August 17, 2014

To Serve or Not to Serve


Illustration via The Journey Begins Here


Illustration via The Journey Begins Here

This week I embarked on a journey through our judicial system, jury duty. You know, that thing none of us want to do, ever. When you get the foreboding summons in the mail, the immediate reaction is, "no! aw shit." And after you've thrown it on the floor and cursed it a few more times you study the particulars carefully pondering whether or not you could get away with simply tossing it in the trash. Why not? It's not like they've got a trace on it...do they? I mean, how would they know we even received it? Somewhere amidst rationalizations your morality kicks in, and in my case your guilty Catholic upbringing. And you've determined you're stuck. Then the "good" voice in your head chimes in with a whole new set of reasoning. How bad could it be? It's our duty to serve. And if you're gonna complain about the legal system and all the idiots on jury's all the time, you better be willing to be one of those idiots.

Okay, you're doing it. You call in, as instructed, find out you do have to report the following Monday morning at 7:45am to the downtown Los Angeles County Court -- the busiest and largest county court in the country. Oh yeah. The night before feels a bit like the night before a medical procedure. I kept trying to remember if it was after 10pm or midnight that I could no longer eat or drink. My nerves were kicking in and I tossed and turned all night. Not sure why the prospect of going to court made me feel so anxious, but it did. Perhaps the fear of the unknown. I'd been to jury duty before but not in several years and I'd never been called to a courtroom or served on a jury. For some reason, in the back of my mind, I just knew, this would be different.

So I got up super early giving myself plenty of time to prepare and get out the door. I was pleasantly surprised when I found the freeway relatively empty for a Monday morning. The instructions on the summons said to park at the Disney Concert Hall. The Disney Hall was six blocks from the court house down a very steep hill, and back again. So I schlepped my backpack, weighted down with a laptop and books. What if I were handicapped? There were no instructions on the summons for disabled individuals nor was there a heads up that performing your civic duty would include hiking down a concrete mountain and back up again. It was a hot day, even at 7:30am. By the time I arrived at the courthouse I was drenched in sweat and limping.

I entered the building with a small group of other prospective jurors, all sweaty and disoriented. We went through a small security line which had been billed to us as "airport-like" security but it was more like Hollywood Bowl concert security. There were armed guards and you did walk through a metal detector but it wasn't very high tech and there were no pat downs.

After making it through that line, we were all thrust into a sea of civil servants and bewildered jurors awaiting the arrival of elevators. Arriving at the 11th floor, jury waiting room, the crowded elevator spilled out onto the floor. I arrived just in time as the clerk was delivering the instructions and orientation speech. The jury waiting room is large like an airport gate section. But the entrance/hallway area had vending machines and tables. I decided to park myself there as nobody else seemed to think that was allowed cause it was technically not in the "classroom" But it was in earshot and nobody stopped me. What a rebel.

They read the instructions and we followed directions depositing our sheets in the correct basket. The first group was called and my name wasn't among them. Relief. So I got comfy with my laptop, snacks and coffee I'd purchased at the snack shop, and attempted to get some work done. About 20 minutes into doing emails, the next group was called...Sarah Mason? Here! Yikes. Okay, let's do this!

I have to admit I was pretty nervous about being called to a courtroom. I'd never done it before and I had no idea what to expect. Would it be like Law and Order? It would be a lot of waiting, that's what it would be like. After being told to hustle up to the 15th floor, we sat outside on benches for about 45 minutes before a clerk came out, read out our names and gave us a jury number. More waiting. About 30 minutes later we were told to line up numerically. My number was 26 out of 55. I didn't know what to expect but I knew there were 12 people on a jury, and that each side got to dump a lot of people so there was a good chance was of those 12 seats was mine.

We walked into the courtroom silently and in single file. There it was, the courtroom, with a judge, and a defendant and two sets of lawyers, a court reporter, a Bailiff. It was pretty quite impressive in a scary civic kinda way. The judge introduced himself and welcomed us to his court. He gave us a basic rundown on the rules and the case and how this would all play out. It quickly became clear that he didn't like people attempting to try to get out of being there as he repeatedly stated the moral and legal obligations we all had to serve.

I was in the "audience" group, meaning we weren't yet in the hot seats but we were privy to the process of Voir Dire. That was quite interesting actually. There were a series of basic questions: Where do you live? What do you do? Do you have a spouse/sig other, what do they do? Do you have adult children? Have you ever served on a jury before?  Then the judge would also ask some more personal questions like; Have you ever been the victim of a violent crime? I sat and listened to the other prospective jurors answer all these questions and was thinking, well I'm not a victim so all I'll have to do is the basics. Then it suddenly hit me, "Wait, Oh my God, I am a victim of a violent crime, a few actually."

