Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Poem: Birthright

let’s face it.
for all our discourse
the snarls lurk
just under the surface.

is it territory
or delight?

a child shines brightly.
no doubt
in her right
to an opinion

years later she sees
and feels
a direct link:
this child to the wounded adult
who mourns for her,
who would have that child
in a wiser love.

some gave that child space,
others confusion.
she can now take it back,
her birthright.
a wild mind

The Obesity Epidemic

Scientific American: Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic? [ NUTRITION AND HEALTH ] A growing number of dissenting researchers accuse government and medical authorities--as well as the media--of misleading the public about the health consequences of rising body weights

Several myths about obesity, or as they say, "conventional wisdom" about the health effects of fat, were questioned in the article. I first learned the CDC's figure of 300,000 deaths per year from obesity was blatantly wrong in the zine Figure 8 #3. (Figure 8 is written by my sweetie's sweetie. She has some really cool interviews in there.) She talked about The Obesity Myth by Paul F. Campos, which figured prominently in the Scientific American article.

There are a few things I have learned over the years from reading fat activists, as well as through my own experience, and I've concluded the greatest risk to our health is not our fatness, but the response to our fatness. The way we are treated due to our fatness affects our access, our willingness to see doctors, and increases our stress.

There are doctors will prescribe weight loss rather than address the symptoms, and the standard strategy to that is to ask, "How do you treat thin people for this problem?" Fortunately with my doctors I have not had to resort to that.

My healthcare provider has a newsletter, and recently they featured the strong connection of body health to mind health, the gist of which is "you are what you think." More than anything else, your state of mind determines how healthy you are, or how susceptible you are to illnesses or injury. (Through the years, I've wondered why a practice of meditation and a vegetarian diet never earned me points with the insurance industry.) I've been meaning to ask them why they don't address the effect oppression has on state of mind, and consequently health. Studies have shown that black people have higher rates of hypertension and heart disease. Hmmm, so do obese people. Is it our eating habits, or the stress from oppression?

If excess weight were treated as a symptom rather than a cause of poor health, life would be so much simpler. I truly believe my gaining of weight in the past 10 years should have been recognized as a symptom of sleep apnea, among other things. Why did my doctors never ask me if I was famous for snoring? The only way I have ever lost weight was through starving myself...so why haven't doctors ever discussed with me reasons for a low metabolism?

Certainly, I have not had a normal relationship with food. I think I do now, and in my estimation have for about ten years, but the damage was already done. If I suffered from an eating disorder, it was a societal one. As a child becoming a woman, I was taught shame for every morsel of food that entered my mouth. I was taught my curvy, rubenesque body was not good enough, would never be good enough. I was taught that I was unacceptable.

I'm sure that some women thinner than me think my obvious enjoyment of food signifies an eating disorder. This societal eating disorder, it is rampant in Wisconsin. When I visited there, I failed at explaining to my mom and grandma that I'd had to learn food was not the enemy. That by feeling guilty about every morsel, I was never satisfied and that kept me seeking satisfaction. People who are subject to this societal eating disorder, they never let go of the control. They always must worry about a gain of a few pounds. They must always talk about the diet they must maintain whenever food is mentioned. They can never be grateful for the food that sustains them, because it is the enemy. They can never be happy with themselves just as they are. The perfect diet is always in the future. What a sad way to live.

I think this was a key for my recovery. I needed to accept and love myself, and I needed to learn gratitude, not guilt, for the food that sustains me. Loving myself, I find and accept my limitations, but I also push at the edges of those limitations to keep moving, to stay healthy. Now I am quite healthy emotionally, but the karma of my past is available for all to see, my big body. There are many factors that contribute to this societal eating disorder, including a weight loss industry that benefits from an "illness" that resists treatment, but I have to wonder if scapegoating enters into it. It is easy to see "overweight". It's easier to hide the karma of other addictions: alcoholism, aggression, obsession, the list could go on. We fear and we judge, and the spotlight gets put on the most easily seen.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"Shocking" History lesson from Right-Wingers

More often than not, I get far right propaganda news for my "polyamory" google news alerts. Hmm, maybe I could start keeping tabs. Today, score 1 for sex advice column result for "open relationship". Score 1 for conservative propaganda for "polyamory". World Net Daily makes me wanna go search for porn just to clear the ucky feelings out of my brain (not that I do that). I mean really...the headline today: "American Hiroshima" Puh-lease.

