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The Cat of Damocles, Looming on Ash Wednesday

Scott took this pic. Ansley is looking at me. See the worried ears?

She is asking me with the plaintive eyeballs WHY I have allowed this AWFUL, TERRIFYING CAT, the one with all the POINTY BITS on his EVIL FEET, to perch above her. Do I not KNOW this cat can drop upon her and rend her in twain, Lo, any moment? At his LEISURE? Maybe now, maybe in ten minutes.

Maybe she will fall asleep and then! AND THEN! Maybe he will just sit there for five years, ten years. Twenty, even, and NOT drop, and NOT rend, but how is she to KNOW?

Oh, Ansley, you and me both, baby. It is exactly how I feel this week, my ears in JUST that shape, waiting to see what will happen with dad’s new drug treatment protocol.

Except, hey, Ansley? YOU could just, you know, MOVE a foot and not be under him. Just sayin’.

I am distracting myself by doing a lot of NOT WORKING. In this I have several key tools.

1) My friends.

Me to Grey: So on the blog I threatened to slap Ghandi , and then Julie pointed out that JUST BY CONINCIDENCE , I had threatened this on the actual anniversary if his death.

Grey: Oh NO! All the Buddhists will be on the war path! …Wait.

I love that. I love my friends.

Another friend, Alison, in an unrelated email, recently said, “My shampoo is like me–French and tender as a petal.”

I LOVE THAT SENTENCE. I can’t stop being delighted with it. I WISH I HAD FRENCH SHAMPOO JUST SO I COULD SAY THIS.

2) I began OBSESSIVELY tracking all my food and exercise. (ASIDE: I was going to use FIT DAY but then FIT DAY, the second I signed up, sent me an e-mail titled, Is the “50 Shades of Grey” Workout Right for You? Aaaand, NO. I mean, I am sure spanking can be quite aerobic or whatever, but… no. )

So I am using My Fitness Pal, which here-in-after we shall all call MFFP . (No. that’s not a typo. *bland, blank-eyed smile*)

AND YES, let’s all agree Ann Lamott is TOTALLY CORRECT. But this, with MFFP, is not so much an actual attempt at a diet as much as it is a way to obsess over something that is not My Own Personal Cat of Damocles.

At first I was mostly using it to LOOK at all the nervous cookies I was consuming in my fretting. Kind of an art project—this is what stress eating looks like, up close and personal. THEN! I realized THE DARN THING WAS SHOWING MY TERRIBLE FOOD TO ANYONE I FRIENDED!!!

I asked people, “OH! Can you see my food? As if I put it in a cellophane stomach?”

That’s the start of a very disturbing poem or children’s book, but the answer was yes. Yes, they could.

I immediately deleted my account, and I made one under a nom-nom-nom-de-plume. *rimshot*

So far I have only friended two people, both close friends.

This is my true food! SEE MY TRUE FOOD?

But holy cats, it WORKED. How crazy/sad is it that this worked? Not in terms of a DIET. It is more than NOT snacking. I ate so HEALTHY.

The pressure of my friends seeing ALL MY FOOD ALL DAY even made me eat FRUIT, and I HATE fruit. I drank extra waters so I could publicly click the water clicky. I ate the daily recommended number of veggie servings, which okay, I LIKE vegetables, but maybe not as much as my first few days of friend-monitored food tracking would indicate.

How terrible. I suppose I do not mind killing people as long as it is SECRET. Except in this case the victim is a Cakes and Ale bakery box full of chocolate-raspberry macaroons. But publicly, I have to be the poster child for nutritive fiber? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME that the appearance of goodness is so ATTRACTIVE to me.

I see this ending one of three ways.

The horror and wonder of my friends looking at ALL MY FOOD will continue to work, and I will become SO HEALTHY That I will actually give up MORTALITY for Lent and LIVE FOREVER.
This is…least likely.

More likely I will begin to LIE on my food chart. I will put on fruit I MEANT to eat. I will accidentally leave off the slab of bread pudding with hard sauce, or I will put it on, but I will CALL it, “small raw carrot”. Then I will feel bad for lying, and I will call my friends and confess that I have LIED about my food, but it will not stop me, and I will scamper about in food-lying delight, scamper-scamper, all around the meadows, stress eating cookies that I do not chart.

OR my friends looking at my food will work for a bit, but the pressure of it will fade bit by bit, until I have to up the stakes. I’ll make more FRIENDS, ones I do not really know, SCARY NEW PEOPLE, and they will be able to LOOK AT MY FOOD and I will keep myself terrorized this way, and when THAT begins to fade, I will make my food PUBLIC so the WORLD CAN SEE ALL MY FOOD, and when THAT fails I WILL PUT ALL MY SHOWN FOOD UNDER MY REAL NAME.

I have a dewy coating of horror-sweat coating my waxen brow to think of this.

So. It is Ash Wednesday. Tonight, as I remember all that I am too remember, I will talk to God about my own revolting love of the appearance of goodness. And yet, for Lent, I doubt I will give up my willingness to USE this revolting love to go down a pants size…HA.

Lent this year? Here in what is likely just past the midpoint of my life (unless a bus et al intervenes and ends me early) I will give up, for whole seconds at a span, CARING SO DAMN MUCH what people think of me. Ad if I can’t quite give up loving the appearance of the thing I want to love, I’m at the VERY least going to look for ways to love the thing itself.

