In Praise of the Desk Lunch

When I worked in a small library where I was the only staff person, I often lamented my sad desk lunches. With the exception of the patients that would use the library, I spent my days alone, and so often my lunchtime was also spent alone. I did have colleagues from another (attached) hospital library and we would occasionally go out for lunch, but my midday meal was largely eaten in solitary.

I ate – for the most part – where I worked although I would usually stow the keyboard somewhere away from potential crumbs, and I would minimize any work-related browser tabs or documents I had open. A true vacation from work, right?

And it wasn’t as if I didn’t have options. There was a staff lounge and an outdoor patio area with picnic tables, as well as any number of benches on the hospital grounds I could have escaped to, but I rarely did. The lounge was a bit of a cesspool of negativity, and I really didn’t want that in my life. When I would occasionally use one of the communal microwaves there, I tried very hard not to get involved with conversations complaining about management, other staff, etc. I had worked for a lot of years in a workplace with that kind of lunchroom and so when I encountered that I would quickly retreat to my desk, grateful that I no longer had to endure that.

The outdoor options? Well as promising as they were, if you know me at all you’ll know I really don’t like being outside. Especially when the weather is very warm and especially at the noon hour when the sun is strongest. If I couldn’t guarantee a spot in the shade, I wasn’t interested. So back to my desk I would go.

And yet, I complained. Friends would post photos of work lunches, potlucks, camaraderie over the noon hour and I would be envious. I would scowl at my boring sandwich and veggie sticks like it was their fault they weren’t a four-course Italian meal lovingly prepared by work friends and brought in for all to share, or a glass of red wine at a colleague’s birthday lunch at a downtown bistro.

It was a lonely existence.

When I started my new job (it’s been two and a half years, but it’s still my new job) I noticed that hardly anyone ate lunch at their desk. There is a staff lounge here with all the things you need to eat a proper lunch, including a real kitchen table and chairs. People bring their lunches from home or they buy them from the cafeteria, and many of us eat together. It feels like a real and welcoming community, and it’s so, so great.

So each day I grab my lunch bag and head to the staff lunch room and chat with whoever happens to be in there at the time, or not. There’s no pressure to participate in conversations, there’s also not any exclusion from conversations, you can join in or not, you can just do what you want. So refreshing, and such a step up from my sad desk lunches of yore.

Last week we were informed that the lunchroom will be getting a real overhaul. New or newly-covered furniture, a new fridge (honestly!) and a few other razzle-dazzle kinds of changes will be happening, which is amazing, but it means that the room will be out of commission for most of the week while these things happen. We were told to plan our lunches accordingly since we would be without access to things like a fridge, the microwave, etc. So making my lunch this morning I built myself a sandwich and added a few other things to the bag, and then at 1pm, after my desk shift, I stowed my keyboard and closed my work-related browser tabs and docs, and proceeded to eat my lunch. And I found that I kind of missed it. After all those years of moaning about being alone and having a solitary lunch day after day, I was actually kind of excited to sit and eat without any other distractions.

I found I slowed my pace because I really had nothing else to do. I could have read my book, but I was almost halfway through my sandwich before I even thought about it. I scrolled through my phone a bit but even stopped that after a few minutes. I really just ate. And I realized it had been a very long time since I had just eaten without doing anything else.

There’s a lot to be said for eating and only eating, and there has been a lot written on the subject of mindful eating, of eating without distraction. Mindless eating is – or can be – eating on the go, eating while doing a bunch of other things simultaneously when you’re not even thinking about the food you are ingesting. Mindful eating encourages us to focus on the act of eating – without doing anything else – and this is kind of a lost art when there is a lot of pressure on us to always be doing something.

Meditation apps include courses and sessions on eating mindfully and a quick Google search turns up dozens of sites all about why and how to practice mindful eating. (I know this because I did a search after I ate my lunch.) And while it would be amazing to spend a full hour in contemplation of our food, even just a few minutes of only eating can have a positive impact on slowing down our day.

Once the lunchroom renovation is complete, no doubt I will return to the lunchtime social time, but I think every so often I’m going to make an effort to slow it down and find a quiet place to be alone with my lunch. Today was a good reminder that a desk lunch doesn’t have to be a sad lunch after all.

