Thursday, June 10, 2010

in the skin

I just finished a book which came to Michael for review, for the now defunct Danforth Review. It is called The Hungry Mirror - by Lisa de Nikolits.

It is a raw book. It is painful to read, but also riveting and consuming. Ironic, given the topic. Eating disorders. Bulimia, specifically. People who compulsively eat, feel guilty, then barf it up.

de Nikolits pulls no punches- she outlines in stark colours the wrenching damage done, the wreaking havoc on human flesh - eating itself, in hunger. Feeding the need for skinny.

de Nikolits reminds me of Augusten Burroughs in this regard; the ability to tell a tale of awful woe, the shit-stained reality of a bulimic, somehow digging deeply into a vein of humour. Sometimes the humour is the voice of the self-deprecatingly witty and unwitting narrator, sometimes the voice of the author. It is awful, and awfully funny. You love her and want her to eat a hot bowl of soup without barfing it up.

Me, I was a starver not a barfer.

I chose skinny over healthy, addicted to the idea, the adulation, the starlit forms around me in my late teens and early twenties. I ate miniscule portions, but scoffed at fad dieters. Hunger gnawed at me in class, at parties, throughout caf visits. Being pretty and slim was more important than being smart. Hence the cult of Diana, Princess of Wales (who became the poster child for bulimia), Jane Fonda ( a self confessed bulimic who now repents her role in stereotyping women), these were the icons of my adult genesis.Surely with some discipline I could do it too? Ironically, in second year university, my excessive drinking was problematic for the parents, but not that I was down to 112 lbs, soaking wet. There is no blame here, merely observation. Who the hell would think an intelligent woman working through university and doing well and all that, would do something so stupid? Fair point.

But still....on page 245 - Dear Jesus, why doesn't anybody notice that I don't eat? Mea culpa I understand. Nihilistic alcoholism is expected of youngsters, but not erasing yourself.

My first boyfriend told me to "sit there and be nice". I stayed with him too long.

"I wonder how I can extricate myself without hurting her feelings" was the lightening bolt phrase - knowing this was, uh, not good for me, but uh, not knowing how to "politely" undertake the task at hand. Like say for instance - Sayonara loser, I am fine as I am...

My second boyfriend was gorgeous - and fed me Dom Perignon and chocolates. But he was an emotional time bomb. But being fed was better than being told to sit there and be nice.

Deja vu all over again. I wonder how I can extricate myself....

But by 23 I had discovered the path to feminism, and I bubbled and gurgled with anger, resentment. My wardrobe was replete with Doc Marten shoes, a lot of loose black clothing - because smart had trumped pretty. The Women's Centre was my centre. I met a LOT of lesbians. I began my own personal jihad against the patriarchy. The cause of the woes of all the hungry women in the world. I still believe that, you know. Here, there, everywhere.

By 25, I had found people with whom I could frankly discuss all those things, and hypothesize. But I could also have a super good time with (Krissy, Scott, and Sandra), learn how to cook (deliciously from Chris and Sher), wear make up, dress in stupid costumes at Halloween (ALL), sport push up bras (Sher), and still read Women's Oppression Today - and get smacked in the ass with it in humour (Mark). Wow, imagine, friends who appreciate the grey- the nuances of the complicated life we live. And friends who respected me for my staunch opinions, bawdy laugh, and overt leftiness. These souls had lost things irretrievable. Loved ones to cancer, or hit and runs; they came from depressed northern communities, single parent families, alcoholics. We endured suicide watches. We left behind staunch religious backgrounds. You name it, the crew had been down the path.

And, I also had a boyfriend, Phil, whose humour opened that part of me up again. Helping me leave the anger at the oppression I obsessed about, and embrace life as fun. Allowed me to see the humour in almost everything, irreverent. He did not give a shit about my waist size, or my opinions, so long as I was respectful in my opining....but by now, the inner voice was screaming! you need more! you are more than this! You can do it!? we were victims of our own success.

So, marriage, divorce, two husband, born, apprently fully formed emotionally. Or maybe that we were both in our late 30s and had a lot of therapy.

So, to me, this begs...why at 42, do I still give a shit about my waist size and cringe at photos from a certain angle?

Because I was thin - once. Victory was mine. I was lauded, and it was noted, by someone, pretty much daily.

But I know as does the main character - " I can look at myself now and understand. And I am almost free."


