Blame and shame, and one question

Astute readers, or anyone who’s known me for more than about 12 minutes, may be aware that I don’t have the world’s best self-esteem. I’m definitely improving in that area but occasionally things happen to remind me I’m possibly not quite there yet. And possibly completely clueless about where “there” even is.

Recently, you may remember, I’ve had some interesting dealings with telecommunications companies. Happily it’s all been sorted now, but my reaction at the beginning was curious. When I decided to sign up for the phone plan, which includes free broadband, I made sure to ask lots of questions because I didn’t want to sign up for the wrong thing. Then a few days later I realised the account hadn’t been set up properly, and when I rang to have it fixed I was told even more things that were wrong with the account. My immediate reaction to this was not, as you might expect, “Oh great. The company has stuffed up.” No, my reaction was, “Oh no, I’VE stuffed up”… followed by feelings of embarrassment and shame, and a strong desire to make sure no one found out what a fool I’d been.

That’s strange, isn’t it? If it hadn’t been for the fact that I had to wait a couple of hours to get home and double-check my contract I might not have even particularly noticed how I was reacting. But in that couple of hours I convinced myself that I’d asked the wrong questions, misunderstood what I was told, misread the information on the website (even though I was looking right at it and it said exactly what it was supposed to say), missed some fine print and generally just made a massive and expensive mistake. So the [il]logical next step from there was to decide that I would never tell anyone about this mistake; I would simply wear the extra expense and pretend it’s what I’d wanted all along. Because it ceased to be about a mistake; it became about me. Anyone can make a mistake, but when I make a mistake like that it somehow proves that I am the person I fear I have always been. I’m stupid, and pathetic, and worthless – and stupid, pathetic, worthless people do stupid things like signing up for the wrong phone plan. So, obviously, I did not want my stupidity to be exposed.

Of course it turned out that I was right in the first place, and the company had made a mistake. I was so relieved to have been spared exposure that I wrote a long and rather nasty complaint letter to the company; a letter which I now regret, since I know it was written out my insecurities and not out of the righteous indignation that I pretended when I wrote it.*

This story ended well, in that the mistake wasn’t mine, but what if it had been my error? I’m sad to say that I probably wouldn’t be blogging about it. I’d probably be keeping it a careful secret, fearful of someone finding out my mistake. Because it’s really all about fear. I fear that the scared, insecure little person inside, the one who feels worthless, is the real me. And when I make a mistake, or think I have made a mistake, that fear grows into a huge monster who manages to devour my perspective. (My counsellor would call this ‘catastrophising’, but I refuse to believe that’s a real word.) The other day, when I was caught up in fear about this mistake and a couple of other things (all of which I blew way out of all proportion, naturally), this blog post came up in my reader: The One Question I Ask When I’m Afraid. You’ll have to hop over to the link to see the question (because it’s worth reading in context). I’ll just say, it helped. And continues to help. I still fear – because I’m human, and that’s what we do – but that one little question is starting to change my perspective.


*For the record, the company hasn’t even acknowledged receipt of my complaint. As someone who worked in a complaints department for 7 years, I’m not overly impressed… but that’s another issue entirely.


Traumatic Tales for Tiny Tots

Children’s books are horrific. There. I said it. It’s out in the open; now I can live my life without the lies hanging over me. I feel so free.

Okay, there may be some exaggeration there. I actually used to collect children’s books so obviously I DO quite like them, but I have to say that some of them don’t bear looking at too closely. Enid Blyton, for example. I’m not talking about the supposed racism, or even the questionable sleeping arrangements of Noddy and Big Ears (not to mention the fact that they’ve been known to have “a gay old time in the woods”). No, that’s all fine. The thing that bothers me about Enid Blyton is how nasty they all are to each other. People (or pixies or goblins or fairies or giants or brownies) are constantly being slapped and pinched and poked and laughed at and spanked. And it’s all totally fine, apparently, because the recipients are naughty. Or fat. Or spotty. Or stupid. Or lazy. So, you know, clearly they deserved it. Blyton Justice is harsh.

And then there are the fairy tales. Oh, they’re horrendous. See if you can pick the tale from the ‘moral’…

1. If you desire pretty things you deserve to have your feet chopped off.
2. It’s okay to break your promise if you made the promise to someone shorter and dumber thanΒ  you.
3. Beauty should be excruciating, and you should kill yourself for a man who doesn’t love you.
4. If you don’t like being dirt-poor, you are (literally) a cold-hearted prick who will probably die lonely and unloved.
5. If you don’t pay your tradesmen well you deserve to lose your children.
6. If you are rich, it’s okay to kidnap pretty girls and keep them underground until they agree to marry you.
7. If you should happen to find thieves in your house it’s totally normal to kill them with boiling oil.
8. An appropriate punishment for dishonesty is to put the person naked into a barrel lined with sharp nails, which should be dragged by two white horses up and down the street until the person is dead.

