Archive for December, 2010

Writing and Judging Amy

I started watching Judging Amy on youtube tonight – I directly blame my very own Amy. This show touches my heart more than most. I became acquainted with it when my Amy (whom I affectionately refer to as Rumi) was, well, my roomie. She and I were both out of work for a time at the same time and we sat in our big chairs and watched reruns a couple of days a week. Not just one a day, oh no. I have a DVR and they were showing the reruns something like 4 hours a day, so we were watching several hours at a shot. I suspect that some of my warm feelings about the show are really just mirrors of my warm feelings about Rumi. And some of my feelings are, of course, related to the kids in Amy’s courtroom – the show takes on some very realistic problems. But I think that mostly it is a well written, well acted show, with a storyline that is real enough to believe, and that is why it touches me.

If you had asked me this morning what I remembered best about the show I think I would have said that I remember Rumi and I both saying we’d like to have Amy’s mom – no disrespect to either of our moms – just something about that character that we both liked. And I remembered the cases, and how sometimes they touched too close to reality for me. I probably would have mentioned her assistant, Bruce, I think he’s hot.

And that Rumi really liked Vincent. He appears early, in the pilot, and as I watched tonight I remembered how funny he is, and how nice his relationship with Amy is. Turns out I like Vincent too! But not quite so whole-heartedly, although I remember why not.

I watched the pilot and two or three episodes (maybe 4) and I as I watched I realized what it was about Vincent that I didn’t like. He’s a writer. Or anyway that is what he is trying to be. What I mean to say is, he is a writer, but he isn’t making any money at it. I cannot remember now if he actually makes it to writerdom during the show…but I do remember that he does some other things and has some kind of sad adventures along the way. What does this have to do with me liking his character?

Well, obviously, it’s all about me. I mean, it is my blog. I only share the title with Bodhi so people don’t think I’m too self absorbed. BTW, Bodhi is doing fine and has even managed to chew some little bits of bonie in the last week without getting sick. The thing about me is that I have always wanted to be a writer. I have even called myself a writer from time to time, kind of thinking yes, well, I don’t do it for a living, but that is what I love to do, my heart’s desire. I read books sometimes and say “Yes! I want to do just that! I want to touch people’s lives the way that author touched mine!” I see gaps in the stories that are out there sometimes and think, “I could write to fill that gap.”

Not that I think that I have any particular writing talent, really. I mean, I can construct sentences in their proper order, and usually I can make myself understood. But I’m not particularly eloquent, or funny at all. Now Rumi, she is funny. And can write the such poignant prose, too. She has talent. What I can do is something different. What I think I am good at is telling a story. I like to tell stories and do it on a regular basis. In conversation, most of my statements are just mini-stories. Even as a therapist I use stories – narrative therapy and all that. Sometimes I tell people that I am going to “lecture” them – which in my mind is the psycho-education part – and even those lectures usually take the form of a story.

Way back in the old days, more than 10 years ago, now, I tried, from time to time, to write stories, but I never got much past the first ideas. Mostly I felt like I needed somewhere to go with my story and I never knew where it was headed so I just stopped. I wrote essays from time to time, attempts to get some oral story down on paper, but those never seemed as good to me once I wrote them down. Since then, life has kind of taken over and I haven’t given myself the time to write very often. I mean, I write almost every day…blogs and journals and papers and the dissertation (and facebook)…but to sit down and lend myself to the craft of writing, well, I just haven’t done it.

I have read a lot about writing over the years, picked up ideas and strategies and the like. I know all about how you have to be disciplined and make yourself write every day, but not too disciplined so your story can’t take on a life of its own. I know now that many authors start out on stories without an outline or even an idea about how it will end. I know about years of rejection letters and how pieces on their way to the trash get published. What’s more, I have seen really, really poorly written books published on a grand scale (I can do better than that!). So…what’s stopping me?

My distaste for Vincent is all the very realistic things that happen on his road to writerdom. His mother doesn’t take his work seriously and for at least some of the time neither does he. He is smart and talented but that isn’t enough, not for years and years. I don’t need all that reality! I want the dream, baby. I want to see the story about the little guy that stuck it out and WON! I want to know that anything is possible – even my dreams. I want someone to buy me that t-shirt that says “Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel.”

Maybe all this is hitting particularly close to home today because I am in the process of applying for internship. In a way, it is a little like spending years and years on your manuscript and sending it out into the netherworld of publishing. The next step is waiting, which I have been doing for more than a month, and it is nerve-wracking. The waiting is getting tighter as many of the sites I applied to expect to notify perspective interns by the 15th. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat, man, waiting for the ride to end.