I've never thought of myself as a victim. I guess that's a good thing. But over the years I've collected more then a few scars, externally and internally. And as I began to realize this, my anxiety grew. I didn't want to share these oh so personal and painful stories with a roomful of strangers. Oddly, several people did want to share all the intimate details of their lives, with everyone, out loud. What's that about? Are they lonely, do they have some need to be on stage or have an audience? I don't know but it made me uncomfortable. Nevertheless I made it through the day without being called up to the hot seats but the next day would not prove so lucky. The next morning, after another late start, they filed us back into the courtroom. There were a bunch of holes to fill in the hot seats after the attorney's previous day of challenge dismissals. And I knew I'd be landing on a hot seat fairly quickly. My anxiety grew just thinking about having to raise my hand and disclose information about being a victim. Luckily I had the option to request a sidebar with the judge in which I could go up to the bench, and tell my story before the judge and the attorneys privately. Which is exactly what I did.

Article Sidebar
I'm not sure why I feel safe telling these stories here, a much larger forum in theory, vs a courtroom. Maybe it's because in the courtroom you're live and in person vs. online, where we are protected by the illusion of intimacy and feel free to share so many details of our lives. For me I think Payson Road has always been my safe haven, even though it is a public forum. And I've been incredibly open about so many details of my struggles with eating disorders. This is different. So instead of sharing the details of my personal encounters with violent crime, I'm sharing the details of how this jury involvement brought up my history and how it effected me.

Approaching the bench was pretty frightening. They had a job to do and it was gonna be harsh but necessary. But they were respectful to me in doing it. I was visibly nervous but articulate and kept my composure. The judge asked me several times if I was able to be fair and impartial in light of these incidents. I said yes. The prosecutor was not so convinced. He continued to ask me questions about my perception of police officers. I gave him my honest answer. "I consider myself to be a fair person. But I would not be being honest if I did not say that I was very angry at the specific police and police departments involved in my cases. That did not handle it well at all. That said, I believe I could be fair on the stand. At least, I would hope I would be. But do I know with 100% certainty how I will react? No."

They questioned me some more and then allowed me to return to my seat and await the process. After the prosecutor and defense attorney's were finished with Voir Dire, each side was allowed several juror challenges. They went back and forth excusing men and women around me. As they departed, I kept moving up in chair numbers. I started at 26 but was now at seat 3. Time to get really nervous. Then the prosecutor stood up and said, "The people thank and excuse Juror #26". That's me! I was free! Clearly I was too big a wild card for him to risk the gamble.

Two competing emotions instantly washed over me, relief and disappointment. Why disappointment? I've been asking myself that as well. I think, although I was relieved to go home and avoid a potentially long trial that also meant deciding the fate of another human being's life (this was a murder trial), I was also disappointed that they didn't pick me. That sounds silly. But it's how I felt. Not in a, last to be picked in gym class kinda way, but confusion, and realization that things in my personal history bar me from participating in the legal process. Part of me wanted to participate as it's a crucial thing for us all to do if the system is going to work properly.

I found myself over analyzing the reasons they didn't choose me. There were many obvious on the prosecution side but the defense was probably not so thrilled with me either. At one point I heard the prosecutor (in a sidebar) say my juror number to the judge and the judge said, "but she said she could be fair". I wondered if the prosecution was trying to have me dismissed without having to use a challenge. I even called my brother who was a Public Defender in NYC for insight into the whole affair. He had much to offer but none of it brought me any real solace.

What was truly bothering me was unearthing old wounds. What had happened to me, happened. It's apart of who I am but I don't think about it daily and I have never let either incident define me as a victim. But it was shocking in a way to realize that I am one of the people who needs to raise their hand when a judge asks if anyone's ever been the victim of a violent crime. It made me realize how much I've actually been through in my life. A lot. I'm not so sure I could serve on any criminal trial or even many civil trials. There's so many angles as to how I would be a bad risk on a jury. Is that a good thing? I mean, in theory, yes but in evaluating my life, uh, not so much.

There's something about digging up these things from the past that is quite sobering. It's like I'm reading a bio of myself for the first time, but then remember I actually did read it once before. And as a person who has struggled for more than half her life with eating disorders, discoveries such as this often lead toward old coping patterns and old destructive friends called ED. Interestingly, that's not what happened. I find myself in new territory. Although truthfully for about 48 hours after I was excused from the trial, I was extremely upset and confused. But I processed the point of stress in a very different way than I would have in the past, consciously. I talked about it, thought about it, wrote about it. Often folks with EDs don't think, just act. That's something I did so well for so long leaving an enormous gap between my emotions and my actions, my mind and my body. But this was a transformative experience. It was painful and upsetting but metamorphic in that, I found an alternate way to cope with pain and stress, and my past.

Since that last day at the court house, I've thought a lot about the people I met and I keep wondering who ended up on the jury. I have a strange curiosity in following this trial through to the end. For those good folks who served with me I hope, it's a short trial. Am I more relieved than disappointed that I'm not serving on that jury? Of course. I don't think getting out of jury duty is the right thing to do nor was it my goal. I second guessed whether or not I should have disclosed that information, in my 48 hour overanalyzing session. But in the end, acknowledging where I've been, being in my truth, and having compassion for what I've been through is a key part of my ongoing recovery.

