Monday, August 23, 2010

Dumpster Diving for Dahlias

Last Thursday while walking the weekly walk, one of my awesome fellow walkers suggested a little garden detour. "The dahlias are in bloom", she said. Well I am never one to miss out on a dahlia adventure so off we went.

To those of you who don't know, there is a fantastical dahlia garden just east of the giant green house in golden gate park. As we made our way to the blooming works of art, we all spotted a couple standing on the lawn in front of the green house. They looked innocent enough except for the giant gorgeous dahlias they were holding in their hands as they posed for their self-portraits.

"Look", I cried! "Tourists and stolen dahlias!" the walkers and I were rightly outraged. How could someone do that? This is my beautiful city and my beautiful park and my beautiful dahlia garden. They are not to be picked and posed with and left behind in some hotel-room water-glass by the side of the bed. These flowers are meant to be awed over as they lie in their rightful bed, without the evil scissor clipping of tourists!

We walked on towards the garden with indignant rightiousness. The nerve.

But all was forgotten when we came upon the dahlia garden. We were speechless. It truly was amazing. An awesomely spectacular sight of the most vibrant array of colors and textures and beauty. What dahlias lack in smell they make up for tenfold in color and uniqueness. They are simply lovely.

We walked around the circle of color pointing to our favorites and laughing and me taking pictures. When we felt we had gawked enough we started to make our way back to UCSF. As we exited the garden we passed by the dumpster to the side of the lot. And wouldn’t you know it, filling up the dumpster, almost overflowing, were all the dahlias that had recently been trimmed. Beautiful almost perfect dahlias that maybe had a few petals browning or a sad bit of wilting but otherwise impeccable. All at once we realized our mistake.

Oh my goodness I (we) thought. They weren't grubby tourists, they were sweet, nice, dahlia loving people who innocently picked a dahlia from the dumpster to pose for a photo.

Immediately we too started rummaging. Reaching our hands into the dumpster to see what flowers were there. Hoping there might be some big pink ones or the decadent orange colored ones. We wanted them all; we were greedy and excited. I walked away with four: a pink, white, orange and a yellow one.

As we were leaving the dumpster with our arms full of beauty, a walker reminded me just how judgmental we had been.

“I bet all these people think we picked the dahlias.”

I was so super quick to judge the dahlia couple. I had hated them even. I believed that they were defacing the miracle that is golden gate park and I was mad.

It is so interesting to me how easy it was to judge them. It just happened, just like that. I assumed everything about them. I knew that they were tourists. I knew that they were thieves and I knew that they didn't give a damn about my park. Little did I know that I was wrong.

It makes me think about all the other times when people judge so easily. Have you ever seen someone at the gym and judged them because they were either very overweight or very underweight? Have you ever assumed that someone knoshing away at a quarter pounder with cheese was unhealthy and the salad eating slim gal was the picture of health? It is so easy to assume that you know what people are going through. You might think that the overweight person doesn't try or eats too much or has no willpower. You may think that the thin person has a problem, is obsessive or starves herself. You may want to believe that the homeless person is an alcoholic or just doesn't care or let this happen to herself. It's easy to a assume that the parent with the screaming child or the pet owner with the crazy dog is horrible, is a menace and is just not available enough for their ward. But really we have no idea. We really don't. I am going to say it again just to drive the point home. We have no idea. It is impossible to know what someone else is going through at any particular moment.

Does it make us feel better to think that an overweight woman is eating more than us because we can't fathom the idea that she might be trying but not succeeding at losing weight or God forbid she might like her body the way it is. Is it easier to handle a thin woman who has an eating disorder than a thin woman who works her ass off to be thin or a thin woman who was just born that way?

I am not a Buddhist so I am not saying that there should be no judgment in the world. I thank my stars that I have strong judgment when I am faced with a dangerous situation or a difficult dilemma.

This week when you feel the urge to make a snap judgment, take a moment to assess where it's coming from and why it’s so strong. Maybe you want to keep it. Often judgment is there for a reason, it cues us to something. But maybe it’s just your own insecurities or fears or societal norms. And even if it doesn’t change anything, even if you still walk away thinking that person is a nasty tourist dahlia thief, at least you will have learned a little more about yourself.

Be Good to your Body, it’s where you Live

Monday, August 16, 2010

Once upon a time...

This weekend I went to a 10 hour intensive on Narrative therapy and how you can use it to treat addictions. It was terribly useful for the work I do at a substance abuse clinic but surprisingly, and not so surprisingly it proved to be incredibly useful for me in my personal life as well.

In uber brief layman lingo, narrative therapy believes that we all have a story we tell ourselves. It is the same story or a spin off of a story we learned from our parents and our friends and our society. Because we are continuing to tell ourselves this story in the thoughts we have, the stories we hear, the actions we take, and the beliefs we hold, we are perpetuating the story. This is super great if our story makes us feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately most people have a somewhat more sabotaging story about many things.

How many of you reading this have ever looked in the mirror and told yourself you were ugly or fat or stupid? How many of you believe it because a parent told you, or because you read it in a magazine or because you have been telling yourself it for so long that you think it’s a truth? What would happen if you started telling yourself something different? I am not saying that it’s easy to stop perpetuating our stories. It’s difficult, so instead of focusing on stopping, focus on starting... a different story.

Think about the negative things you label yourself: I am so fat. I have no control over food. I hate my job. I'm stressed out all the time. Now ask yourself what it is that you get from telling yourself these things. Is it attention? Is it sympathy? Is it laughs? Is it connection? Is it help? All of those things are fine, if you like them and they help you feel good, but if they don’t, then maybe it’s time to try on a new story. I have been telling people for the past few months how stressed out I am and how I am not working out. I have been talking about how little I work out because I secretly think it will make me feel better if they commiserate and tell me the same thing. I also feel like it gives me an excuse for why I look/feel so out of shape. The down side to this is that I have not started to work out again. I am stuck in the story of how I don’t work out anymore and it feels crummy. Last week a friend from work and I were talking about how much we love working out and how it feels so good and how it always makes us feel better. Well, you know what I did this week? I worked out. And now I am telling all of you about how I did it, and how good it felt and how much I rocked it. (Say this even if you feel like you didn't, the feeling will come)

Let’s all take the negative story we tell ourselves and find a time in the past week when, if even for a moment it wasn’t true. Maybe you tried on a pair of jeans and felt good in them, if even for a moment. Perhaps you caught an error that would have cost your business money or maybe you caught an error that no one would have ever noticed. Maybe you finished eating when you were full and took the leftovers for lunch or maybe you took the stairs at the mall. Maybe you got eight hours of sleep last night. If you can’t think of a moment, think harder, it’s there. If it truly is not, then go back two weeks and try again.

All day today and hopefully scattered throughout the next week I would love for y’all to repeat your new story to yourselves and your friends and your family. Tell your co-workers at the water fountain how awesome you felt about yourself when you walked at lunch or how motivated you are or how you had 10 minutes of perfect peace while sitting on your porch after dinner. I am going to tell myself how happy I am when I am exercising.

Be Good to your Body, it's where you Live