 

Waxing on. And on and on…

I leave for work, as you are no doubt getting very tired of hearing, extremely early in the morning. My bus arrives at 6:50 am, and I am fortunate that the bus stop is practically at my front door, so I can dash out around 6:49 am and still make it. It’s a small luxury, to be this close to a method of transportation that you don’t own, I recognize that, and I am very grateful for the HSR and this bus route in particular.

Because I leave so early I don’t eat breakfast. At home, that is. I find it difficult to eat at such an ungodly hour, so I have been bringing breakfast to work with me, and depending on my information desk schedule I can usually squeeze my breakfast in somewhere between 8 and 9 am. Not too bad at all.

Sometimes I bring a smoothie I made that morning or the night before, but when I returned from my leave while my son was recovering, I noticed our workplace toaster. And this was quite the revelation.

It’s not new, this toaster. I am pretty sure it’s always been here – at least as long as I’ve been here – but back in February while I was waiting for the kettle to boil for my morning tea I thought “I can bring things to toast in that toaster!” and that changed my world.

So now I bring a bagel or English muffin with cheese or marmalade or something and I can have these bread products TOASTED which is much nicer than having them UNtoasted, and I honestly look forward to this new ritual every day. My life is VERY EXCITING PLEASE TRY NOT TO BE JEALOUS.

When I pack my breakfast and lunch, I mostly used wax paper for wrapping things like sandwiches, cut up cheese to have with crackers, cookies, etc. When I unwrap these things and then consume them, I fold up the wax paper (or ball it up if something leaked on it) and place it back in my lunchbox. I understand this is…unusual, or…perhaps even downright weird. It’s ok, I get it.

In high school, I began taking my lunch daily. For both elementary and middle school, we all went home for lunch unless there was something special going on (choir, sports, band, etc.) This was the 1970s, friends, and most of us lived less than 10 minutes away from the school, so going home for lunch was a thing. It was The Flintstones and Big Al’s Cartoon Capers, (“The cartoons are comin’ your way!) and tomato soup and cheese sandwiches, and it was life.

But my high school was too far to go home every day for lunch, and I also joined a lot of groups which met at lunchtime, so I brought my lunch. And I used what we had in the kitchen to wrap my sandwiches, and that was wax paper.

My mum was a big fan of wax paper. By this time, in the early 80s, plastic wrap had taken over, and that’s what most of my friends had. Sandwiches and vegetables wrapped in plastic that you just threw away afterwards. What a concept. My food, wrapped in its milky white parchment-like shroud, seemed exotic to my friends and it turned me into the one thing I absolutely hated: being different. At the time, my goal was to be just like everybody else, as much as possible. This only lasted a year or two, by grade 11 I wanted to stand out, but those first few years, eating lunch with the other bandies in the music room, I didn’t want the attention that wax paper brought upon me.

Which…is ridiculous, right? Who the hell cares what your food is wrapped in? Well, I did. And so I asked my mum to buy Glad plastic wrap next time she went grocery shopping. And I did so off-handedly like it was no big deal. And my mother flat out refused.

Wax paper, she told me, could be reused. It was sturdy, and it was biodegradable – at least more biodegradable than plastic – and, it was cheaper.

My mother, you see, was an avid recycler from way back. She saved newspapers and bottles for people who would come around to collect them to sell. She flattened aluminum tins and saved those too. She recruited me to remove the little windows from envelopes so that the paper could be recycled. Eventually, our city got a recycling program (doesn’t it feel weird that at one point everything just went in the garbage?) and the collecting people no longer came around, and all the papers, bottles, and tins went in the blue box. But until then, our front porch was a storage area for recyclables before anyone really knew what recycling was.

She was also one of the first in our neighbourhood to compost kitchen waste, and she would even save the apple cores at the school where she worked and bring large bags of these cores home to put in the composter, rather than have kids and staff throw their fruit scraps in the garbage. People thought she was so weird (she kind of was but in a nice way) but she didn’t let it bother her and she remained diligent about the importance of reducing, reusing, recycling. So much so that one year she was awarded special golden blue boxes (not real gold) for diverting nearly 90% of her household waste from landfill. I don’t remember our family of four ever having more than a single bag of garbage on any given week, sometimes one in two weeks, sometimes none at all. She was a machine.

