Thursday, October 7, 2010

Life and Death Lessons

First a word about my new "diet" (which I haven't "officially" started yet because I have to go grocery shopping, which I won't have time to do until the weekend).

One of the reasons my doctor was so concerned about my cholesterol levels is that I ALREADY make very healthy choices.  For the most part, we do not eat processed or prepared foods at my house.  Those who have been reading this blog a while know that I spend quite a bit of time cooking, from scratch.  Years ago, I switched us up to healthy fats:  olive, canola, avocados, nuts, etc.  I even swapped our mayonnaise to a low fat, cholesterol free, olive oil mayo as soon as it hit the shelves.  The biggest issue is probably meat because I'm married to a meat lover.  Over the years I'd say I've picked up some of his meat eating habits.  And funny, enough, that was HIS biggest concern: "Does this mean we can't have steak or hamburgers anymore?" I assured him that all would be well and he could continue to eat what he wants, but that it may mean cooking two proteins and sharing sides.  So that's what I'll work on first, the protein sources.  (Before anyone suggests it, people with thyroid disease cannot eat soy/soy products.)

I said all of this to say because some of you were nice enough to make suggestions in the comments that indicated to me that it wasn't really clear why my doc was so concerned about that high number.  I also want to say that while I will, as always, share great recipes that I find, I will not be sharing specifics about what I'm eating and when, so don't come here looking for a daily meal plan or diet specifics.  What I will be doing is eating as my doctor has recommended for me and my situation.  Believe it or not, there's no miracle and each one of us has to find a way. 

Having said that.... (anyone see that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm?)


Yesterday was a completely awful, stressful day and I took it out on myself by beating myself up with food.  There were several emotional things going on:  it was my sister's 8th wedding anniversary, the second she's had alone since her husband died.  She's 35 years old, with 4 and 7 year old children and has been a widow for 18 months.  She really is doing so much better and I'm forever grateful that she has a best friend who won't let her sit alone on days like this.  It was on my heart and mind all day.  I realize now, sort of eating away at me.  I quickly posted an I Love You on her Facebook wall, but that never really seems enough.

Additionally, as you know, among the 4 deaths I've personally experienced over the last 18 months, one of them was my boss. He died last October 31 so I expected that this month would be a bit difficult.  Every single day I come to work and look at his still empty chair.    Add in the fact that his son's birthday was also yesterday and his wedding anniversary is on Monday (I always helped him plan a surprise for his wife) and you'll know it was heavy hearted around the office.  His son had an especially sad look on his face all day long.

I also spent some of my quiet time preparing a shopping list and menu planning for my new way of eating, a task I felt like I was enjoying.  But maybe not, based on what I did.

What I really felt like doing all day long was to have a good cry, which I didn't because I was at the office.  Good job holding it together, right?   I didn't really hold it together because I started abusing food.  Not bingeing but not eating just enough either.  I just picked and picked and picked and picked all day long.  I went so far as to stop by a store on the way back from a meeting and buy some miscellaneous items that, while not technically bad, I certainly did not need to eat, and definitely would not be on my new eating plan.

This continued all day long, even after I got home, and even as my stomach began to ache, and even as I had the thought that I was probably raising my cholesterol with every bite, I couldn't stop myself either.

Was I grieving all the loss? Was I rebelling against the very idea of a new diet?  Was I just being stupid?  What? What?

It has been a long time since that sort of food abuse has happened and today I am still feeling the effects of it.  I hate that I did it but really there's nothing to be done now, is there?

At the end of the day, with a horribly full stomach but an empty soul, I was checking Facebook and found that my sister had written the most heart wrenching note. Here's a bit of it:

There are so many emotions that come out of this day.  First of all, I am always the first one to say, "A day only has as much power as you give it."  So I give this day gratitude.  I am so thankful to have met this man, we met more than 15 years ago.

 It's kind of a private day between you and your spouse.  So, I feel the void of this day. Yet, this year has been a little easier than last year, a little less painful.

She then went on to talk about a book that CS Lewis wrote after his wife died in which he compares that loss to a person who has lost a limb.  The limb is gone, but the phantom feeling and pain is always there.  
She ended her note with this:

I too, sometimes feel as if I have a prothesis. Perhaps I'll be one of those amazing people that climbs mountains or runs marathons with this prothesis but surely I will never be the same.

Until heaven. That'll be a good day.

For today though, I give this day the power of my gratitude and I will continue to climb.

After I finished reading (and sobbing for over an hour) I realized there's a lesson in there for all of us.  I hope and pray that I can hold it close.


