Welcome
This is the kitchen where we talk about food, life, and recovery—a spiritual path to healing and peace.

Invitation
You are invited to keep coming back to A Cup of Kindness to share your experience, strength and hope; fears, doubts and insecurities; and to pick up information, inspiration … and have a little fun!

My story
In January 2007, at the age of 51, I joined a 12-step program and began my recovery from food addiction, losing 75 pounds in the process. Read more…

In January 2011, at the age of 55, I began my recovery from a multi-trauma accident, 36 fractures, damaged lungs, and post traumatic stress. Read more…

I am deeply grateful for all the kindnesses, large and small, offered to me in recovery. Here I am... alive… still making progress … still not perfect … finding a new way forward in a growing community of women and men who share a lot in common around food and life.

I hope you'll join me in this kitchen and let me know what's cooking with you.

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A Posture of Learning

 

It’s been 18 months since my last post — a challenging time that has included the “fading away” (as she called it) of our beloved mama Myra. She was a beautiful presence to the very end — crazy-making and delightful, profound and silly. Here’s a montage of photos with her lovely voice singing a favorite Yiddish song and our late father Toby accompanying her. Here’s a video of the memorial service that celebrated her life.

During those difficult months of Mom’s decline and world events that seemed to lift the lid on Pandora’s Box, rather than doubling down on the tools of the 12-step program that have gentled my mind, eased my heart, and given me a firm footing for life as it happens, I gradually let them go and slowly but surely picked up food and alcohol. While I remain in a right-size body, there is a renewal I am seeking in my mental, physical and spiritual Recovery.

I’m feeling pulled into the New Year by a Force for Love. I no longer make resolutions. Instead, as my 12-step sponsor has suggested, I’ve looked for what will keep inspiring me to practice daily and match my actions to the intentions that I set.

Inspiration arrived recently in the form of a piece written by my 12-step friend R. on her CaringBridge site. Here it is:

“Many cancer patients go into battle with cancer. I decided that I would let my health care professionals take up the battle (they are trained and equipped to do that) and instead I would focus my attention on what my experience with cancer is teaching me. Battles wear me out. As I have an unending fascination with learning, I think that assuming a posture of learning better suits me.”

This message took my breath away. Each day since reading her post, at the beginning of my Quiet Time I’ve said to myself, “I’m sitting in a posture of learning.” This reminds me that I don’t have to figure it all out or control what happens next.

I’m just presenting myself as a student. I’m trusting in a Companioning Presence, a Counselor to guide me. I’m paying attention to a Divine Healer for a Guiding Spirit and a Heart of Love. I’m open to Grace and to Infinite Love. The Mystery is my Teacher. Oneness with All, Peace, Silence, and Truth are my Treasure. The Unknowable, Wondrous, Word, and Will enter in… as long as I am in a posture of learning.

Love & Light,

Valerie

CaringBridge is an online tool that connects patients, caregivers, families and friends — to share information about their day-to-day experience, and to provide a place for others to post messages of support.

My child…

 

 

Kripalu photo for blog

 

Back in March, my friend Eden and I went to an intensive yoga and meditation retreat at Kripalu in Western Massachusetts.

Towards the end of the retreat, we were invited to write a letter to ourselves beginning with the words, “My child, this is what I have to say to you… ”

After we wrote the letters, we were told to address an envelope to ourselves and to place our letter inside the envelope. The staff collected the envelopes and 6 weeks later mailed them out to our homes.

Here’s exactly what I wrote. I keep it handy and re-read it now and then.

My child, this is what I have to say to you…

Can you be open?

Can you be non-judging?

Can you be non-comparing?

Can you be non-fixing?

Can you be non-figuring it out?

Figuring it out, fixing, comparing, judging, being closed… these are not useful states of being. Occasionally, they might be useful skills  in the practical world. But only after a pause. Only after making the choice. Perhaps in a crisis when someone’s life’s at stake. In that very moment.

When, my child, you feel that sense of urgency that you must say something, do something, tighten up, fix, judge, compare or figure it out… pause right then. Wait. Ask yourself the question, “Can I be kind to myself and keep quiet? Can I allow others to live their own lives, to be on their own journey? Can I accept that other people have their own Inner Wisdom?” It may be Crazy Wisdom. I may not understand what benefits may come from their mistakes — or what I judge to be mistakes. Perhaps they desperately need the protection of those mistakes.

Love,

Valerie

Freedom

The Dancer

Seven weeks ago I went off the rails with the food. One bite of trail mix in the car on the way to the beach, led to half a milkshake that afternoon, a sticky bun the next morning, a margarita at lunch, chocolate cake for dessert, and then an afternoon and evening of tortilla chips and gin. I was right back into the same eating and drinking I was doing before I came into my 12-step program for food addiction in January 2007.

