Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Laughing last

"I only wanted to catch your attention, but you overlooked me somehow."

Wouldn't you know it. I finally feel inspired to torch again and it's 37 degrees here in Sugar Land at half past noon.

Yesterday morning I ramped up the kiln. The temperature seemed promising although threatening to drop off in the afternoon. But as soon as I opened the garage door, chilly winds blew around and I felt them in my bones.

I've let myself get bone cold torching recently and not only is it difficult for me to get warm again afterward, it's a creativity killer.

When I still had a day job and the only time to torch was whatever time I could carve out, I'd just bundle up and endure. Layers, vest, coat, hat, fingerless gloves, a space heater at my feet, the garage door cracked open just a foot for return air. I pushed myself through the misery. It was all I had.

Now I can tell myself it will warm up again in a few days and the glass still will be there. It's not like I don't have other things to do.

I've stayed busy, photographing beads, listing new items, packing what I've sold, selling some of the glass I don't use. I'm reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, and after a slow start, it's almost gripping. I slogged through Bryson's book, At Home (A Short History of Private Life) and found it tedious, but I'm enjoying this one.

I haven't been back to Animal Services yet. My last cat bite scab came off yesterday, but the bite scar is still quite obvious. My goal right now is to go back next week and see how it goes. I've been doing three miles on the treadmill most days and walking around the lake with Neil on most other days. I'm into Season Five of Inspector Morse. I have another deadline coming up for a Glass Bead Evolution article.

Funny, I just googled Glass Bead Evolution to get the link. Google thoughtfully suggested that I Shop for Glass Bead Evolution on Google and one of my bead sets popped up on the right.

I'm suspicious of Google. After I searched for (and bought) a vacuum cleaner, Facebook started showing me vacuum cleaner ads. For the exact brand I ordered. I did a search for "why people overeat" because I'm worried about a family member, and Facebook showed me ads for Weight Watchers.

My bead set might have had a legitimate reason to pop up though. I name my beads sets, after song lyrics, because I listen to iTunes while I'm on the computer and I'm lazy that way. I named this particular bead set Edge of Evolution (props to Alanis Morissette). So it may actually be that others searching for Glass Bead Evolution, the magazine, see my bead set too. I'd be curious to know.

I might have to start naming my bead sets for predictable searches that have glass and bead and something else in the search terms.

I found some interesting insights into the reasons people overeat.

According to Web MD, fat, salt, sugar, and brain chemistry are among the forces driving overeating. It's an addictive behavior akin to alcohol or drug abuse or gambling. Understanding this is the first step to changing it.

In susceptible people, consuming junk food stimulates endorphins that calm them down and make them feel good. Like with other addictive substances, tolerance builds and escalation of junk food intake is needed to maintain the feelings.

"Diets don't work, we've known this for years. Obesity has nothing to do with food," proclaims a 2013 article in the Huffington Post. When a person emotionally overeats, he or she is trying to fulfill unmet needs. The person starts building relationships with favorite foods. The article compares this to the way children in our culture are offered
cookies and sweets to kids to make them feel better.

A website called Best Health cites four reasons for overindulgence - habit, lack of awareness, eating too quickly, and what I see as the most serious reason, eating as a result of fatigue or depression. Sweet foods such as chocolate cause your body to release hormones which can lift mood. Sugars especially are processed by the body very rapidly and create immediate reward responses.

I found the most comprehensive - and most discouraging - acumen about overeating in an article published in Psychology Today in 2012. "Like any addictive substance, food is often used to cover over or subdue emotional pain. It is used to numb us or soothe us," the article started out. "Many of us eat for reasons other than to nourish our bodies or even to enjoy one of life’s pleasures."

But why? The article explains that a person struggling with an emotional emptiness may have trouble distinguishing real feelings of hunger from a desire to fill herself up.

Further paraphrasing the article, people with eating disorders disregard their own values and goals in relation to health, looks, and lifestyle. They use food to punish themselves, or to gain a sense of control. Instead of using it to fuel their bodies, they use food to fuel a cycle of self-hatred and self-protection. To challenge an unhealthy relationship with food, a person must deal with an internal enemy.

I think it was this chapter summary from an ersatz publication titled "Mind over Fat" (a book not to be found on Amazon or similar commercial media venues) that made the deepest impression on me. Because, you know, if you read it on the web, then it must be the truth. Still some of it had the ring of truth, a harsh flat note in this case.

The article or chapter postulates that overeating actually serves some helpful function for the individual. The example given is of someone who has had a traumatic relationship experience. If creating an overweight body reduces the person's attractiveness, this serves as a (subconscious) form of protection from advances by the opposite sex.

Also, asserts the article, an individual's appearance can actually be seen as a barometer of self-esteem. An overweight person is displaying to the world how she or he really feels inside. An unhealthy exterior reflects a troubled self-image, in essence saying, see how much I dislike myself, how needy I am, how I must rely on overeating to derive any sense of pleasure.