And this is the woman that I tried to convince to buy me some damn cling wrap so I could be like everyone else at lunch. Nice try, kid.

So even today, at age 52, I wrap the parts of my lunch that require wrapping in wax paper. We have cling wrap in our household (shocking!) and we even have Ziploc bags (the horror!) but I am insistent that those get washed and reused until they spring a leak or rip. And wax paper can now, if it can’t be reused, go in the green bin. See? She sure was on to something.

My kids rolled their eyes at the sandwiches they would pull out of their lunch bags, tightly and perfectly wrapped in wax paper. But they too would save the paper, balling it and throwing it back in the bag to bring home where I could smooth it out and determine if it could be reused. If not, it went into the green bin, my mother’s legacy intact.

It’s astounding that I’ve written over 1000 words (mostly) on the subject of wax paper (and if you’re still here and reading, well thanks and congratulations I guess?) but it was on my mind this morning as I made my lunch. And then, of course, my thoughts drifted to my mum, the wax paper advocate.

On May 5 she will have been dead nine years, and it was around this time of year in 2010 that she started to feel unwell. It’s a funny thing how the body remembers, how the melancholy can start to seep into your day to day world and little, trivial things become shockingly important without you really even realizing why.

I miss her just as much as I did nine years ago, but the absence is less raw than it was. It still hurts, and it hurts a lot, but now when I remember those little, insignificant things – like how she fiercely defended wax paper and recycled like it was her job – it no longer feels like a punch to the gut. There’s more of a fondness now, more smiles, fewer tears, although the tears still do come, and often when you least expect it. I imagine they always will.

So next time you are wrapping a sandwich, considering pouring one out – or tearing one off I guess – for Pat.

 

 

 

 

 

Medline Searching as a Metaphor for Life?

This morning I got to work at my usual extra-early time and did what I normally do when I arrive early. Once my colleagues and I had finished the opening routine, I went back to my office to get started on the typical morning tasks: checking email, making a cup of tea, etc. Our library, as I mentioned, opens at 8am, but we don’t actually start offering reference services until 9am. the 8-9 shift on the desk is usually a quiet one, letting us all ease into the day. This morning I was scheduled on the desk from 9-11am, but at around 8:30 my first shift colleague who had a lot on her plate to start the day came and asked me if I would help a student. The look on her face told me it was a kind of special/urgent situation, so out I went.

When I sat down at the desk a student was waiting for me, laptop open, and a vague deer in the headlights look on her face. I introduced myself and gave my standard opening of “How can I help?” and we got started.

She took a deep breath and started talking. She explained that she had an assignment, but that she felt completely overwhelmed about where to start, where to look, how to formulate her PS question, what words she should be using, and on and on. I let her speak, let her dump all the information she needed to get out onto me, and let her voice her frustration as to how she didn’t exactly understand and how scared she felt because it seemed like everyone else knew how to do everything and she didn’t. I listened, and once she had said everything she needed to say, I asked her a couple of clarifying questions, questions designed to help her slow down her thought process and questions that would allow her to explain the topic to me in her own terms, using her own vocabulary so that I could understand.

It’s a fascinating thing to watch someone who minutes earlier had been so flustered and confused patiently tell me about her research topic, and to see passion and excitement replace panic. Once I had a handle on what she needed to find I asked her the question I ask a lot of students in this situation: “What words or phrases do you think you should use to search the database?” And she, like a lot of students, looked horrified.

“It doesn’t matter what I think! It has to be evidence-based!”

“True,” I told her. “But you can’t find anything until you enter something in the database, so tell me, who is your population? What is the situation? Just think in regular language, normal, everyday words and you’ll be surprised what the database will turn up.”

