leave the kid with a sense of not mattering much, not being seen, not to mention unclarity about their place in their family and by extension the bigger world.)

Authoritative is where it’s at. Authoritative is kind and loving and firm, wherein firmness is about loving limits. And when limits are crossed, which is a natural part of life and of growing up, then there are consequences rather than punishments.

In relation to my eating, a kind with loving limits approach might look like eating good-for-me things and preparing them in yummy ways, and from time to time eating foods that are just plain old feel-good treats (within healthy limits and provided they aren’t total crap). The feel-good-treats wouldn’t be for every day or maybe even for every week, but from time to time, yes. Maybe the loving limit for me next time with Coconut Bliss would be not buying it to eat alone, but to share with someone. Or making my own Coconut Milk-Strawberry-Banana-Frozen-Treat-That-I-Can’t-Find-A-Good-Name-For (but is only sweetened with frozen fruit) and having a big bowl of that while I watch the colorful drama of prison life unfold.

Being kind and having loving limits around food is, in some ways, harder than both the rules- and punishment-based and the anything-goes approach. It’s not automatic for me. Kind and loving limits involve mindfulness and intention, neither of which I can practice without being present (rather than checked out) which involves turning toward rather than away from myself. And when a limit is crossed such as binging on a pint of Coconut Bliss, the consequence for binging could be simply the 2 + 2 = 4 kind of discomfort of feeling bloated and icky for the night and, depending on how often it happens, my pants getting tighter and, by extension, getting dressed becoming stressful. Whereas the judgment and punishment approach might sound rather mean: what the hell is wrong with you?! After all these years, still? Really?! Followed by, the next day, deprivation. And the anything-goes approach would probably not even call it a binge.

Teen-me’s and early-20’s-me’s habits around food involved a constant back and forth from judgment and punishment (diets, deprivation, and following a binge, purging) to anything-goes (binging and compulsive eating). The sweet spot of balance lies somewhere in the middle: I nourish myself with food that my body appreciates, I get to experiment and play around with making healthy foods that are also delicious, and I don’t punish myself when I do binge.

This all brings me to a bigger question, inquiry around which has become an underlying theme for me over the years. (Is it a coincidence that the qualities I list below are the very same things I want for my clients to receive when they visit Heidi’s Table?)

What is it that I am wanting, ultimately and immediately, from a binge?

Comfort. Preferably in the form of sweetness. Gooey and smooth is good.

And what is it that you want from that?

Aside from the obvious fact that sugar just tastes so freaking good? Hmm…it’s got something to do with home. With feeling at home.

What would that be like to feel deeply and truly at home?

Comfortable. Safe. Protected. Seen… Yes, seen. Allowed to be and worthy just as I am.

And how does that feel in your body, that kind of being seen?

It’s  brings a sigh of relief. Which is, come to think, another thing I always wanted from food, and particularly the sweet kind I favor to binge upon: relief.

Relief from what?

Relief from having to do it all myself, from feeling the weight of having to “make a living” on my shoulders, and relief from some huge disappointments I don’t know what to do with. Relief from anxiety and fear. I want a sense that something, someone, has my back. That I am not alone. That I am supported. Taken care of. All of that and also relief from having to figure anything out, or fix anything.

Whoa! That’s a tall order for a pint of Coconut Bliss! What would that be like in your body, this relief you are describing?

Oh, that brings another sigh. I’m relaxed. My breath is long and soft. My mind is calm.It’s about being able to rest. To fully let go. It’s like when you go to sit in a chair… You know how when a chair looks rickety or otherwise questionable, you know how when you go to sit in it (if even you do!) you can’t give the chair all of your weight but rather you hold back and are careful and tight—

Yes, I know what you mean—

Well, feeling totally supported is like sitting in the queen of all chairs, a chair that truly has your back. The queen of all chairs makes even the question of support obsolete. It’s a chair that you can plop every last bit of the good the bad and ugly of yourself into without even a thought —let alone a second thought— pertaining to support. That kind of chair.

I do not know that the next time my lover is out of town, or the next someone dies, or next time winter shuts us all in for weeks or months on end, or the next time someone I love puts their hand through a wall at the incomprehensible injustice and wrongness of the way things were, or are, or the next time I have an attack of insecurity about the ups and downs of being self-employed… I do not know that I will not then, once again, binge. But maybe just maybe I will pause first and ask:

Is this Coconut Bliss really the queen of all chairs or am I just pretending it is?

And then maybe just maybe I will find something or someone that can give me the kind of comfort, the kind of support, the kind of relief and sweetness that I will feel good about all night and when I wake the next morning.

 

 

 

Breaking Bad + Homesick = Another Neruda Translation

Last week, while binge watching the last season of Breaking Bad, I heard a song I’d never heard that made my heart skip a beat and then pick up again more insistently.

The music choices in Breaking Bad don’t disappoint. First of all, rather than using music to cue the viewer’s next emotion like many (most?) shows do, Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, seems to trust his viewers to feel, on their very own thankyouverymuch, what it is the scene is about. The music, then, reflects and highlights, rather than suggesting and manipulating. Also, he just plain old picks good music. His choices, spot-on, are not your everyday popular music, and he often plays, if not in full, then at least most of a song. Ah, respect not just for his viewers’ emotional intelligence but also for the artist. Refreshing, that!

But, back to hearing the song: the beat was of native drums (even though it is a remix, it has nothing even remotely resembling the sound of a drum kit). I could practically feel the pull of gravity on my body —down my center line, through my feet, and into the earth— as I listened. The language was Spanish and, um, could it be?! Mapuche? Yes. After a few verses it was unmistakeable. The beat was reminiscent of a Mapuche ritual dance called the “Lonkomeo.” A number of the words brought to mind the names of cities and towns and rivers and lakes of the Araucana region of Southern Chile, where I grew up, and Northwestern Argentina. It made me terribly homesick.