July 23, 2014

Wall of Happiness

Year's ago (2000, yikes) on the original Payson Road online support group, which essentially was the catalyst for starting Payson Road, I asked everyone to do a homework assignment.  "What Makes Me Happy" - an essay if you will on what it is that makes everyone smile, or feel good. It could be anything from taking a walk to watching the colored leaves fall from the trees to a favorite TV show.  Anything.

The point I was trying to make was that many of us who suffer from eating disorders tend to take on the identity of our disease and get so caught up in that identity that we're unable to see who we really are.  Defined by our hopes, our dreams, and what makes us happy.  Instead we see ourselves as victims.

The responses were very mixed.  Many of the group members said they didn't know what it meant to be happy. Yet, when they all interacted in support of each other, things just kind of poured out.  And I'm not sure they even realized it themselves that there were in fact many things that made them happy.

I want to share those things with them and with you.  Their honesty will touch you and it may make you think about what makes you happy as well. 

I decided I should do an updated of my list. And I have to admit, it was hard! Much harder than I thought it would be. I wrote it prior to looking at what I wrote back in 2000. There were a lot of similar entries but new ones as well. Some of the differences reflect the sign of times, and changes in my own life. In the time since we originally put this out on Payson Road, there's been books on Happiness Lists, all kinds of articles, discussions, morning show segments. It's been fascinating to watch because when we were talking about it, nobody was. Or maybe they were but we didn't have the accessibility to content that we do today. It's as valid today as it was then, finding your Happiness, and writing down the things that make you happy, is a great first step!

My original list is the final one on this post if you scroll down. My current one, 2014, is below.

If you wanna share yours, please do! Post in the comments. 
Thanks!

This is what makes me Happy!
  • Writing, writing, and more writing
  • Summer nights in Boothbay Harbor, ME, fire in the fireplace, roasting marshmallows, sitting on the porch 
  • My fat kitties they make me laugh and comfort me
  • Jake, he makes me laugh all the time and fuels my creative spirit
  • Having fan chats with Jake about Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, and other favorite shows
  • Traveling to new and favorite places
  • Finding new coffee spots !
  • Paris
  • Going home to Boston and hanging at my Dad's house, having long discussions and watching old movies
  • My family 
  • Connecting with my friends and people who I really value
  • Anything with pumpkin in it -- pie, bread, candles, room spray, color, I love pumpkin!
  • Autumn in New England, the gorgeous and colorful leaves, driving up route two to buy pumpkins or go apple picking 
  • Halloween! Favorite holiday
  • Listening to music and discovering new music
  • The smell of Balsam fir and Pine
  • Dewy or Morning-after-a-rain walks in the New England woods 
  • Hearing about how something I wrote, or said, or contributed to really helped someone 
  • Doing things of value, that have a positive impact on people, the community, the world and trying to seek out new ways to achieve that
  • The Daily Show and Colbert, Vice, Real Sports -- smart, funny, journalism and editorial commentary
  • Movies, love going to them, love discussing them, love reviewing them
  • Really, super awesome customer service. When people go the extra mile and treat you like a human.
  • Peppermint stick ice cream with jimmies on top
  • Hugging my brother and sister after not seeing them for awhile and hanging out laughing for hours about stuff that only the three of us get
  • Really crazy awesome chocolate brownies
  • Stories, love reading and discovering new stories and characters.
  • Wine, learning about the origins and the process of growing the grapes and I love wine tasting.
  • Sitting on the dock, in Boothbay, looking out at the harbor, listening to all the sounds, smelling the sea air, and reading one of my favorite books. Kinda like this pic.


Original Wall of Happiness from Payson Road, 2000

Things That Make Me Happy
I love the first day of spring, not march 21st, but the first time you walk outside then go back inside to leave your jacket.

I love summer time thunder storms and sleeping to the sound of rain.

I love the way that children feel in my lap and their cheeks look when they can't stop smiling.

I love having conversations with people that make me think, and I love staying up late at night, in the silence of the sleepy hours listening to my thoughts wander.

I love long runs on hot days, and stomping through snow knee deep in the winter time.

I love laughing so hard that my stomach wants to crumble.

I love New Hampshire in autumn… I love New Hampshire in the spring and summer.

I love the idea that sometime I will have the chance to love New Hampshire in the winter.

I love letting the music take over, letting the music write me, my mood and my freedom.

I love sitting in silence with someone when you feel so close that the silence is more filling than words could ever be.

I love sun sets, sun rises, the color of the sky during the spring time at precisely 8:30, when sun set is well past, and the sky is not black, but a deep, sleepy, radiant blue.

I love remembering my dreams in the morning, and even more, I love it when my dreams answer the unanswered.

I love seeking answers and the questions they provoke.

I love mountains, from the bottom looking up and from the top looking down.

I like the way an ice cream cone melts slow and sticky down your wrists on the afternoon of a summer scorcher.

I love campfires and inside fires.

I love the smell and the taste of fresh bread.

I love being awake when the night moves from evening slowly into a timelessness and then a new day with dawn.

I love home made art and pictures on the walls.