OK, this may be an extreme position. How much credence can you really put in an article that has "FATPAPER" in its URL? Or in an author who writes, "In referring to overweight conditions as fat or fatness, no disrespect to the individual is intended."

Still, I do agree with the premise that the roots of overeating are deep and stem from how a person feels about themselves. Overeating is not merely about consuming unhealthy amounts of sugar and fat-laden foods, or enjoying them enough to give society's weight paradigm the proverbial finger. And society certainly judges the overweight. I am judgmental about it myself. Yes, mostly I am concerned about health but part of me is disturbed about appearance and image. If I value my own well-being enough to practice self-control, to work out and make sensible diet choices, why won't this family member, this person I love, do the same?

And I am locked in silence because no one can ever tell anyone anything. When it comes to our bodies, we are the only ones who can decide how we want to manage their care and feeding. I know that. I know that saying something holds the risk of a backlash, of deliberate defiance by the information recipient, just to prove who is really running that show.

Besides, this family member is quite bright, gifted if you believe the labels, and knows all this without my having to make the speech. All I can do is watch and role model and hope. And love and accept. And do nothing more. When you witness someone you love sabotaging their own health and damaging their own body, doing nothing always is harder than doing something.

Speaking of doing nothing, I posted the last chapter in my memoir of the events of 2001 and 2002, that time when I fell into the abyss of love and loss and crawled and clawed my way back to the surface. If you stayed with me, you know I started the story on August 13 and continued it through 35 posts (is that truly possible?), taking a short break only for three posts in October when my mom was shutting down and shuffling off.

Over four and a half months I retraced the story of those 16 roller-coaster months of my life, meeting Marty, loving him, losing him, grieving him, grieving him ad nauseam, letting go, moving on, making peace with the past and opening myself up to the rest of my life. I've said what I needed to say and I'm glad and you're no doubt gladder.

There is an amusing little epilogue to the story that I can't resist adding before I close the book. It's a Facebook story. I joined Facebook in January 2008. That is to say, I set up a page but did nothing with it. I used a nickname instead of my real name, added no friends, posted no photos, made no comments, shared nothing. Basically I forgot about it. It must have been late 2008 when I got a friend request from Marty.

Facebook was just starting to go viral among adults then. I only know the approximate timing of Marty's request because it was then I actually gave my page a reality makeover, added a few friends, tweaked my privacy settings, updated my profile and posted my first pictures.

I thought about not accepting Marty's request. I was married to Neil then, happier than I'd ever been and not accepting would have given me satisfaction of a sort. But I was curious about what he could possibly want to say to me. And I didn't mind allowing him a glimpse of my radiant happiness, my enchanted life, my handsome husband, my flourishing children, my mansion on a hill. In your face brother. How do you like me now?

So after I gussied up my page a bit, I accepted his friend request.

The story is that there is no story. For the two whole weeks we were Facebook friends, Marty said nothing to me personally. In retrospect, I'm sure he didn't deliberately seek my "friendship." My email address was probably still somewhere on his computer and Facebook no doubt thoughtfully offered to befriend all his email contacts. More than likely, he didn't even know he'd sent me the request, but I suspect he figured it out after the fact. It's a suspicion based on nothing. I updated my relationship status to "married," he updated his to "in a relationship." Big deal.

I read enough on Facebook to conclude that he hadn't changed. He was still funny, still a flirt, still downing martinis like there was no tomorrow, still madly in love with himself. And apparently he still had nothing to say to me. So after a couple of weeks I "unfriended" him. And that was so much more satisfying than simply not accepting his request would have been.

In some small symbolic way, it was as though, in the end, I'd been given the choice to leave him. And I'd taken it.

"I was always the crazy one
I broke into the stadium
And I wrote your number on the 50 yard line
You were always the perfect one
And the valedictorian
So under your number
I wrote "call for a good time"

I only wanted to catch your attention
But you overlooked me somehow
Besides you had too many boyfriends to mention
And I played my guitar too loud.

How do you like me now?

How do you like me now,
Now that I'm on my way?
Do you still think I'm crazy
Standing here today?
I couldn't make you love me
But I always dreamed about
Living in your radio
How do you like me now?

When I took off to Tennessee
I heard that you made fun of me
Never imagined I'd make it this far
Then you married into money girl
Aint it a cruel and funny world?
He took your dreams and tore them apart

He never comes home
And you're always alone
And your kids hear you crying down the hall
Alarm clock starts ringing
Who could that be singing
Its me baby, with your wake up call

How do you like me now?

How do you like me now,
Now that I'm on my way?
Do you still think I'm crazy
Standing here today?
I couldn't make you love me
But I always dreamed about
Living in your radio
How do you like me now?

Tell me baby
I will preach on."

(Toby Keith)

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