Surprise Garage Sale Finds

There are two types of people in the world. Those who love garage sales and those who don’t. After an unfortunate experience from my childhood (similar to the coffee incident) that involved me hosting a “rummage sale” , as they were called back then, and netting approximately $5 for a week’s worth of work, I fell into the second category.

This past weekend my parents decided to take part in a city-wide garage sale and asked Bob and I to come help. Bob falls into the first category since he’s made out quite well at garage sales over the years. So naturally, I volunteered Bob to help. But since my parents have made more than their share of sacrifices for me, I decided to join Bob and at least be there to help move the inevitable stuff that doesn’t sell.

Among the leftovers were an odd assortment of gardening books, interior and home design books, sewing and fashion guides, and the ever in demand encyclopedias from the 1960s, all considered vintage now.

But the surprise find of the day was not the trip down memory lane but the trip inside the psyche of my ancestors, my paternal grandmother in particular. My father’s mother died when I was in high school, so the memories I have of her are spotty by now.

I remember she loved her family and insisted all the relatives gather around every Sunday after church for a meal or coffee and rolls. She loved to garden and had a small green house added on to her house. She was a great seamstress, which explained all the sewing books and fashion guides. She had dark thick hair, which I didn’t inherit, and equally thick fingers, which I did. She had a heart and home that would open to anyone who walked through her front door.

What I didn’t know about her, that I suppose no grandchild really wants to know, is her deep disappointments, her regrets, and the things that broke her heart. When I got a glimpse of a few of my grandmother’s books as I was loading them in the car to take to Goodwill, I quickly surmised what those things were. The titles of the books said it all from the Miracle Diet to Doctor Please Help Me to Ancient Chinese Secrets for Rapid Weight Loss.

You see my grandmother was a large woman. Obese, in fact. She seldom left her house because it was hard for her to get around. She loved to entertain and have visitors because that’s how she participated in the world.

Her immobility, size, and accompanying health concerns affected me in a very specific way. She took lots of pills and supplements and I was determined not to live like that. So I did what any teenager would do. I stopped eating.

This allowed me to gain control over all the things I had no control over. From raging hormones to attention from boys to defying my dad and asserting myself, the only thing I could control was what I put into my mouth. I was incredibly selective about what went in. Not so much about what came out. I was a teenager, after all.

At that time, anorexia was a relatively new and unknown thing. All I knew was despite feeling hungry 24/7 and feeling the need to exercise every spare moment, if I could control my body, I might be able to get a grip on my emotions.

During this time I got very sick. I remember being in our family doctor’s office and hearing him say to my mother, “You know, she has the potential to become grossly overweight.” Clearly, this was not what a doctor should say to someone suffering from anorexia, but it was the seventies. This was a male doctor who had no clue what it was like to be in a female body or the awareness that those words would stick with me for life.

If I wasn’t eating before, I was certainly not going to eat then, given my genetic potential. Fortunately, I figured it out and managed to start eating again. Maybe I fell in love, maybe I believed if I exercised enough I could eat whatever I wanted, or maybe a decade of therapy did it. In any case, this declaration shaped my early career as a fitness professional and fueled my insatiable hunger for self-growth and knowledge.

Flash forward to this past weekend. Discovering her books allowed me to see my grandmother more clearly than I had ever seen her when she was alive. Despite her jovial appearance, she suffered in ways I never knew.

No one wants to be overweight, out of shape, unhealthy, or otherwise unacceptable or unattractive by society’s standards. We make such harsh judgments and assumptions about those who are.

As I leafed through the books I realized a lot of those doctors were saying what many cutting edge doctors are saying today. People probably thought my grandmother was crazy and willing to follow any “quack” or “miracle cure” she could afford. Or maybe they thought she was lazy, lacked discipline or willpower, or couldn’t be bothered to stick to a diet. But if the books were any indication, she was desperately trying to find a way to be at home in her body and accepted by society.

And then it really hit me. Despite the assumption that I’ve lived my life in reaction to my grandmother’s, I now see it as a continuation of her journey. As I begin an 8-month coaching program with the Institute of Psychology of Eating and dive deeply into the dynamics of eating, mind/body nutrition, body image, metabolism and digestion, as well as eating disorders, I have an opportunity to not only heal myself, but also my loved ones – past, present, and future.

It’s my belief we all have issues around food, nourishment, hunger, approval, acceptance, you name it. While some of us don’t have a need to explore it, if you feel like you do and would like to know about some of the coaching groups I’ll be starting based on this information, please shoot me a quick email with the words “nourishing wisdom” in the subject line and I will send you the latest info on upcoming groups.