I love reading letters, writing letters and staying in touch with old friends.

I love to teach and I love to learn.

I love driving, anywhere, everywhere, for so long that its become no where.

I love spontaneity and independence.

I love listening to music when I'm wide awake in the middle of the night with all the lights off so I remember that music isn't something you can see… and then you feel it, everywhere, anywhere.

I love how I feel when I write new songs, and how people can smile and feel touched when I play them.

I love performing, and I love my audiences.

I love inspiration, admiration, uncertainty and determination.

I love other peoples ideas, even when I don't agree with them.

I love youth, not age, but the innocence we associate with youth; the innocence we try to insist is naïve because we are so petrified to live our lives with our hearts.

I love the idea that success can be anything that makes you happy.

I like city views and rural calms.

I love artists, and anyone who is willing to let themselves be artists… because we all are you know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love surprises, climbing trees, doing things I didn't think Id be able to.

I like diners that donut look like everything that is starting to look the same everywhere you go because our society is allowing itself to conform.

I love black coffee, stale cigarettes and late night caffinated conversations ( the artist cliché, essentially!)

I love anyone who follows their heart, even if my heart feels differently.

I love anyone who is willing to fight apathy.

I love that failure is only possible when you give up… and there is never another minute when you cant start again.

I love listening.

I love being heard.

I love watching children grow.

I love catching bubbles on my tongue, getting bubble gum stuck to my lips, lying in the grass with a four year old and discussing the cloud-t- rex flying into the cloud umbrella in the sky.

I love cooking big dinners and celebrating for no reason.

I love the reflection of the moon over water/of trees over water/ of the stars over water/ of white puffy clouds over water!

I love it when I stop for a minute and realize that I am sincerely lucky to be here, a person enveloped in a vast, magical and mysterious world.

I love it when I remember that everyone who tells me they've figured it out, the purpose, the meaning of freedom, success and life “to the fullest” is full of shit.

Because the greater purpose, no matter how many hypotheses have been posed, is simply an unknown to all of us, and regret should belong only to those who never got to taste the air they breathe, feel the grass they stepped on, find whatever it is that makes them happy and live entirely for that. 

MY HAPPINESS LIST
by Nikki

1.      the mountains make me happy, outside camping, the smell of the trees,
the smell of the dirt, the sound of the cold water rushing by.
2.      a massage
3.      my husband stroking my hair
4.      bodywork out (yoga, running, toning, weight lifting, and walking) I
truly find these things enjoyable, most of the time.
5.      my daughter opening up to me as her closest friend.
6.      the first snow of the winter
7.      springtime, opening windows and hearing the birds chirp, makes me
want to clean.
8.      being able to help a friend who is truly in need
9.      having friends that love me unconditionally, friends who never make
judgment on my bad choices, who still love me no matter how many times I
screw up.
10.   the sound of ocean waves, makes me relaxed and sleepy..
11.   playing ball with my dog because he prances and its cute
12.   watching Kandice do cart wheels
13.    listening to  Eli laugh at something funny on TV
14.   watching other  people see and enjoy Nicolas’s sense of humor, when he
is being a complete goofball and they find it funny.
15.   watching my kids play baseball (my favorite sport)

What makes me happy…

The truthful answer to this question is I don't know.  After much thought, I
 have come to the conclusion that not only do I not know what happiness is, I don't think I would know what to do if I was "happy". It's frightening to think that I have always thought of events and situations in terms of what will make me less unhappy.

I have spent so many years trying to avoid pain that I rarely let myself feel pleasure. While I can think of small things that make me happy, such as my cat snuggling up to me when I am sick, it's the "real" things that I am unsure of.  I really think that is confusing comfort with happiness. I know that I do feel happy when I know I've done a good job at work. I also feel happiness when I can make someone else smile. However, when I really look into those things I see that in reality it is that I am making someone else happy and "feeling" happiness through them. It is their approval that is making me feel good.  Someone else saying that I am ok/smart/beautiful, can temporarily take away some of the pain.  I don't think that is what happiness is. It must be more than the absence of pain, right?

Something else that I have realized is that when I could be happy, I don't think I allow myself to be. When there is no drama going on in my life,
 self-created or otherwise, it is uncomfortable for me. I am so used to letting something make me feel bad, that when there doesn't seem to be anything there to do it, I create something to make me feel that way.  Pain is what I am used to.

So, I guess I am not sure what makes me happy at this point.  It is pretty odd to me that at this point in my life, I truly don't know.  I spent all those years trying so hard to find happiness, and was not able to do it.  That thought alone can make me sad. All that effort, and all the pain that I put myself through, and what am I left with?  A woman that does not know how to be happy.  It sounds so simplistic and childish, but it is true.  I can look at this another way though.  The person that is here now is also a woman that can no longer use her past defenses to get by.  She is a woman that can no longer convince herself of the lie that "if only _____, then I will be happy."

I have realized that for the majority of my life I equated other people's happiness with my own.  If my parent/friend/boss/boyfriend was happy with what I had done, then I was happy.  I have yet to be able to find happiness within myself.  So, I guess that is what I am searching for now.  The ability to be happy because I am happy with myself. The ability to let myself be happy.