This whole exchange likely won’t make much sense unless you too search databases with college or university students, but the wonderful thing about the entire conversation was that it became a Wizard of Oz moment. You know, when Glinda says to Dorothy, “You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.” THAT is what it’s like to see students go from “Oh shit, database searching” to “Ooooooh SHIT, database searching!”And it’s a glorious thing to witness.

These are some of my favourite kinds of interactions. I love that moment when students realize that they do have the power, that they can figure it out, that all they needed was a little guidance and someone to get excited for them once they were on the right track. Today’s student left with the tools and resources to take her further in the searching process and the promise that someone would always be at the desk in case she needed a little more assistance down the road.

But most of all I think she left the desk with a sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride that she did know what she was doing after all and no, maybe she didn’t know the exact MeSH terms she should be searching, (who does, really??) but that’s ok. The relief on her face made my day. I helped her, but she also helped herself. Slow it down, trust yourself. Your thoughts and opinions are always valid, and they are such an important part of the process.

Database searching, like life, can be very confusing. And, like life, it’s a lot of trial and error. But, also like life, you do have the power. You just have to learn it for yourself. And it helps to have friendly people along the way to get excited with you and high-five you when you figure it out.

 

 

Write something.

This morning, after I learned that my place of work was not, in fact, closed for a snow day, I made my usual bus trip to the university and let myself into the library. I am (almost) always the first one to arrive in the morning, and I have to say, as someone who never ever ever thought of herself as a morning person, I am kind of loving it.

My actual workday begins at 7:45am. We open the library at 8am and there are three of us who are “openers.” Of the three of us, I am the only one who uses transit, and because of my bus situation, I tend to arrive extra early – often 20 or 30 minutes early. So yes, this does put me at work at approximately 7:15am every so often which is ungodly I know. And yet I have grown to love and cherish this extra time.

I love the quiet, the absolute silence that greets me. I love the way the library looks before the lights come on. And I especially love heading to my desk, dropping my bag and pulling out my journal to get organized for the day.

My journal is a pretty constant companion and has been for a few years now, and I love being able to spend a few uninterrupted minutes with it before the day begins. Sometimes instead of journaling, I spend time in meditation using Headspace, and once in a while I simply go and get a damn coffee to start the day because did I mention my days start stupidly early?? But however I use that time, I adore it and find it somewhat sacred, if that’s not too dramatic? It probably is. Sorry.

Anyway.

Last summer when I was participating in #1000wordsofsummer, I would bring my laptop to work with me and try to get as many words in as possible before work, and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done for my writing life. I did the same thing during NaNoWriMo and I have honestly never been more productive. Me, the exact opposite of a morning person, being productive at balls a.m.? Go figure. But it worked.

And so, on November 15, exactly halfway through NaNoWriMo, I hit my word count and realized that I had written over 25,000 words – well over 25,000 words – and I was on track to reach the goal of 50,000 and then some. And, considering I already had nearly 20,000 words in this project before November even started I began to think of this “project” as an actual manuscript. That could, you know, maybe, become a book. Like, a novel. It blew my mind, but I was excited and ready to hit the ground running and typing for the last half of November. But on the 16th of the month, as you all probably know by now, our younger son was hospitalized after a brain hemorrhage and life as we knew it ended.

And so I didn’t write.

I wrote daily updates on social media for family and friends and followers, but that was it. Writing projects that I had on the go I abandoned. And even later, weeks later, when things started to settle down and get back to normal, I would think about the stories I’d abandoned and would say to myself you must get back to those, and I would say, also to myself, yes, of course, I will, eventually I will get back to them. And then more time would go by and I wouldn’t. But then today, I did.

Today I unlocked the library door and made my way to my office, turned on the light and dropped my bag on my desk as usual, and when I reached for my journal, even before I could start to create my list for the day there were some words that I needed to write down. And those words became a sentence and the sentence became a paragraph and the next time I looked up my colleagues were coming in to start the day and I had to abandon my story to turn on lights and computers and ready the library for the students. But I had written four pages and scribbled notes about how I want the story to progress and a few other things of note that I want to include. It was glorious.

Nearly every day since the end of December I have written “Write something” in my journal, and it’s a task I’ve not been able to check off. Until today.

I’m back, baby.