In case you’re wondering, those were (in order): The Red Shoes, Rumpelstiltzkin, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Thumbelina, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and The Goose Girl. And these were all from an anthology called The World’s Best Fairy Tales. Just imagine the WORST fairy tales!

But far, far worse than these are the Christian morality tales. There were loads of these in the 1930s to 1950s… and look, I’m prepared to admit that the premise was probably well intentioned. Teach kids biblical and ethical truths via a medium they will understand. I do get that. But some of them were SO far off the mark… and there’s one that gave me nightmares for years. I happened to be talking with someone about it the other day, and decided to search for it online as I don’t own the book in which it appeared. I was delighted (in a weird way) to discover that many other kids were traumatised by this stupid story too. It’s called “Jesus Understood” and it’s from Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, Vol. 1. Basically, a kid is injured by a car, isn’t going to recover from his injuries, and asks Jesus to take him to heaven. But the delivery… honestly, I can’t do the tale justice, but read this post from Smother Goose and you’ll understand why TO THIS DAY I still sleep with my hands firmly tucked under the covers.

Which (if any) books or stories traumatised you as a child?

It’s all in how you look at it

Conversation with my friend Nicola:

Me: Hey, I just saw Nicola Potatoes in the supermarket. How famous do you have to be to have a potato named in your honour?

N: Nope, other way. My parents named me after a potato.

(Yeah, you probably had to be there…)


Postpourri (noun) – a blog post made of a mixture of unrelated things.

(Okay, I made that up. But I kind of like it)

1. I threw out my scales. IN THE BIN. The garbage truck took them away; they are gone, gone, gone. I’ll admit, this caused me a fair bit more anxiety than I anticipated. No, actually, that’s not quite true. The interim stage, where they were sitting by the door waiting until I was ‘ready’ to throw them out – THAT’S when I was anxious. For days and days, which was not pleasant at all. But it got better, and eventually I walked in my door one night, saw the scales sitting there and rolled my eyes in exasperation. It happened to be garbage night, so I picked up the scales, dumped them in the bin, dragged the bin out to the street, and that was that. (Well, except for the bit where I woke up at 5.00am and briefly contemplated rushing outside to retrieve the scales from the bin, but I didn’t actually do it.)

2. Last week I joined the gym. Yay. I’ve been to Zumba three times and I still love it. Although my calves are pretty darn sore right now after this morning’s effort. And I doubt I will ever learn to shimmy. πŸ˜‰

3. I briefly considered getting rid of my TV. I watch a lot of DVDs but I watch live TV maybe twice a month, if that. But of course, as soon as I thought about ditching it I had this overwhelming desire to lie on the couch all day, channel-surfing. Sooo… maybe I’ll keep the television a little longer.

4. I bought some egg poaching pods and I love them. They’re like sunny, eggy little sailboats. It warms my heart to see them in the mornings.

5. The weather has been depressingly bleak. Even the cats look disgusted when I open the curtains in the morning to reveal another morning of grey drizzle – and they don’t have to go out in it.

6. I have a new phone. I may be a little bit in love with it. (It’s also possible that I may have gone to sleep one night with the phone resting gently on the other pillow…)

7. Oh hey, I’ve started a book group! I forgot about that. I wanted to join one but couldn’t find any groups that weren’t already full, so I put out the word on Facebook that I was thinking of starting a group and wondered if anyone was interested. Good old Facebook did not let me down – within a couple of days there were 7 of us, and we’re starting at the beginning of August. And last night I met a friend of a friend, who not only wants to come along but also said, “I’ll make a pavlova, shall I?” (Oh, okay then!)

8. My home internet was down for FOUR DAYS. I practically needed trauma counselling. Thankfully, I had other options (see point 6).

9. Why is it that raisin toasts cooks at about twice the speed of normal toast? Whenever I make it I have to turn the toaster setting right down or it burns to a crisp. This is also true of ‘cafe style’ thick raisin toast, so it’s not just about the density. It’s weird.

10. I don’t have a point 10, but ending on a round number pleases me. So you’ll understand why my obsessive little self found this picture gallery so distressing.


Adventures in telecommunications

When I first moved into my current home, four years ago, only one company could connect my phone and internet. Not a company with whom I wanted to do business, as it happens, but I didn’t want to live without the internet at home so I had to bite the bullet and connect with them. My mobile phone, however, has always been with another company.