What about you? Have you ever discovered a profound truth about yourself when you least expected it?

Share if you dare below.

Live and Learn

When asked why I write, my answer is always the same.  I cannot not write.  Like eating or breathing, writing is essential to the way I metabolize life, the best way I know how to make sense of it.

I also love to read.  Reading has taken me places I could never get to on my own.  Reading makes me feel less alone, less quirky, less peculiar and more compassionate, more human, more adventurous.

Sometimes I read a line or passage so beautiful or eloquent it stays with me and shapes my entire day, month, even years.  Knowing that the right words at the right time have so much power, I couldn’t think of a better super power to have than wielding words.  Okay, an invisibility cloak would come in handy.  Especially after wielding the wrong words. 

Many years ago I read  Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.  I was also reading The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.  These books became my bibles, turning my life upside down and setting my writing mission on fire.  Because both of these authors lived in or around Santa Fe and Taos, I decided I must live there as well.  Clearly, the muses gathered there.

Santa Fe is a creative mecca.  My love affair with the landscape and the culture and the people who find their way there makes it the home of my heart.  I did some major healing there and often pine after it the way one pines after the great love that got away.

But I also agonized over every aspect of my life there.  I struggled financially, I had my heart broken more times than I care to recount, and my career floundered.  I was determined to make my living as a writer but I was drawn more to the mountains than the blank page. Housesitting gave me a place to stay, but it didn’t provide a paycheck, insurance, or a benefits package beyond being young, healthy, single, and free to pursue whatever dream of happiness I could mortgage my future on.

But bills have a way of coming due and even detours eventually lead us back to the beaten path. I returned to the Midwest  and reinvented my writer’s life around a “real job” and a solid foundation that has allowed me the freedom to attend blogger conferences, pursue coaching certifications and online business schools, and occasionally take a trip back to my old stomping grounds or discover new ones.  

Last week Bob and I took a day trip to Madison and made a stop in Mt. Horeb, home of one of my favorite eating establishments, The Grumpy Troll and a one of a kind shopping experience at  The Duluth Trading Company.  We happened to walk by a bookstore and in the window was a new book by Natalie Goldberg called The True Secret of Writing.

As you might imagine, I love bookstores.  Quaint, locally owned corner bookstores are especially dear to my heart because they are so rare now.  So I made a beeline into the store, snatched the book out of the window, and told the owner how this writer changed my life and prompted a move to The Land of Enchantment.

He then shared with me how he moved from New England to Wisconsin and how content he has been living in the land of happy cows and cheese and trolls.  Mt. Horeb is overrun with trolls. As their website claims, it’s the troll capital of the world, right off the troll way.

Books create instant relationships, a safe gathering space for ideas to mingle.  The same can be said for movies, music, video games, weekly television series, or fantasy football leagues.  We’re all looking for a connection, a way to relate to each other on some common ground that might eventually lead us to the uncommon ground where we really get to know ourselves.

So this morning I was reading from The True Secret of Writing and just like when I read Writing Down the Bones, I was so moved by the words that I jumped out of bed and started writing.

This morning’s topic was determination and how we all hunger for certain things and how that hunger, that heat, that disturbance continues to pull us forward to become more of ourselves.  Honestly, the need for continuous quality improvement in my life often gets on my own nerves.  Enough, already.  I’m tired.

Then I got a glimpse of  Jake, our throw-the-ball, throw-the-ball, throw-the-baaaalllll brown lab, who relentlessly pursues whatever ball has not managed to end up in the Maquoketa River.  He is my determination role model.  I refuse to roll over and play dead.

As long as I’m here, I have work to do, words to write, universes to explore.  So I get up, get over myself, show up on the page, and practice writing.

 Writing allows me to make ideas real, dynamic, interesting.  It amazes me that I have lived this long and can still discover something mind blowing every day.  I just have to stay curious and open and engaged. Easier said than done.

So I’ll leave you with this excerpt from The True Secret of Writing.  May this help you stay connected with your desire to initiate whatever change you are longing to make whether it be sustaining a twelve pound weight loss or communicating honestly with your spouse or children or coworkers or completing a degree, a 5k race, or a good book.

First we admit in our heart of hearts it’s something we sincerely want.  And then we move toward it.  Sometimes we fail for a week, a month, a year, a decade.  And then we come back, circle the fire.  Our lives are not linear.  We get lost, then we get found.  Patience is important, and a large tolerance for our mistakes.  We don’t become anything overnight.” – Natalie Goldberg, The True Secret of Writing

I’d love to hear what you hunger for.  Share if you dare in the comments below.