Weight Watchers and the new story

I have been known to tell people to “watch their words.” Words have power, I believe this. I believed it before I became a fan of narrative therapy. I love affirmations because this is a way to use that word power for good – for yourself and your well being. I won’t go into a lot of detail here about why I believe or why you should. The research is out there if you are interested. Here is a link to a recent one on a “values affirmation exercise” and how it helped raise women’s grades.

Meanwhile, I have been telling this old story about myself for about, oh, 10 years? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! I am going to tell it again, one more time. I have good intentions that this be the last time I tell it this way. The story starts way back….

I did not grow up a fat child, although I always thought I was. The thing is, if you look at the pictures of me from “back in the day” I just wasn’t fat.

Cliffwood

I'm about 14 here - yes, that's me with the fuzzy hair

After I moved out of my mother’s house, though, I gained weight fast. Hilariously, as I was looking for a picture to place here I found myself thinking, “Gosh, isn’t there one that shows the weight but doesn’t look too fat?”

Yes, this is me less than one year after moving out

After that, I kind of struggled with it over the years. I say “kind of” because there were times when I know I thought of myself as fat, but again, the pictures don’t tell the same story.

And this is just a couple of years later

For the record, I didn’t crop anyone out of this photo. I think it was really meant to be a picture of the Royal Gorge more than of me…

I moved to Italy some 10 years later, where I dropped 30 lbs without even thinking about it. Yes, yes, people always say, “Oh, but you were walking more, doing the tourist thing,” and all that but it wasn’t true. In truth, I went from running every other day to no running at all. I spent most of my time sitting around – I wasn’t even working! I was eating ice cream and pastries, cheesy creamy pastas, things I would never allow myself before.

Which leaves – the food. The food there is different in a number of ways. No chemicals, no colors, and only what is in season. Food portions are different, there are no left-overs, no second helpings. Not that they were tiny portions like in France – but they were pre-measured in a way we don’t do here. I could write a whole essay on the food – but I won’t.

One of the very few pictures I have of myself in Italy without food in my hand.

Then I moved back to the States and the weight crept back up again, despite the fact that I was still running and farther than before. I trained for a marathon and started working with a personal trainer for the rest (always hoping to get the weight down again). I made all kinds of modifications of my diet (I started having migraines then, so I went through a whole elimination diet deal and the like).

The long and short of it is that I have been a fairly attentive eater and exerciser for YEARS. I am mostly vegetarian (except for the sushi I still eat once in a while). I have been watching my portion sizes for the last few years (ever since someone told me there were 350 calories in half a cup of almonds). I run 15 – 20 miles a week. I work out with weights 3 times a week. I limit my intake of white sugars and flours. I eat mostly seasonal, organic veggies from a local farm and brown rice. I don’t drink alcohol or soda. I don’t even drink fruit juice. But for all that, I am at the same weight today that I was a month ago and 4 months before that.

I have considered Jenny Craig or Nutrisystem, where you just eat what they give you. I kept thinking, if it works for people who aren’t as active as I am, look out! But then the idea of eating that processed, salt laden, chemical clad food puts me off again. I have counted calories using http://www.fitday.com and I find that useful, but then I kept hearing from the personal trainer and the doctor that maybe I’m not eating enough (1200 calories a day) given my exercise. The problem with that is, how will I increase my calories in healthy ways? The problem with eating a lot of veggies is that they throw off your percentages. Think of it this way, I can eat 2 cups of steamed broccoli for about 38 calories. Then, I can add HALF a tablespoon of olive oil and that is 60 calories. Now more than half of my calories come from fat. I could not figure it out.

I finally got fed up and decided to join Weight Watchers. Yes, Weight Watchers. On the one hand, I kind of hate to have worked this hard only to have to say, in the end, that I owe my weight to WW. I kind of want to be able to say I did it “on my own.” I kind of hate the whole WW set-up, public weighings and all that. Lucky for me someone told me that they have an online setup and I decided to try it. I mean really, what have I got to lose? (no pun intended)

This is the old story: I have done everything anyone ever said would help you to release weight and nothing works. But that is just the story. The truth is that I don’t own a scale, so I have measured my actual weight somewhat sporadically, at the doctor when I go, with the personal trainer. I borrowed a scale from my ex rumi after joining Weight Watchers (they ask you for your weight right away!) and discovered that I am down at least 5 lbs since the last time I stepped on a scale. The truth is that since June of 2009, I have lost about 35 pounds. It’s time to give up the old story.

The new story will go something like this – I care about myself enough to exercise, meditate and eat healthy food (still). These things effect change in my body over time. I can expect these changes to continue.

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