I told myself to read and answer some of the other posts while I try to figure out ONE thing that makes me happy.  I am so far removed from who I am, I don't even know what makes me happy. I could give you a list of all the things that make me miserable....that would be easy.

Happy. Happy. Happy. Ugh...the only thing that made me smile today, not necessarily happy, but that made my lips attempt a smile, was the rustling of the leaves in the street and the fact that the colors of autumn are so beautiful....for today, and it is noon now, that is the only thing. So don't freak out, I can't think of much either. But, I bet if we try we can both think of 1 thing that we could do for ourselves tonight that would make us happy.

Is this happiness thing about looking around and going, Well - c'mon, make me happy already or is it more about paying attention to things we would like to do??? I think I'm on to something here for myself...hope it is helpful to you.

When I was a little girl, I thought the key to life was just to be happy. How I knew that so young I am not sure.  But that was my belief for as long as I can remember.  I didn't want to be a big career woman, or be rich, at the expense of being happy.  Having all of that would be nice, but I didn't expect that existed actually.

I have always described losing myself somewhere along the way. Who the hell am I?  I have a few childhood and adolescent memories that I label as the death of the Cinderella dream....I'm somewhere back there in time....but to survive I have also created the mask.  I have worn as many as 5 a day.  It has gotten to the point where I can't remember if I have one on or not.

You know I have been living the past few days in increments of 15 minutes. Well for more than a decade, I have lived my life in two twelve hour cycles.  The first twelve hours, making lawyers happy by being the dutiful secretary (and totally wasting my ability to do better for myself, year after year) and the next twelve hours taking care of the boyfriend, apartment, family, whatever would come up and seem so important that I would put aside anything to do for myself until it go so late, I would just go without.  And I suffered. I still suffer.  I don't think anyone living that lifestyle would find too much to be happy about.

Well, this is getting kind of long, but my main point here is, like you, a big part of this struggle is definitely trying to figure out just who we really are. And only then can we figure out what makes us happy.  Because right now, the way we live today, I believe that no one really knows, even us. 

I tried in many ways to overcome my depression and anxiety.  I tried writing (which can help) and thinking and getting to the root of it (thoughtfully) but I can say that nothing helps me feel better than physical therapy of a sort.  I am talking about yoga, about deep breathing, about dancing and singing, about biking in the forest etc...  The mind needs to rest.  It's the only way.  And that is very hard for me, who wants to control it all.  The body wants to speak, to relax, to express etc... but that, I have found, is where happiness lies.  Of course, when you are deep in depression, none of this feels "good" (at least it didn't for me) but that was partly because I couldn't let go, (and I still have trouble)...

I have to tell all you guys... there's this one thing that's really making me happy at the time;  I have no idea what you call the thing when leaves start changing the color right before they fall out of trees, but in Finland, and especially in northern part of Finland (Lappland) that is the most beautiful thing in the world!  I've been watching the fall coming, and even though it's supposed to be depressing, I can't help but to be but amazed of all the colors...

Things that make me happy:
~Horse back riding
~Wildlife Rehab (no, wildlife does not come in for drug rehab! Hehe)
~Just being w/ animals
~Partying (too bad bad things come from that that upset me later)
~Being w/ my friends
~Talking to my online friends and reading/writing things from this
group
~Playing floor hockey (we played our first floor game tonight!!!! It
was GREAT!!!!!! I haven't played in about 8 or 9 yrs... but it was
sooo much fun!!!!)
~Talking to Chris... that is probably the only thing that I do that
makes me TRULY happy... I am generally happy when I am doing the
other things, but I am always happy when I talk to him... :) I even
woke up happy this morning cuz we had such a great convo last nite,
and I even ate breakfast willingly!! (AND kept it down!! Even when
the food made me feel sick, I didn't throw up!!)

It all boils down to the fact that we have two choices (me included, I haven't eaten a thing all day because I am so afraid of food- that's not right and not how it is supposed to be) and those choices are life or death. in some moments that feels so dramatic and unrealistic, but then you have a moment when the world is caving in and you have no idea whether you want to tuff it out or if life is that important. well, i have to say to myself out loud all the time "i choose life" it's silly i know, but it helps a little and I say that because I think of what makes me happy and what I miss out on when I'm frantic...........

Things that make me so happy 

firm hugs that last longer than five seconds
laughing so hard i lose control
leaves
running
my friends
photography
reading
music
a starry night
a spectacular view
running on the beach
laying on the beach
walking on the beach
sleeping on the beach
swinging on vines at the park
swinging

Oh my gosh how cheesy is this, but it's really true.  Imaging all of those things together and knowing that I have the capacity to experience all of them because they are so simplistic really makes me feel like everything will be fine.  I challenge you to choose life. It's a scary thing cause then you have to be someone besides your eating disorder. If I can have moments when I'm not just bulimic, then I certainly have it in me to have a life like that. 

