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

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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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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 

 

 

 

Have no fear…

 

zetas-bird-feeder-gardenista

Yesterday I attended our Friends Meeting for Worship Christmas Pageant. Every year it makes me cry.

The young First Day children sit on the facing bench in their homemade costumes, and raise their wooden doves, cows, sheep and stars on sticks at key moments as we sing each Carol. The older children sit with them and take turns reading the Lessons. A lively musical band of Friends plays the Carols, including Monroe on his washtub bass and Mike on the Irish bodhrán drum.

Young teenagers play Mary and Joseph and they enter carrying a newborn baby. It’s the Christmas miracle that starts me crying every year. How is it that we always have a new baby in our Meeting at Christmastime? How is it that, for the whole hour, the baby never, ever cries, but just opens its eyes and gazes at us?

As the story unfolds, child-shepherds guide into the Meeting House two real, live sheep and then two real, live llamas. I cry then, too, and I’m glad that I no longer eat large animals.

This year I noticed something new. The Carols all say “have no fear” in one way or another. Some mention fear and some only mention antidotes to fear.

O Come, All Ye Faithful invites us to be faithful, joyful, adoring, singing in exultation, and happy.

O Little Town of Bethlehem offers the hopes and fears of all the years are met in the everlasting Light, with angels keeping their watch of wondering love, and singing great glad tidings and praise to peace on earth.

Angels We Have Heard sweetly sing of joy and jubilee, gladsome tidings, a heavenly song, praise, and raising our hearts in love.

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks, the angel comes in glory and tell us fear not. No more mighty dread to seize our troubled minds. There are glad tidings of glory and peace on earth.

Away in a Manger describes a sweet baby, asleep under the stars. And when the cattle low and the baby awakes, he doesn’t cry. He is loved.

The Friendly Beasts remind us that, even though this baby was humbly born in a stable, there was much help. The donkey carried his mother safely. The cow gave him a bed of hay. The sheep gave him wool for a blanket. The dove cooed him to sleep. They all gave their gifts with love.

We Three Kings brought gifts, too, of prayer and praising and redemption.

A Star Filled the Sky calls to us, “Little children, little children, the starlight’s within you. Keep it shining, brightly shining, and your heart will be free.” It says to walk gladly, speak truth in a loving way, teach peace to the people and bring joy to the world.

This is what I need to practice every day… to be not afraid.

Love & Light,

Valerie