So, enough about me. This book is thoughfully written, detailed in the extreme, and while sometimes repetitive, you don't think OK, I am done with it. The character has moments of clarity about her "problem", and then melts back into it, as if on a greased downward slide. There is nothing to hold onto for her. She has the most horrible parents, and a seriously messed up sister - the only person she loves. But she is perceptive enough to know she is stuck in the vortex. She is also perceptive enough to know she won't help herself. Saving her, of course, is her sister, the only person who really truly loves her too. The description of Ondine and the self help workshop, is in a word, lovely. We all need an Ondine, frankly. Calm, a bit whacky, but she believes in you.

Sadly, I know too many men like Mathew. Even more sadly, I know too many like our main character, who is a nameless person throughout the book. Her husband has a nickname - little girl. Sad.

I liked the ending. I really like it. Won't give it up, but there is light, and hope. And an epiphany. Enlightenment, of a sort. As my friend Gabrielle likes to insist upon in good fiction - redemption.

Eat this book whole. No small bites. It is worth it.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A note to Gabrielle

My dear Gabrielle, I have wanted to respond to these your last few posts,


as they speak directly to my heart about connecting to something visceral and tangible - something other than the safety bar on the rollercoaster-like 21st century ride, which we inhabit so tangentially on a daily basis. Clinging to it, when really we need to ground ourselves, literally, and seek much more elemental things.

I want to scream - Get off. Sit. Meditate. Surround yourself with birds, bees, etc. REST. EAT.

In such moments, I find I come back to the words of kd lang

Flawless light in a darkening air
Alone and shining there
love will not elude you
love is simple
i worship this tenacity
and this beautiful struggle we are in
love will not elude us
love is simple

I see it in other people's faces on the subway or in the elevator, at work - a deep yearning to connect with others

so i try [when i am brave enough] to realize it

connect. look. see. smile. be there on some elemental level.

it makes us whole in a fragmented existence.

with love, Kate

Racoons, Zen and Green Things

Re Racoons, Michael moved shed, excavated, and hoped to God we had not left any in there when we nailed the coffin shut

they appear to have left their condo under our house

Re Zen....

Jon Kabat-Zinn is familiar to many from his appearance on the Bill Moyers 1993 PBS series "Healing and the Mind." As founder and Director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at Massachusetts Medical Center, Kabat-Zinn teaches hundreds of people to reduce their stress and chronic pain through mindfulness meditation. In this book he teaches the technique to a general audience.Mindfulness meditation consists simply of being aware of the present moment. The title, Wherever You Go There You Are, emphasizes this in a lightly humorous way. The book is very easy to read, with short chapters some as short as a single paragraph. Each chapter presents a single idea related to mindfulness. The book can be used as a guide to beginning the practice of mindfulness meditation, or it can be used as a book of daily meditations.
The author's writing style is straightforward and accessible. His simple sentences can often express profound ideas in ways that make the reader stop and think. The Buddhist origins of mindfulness meditation are evident at times, but Kabat-Zinn presents these ideas in ways that are understandable to a western audience. He draws from both East and West to present a thoughtful and practical approach to help those who are suffering from the stress of modern life.

So there is the Zen

Green Things

this is better than anything I might suggest


xo KO

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Garden of Earthly Delights

I am blessed. I know it.

I have two healthy, lovely children who live right smack dab in the epicentre of every moment of every day. We adults could learn much from the rules that children dictate in that regard.

Be present.

Live big.

Moderate when requested.

Sleep when you can.

Eat what you want, but also listen to good advice about food.

Be polite because you have to.

Ask for the moon.

Save your allowance for what you really want.

Earn your allowance. Know when you haven't.

Try not to whine, even though it is VERY hard.

Smile at everyone.

Wear the clothes YOU want to wear. Life is short.

Know who will listen when you want to cry.

Be nice to your mom.

Call bullies on their crap.

Enjoy water, mud, sunshine, and hot dogs.

Subsequent to this - get dirty in the garden.

I have a lovely garden which keeps me focused on the tangible world around me. Our adventures into gardening, with gates, mesh fences, and an expanding repertoire of produce as I enthusiastically grab seedlings from the shelves of our favourite garden centres - makes my heart sing. Dirt, in its most elemental nature, brings me down to earth.

My kids persistently do so as well. They address elemental issues. Their [inner] child begs acknowledgement, and mine does too, even at 42.

Play in the dirt, enjoy the elements. Live in the present.

Oh, and never let your kid order THIS cake, no matter WHAT (dirt / dirty mind....slight difference- But Mom, its just a baseball bat?!!)