What Makes Me Happy... 
Sarah Mason (2000 edition)
What makes me happy?
Reading all the messages on the board and watching in wonder as everyone rally's to support each other with open arms and open hearts
Getting an email for someone telling me that for the first time in their life they feel hopeful that they will get through this.
Fireplaces in Maine on a cold summer night with roasted marshmallows and a game of scrabble
Walks on the beach at night in the late Fall
Everything about the Fall - the colors of the leaves, the crispness in the air, Halloween!  The beauty in all the changes
Sledding down the Rez in the winter with a cup of my mum's hot chocolate waiting for me inside
Animals, all kinds - they make me laugh and smile
Kids!  My beautiful nieces and nephews and all their charms
Writing Writing Writing
Dancing Dancing Dancing
Jackie Chan movies!  Yes, really.
Pizza! Lots of it.
Paris.  Ahhhhh Paris.
The smell of my grandmother's perfume.  I still remember it.
My grandmother's house in Maine
Walks around Rock Road and sitting out over the Rocks watching the ocean
Trips!  and Perks!
My family.  My friends.
Music Music Music....Singing Singing Singing
Sex! (sorry mum)
Movies
Boat rides and horse rides
A great back rub
Marguerites
Hanging in a cafe in New York having lengthy discussions over politics and fashion
Baseball Baseball Baseball
Peppermint Stick ice cream with Jimmies on top - that's Boston for chocolate sprinkles
Christmas Eve and the St. Paul's Choir
Running around to all my friends houses on Christmas night
Egg Nog with cinnamon and hot apple cider and playing Jingle Bell Rock over and over again while dancing to it with my kitty
Seeing the incredible smiles on my brother and sister's faces after not seeing them for so long and spending a day laughing with them and telling stories
When it comes right down to it, all in all, despite its circles and turns and fist clinching moments, Life makes me happy. 
Big long hugs from Alex.
Alex's warm inviting smile and his incredible spirit that never dies!


July 9, 2014

The Immortal Life of Some Jellyfish: The Aging Spin

There's a jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii, it hangs out in the Mediterranean and the waters off Japan. According to Wikipedia it is "the only known case of an animal capable of reverting completely to a sexually immature, colonial stage after having reached sexual maturity as a solitary stage.

In other words, it's immortal. It effectively cannot die. It's a vampire without the biting or the need for sunblock. Isn't that what we all want? Immortality, agelessness? 

I've been looking over old Payson Road posts and I came upon one I wrote when I turned 35. It made me laugh. I was writing as this old sage who was now excepting her walk into the abyss. Wow. What I would give to be 35 again. What a great age that is. Did not know that then...as does the story always go. 

Aging sucks. It really does. We all wish we could stop time, remove wrinkles, get our unassisted ability to read close up back. But unless they find a way to bottle that immortal jellyfish (which I'd be adamantly against), thus are the days of our lives.

I've been overly bothered by the aging process the last few years and I've decided I need to embrace my power as a woman in her 40s and stop trying to regain my youth. Instead of trying to match them, meaning "the youthful", I need to remember that part of being a strong woman means embracing yourself at every stage. No one has been a better example of that then my mother. She's as much the elegant and strong woman at 85 as she has been at every stage of her life. My grandmother was incredible as well. She had a regal quality about her. I never saw her as an old woman only a powerful one. 

Why is it we are so afraid to show age, particularly in woman? Every magazine I flip through and so many television shows and movies lead with youth. There was this show I caught recently where the male lead is in his, probably, mid-late forties. They have two teenage kids. And he and his wife have been together for twenty years. The actress that's playing his wife is 33. I suck at math but that doesn't add up. I was watching this show in a hotel room while I was on vacation. I got so angry to see this woman, who clearly looked about 30 playing the part of a woman in her 40s, that I got up out of bed to look up her IMDB credits. Sure enough, she was 33. What the hell! There's not enough actresses in their 40s in Hollywood all of a sudden? Believe me I know a few who need the work. But that's just it. They need the work because there's such limited opportunities for women in film and television when they age. 

So in fairness to my personal aging struggles, the messages we see across multiple screens daily are telling us that aging is a bad thing. So don't do it! Truth is, there will always be someone or something telling us we aren't good enough. 90% of the time that person will be ourselves. We have to strive for inner peace and balance--the ultimate quest for us EDers. 

With that in mind, I'm throwing out a little exercise to help in this quest. Let's call it a challenge. I challenge you to write 10 things you love about yourself, either inside or out or both. No qualifiers, no addendum, no apologies. Those of us with body image issues (including myself) always struggle when coming up with things we love about our bodies. This isn't about that and don't make it subject to a, "see you can't name anything you like about your body you must have issues" judgment thing. This is about your sense of self, and what you love about yourself, inside, out, backward, forward. When you take the time to write this least, you'll be surprised how liberating it is and how much you find you truly to love about yourself.

You've probably seen the P&G campaign of late, Not Sorry - what a great message. We need to stop apologizing to everyone around us and to ourselves. 

#ShineStrong ladies. Here's my list. 