  1. Wow, pretty powerful post Helen, I can feel your emotion. You have had to "deal" with a huge amount of stuff in the last couple of years and not very many folks would come out of it as strong as you are.
    You are allowed Yesterday - but yesterday was yesterday and today is today (how cliche is that?). It's over, can't change it, today you can. {{HUGS}}

  2. Your sister expressed such beautiful, painful and true emotions. How hard this must be for all of you - you and your family have had more than your share of loss in the past couple of years. Reading this post reminded me of just how much. Grieve all of it as you need to. Seeing your sister's pain and not being able to ease it is such a difficult thing.

    I know it sounds "crunchy granola", but at each restorative yoga session we are asked to dedicate our practice to someone. Today, Helen, I will dedicate my practice to you. For peace.

  3. Just found your blog.

    I'm sorry for your grief, but glad that you had the opportunity to sit and just cry. is just necessary and it's very cathartic.

    Today is a new day. (hugs)

  4. What a rough eyes filled with tears reading what you sister wrote, and to see that on top of everything else associated with your boss, well - no wonder you sobbed.

    I hope today is a bit lighter for you. It's not easy, getting through these yearly reminders.

  5. Beautiful heartfelt words from your sister. I sent a prayer for her after reading this. So much in life is complex and overwhelming. It's a wonder we don't all eat like maniacs all the time.

    Sounds like so much going on in your emotional landscape now. I can relate to the day after - feeling remorse and bewilderment...sort of an emotional hangover. I hope today is better.

    Also, anticipating the new food plan has got to be a major stressor. You're so strong, Helen; I know you'll see your way through. Holding you in my thoughts -

  6. This is/was a beautiful post, Helen. My husband died 9 years ago, Oct 5th. My sister is on a cruise this week otherwise we probably would have spoken about his death on the anniversary of his death. She gets angry that he "ruined the fall" - her favorite time of year. But he had a sense of humor that was outrageous and would be more than happy to know he left her miserable. haha

    I remember being a widow - am one still. But those first years are painful, the first anniversaries are gut-wrenching and just like everything else in this world, life goes on with or without you. Your sister sounds like she'll keep up just fine. She's right about the day...only as much power as we give it - depending on how much drama we want to hold on to. Thankfully, drama gets old and we move on to new adventures that bring meaning and gratitude to our lives.

  7. Such a powerful post Helen! Your sisters words of wisdom are amazing.

    I am going to talk about it (in part) in blog post tomorrow, but I've never admitted to the world that I am an emotional eater. I haven't been as bad as when I was 210 pounds, but every once in a while I eat more than my share if I am stressed.

    For some reason this past weekend I woke up on Sunday and thought: having a glass of wine or eating shit is not going to find my husband a job and it isn't going to get our second car fixed."

    It's weird, but it was as if a weight had been lifted. Yep, there are things that are out of my control, and since I can control what I eat and how I exercise, I just have focused on that this week. And guess what? I am doing great! Even when my husband asked me to make him a drink last night when I got up, I fixed myself a glass of tea and was just fine.

    Go me - go us! :D

    Hugs to you!

  8. OK Helen, now you are making me cry! I think any time someone goes through that many deaths in a year and especially at work since your boss was always there, it's not always out of your mind. There is no shame in crying! I've cried just thinking about my Dad and he died 12 years ago! I don't think that's ever going to change.

    Hugs to you as well, and its a new day!!

    A quote for you today:

    Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.
    Dalai Lama

  9. "A day only has as much power as you give it."

    WOW, worth to remember.

    *HUGS* to you, Helen, because there are things words just can't say.

  10. I am sorry for your sister's loss and all your losses this year.September sucks for me. October may suck for you. But luckily the year moves on, hang in there.

  11. CS Lewis' book on grief is one of the most powerful and human and equalizing and open and just gut wrenching books Ive ever read.

    I bought it for a friend last year when his wife passed 2 months post cancer diagnosis and reread it before I gave it to him.


  12. What an amazingly raw post your sister wrote. I can't even begin to imagine ---

    Sending lots of love and gentle hugs your way, and hers. Stay strong ((Helen))

  13. Wow, what an ordeal. My thoughts and prayers go out to you. What a beautiful wedding picture above. I wanted to thank you for visiting my new blog page and look forward to getting to know you more.

  14. Helen I tried to post a comment on the new post but it wouldn't let me. It was a powerful post and you sister is an awesome and strong woman.

    It kind of puts everything in life into perspective.

    Sorry you had an emotional eating day yesterday. Been there and done that myself.

    Hope today is better for you.

  15. Helen, I really feel for you. Like you, I have went through a number of deaths over the last 18 months. It is really, really hard. I wish I knew some words of wisdom for you, but as you know, I am still trying to feel my way through this myself.

  16. Oh, honey, I feel for you and your sister. Big hugs to you both. You've all been through terrible losses, but you are finding strengths you never knew you had. And you will get through this.