Friday, May 11, 2012

How to Shut Down

I like to do it with food. I was telling my friend C about this. I've been re-reading Women, Food, and God, this time with a more open, less eye-roll-y mindset. Geneen Roth essentially posits that when you have the urge to eat something when you are not physically hungry, the antidote is to become curious. You ask yourself what you're feeling  physically, mentally, emotionally.

Today I found myself in front of the refrigerator trying desperately to be curious. I picked up food. I put it back in. I took it out again, heated it up, left it on the counter. It's hard to figure out. If I'm not hungry what am I? The answers surprised me. Today I was

  • Panicky - but why would I be panicky? It was a nice afternoon. Home early from work. Friday. What's not to like? Then I realized that Redbeard wasn't home, the house was too empty and quiet. Actually it was kind of 
  • Lonely. Huh? I am a strong, independent, butt-kicking lady! I don't have a problem with solitude! Except when I do... and then I feel ashamed. Strong, independent, butt-kicking ladies aren't supposed to feel lonely! Or like the house is too quiet...or that when they are alone it's because the world and those who love them have somehow forgotten them, or abandoned them. This is not the stuff of a savvy modern woman!  Which is why it's easier to stuff that particular unacceptable feeling down with food. Also:
  • Tired. I was just tired, I realized! Long week! Babysitting sick kids! Grad school paperwork death march! In addition to being a savvy kickass modern woman, I also expect myself never to tire. Even after early mornings and car trouble and staying up late to watch Jon Stewart. I expect myself to be an indefatigable machine (I'm pretty sure we have an industrial-era efficiency consultant to thank for that. Also my upbringing. And my hearty farmworker Eastern European stock.)
But... I'm not a machine! I'm a human bean! I have highs and lows. I get droopy when I'm running on empty. Circadian rhythms and all that. The pull of the moon on the brain juices. The internal hormone floods.

Eating, and my other go-to avoidance/shut-down tactic, dicking around purposelessly on the internet, often take the place of the rest I feel I can't give myself. Because they both look like something "productive" or "worthwhile"...I mean hey, I gotta eat! I mean hey, it's the [celebrity gossip] news! I've gotta stay informed!

But when I'm tired and all I want is rest, these things are poor substitutes. This afternoon, in a moment of great personal triumph, I lay on the couch in my study and stared into space for a good twenty minutes. I closed my eyes, opened them, lollygagged, picked up books and put them down again. The cat came to visit and left.

And, remarkably, after about twenty minutes or so, I felt renewed! Refreshed! I remembered a couple of action items I'd been meaning to do. I got up, I felt better, I moved on with the day...which could very well have been stuck in an infinite loop of avoidance behaviors, in which the more I avoided the things I really wanted the worse I felt, so the more I avoided the bad feeling.

So there you have it, folks. After years of instrospection, study, meditation, and therapy, I have gained the superpower ability to lay down when I'm tired.

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