Recently, I decided to contact Other Company, my mobile provider, and see if anything had changed, on the off chance they’d now be able to provide me with internet and I could ditch First Company. According to their website, they could connect me. Oh joy! However, being the cynical bastard that I am, I went into one of their stores to speak to someone face to face and confirm that they could definitely connect me. Before going there I trawled around on their website for new phone plans, since mine was about to expire. I found one that was considerably more expensive than my current one BUT it came with 50gb free broadband, so would work out cheaper overall.

When I got to the store I asked every possible question – Are you sure you can connect me? Are you REALLY sure? Would you please check with your manager too? So this plan is ADSL… I currently have cable at home. Are you sure the modem will work in the same port? Are you REALLY sure? You say I don’t need a home phone connection at all for this internet plan… are you sure? Are you REALLY sure?

I’m “REALLY sure” the girl in the shop was sick of me by the time I left, but I wanted to make certain everything I thought I was buying actually WAS what I was buying. Some surprises can be expensive.

So, two days ago I went on to Other Company’s website to check that my account was now showing the new phone plan. It was all fine except that it showed I have 1gb of data on the phone. It’s supposed to have 2gb. I rang their customer service line, anticipating a quick fix.

Oh, I was so naive.

I spoke with “Clyde”, who asked me how my day was going and whether we’d had any snow. Uh, what? No, Clyde, I’m in Melbourne. It doesn’t snow here. Where are you? Oh, the Philippines. Excellent.

I explained the problem. Clyde said, “Sure, I’ll check that for you.” He put me on hold for what felt like an hour, but was probably two minutes (I have a low tolerance for being put on hold). And this is how the conversation went:

Clyde: So, I’ve checked your plan and there’s only 1gb of data on it.
Me: Yes, that’s why I’m ringing. There is supposed to be 2gb.
Clyde: No, this plan only has 1gb.
Me: NO, I’m looking at the plan on your website and it clearly says ‘2gb included data’. And that’s what’s on my contract.
Clyde: Well, I don’t know anything about that. Can you give me the address of the web page you’re looking at?
Me: You want me to give you the address of a page on YOUR OWN WEBSITE?

After another half hour of being put on hold while Clyde checked with other departments, he conceded there was probably a mistake somewhere and he would send it to another department to be fixed. So then I innocently asked, “Also, this plan comes with 50gb free broadband. Can you tell me when I can expect my modem to be sent out?”

Clyde: No, there’s no internet attached to this plan. You just have the data that’s on the phone. You won’t be getting a modem.
Me: I’m looking at your website, at the exact plan that I purchased THREE DAYS AGO. It says “50gb free broadband, free wi-fi modem, free delivery”. How can you say there’s no broadband included? It’s right in front of me.
Clyde: Can you give me the address of the web page you’re looking at?

I may have lost it slightly at this point. And by ‘slightly’ I mean I didn’t actually reach down the phone and strangle Clyde, but it was a close thing.

MEANWHILE, my phone and broadband from First Company are still connected, because I’m not ditching them until the other plan is sorted. But my modem stopped working two days ago. They’re sending a technician out tomorrow to check if it’s the modem or the cable or something else. If it’s the modem, they’ll probably post me another one. What’s the bet I end up with two new modems arriving on the same day?

Zumba! And other Acts of Bravery.

Remember the post where I talked about doing Zumba DVDs and said I would never join a class because I’m way too uncoordinated and it would be utterly humiliating and I don’t care what happens I will never NOT EVER eat a tomato? Er, I mean go to a Zumba class. Sorry.

Last week I posted on Facebook that I’d enjoyed doing a Zumba DVD in the privacy of my own lounge room. (I also expressed concern that passersby might see my silhouette against the curtains and rush in to render medical assistance to the woman in Unit 1 who appeared to be having a seizure, but thankfully that didn’t happen.) Anyway, a friend commented on my status, “Zumba class at [local gym] at 10.30am on Saturday. See you there!” She then had the good sense to send me a private message to ask if I wanted a lift there. And once I’d said yes, I was committed. Well, not really. I could have backed out, but decided to give it a go.

So I did. This morning. And…. bahahahahahaaaaa – SO UNCOORDINATED! (Me, I mean. I’m not disparaging my friend on my blog. That would be nasty.) However, to my enormous surprise, it was still fun. It was nothing like the DVDs. The ones I have feature the guy who invented Zumba (who is kind of sleazy, but I’m a little bit in love with him) and he uses real dance moves from different cultures. The girl who ran the class today is a professional dancer, but she wasn’t too worried about “hey, let’s try samba” – the music was closer to hip hop and she did her own thing. Still fun, just not at all like what I’ve been doing.