My Year of Slow

This morning I was texting with my friend Vivian as I usually do in the mornings, and she asked what I was up to. I mentioned I had just rescheduled a couple of appointments that I had this week and that it felt pretty great to do that. I continued, saying that I’m trying to make 2019 the year I don’t overstretch myself and, at the risk of seeming precious, I am just tired of constantly running from one thing to another. I want this to be my year of slow.

My year of slow. Even typing that felt amazing. I sat back after that text conversation with that phrase in my head and considered. Slow. Slow what, though, exactly? Slow down the pace, mostly. The pace, lately, has been unreal. Let me tell you.

On November 16, our youngest son suffered a brain hemorrhage caused by an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) which is basically a faulty blood vessel. It was something we didn’t know he had, and you can’t really know you have it unless you’ve had a CT scan or MRI for something unrelated or in a kind of investigative way – as in, what’s causing all these migraines, did that fall result in a concussion, etc. An AVM is a sort of timebomb that can happen anywhere in your body. Obviously, your brain is the worst possible place to have one, as we found out two months ago.

In a lot of ways, he was lucky. Lucky that his dad and I were with him when it happened. Lucky that it happened in downtown Hamilton, so that when I was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, we could, almost immediately, hear the siren as the ambulance made its way to us. Lucky that it was late evening, no traffic to speak of and so the trip to the ED took mere minutes. Lucky too that we live in the city that hosts the regional trauma centre and one of the best neurosciences programs in the province.

Of course, our understanding of all this luckiness came much, much later when we were able to finally breathe a little bit. At the time it didn’t feel much like anything except terror.

From that night until now it’s been a constant state of vigilance, of running to the hospital, of making sure we were around to meet with doctors and therapists. Max was in hospital from that awful night in November until the 19th of December. 33 days of pacing, of waiting, of hoping, and waiting some more.

Once he was finally home the running continued. Now to a clinic every couple of days to have the tubing changed for his PICC line, to have the PICC line flushed, to see what was causing the incessant beeping of the IV pump. These trips, while not far in distance, were often a nerve-wracking struggle. And, because of the nature of temperamental technology, they often occurred two or three times a day. And all the while Max, who bore the brunt of this, was trying so hard to recover from three open skull brain surgeries and surgery to install a shunt in his brain. You know, no big deal!

For us, life has now somewhat returned to normal. The PICC line is out, there are no more trips to the community clinic, and the only thing Max needs to do now is to attend physiotherapy twice a week to work on things like balance and to regain some of the strength he lost being practically bedridden for nearly five weeks. He is able to go out with friends occasionally and to do most of the things he enjoyed doing before his injury – video games, continuing with the screenplay he had begun writing, practicing for and attending his singing lessons, etc. – and we will never ever take those things for granted ever again.

I have returned to work and the transition has been relatively smooth, helped in no small part by my wonderful coworkers and my supervisor, and so life is actually fairly uneventful in the early stages of 2019. I hope it remains so.

Not surprising, I’m sure, that our family has taken stock over the past few months. Taken stock as to what’s most important, what can be eliminated from our lives (stress, please!) and what we want more of (family time, down time, time with friends) and so my commitment to slowing it all down began to emerge.

I used to look at my calendar and see several things listed for at least four of seven days, sometimes more than one thing listed in the same time slot. They weren’t always huge time commitments and sometimes they were really fun commitments, but often they involved driving or bussing from one location to another with little wiggle room to be on time for the next appointment (I have always had an extraordinary fear of being late, it causes me so much stress, I am actually your dad, five hours early at the airport!) and I have decided that those days are over, as much as they can possibly be.

So far it’s been fairly easy to do this, and I certainly do recognize the privilege in being able to reschedule things, to eliminate some of the stressors in my life this way. And to be honest, it might not stay like this, but for now, I am really enjoying it. As someone who was chronically overcommitted for most of her adult life, I have become a convert to the slow, undercommitted life and it’s quite glorious.

And, as a testament to this commitment to being undercommitted and embracing the slow life, I would like to reveal that I started this post on January 22nd and am finishing it today, February 12th. How’s that for commitment to a cause?