Today's spider found ACLU's Shocking Legacy for me. According to WND, the American Civil Liberties Union had "strong socialist and communist ties." Oh no! They've always been trying to "destroy America." While I know Margaret Sanger committed illegal abortions, I highly doubt she was a "passionate advocate of eugenics" in the way we've come to understand eugenics as forced sterilization. As I understand it, she worked to give women a choice. WND has given me a nice outline for historical research should I be so inclined, but I will trust my reading, not theirs.

So I try finding Alan Sears' claim that the ACLU "has expressed support for polygamy and polyamory". Some creative googling yielded no results for 'polyamory' on ACLU's website. Way back in 91, some plural wives were supported by ACLU in Utah...this seems to constitute the 'support' for polygamy. He cites the organization's "policy guide" whatever that is. (Why can't I even find it in Worldcat?) Pretty nifty trick, quoting something others can't find, and saying what you like about it.

Even though I can't find a clearcut support for polyamory, thanks, WND, you've inspired me to look into joining the ACLU!

Love Bites

This sex advice column out of Toronto comes up fairly often in my Google news alerts, and I continue to be impressed. Love Bites is written by a former stripper who herself has an open relationship. Sasha is straightforward and practical. From the few I've seen, she is very good at showing people how they limit themselves and how they can either make those chosen limitations work for them, or how they can step outside them. She's also very cute in a pink bathing suit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Field Notes on Love and Compassion

More than a month ago I wrote a little bit about "Field Notes on the Compassionate Life" by Marc Ian Barasch. I finished the book, but ran out of time to write about it before I left for a trip to Wisconsin. I was hopeful I could put some new thoughts, new lessons on radical empathy into practice there. The author wrote this book of field notes because he wanted to find out how to be compassionate. It was full of questions, and he sought answers from the experts, either those who studied the science of the heart, or those who were acknowledged to be extraordinarily giving by folks around them. Marc asks, "It's a perennial question about the amplitude of compassion and the carrying capacity of the heart: Do we only have a fixed quota of loving to allocate between family and the world at large, so that if one receives more, the other gets less?" (p. 181) I had a similar question as I headed back for my family visit, I who talk much about it being all about love: Can I be a lover to my birth family?

I was anxious about visiting Wisconsin. When I got there, I felt like I was in a different country. I truly am a Wisconsin expatriate. I was reminded of one radically empathic person interviewed by Barasch, I think he was a rabbi. He gladly indiscriminately dispensed compassion to all, but confessed he did take St. John's Wort for depression. It isn't easy loving all. I did manage to have some connective conversations with my stepfather, and afterward my mom said it made her happy when we talked more. She clearly didn't know how uncomfortable those conversations made me, and I didn't want her to know. On the one hand I thought it was good he seemed to want to connect with me, on the other, the weird warped craziness around alcoholism that is viewed as normal was very difficult to be around. I needed daily conversations with my loved ones back home in Portland.

My visit there sparked thoughts about the difference between urban and rural folk. As far back as the Silk Road, cities have been places where people had to get along if trade was to flourish. People had to get along if they were going to live so closely together. Folks in the country must rely upon themselves for defense, and will often resort to aggressive strategies. I could not go back to the xenophobic, insular society that is found in much of rural Wisconsin. That low buzz of paranoia and racism never lets up. I've heard about Madison, a small haven for progressives, but even there, a few years ago myairportt shuttle driver said, "Yeah, we have some freaks here." (meaning folks like me.) I am still pondering this city mouse/ country mouse difference.

This "carrying capacity of the heart" was significant to me. We polyamorists often encounter the prejudice that it must be unnatural to love more than one person. We commonly counter that with the parent/child analogy. When a parent has a second child, she doesn't worry about having less love available for the first. Really, and this is a very Buddhist construct, the most limiting notion of love is in our own minds. While outsiders glance at this growing subculture and dismiss it as hedonistic or as overrun with jealousy because we're 'wired' to be monogamous, we who experience it and take the time to work the knots out of our societal conditioning find love grows the more one gets practice at loving more than one. Jealousy is understood to be a knot of karmic conditioning that needs untangling. The untangling process reveals fears and insecurities than can be addressed and they dissipate naturally or with a little encouragement, a little changing of mind.

Much of spiritual tradition separates love of humanity from romantic love and sexual love. In my experience they do not need to be mutually exclusive. More thoughts on that soon....