Now, what you need to understand here is that I am almost phobic about being noticed in public, for ANY reason. If I can’t sit in a corner or with my back against the wall in a cafe, I won’t eat there. I DO NOT eat outside (ie, walking along the street, or on sidewalk tables at a cafe) unless I’m with people I really trust. There are other, crazier things that those, but let’s not go there. πŸ™‚ So going to a CLASS, with people, where I might not only be noticed but potentially humiliate myself… that was a big deal. But I did it, I had fun, and I’m glad I went.

Other Acts of Bravery this week:

  1. I moved my scales out of the bathroom and into the ‘for the op shop’ box by my front door. I haven’t actually thrown them out yet, but they’re out of my bathroom and I haven’t used them. It has been somewhat more anxiety inducing than I expected, actually, but that’s okay. It was prompted by seeing a photo Bek posted on Facebook, of a delicious looking ice cream cone she ate to celebrate being six months bulimia-free. And I thought, if someone who was obsessively throwing up on her feet in the shower a mere six months ago can eat ice cream and not care, I can surely move the damn scales. So I did.
  2. Last night I ate pizza. I haven’t had pizza for… I’m not sure, but probably close to a year. It has been both a binge food and a food that I tried to avoid because of the calories, so it’s been doubly scary for me and I haven’t wanted to go near it. Just thinking about pizza made me anxious for a long time there. Anyway, last night I bought a frozen pizza (not quite up to the real thing yet) and had it for dinner. And it was fine. In fact I ate too much, but it was definitely not a binge or emotional eating; it was just “man, this is so good… I’m going to keep going even though I’m full”. It was good – I mean, it was good to be able to eat it finally and have it not be a big deal, but it was also the best frozen pizza I have EVER eaten. It was a brand I hadn’t tried before. This one:

It had this fantastic thin crust and it was amazingly good. Not at all like a supermarket frozen pizza. I did have a little moment of calculating how many calories I’d just eaten (it was a lot) but then I threw out the box and carried on eating.

In honour of the various Acts of Bravery this week, I’m awarding myself this gold star.

The Love Project

I’d love to tell you where I read about this idea, but I can’t. It was one of those situations where I read a blog, followed a link, followed another link, read some older posts, followed yet another link… I have absolutely no idea on which blog or website I found this. But ANYWAY, recently I read… somewhere… about a project someone did where she took a photo of herself every day for some period of time. (A month? A week? A year? Can’t remember.) She printed the photo out each day, stuck it in a book and wrote underneath it “I love you because…” With, obviously, a different thing each day.

When I first read it, I thought, “Yeah, NO. What a stupid thing to do.” And of course, by “stupid” I meant, “what a scary and confronting thing to do”.

A week later I thought, “Yeah… maybe. I mean, good in theory, but not for me.”

(You don’t need GPS to see where this is headed, right?)

So hey! Guess what I’ve been doing?

I was right. It’s incredibly confronting. If I’m honest, I’m not used to treating myself particularly well. At best I’m critical; at worst I’m downright mean. Plus, I hate looking at photos of myself. Having to sit there every day and think of a reason to love myself is really hard. It’s hard because I am not in the habit of showing love to myself. I’m not in the habit of being kind to myself. I’m not in the habit of noticing anything positive. And that, of course, is part of the reason I’m doing this. I want to be able to answer the question “name 5 things you like about yourself” without having to resort to things like “I like that I have my books in alphabetical order”. (I mean, I do like that. But it’s not really a thing about me.) I’m hoping that, after a while of doing this, being kind to myself will come a bit more naturally.

What about you? Do you reckon you’d struggle with this, or find it easy?

Adventures in eating

*This is a post about where I’m at with food and disordered eating related stuff. It’s kind of long… feel free to skip it if it’s not your thing.*

Astute readers may remember that I have previously expressed some skepticism about the idea of intuitive eating. I did start to come on board with the idea after doing some reading, but I have to admit that I’ve struggled with trusting my body. I mean, I’ve spent at least the past 20 years not trusting it. And even longer than that hating it, and punishing it for not looking (and behaving) as I think it should. Clearly, my relationship with my body is still a work in progress. You know how it is – things were said, accusations were flung, there were misunderstandings, we probably went to bed angry too many times. Somewhere along the way we just… stopped communicating. That happens in relationships.