After downloading the song and listening to it at least as many times as the number of barrels of money that Walt White was burying in the desert in the scene that touched off my bout of homesick, I pulled out Neruda, who was from Southern Chile, of course, and tried my hand at another translation.

Here you go!

Know Ye Know Ye Know

(translation by Heidi Fischbach of
Sepan Lo Sepan Lo Sepan” by Pablo Neruda)

Oh but the lie we lived
was our daily bread.
People of the twenty first century,
it is necessary that you know,
what we did not know,
that the cons and the what fors be seen,
because we ourselves did not see,
so that no one else eat
the false food
that nourished us in our time.

It was the century of communication
held incommunicado:
the cables beneath the sea
were at times true
when the lie took on
more latitude
and longitudes than the ocean:
languages became accustomed
to straightening the devious,
to suggesting threats,
and the long tongues of wire
would coil around gossip central
like serpents
until we all shared in
the battle of the lie
and after lying we’d run away
lying to kill,
and we’d arrive lying to death.

We lied among friends
in sadness or in silence
and the enemy lied to us
with a mouth-full of hate.

It was the cold era of war.

The quiet era of hate.

A bomb from time to time
burned the soul of Vietnam.

And God tucked away in his hiding place
spied like a spider
upon remote provincials
who with drowsy passion
were falling in adultery.

[Pablo Neruda’s original, in Spanish, HERE]

Afterthought: Sadly, if Neruda saw us —the very twenty first century people to whom he wrote this poem— today, I imagine he’d shake his head and sigh. Apparently, we still haven’t gotten what he wanted us to know.

Now, go have a listen to Chancha Via Circuito’s remix of José Larralde singing “Quimey Neuquén,” as played in episode 10 of season 6 of Breaking Bad. The original song was written, as best I can tell, by Milton Aguilar y Marcelo Berbel.

Copyright © 2014, Heidi Fischbach. Don’t steal! But do feel free to share, with proper attribution and link.

The man at the pond

What moved you? What made you laugh or cry today? What did you notice?

Sometimes I ask myself those questions. They help me not take my life for granted. They help me feel more connected. And sometimes they make me bow.

But yesterday morning these questions were the last thing on my mind. In fact, not much other than a very grumpy mood was on my mind as I set out on my run. But that was about to change… And last night, remembering my questions, I bowed to the man at the pond. And then I gave my memory of it all a pen:

The pond has been frozen for several days now. Yesterday afternoon there were many children and puppies and peoples skating and slipping and sliding gleefully around on the ice, but this morning, it being Monday, a work- and school-day, not so many. This morning, after my run, I stopped at the pond again.

In the distance, a handful of skaters: one skating in smooth circles on a cleared patch to my right; in the middle distance to my left two others skating on another smooth patch; and closest to where I stood, on the right, a man and his boy simply laughing and rolling around on the ice. It was all quite enjoyable to watch in an absentminded, daydreamy way, but the person who really drew my attention stood a mere few feet to my left, doing nothing more than gazing at the skaters, and in particular one girl-woman who was too far for me to be able to tell her age, but by the way she moved, I’d say she was, at most, in her 20’s and possibly even, still in her teens.

The man was short, Latino-looking, and somewhere between mid-age and going-on-oldish age. A couple of feet behind us, on the bench, sat a very quiet boy, sucking his thumb, wrapped in several jackets including a woman’s coat. I wondered if the girl-woman was the boy’s mom. I wondered if the man who’d captured my attention was her father. Maybe he was watching the boy so she could skate. Really, I had no idea.

I watched the skaters, but mostly I wanted to watch the man watching the girl and so, as often as I could without being obvious, I cast a surreptitious glance his way only to find his eyes, still focused in the distance, on the girl. Mostly he was serious, though always his eyes were soft, and sometimes the edges of his mouth would venture up into the ever so slightest smile, which usually happened when she fell and quickly got up, or when she did some little twirl or wobbly pirouette.

His manner was shy, self-contained. Very quiet. And caring. At one point he turned and, seeing that one of the coats had slipped off the child, he went over and, with a tender touch, tucked the coats more closely around the boy before stepping back to his spot to take up gazing at the girl in the distance.

In this country, at least around here, when I see men of the ethnicity, the heritage, of this man at the pond, they are often wearing custodial clothing, mopping a floor here, cleaning dishes there. Not always, certainly, but often. This man’s clothes were in good condition, and he wore a baseball cap. He was neither poorly nor well dressed.

I am not sure why I was so taken by him. We never exchanged a word, nor did our eyes ever meet. I have no idea who he was or what in the world he does, but what I felt watching him was a kind of swelling in my chest, as if my ribs had suddenly become far too tight for my heart. I can feel it in my body, even now, just remembering. I could try to name what that is, that feeling in my chest, but words fall so short. A name, a label, wouldn’t even come close to doing it justice. My body knows better.

I realize that if my little scene here, the one I’ve just told you, were a movie, it’d be sorely lacking in plot. What can I say! Sure, I can’t help wondering about the man: what are his hopes, his dreams, his fears, his loves? Really, I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I am right when I say that two of his loves were there at the pond this morning. As well as a woman —a stranger— with a rib cage too tight for whatever was happening in her heart.

I tip my hat to the man at the pond. And to you. Thanks for reading. I hesitate to even post this for I wonder: did you have to be there?

Ah well. It’s just a blog. But tell me, if you want, what have you noticed lately?

Heidi’s Table

2464 Massachusetts Ave. #405
Cambridge, MA 02140

617.564.3434

©2010-2017 Heidi’s Table