  1. My heart
  2. My passion for the things I believe in and the things that drive me
  3. My self awareness
  4. My eyes
  5. My hands and feet 
  6. My people skills
  7. My love for animals
  8. My strength and endurance
  9. My commitment to friendship
  10. My ability to fall in love no matter how much crap life throws at me

Take the #WhatILoveAboutMyself Challenge! Email us with your list and if you give us permission, it may appear on our #WhatILoveAboutMyself  Wall


May 28, 2014

Ready, Set? No, actually, not really: Payson Road 2.0

Reposted from www.sarahemason.com 

Something got in the way of beating my eating disorder. Oh right, me. It's taken many years to come to a place of balance with my addiction. Like alcoholics are always alcoholics, I'll always be a food addict. What's frustrating for so many of us is that we can't simply avoid eating. So it becomes all about re-negotiating our contract with food.

For many years I was an "active' member in the eating disorder community. My website, Payson Road was a pioneering site for the cause and was really one of the first blogs before the term was coined. Sadly now it's something of a dusty old museum. One that you may stumble upon if you're on an off the beaten path road trip through the internet. But it's legacy remains. We helped a lot of people find their voice and a path toward healing. And there's a lot of cool content on there in the form of poetry, editorial articles, healing exercises, resources etc. Which is why I don't have the heart to get rid of it. It's kinda my Grey Gardens, minus all the decay and smell.

Clearly the major difference between now and the early days of internet grouping and blogging and self helping is, social media. Instead of anonymously posting mean comments across random sites and social media outlets, folks with a rant, or in our case, a need for support, would take to Yahoo! Groups for refuge. That's where it all started. Posting onto the Payson Road Yahoo! Group where slowly but surely a loyal audience was cultivated. From there paysonroad.com was born. And it was incredible. It felt like we were doing something so positive and worthwhile, not just for ourselves but for life, for the planet, for people. We had a small counsel who contributed to content, and ideas and the overall cause. We had a Great Wall of Poetry for Christ Sakes! What what? With truly inspiring and beautiful poems. We traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby and promote the need for more awareness and resources for those struggling with eating disorders. And most crucially, we mentored each other.

Being a champion for eating disorder awareness and recovery was exhausting. I burnt out. It happens, you throw so much of yourself and your energy into something and burnout is almost inevitable. But the truth is, I wasn't being honest with where I was at with my own recovery. And it's something so easy to do as a Bulimic. We live a life of lies. We may let people in for awhile, and share our experiences but we never fully disclose everything, continuously. And the shame of not fully revealing drives us to hide it even deeper. This is, I believe, largely due to the fact that recovery is an ongoing process vs. a happening. It is never this "Ah HA!" moment where we wake up and say, "That ED shit is over!" Yet, culturally, people need to feel that we've recovered. If you've shared the problem with friends and family, they will be compassionate for awhile, mostly shocked, why didn't I know, etc etc, how can I help, you know you can tell me anything. But ultimately, they want it to be over. And I'm not saying this to be unkind it's just human nature. Nobody wants to deal with uncomfortable shit. So you adopt this story which is, Sarah had an eating disorder but now she's all better. You okay now everyone? There's something about eating disorders that make people more uncomfortable then anything, even drugs and alcohol. I think it's because we aren't, for the vast majority, taken out of society for our crimes. We function. And that ability to function, yet still have this problem, unnerves people.  So it's a troubling predicament and a vicious cycle for us. Our eating disorder is born out of an inability to take care of our own needs, and we continue that cycle by not reaching out for the support we need so we can take care of the people around us and their need for us to be recovered.

Yikes.

Somehow I know I'm not speaking for just myself with this little soliloquy. We know each other, oh too well. And there's many of us out there. Payson Road was a safe haven for all this confusion and lack of correct need appropriation but the Payson Road format doesn't lend itself to today's new order. It's a problem and I have yet to find the remedy. Amidst a screaming sea of social narcissism can anything truly be a place of comfort?

Perhaps it's my 40s that has me feeling more cynical about how we treat each other today, but I definitely have this overall icky feeling that we ain't very nice to each other no more. And that sucks. What frustrates me the most about the digital world today is the mean spirited nature that is so prevalent. Read any article posted anywhere, watch any Youtube video and you'll find at minimum one, generally several, mean anonymous posts. It's puzzling to me. Where did all these masked ranters come from? Is it a younger generation that wasn't around in the early days of the world wide web? Or are we all so insecure, frustrated and bored that we've simply been waiting for a forum to secretly voice these thoughts?

A few months back one of my step brothers was in a horrible boating accident. He barely escaped with his life. His two best friends, in the boat with him died. It was a nightmare for our family. A couple of the websites that had posted the video of his coast guard rescue were filled with dozens upon dozens of hater comments. See they were duck hunting when their boat started to take in water and somehow that became the only point that mattered to the anonymous ranters.  The water was so freezing that it was impossible to survive in that temperature. It was a miracle my brother made it out alive. But it was not without major damage and much impact on himself and everyone around him. Upon reading about this sad tragedy, several people took to posting hateful comments to the tune of, "They were duck hunters so they got what they deserved." What?? This was unbelievable to me. I'm not a fan of duck hunting but what does that have to do with anything, people died! Not knowing our family, or any of the people involved, they did what so many folks do online, post mean anonymous comments without any knowledge or regard for the facts, the people this effected or for the fact that lives were lost. This kind of mean, unsolicited hate is not the internet I grew up surfing. What's happened to us?