Ahem. Anyway. So I started trying this intuitive eating thing. The very first day I decided to give it a go, it took me about 20 minutes to eat my breakfast porridge. I had a little notebook beside me and I kept stopping every couple of spoonfuls to note how my body felt, trying to work out what normal hunger and satiety actually feel like. (Three months later I’m still not entirely sure, but I’m getting there.) Since I don’t own a microwave, that little exercise resulted in cold porridge. Oh well. Throughout the day I kept checking in and noting how I felt, hunger-wise. I got to midday and realised I was hungry, but I was still at church so couldn’t do anything about it at that point. By the time I left church I was ravenous. I mean, really REALLY hungry. I don’t think I was any hungrier than usual; the difference was I had decided to listen to my hunger instead of suppressing it and starving it (or, conversely, massively overfeeding it in a binge). Not only was I hungry, I was hungry for carbs. And lots of them. Now, although I have never supported a low-carb diet, I have limited my carb intake over the last few years because most carbs are high calorie. So being hungry for carbs AND deciding I would eat them, without counting calories, was a big thing. And my lunch that day was a huge, HUGE step – I cooked gnocchi with pesto cream sauce*, put parmesan on top and had garlic bread. A lot of it. That meal right there contained several foods I hadn’t eaten in years. As well as all the calories I’d been eating in an entire day. Probably more, actually. I didn’t count. And I didn’t care, because I was H-U-N-G-R-Y.

My counsellor, by the way, was so impressed with this meal she awarded me a star. Because I am awesome πŸ™‚

What I found most interesting about that first day is that my body knew very clearly what it wanted. FUEL. For the next little while I craved carbs nearly all the time, and I’m sure it’s because my body had been starved of fuel for so long that it was making sure it had enough, and more than enough, in case I decided to start starving it again. I was like a carbohydrate BEAST – bread, pasta, cereal, potatoes… all things I’ve seriously restricted for years. It took about a month before my body decided it was probably safe to stop the carb overload. I still eat them; I just don’t feel the need to chew through my pantry door to get to them.

I’ve continued trying to listen to my body, and not external cues like how many calories are in the food, or arbitrarily eating everything on my plate, or not eating because it’s not the right time of day or night. I’d say I’ve had varying success – obviously I’m still struggling with a lot of eating-disordered thinking and sometimes that speaks far more strongly than my body does. My counsellor keeps reminding me that these are very early days, and any progress is good progress at this point. That’s helpful to remember on the days when I’m freaking out because I’ve gained weight** or because I still really can’t work out what satiety/fullness feels like.

There are a few things I’ve found very helpful. One is the Intuitive Eating book that I’ve mentioned before, and I’m also currently reading Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon (which is mind-blowingly excellent). I’ve also been reading various blogs and websites. The most helpful of these BY FAR has been The Fat Nutritionist. Go to the archives, click on the Humane Nutrition link and trawl through the older posts – the ‘How to Eat’ lessons are fantastic. Seriously, SO helpful… and I mean for everyone, not just people struggling with disordered eating. And if you can’t be bothered reading all the How to Eat posts, just read this one, because it’s nine kinds of awesome: Eat Food. Stuff You Like. As Much As You Want.

And I’ll leave you with a little story to illustrate God’s sense of humour in these things. I love cheese. LOVE IT. I particularly love extra sharp vintage cheddar. I love it, but I stopped eating it in 2001 because it’s so high in fat. Pretty much every time I’ve had grilled cheese on toast since 2001 I’ve looked at the low fat melted cheese covering my toast and have sighed longingly for the days of REAL cheese. So recently I decided I could eat any cheese I wanted, damn it, and bought the sharpest, vintage-est, yummiest cheese I could find. On toast, under the grill – I watched it bubbling away and turning lightly golden on top. YUUUUUM. And then I ate it… and had terrible indigestion for hours. Oh. Okay then. Well, that could have been a one-off and not necessarily the cheese. I tried it again. Twice. Yeah, that would be two more bouts of indigestion. Eating it plain is fine, but grilling it causes me all kinds of discomfort. I’ve been dreaming about this cheese for ELEVEN YEARS, and when I finally have it, it makes me feel so yucky that I really don’t want it anymore. Heh. I find that kind of hilarious.


* A jar of basil pesto plus about half a jar of cream depending on how pesto-y you want it, chuck into saucepan, stir until mixed, hot and slightly thickened, pour over cooked gnocchi. SO GOOD.

** Yes, I’m still weighing myself at the moment, although now only once a day instead of 8-10 times. The eventual goal is to ditch the scales entirely, but you know… baby steps.