(Actually, it’s just that I am horrendously out of blogging/writing practice, pals.)

 

 

 

You’re Probably Not Doing Anything Else in November Anyway.

A few weeks ago I tweeted out to the world that I was thinking of signing on for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I asked if I knew anyone who had done it before, if it killed them, made them stronger, etc. Just out of curiosity, really. And no one really responded, which is fine, and I figured that was because I didn’t know anyone who had done it before. Or maybe I did and it actually killed them, I guess. Anyway, then I went and signed up. Because honestly, why not?

Why not indeed.

Back in June or July, I can no longer remember which, I participated in a writing challenge called 1000 Words of Summer, the brainchild of delightful author Jami Attenberg. The premise of this challenge was to write 1000 words (obvi) every day for two weeks. At the end of that, writers would have approximately 14,000 words under their respective writing belts. When all was said and done, and the two weeks were up, I had around 16,000 words. Added to the 4,000 or so I already had…well, that’s a significant amount of words. In sentences and paragraphs too, not just random words! (I feel the need to say that for some reason.)

The thing is, those first 4,000? Took me FOREVER to get down. Weeks of stealing a couple of hours at a time in the library or at home. Hours and hours of character sketches and plot points and reworking things. And all I had to show for it was 4,000 or so words. It’s not terrible of course, I was glad to have those words, but there is something about a goal and a deadline that really lights a fire under me.

The great thing about the 1000 Words of Summer idea was that I felt accountable to someone and that someone was none other than Jami freaking Attenberg. I mean, ok, it wasn’t like she was looking over my shoulder to check my word count, but she was sending out encouraging emails every day for those two weeks and that was super motivating. Often, she would write, that she also was having trouble getting the words in, doing the job, and that also was encouraging to hear. Theoretically and intellectually I know that most writers and authors have days or even weeks where the words just don’t come, and I love the writers that I know and follow who share this with the world so beginners like me can breathe a collective sigh of relief that we are not alone. But there was something about getting those emails directly to me (ok, and lots of other people too) that made my writing spirit soar every single day of that challenge.

Write when you’re tired, write when you don’t want to, write even if you know you’re going to delete it at a later date. These were all such good lessons for me, and at the end of the two weeks, there were only 2 days where I didn’t hit the goal and many days where I went way, way over.

20,000 words, give or take. That is tough to walk away from. And I didn’t. I’m still at it, and I’m going to do my best to turn those 20,000 into closer to 70,000

I know. It’s 30 days vs 14 days. 1000 words each day vs 1667 words each day. But it’s not not doable? Right? Right.

It’s a goal plus a deadline and both of those things are 100% my jam. I work best under pressure, I work to tight deadlines like a BAWSE. I got this. And, maybe, we got this? If you’ve ever considered NaNoWriMo, now is the time, friends. I learned first-hand this summer that the writerly community is one of the most supportive out there. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed, and it is so refreshing. So take the plunge with me! Dive in! It doesn’t even have to be a novel! Start some kind of writing project and commit to 30 days where you’re writing every day. Just start. Like I did. Like everyone who has ever written anything did. You just have to start.

It’s been a rough year and a lot of that roughness shows no signs of fading away. So write with me. Let’s lift each other up and share our struggles and our successes together. And, once it’s all over and the words are on the pages? We’ll drink a shit ton of champagne.

So NOW who’s in?!?

Food for Thought

I’m not much of a blogger anymore around here, but there’s something that I’ve been wanting to chat about that requires a bigger venue than Twitter, where I do most of my chatting, ranting, laughing, etc. It’s a bit of a heavier subject than some of my recent tweets and posts, and if you’re easily triggered, or there are subjects you need to avoid, I want to disclose that I will be writing about disordered eating, body image, and the like. I won’t be upset if you click the tab closed right now, in fact, I will applaud you and your knowledge of what you do and do not want to read. We have to take care of ourselves, friends. Close it down, or continue along, it’s your choice, always.

I have had a complicated relationship with food for a very long time. There were a number of years when food was primarily the only thing I thought or cared about. I counted it in calories or in Weight Watchers points. I measured it, weighed it, bought diet versions of it, and withheld it from myself for long periods at a time. I marvelled at how little food I needed throughout my day. I was in control of this, this body that just would not conform.