My Recovery, sponsees, service positions, sharing in meetings… crossed my mind, but didn’t alter my course. At a certain point I wanted to stop, but could not. Only when I started to feel physically sick was I able to finally stop. That night, it became very clear to me that it was time for a reset. I let my sponsor know what happened and I resumed my abstinence, starting again from Day One.

For six weeks, I would have several days in a row of my three weighed and measured meals, no flour, no sugar and nothing in between… feeling happy, satisfied and clear. Then some occasion would put wine and dessert in my proximity. There wasn’t a moment’s pause. As soon as I saw it, the glass of wine was in my hand and sweets on my plate. I wondered if I would ever experience contented, continuous abstinence again. I began to fear that I would gain 90+ pounds back and I would lose the progress I had made spiritually, mentally, and in my relationships.

I thought that last week would be more of the same… if not worse.

I had an important meeting on Tuesday of a Quaker committee that I clerk. My father-in-law’s memorial service was on Wednesday, followed by a lunch for 34 people at my mom’s apartment. We hosted a family lunch on Thursday, and then a small gathering for my husband’s birthday that evening. I had worked hard to help put together all of these events. I was anxious and there was flour and sugar everywhere.

I made it through abstinently! What a surprise! Staying abstinent didn’t seem very important to me. I wasn’t feeling desperate. Part of me was expecting to eat and drink whatever was available.

What made the difference? Even though I really didn’t want to, I took action.

I half-heartedly asked for support from fellows. I accidentally bookended the main event with calls. I asked G-d for help… even though I didn’t really want it. I mechanically said the Serenity Prayer. I repeated a message to myself that the chaplain shared during my father-in-law’s memorial service. He said, “Other people are walking in our footsteps.”

Taking these actions, even without a very strong intention, worked! I had moments of craving and was able to pause long enough to ponder the effects. And the craving lifted.

Now that the stressful events of this week are past, I’m watching for the tail of the dragon.

I’m not focusing on fear or aiming for perfection. I’m reminding myself that I feel happy, joyous and free when I keep my food clean and my actions honest.

For a long time I had easy, uncomplicated, clean, contented abstinence. There’s a part of me that would love to have that back.

So, just for today, I’ll set my intention to remain abstinent in order to make that muscle a bit stronger and more familiar.

This is Day Nine, thank Goodness.

It’s July Fourth. Happy Independence Day!

Love & Light,

Valerie

 

A long way to go…

Rutland Psalter

 

I’m part of a small group reading “The Gift of Our Compulsions” by Mary O’Malley. The conversation has led me to think about the quest to love oneself… and what that means to me.

It’s a concept that I’ve resisted for years. It’s actually made me cringe any time someone has said, “Love yourself.” But this time, something in the conversation encouraged me to look with curiosity for language that I could accept and follow.

This morning I thought about 1 Corinthians 13 and re-imagined it in this way.

If I weigh and measure my food but do not have love, the nourishment is empty.

And if I have the gift of sponsoring and comprehend all benefits of abstinence; if I have all faith so as to change my life but do not have love, I am not as well as I could be.

If I give away all my extra pounds, and if I hand my will over so that I may boast how virtuous I am, I gain nothing.

When I am love… when I have love for my self equally to the love I have for others… then… 

I am patient and I am kind to myself. I do not compare myself to others as either better than or less than.

I am not punishing to myself. I do not indulge myself in unhealthy eating or drinking. I am not rigid with myself, nor dogmatic. I do not hold on to anger with myself or resentments against myself.

I recognize when I am in denial. I celebrate clarity and honesty in myself.

I am resilient and hopeful.

I don’t fail myself. 

Wishes, expectations and catastrophizing bring me nothing. (If wishes were horses then beggars would ride and I would have been thin my whole life.)

I only know a part of who I am and what is going on in my life. I am still indistinct.

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; now that I am growing up, it’s time for me to put aside childish things.

Faith, hope and love will take me to a place where I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

All of this tells me to continue weighing and measuring my food, sponsoring, seeking an abstinent-enough life, changing, staying in a right-size body, and giving up willfulness.

It tells me to accompany these practices with patience, kindness, non-comparing, non-punishing, and non-indulging; to let rigidity, dogma, anger and resentment go as temporary states; to ask myself if I am in denial or being dishonest with myself; to be hopeful; to let go of wishes, expectations and catastrophizing; and to understand that I am still growing… and have a long way to go.

Love & Light,

Valerie

Image: Detail from “The Rutland Psalter”, medieval (c1260), British Library