Friday, June 29, 2012

making peace with peanut butter

I  confess: I love peanut butter with a fierce, burning love that should probably be reserved for a soul mate, or, you know, a person (or a pet – you know, something that can love me back). The sweet saltiness, the salty sweetness. Not even its being one of the few foods that can’t be dislodged by the Heimlich maneuver will dissuade me from my faith in its perfection.
I. Love. Peanut Butter.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking “Kate, that’s not burning love, that’s food obsession.” But you’re wrong! I mean, it’s not like I stay up every night, dreaming of peanut better. And I don’t bathe in it (much) or talk about it (daily) or carry pictures of it in my wallet (though that’s not a bad idea). I’m not nuts! (heh heh)

It’s just that, up until about six weeks ago, if there was peanut butter in my house, I would consume it. Rapidly. By the spoonful. While standing next to the pantry door. Drooling. (It was not pretty.)

So I never bought peanut butter. Safer to just not have it in the house than to risk the 47,000 calories I was likely to consume in a sitting, like I did whenever visiting my mother, who, surprisingly, doesn’t have the same obsession. (My sister, though, suffers the same compulsion so perhaps it comes from my father’s side...)

I started reading a book called “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch that talked about the dieting mentality and how food restriction doesn’t work. “When you rigidly limit the amount of food you are allowed to eat,” they wrote, “it usually sets you up to crave larger quantities of that very food.” So by not having peanut butter in the house, I was setting myself up for hours of drooling next to the pantry door.

Their advice? Slowly re-introduce any foods you have restricted and teach yourself that you are allowed to have them. Reset your inner calibration so that you can appreciate the food for what it is, and not for all the emotional baggage that saying no to it has meant. For me, the first choice was, of course, peanut butter.

I warily bought a jar of natural (because it’s the most deliciousest kind) and kept it in the cabinet. The first week? It was bad. I ate a lot of peanut butter. And the second week, too. The third week started to taper off a bit, because, let’s be honest, at least half the jar was gone, and the fourth week it dropped off even more. By the fifth and sixth weeks, there were maybe two or three spooonfuls just sitting in the jar, smiling at me.

I call that a success! A jar of peanut butter has never lasted six weeks in my house before!

So what did I learn? That yes, I go to peanut butter for comfort. And I go there because I’m not usually allowed to go there, so it makes me feel special. But once I could have it any time I wanted, some of the comfort left. I started to see it as a fuel. A delicious fuel, don’t get me wrong, but one that was in service of me, not the master of me.

Can I take this experiment to the next level and do it with ice cream? I’m not sure. In truth, it takes a lot of faith, and a willingness to put on a little weight in the service of making peace. And given that it’s hot AND bathing suit season, I may hold off on this experiment until December. But I’ve taken the message to heart – there’s nothing I can’t eat. And when I watch people around me dieting and worrying about what they eat, I wonder if they, too, will sometime soon, find themselves next to the pantry door, overeating in an effort to feel special.

Friday, June 15, 2012

on trust and independence

I've been thinking about trust a lot lately and was surfing the internet to see if anyone else had crystallized the link between independence and trust that is starting to form in my brain.  My search results were mostly banks and insurance companies and (unfortunately) not usable quotes or nuggets of genius, so I was disappointed.  But the more I thought about it, the more that actually made perfect sense.

As I see it, there is an inverse relationship between trust and independence.  The more independent I am, the less I have to trust others.  And the less I have to trust others, the more independent I am.  This may be exactly what the banks and insurance companies have already realized -- people want trust AND independence.  They want to be able to trust when they need to, but to stay independent when they don't.  Because trusting other people is risky, and independence, while lonely, means never getting your heart broken.

I think of trust like climbing up a tree -- I only climb as high as the branches where I know that when I jump, I'll land on my feet.  Which is to say, I only trust people as far as I can take care of myself.  So it's not really trusting them much at all.  Asking someone to be there for you when you can, in all reality, take care of yourself is like a safety net over an air cushion -- nice, but extra.  I've gotten so good at taking care of myself that I can climb pretty high up in the tree, so I may seem really trusting, but when it comes to the moment of faith, I nestle one branch below or leave the tree entirely.

The problem is, I don't think this is working.

In my effort to be self-reliant, I have atrophied my trust muscles.  Out of a fear of being too needy, I have choked off my ability to effectively need others at all.  And this is sending mixed signals -- "I trust you, but I don't need you."  

I don't have a quick solution to this situation.  But I am slowly finding ways of trusting other people, and scaling back my own need and willingness to take care of everything myself.  Which, in and of itself, is a step towards trust.

Monday, June 11, 2012

"the best years of our lives are not behind us"

A few weeks ago, an article from the Yale Daily News made the rounds on Facebook.  A young, talented writer had some encouraging words about her experience at Yale that I think apply to us all, no matter how young or old we are, no matter whether we went to Yale or didn't.  She says:
But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clich├ęd “should haves...” “if I’d...” “wish I’d...”
Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.
But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.
Marina Keegan, 22, was set to graduate from college with more wisdom than some of us attain by 122.  Unfortunately, she never made it there, as she died in a car crash just days before commencement.   Her writing (which you can read the rest of here) is so full of hope, of encouragement, and stands as a reminder to the rest of us that it's never to late to do something about your dream.  To find those people who make up your web and be grateful for them every day.  And to spend more time with the boy across the hall and less time procrastinating.