So why would I wanna take this wonderful creative, healing place I started and turn it lose on the anonymous haters? It's not that I'm afraid to put it Payson Road out there again, it's that I'm not sure it will or can be heard in the way that it once was. Or that we could re-create what we once had. I'd love to be wrong about this. Because there's so many people that need to connect to other people living and struggling with eating disorders. What Payson Road did so successfully was to provide a non judgmental forum for voicing and expressing ones fears, needs, struggles and everyone got the support they were seeking. I fear that in today's world, it's impossible to escape judgment and ridicule. The only way to really deal with it is to turn it around. Jimmy Kimmel does this so brilliantly with his Mean Tweets segment. He recruits celebrities then video tapes them doing a cold reading of a mean tweet about themselves. It's hilarious, and the perfect revenge. But the problem for eating disorder folks is, it's already so challenging to disclose that you even have an eating disorder as it is. So telling people that if they share with the world their inner sacred truths, some anonymous jerk may retweet their post with some horribly disparaging comments or post a ranting hate message. Not the best selling point. We already deal with a complete lack of understanding for our disease. It's not politically incorrect to make bulimic jokes. Every once and awhile I'll hear one in a [probably Sandler] movie and think, wow, they're still wheeling that one out? So if mainstream media is fine with it, the underground posters brigade will surely have no qualms about saying anything.


We did deal with this a bit on Payson Road. But we labeled it very clearly as "abuse". And people who violated our guidelines, got the boot. You can't do that anymore. It's a virtual wild wild west out there and there's a lotta big gunslingers. Now, I'm a big girl and I know that when you put something out into the universe, you are going to get the good with the bad. I'm a writer, I know this oh too well. But there's something particularly lacking in grace in today's online community that sets it apart from the normal, use or misuse of a forum.

So this is my dilemma, and I guess unofficial explanation to everyone in the Payson Road community who have been waiting for the reincarnation, Payson Road 2.0 for many years now. Maybe v1.0 was it. That does not mean I am not trying to sort out how, or what, 2.0 might be. After all, our mascot is a butterfly, and transformation is something we do well. So I will continue to seek out the right forumfor Payson Road. Meantime, the blog is still up @Payson Road Blog but it hasn't been regularly active. I would love to change that, with your help.

We've all gone about our lives and lost touch. I'm the chief offender of this. Sometimes I think we lose touch because that time in our lives that was so centered around Payson Road was so honest, and real. And maybe we don't always, or can't always be that revealing. I know I've felt that way. That in order to get from day to day, I can't go there. But I think now, I gotta go back there. Maybe not back, forward but it's time to be honest again. My first step in getting back to my truth is to get back to writing.

For several years, I've strayed from writing and it's taken a toll on my soul. Payson Road was so special to me, not just because of the community but because it gave me a forum to express myself through writing. Not sure fully why this happened but it is very definitely intertwined with my eating disorder. The last few years have been tough. I've had several accidents, more orthopedic surgeries and trauma. But instead of expressing how I felt through writing, I stuffed it and fell into that ol' familiar coping mechanism, the binge-purge-repeat. Oh and clean. Obsessively. It's amazing how ingrained that pattern is even after years of separation. It's still the one you run too, innately almost. Like an old annoying friend who you can't seem to break up with for history sake though you know how incredibly dysfunctional and toxic the relationship is. So here I was, hanging out with Ed again. And he would grab my hand and take me on fantastic rides with the top down, always assuring me it was safe and I'd be home before dawn. And like the many times I'd been there before, I lost sight of who I really was. This time was a bit different. My body is old for one thing, so as tough a broad as I am, I can't take what I used to take. Thank God for that. But still, I managed to inflict a bit more damage and pain onto my very orthopedically compromised body. I've spent several years recovering from the fruits of Ed's labor. I'll spare you the gory details but I will say this, I haven't lost my flair for spectacular drama. Though I've come to the conclusion that it's better served in the stories I write. Because I know who I am. I'm a writer. Have been since I was seven years old. It's my first true love and it defines me as a human.

Coming to this conclusion was my birthday present to myself this year. I refocused my business on writing projects and I wrote my first novel! It's not the story I said I was going to write about my eating disorder, it's something completely different. And I realize that only now, could I have written this story. I guess it was supposed to happen just as it did.

Finding my way back to writing has been a new healing process for me. Step two, finding a way to help us all find a way back to supporting each other. I'm starting with this blog. I hope you guys will join me. I encourage you to post and if you're inspired to write or share, do it! You can post in the comments or on the Share page -- send me anything you have and I will put it up.

Miss you guys.

xoS


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