I was a chubby baby, a skinny little kid, a pudgy preteen, a thinnish teenager, a fat teenager, and a fat adult. Then a thin adult followed by a too-thin adult. Then a fat adult once again. Throw a couple of pregnancies in there, and one or two abdominal surgeries (not counting the c-sections from the pregnancies) and my body has endured a lot. And it is only recently, now, in my 50s, that I have started to appreciate it. Not appreciate it in a “Woweee look at meee!” kind of way. At all. It’s that I have learned to appreciate the fact that even though I tried to beat my body into submission, it was resilient. It survived, intact. I survived. Mostly intact.

I use the caveat that I have survived mostly intact because there are some things that will likely never leave me. I still often think in terms of how many “points” are in certain foods, and if I do the math I can have this many, and so on. Points, if you don’t know, at one time was a Weight Watchers tool of measurement for foods, and let me tell you friends, Weight Watchers, for me at least, was a helluva drug.

I will also still want to substitute certain foods for others, remind myself to make “healthy choices” and consume litres and litres of water in order to stay “full” so I won’t want to eat. Basically, so I can subsist on water and air and whatever is in car exhaust I guess? It’s maddening. But it’s not surprising.

When I was in my 20s and 30s and living the WW lifestyle, losing weight, dropping sizes, buying smaller jeans, I thought I had found the secret. I watched other women, women I worked with, try all the fad diets: Atkin’s, grapefruit, the one with lemon water, maple syrup, and cayenne. And I scoffed at them. But, even as I scoffed, I wanted to know does it work? Was someone doing that diet for a few weeks and then stepping into the office in a smaller size? Should I try that too? Maybe that’s what I need to drop those last five pounds.

I was on the WW program for years, dropping it when I was pregnant, but then going back as soon as I could after the babies were born. I cringe to think of it now, but WW had a program for breastfeeding mothers, and yes, I was on that for months too. In those months when I was so very tired with a baby, and then with a baby and a toddler, I somehow stuck to that damned regimen, weighing and measuring and restricting, and eventually I started to think what the hell am I doing? And I needed to get out.

And I got out, and I have been trying to heal and deal ever since. It’s been a long road, friends, and anyone who is nodding along right now can tell you that it’s hard, so very hard not to fall back into the routine, the ritual.

I have been wanting to write something like this for a long time, and I think what kicked it into gear was a tweet a friend liked or retweeted and it was something along the lines of how eventually we need to talk about how a lot of the diet cultures that have sprung up in recent years (think clean eating or vegan culture) are sort of code for disordered eating or eating disorders (I forget which was used in the tweet.) And I felt that so very deeply.

There is a lot of diet culture talk in the lunchroom at my workplace, and while I love the people I work with, and I normally love chatting over soup and sandwiches, I often have to remove myself from the table when paleo or keto or whatever latest trend is the topic of conversation.

And I get it, I was one of those young women (it’s mostly the young women who chat about diets) and I remember how exciting the changes to my body felt and how I wanted to share them, how powerful it felt to restrict myself to certain foods at certain times, to eliminate entire categories of foods when I needed to. But these are conversations in which I can no longer participate.

I sometimes want to say, “Let me tell you a story,” but I know that wouldn’t have worked on me. I thought I had it all under control, and they do too. And who knows, perhaps they do. Part of my issue might be my personality, my desire for control, no matter what kind of control it is, my deep need to organize, to classify and to restrict. So I continue to work on it, and I continue to quickly finish my lunch, and move on.

And on those days I try to be extra nice to my body, to myself. I try very hard not to deconstruct and critique the lunch I just ate, and sometimes I will go and buy myself a little treat or take a 5-minute meditation break to prove to myself and my body that we are enough. It’s slow progress, but it’s progress just the same.

And if you’re reading this and feeling like I am speaking to you or to your experience, please do feel free to reach out. I don’t have a lot of answers, but I have experience (did I mention I am an old) and I am always happy to be a shoulder or an ear if you need one. Always.