Not so a Cat of Damocles won’t drop. No deals. Nothing causal. Just because it is right. It IS right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to love and do what is good for no reason but the goodness.

And YOU, beloveds? Do you care this much what people think? What would you give up for 40 days that would be both hard and good for you? What can you not give up?

13 comments to The Cat of Damocles, Looming on Ash Wednesday

  • Brigitte

    Well, I forcibly have to give up my special Turkish pistachios habit whenever I’m out of money, which is most of the time, but I guess that doesn’t count.

    I’d probably find cookies with oats or cranberries or somesuch, then count them under the whole grain or fruit category. But that’s just me, satan -oops! I mean BRIGITTE.

    I’ll send good thoughts your dad’s way, when I’m not being the devil’s advocate and all.

  • I can’t decide if your food chart is encouraging or discouraging the wine. Either it’s saying “WINE, red WINE, you drank WINE! Pah!!” or it’s saying, “Wine, yummy red wine, yay, Wine!” Whichever, it’s certainly emphasizing it.

    What could I give up for 40 days that would be good for me and also difficult? Carbs and the internet. But I don’t think I could do either one.

  • It is so hard to give up something for Lent that doesn’t have vanity attached to it. Especially when Spring Break starts Easter Weekend this year. Gaaah!! Bathing suits!!!

    That is my personal Cat of Damocles.

  • I do care what people think most of the time, even though I might not always admit it because I like to appear to be badass. I allowed my trainer to access MFFP, which was a big mistake, so then yes I started to lie too. But I AM giving up what I did last year, and that was all alcohol. It was dreadful but an exercise in fortitude and lots and lots of Diet Coke. And I did lose a bit of weight because of that. Who knew I was drinking so many calories?

  • Elizabeth

    Am I the only one who thought you consumed 552 calories of RED WINE and was jealous? I do care, so, so much what people think of me, even withering old people in red states whose opinions and expectations of women are totally inappropriate and who would never do all that I have done. Would love to just go by what God thinks of me… which is far more loving, given that his Son died for me… How, Joshilyn, how do we internalize this? Off to read Ann Lamott.

  • I’m ashamed to publicly admit that I’m giving up saying the Lord’s name in vain, after my 23-month-old parroted “Oh my G**” after I said it last week. Saying OM* is like a nervous tic with me, mindless and constant!

    And yes, I CARE what people think. Been in therapy many a month to try to ease that vise.

  • Frances in England

    I’m doing better on the not caring so much what people think. Not as uncaring as I’d like, but not as bad as I used to be!

    For Lent I would like to give up stress. Except you’re supposed to give up something you actually like, right? So I guess that’s not an option. Not that it was likely anyway.

    I should probably give up chocolate. But I’m not going to. LOL

  • I care so much about what people think that I’m deliberately not taking advantage of social pressure within the sites I’m using. I want to care more about self-honesty and the art of the restart than hitting somebody else’s idea of what’s right. I’m using LoseIt and HabitForge anonymously, and it’s working. (Probably at a slower rate than I’d accomplish with peers, but that’s fine.)

    Fingers crossed for your Aged P!

  • liz

    I just started a challenge at a local gym, where the other participants all appear to weigh 99.5 pounds already. I have decided to keep my settings on My Fitness Pal private, since everyone else appears to be taking only delicate sips of air and possibly low-fat water. I may give up My Fitness Pal entirely for lent.

  • Aline

    I have used MMFP off and on for the last 2 years–no one can see my food and I don’t see theirs. Maybe you have a privacy setting that is not checked? I am thinking about giving up staying up all night cleaning after others have gone to bed!

  • Brigitte

    P.S. that picture makes me want to give ansley a little kiss right on top of her worried little head.

  • I’m in a similar boat with eating I am being more active each day, but I absolutely suck at eating better. I’m exhausted, meaning I don’t want to think about what I am cooking. I just want to throw it together. I am trying to write but there’s an evil voice whispering in my ear that I suck at fiction and I was stupid for ever even trying to publish, and nothing seems to shut the effing voice up. But I am sticking to the exercise, at least, b/c I have to check in with a group of friends each day and say if I exercised or not. >:( And my sister’s bank got robbed yesterday while she was in it and my best friend’s uncle died completely unexpectedly and my son is acting the way he acted back when we hadn’t even started medicine and therapy and homeschooling, which is to say bad bad bad bad bad, mommy crying and praying because I can’t make him feel happy again, and I am exhausted.

    So I purge in your blog comments. Something about your blog posts make me feel like sharing my own crazy. So, maybe I will download this MFFP. Hmmm…

  • Jennifer Kepesh

    I belong to a gym that lets us pay a little less for the privilege of being in a Body Transformation Contest, capital letters theirs. The best part is that we have to turn in logs of food and exercise every week, and they go over our logs and make comments about them. We only have to log 4 days of food a week, but now that the Big Brother programs let you track every bite, I do my best, and turn in the 6-7 days a week. And then I get told that I am eating too much cereal. Ugh, I hate it. But guess what? I stopped eating cereal. I also lost three pounds very quickly. Wheat Chex, you diabolically crunchy enemy! Anyway, I am hundreds of years older than you, I care a little tiny bit less what others know about me, but obviously enough that it works to tell them all the detail. I like the cellophane stomach image. I’m peering into mine. It has a brownie in it, but no cereal.