Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Privilege and Hypocrisy

You know, there are times when we all get a spirit swat, a moment that makes us pause and think of things differently.

And there are times we don't do that often enough.

Today, I've been thinking about something. Yesterday I wrote about a horrible murder in Beverly Hills and complained about how it shattered my sense of safety.

The recognition that not twenty miles away from us, people lived with that kind of fear on a daily basis hasn't escaped me. I'm sure they would have loved to sit around by the pool and complain about the ineptness of the Bel Air Patrol, clicking their tongues over the fact that crime reached in and bit their pristine little world. I'm not saying the murder wasn't a terrible, horrid and evil thing. I'm saying that there are people who've coped with much worse.

That was Spirit Swat #1.

I got into the shower and stepped out. Was disgusted with the size of my body.

I'm fat. There's no other way to describe it. BBW, heavyset, pudgy... bullsh*t! I'm fat! No, I am not huge but I am way too big, even for my large-boned frame. This isn't about twenty vanity pounds. I am at least 60 pounds overweight.

I've never missed a meal. .. and it's obvious. People get fat because they eat too much from which one can logically surmise that he or she has the food to eat. I do.

That was Spirit Swat #2.

In many ways, I have always struggled with excess. When I drank, I couldn't stop at one drink.. or two. When I have a pizza, I can't be content with one or two peices but eat the whole damn thing!

I'm not much of a score-keeper and am not really into the "I had it worse/better than you" type of thinking. It's not useful but a little bit of perspective is always good.

The material privilege I experienced growing up was an accident of birth. It is certainly nothing I created or earned. There is no inherent "right" to it. I couldn't afford an upholstered doghouse in Beverly Hills or Bel Air on my own. Not in my entire adult life. I have never had the discipline to create that kind of financial stability. Ajahn S was totally correct when he said lack of discipline has always been my greatest weakness.

I believe that comes from my upbringing. I don't say that in a blaming sense. I certainly had the resources available to learn those things if I'd been properly motivated. Teachers were available. It's hard to be disciplined or care about the future when the material necessities were always there. I never had to learn how to make life run smoothly. It just did. There was always plenty of food in the refrigerator and there was always a place to sleep at night. In fact, it was much better than that. The swimming pool was in the back yard. The TVs were in every room. We all had private phone lines. (Anyone remember Princess phones?) We all had vehicles. We all had "toys" when we wanted them. If I wanted to take ballet courses, I took them. If I wanted guitar lessons, I got them. If I wanted to pick up some other hobby with which I'd be bored in a week, I got to do it.

I never had to learn how to balance a checkbook, how to cook for myself, how to create a grocery list, how to make a choice between having one thing over another because I could get them both, never had to learn how to deny myself. I was never responsible for the well-being of another person.

And that led to a very long adolescence.

And, yes, I most definitely experienced a lot of emotional battering but materially, I was absolutely safe. I never wanted for a single thing.

I am really working on this discipline thing. And, oh God, is it hard!

Excess is an addiction. Food has become an addiction. For some reason, I can't seem to knock off some of the stupid choices I make - like eating strawberries and banana pudding for dinner.

And this is my challenge, my potential for growth, at this point in my life.

It's hard to admit that in some ways, I am a 55-year-old very spoiled woman!

I hate to admit that... but have to! Far more important than admitting it to any of you, I have to admit it to me, recognize the tendencies and resolve to change them.

The spiritual resources are there. That, I did right. I believe I am on track with my spiritual development, although there's always more growing to do.

My financial resources are limited and I do not use credit cards. That's a step in the right direction. I can not afford credit and seem to have made peace with that. Besides, I really don't like it. It's the quickest road to slavery... credit. I stay within my budget each month with an occasional eBay-related slip. Dang. Thai clothes. Another addiction.

This discipline thing... man, it is killing me! The resolving to do something and making myself do it. Whether it is walking daily, keeping my nose out of the refrigerator or staying away from eBay, I struggle.

So, for all the praise I get for wisdom, I must admit a glaring area of immaturity. And I will continue struggling through this until I assimilate a new way of thinking and behaving.

My greatest weakness, indeed!




jen said...

ah. i love that you reached in and ripped open a piece of all of our souls.

we live in the land of excess. we may manifest it in different ways, but excessive, we are.

and discipline, we need. i can't do it either, friend. months ago you told me green tea w/ jasmine. i drank the whole box of tea bags, excessively, and then went back to coke. i bought a new box yesterday.

excessive, we are. it's not like this everywhere, but you know this already, so I'll stop.

flutter said...

my excesses have made me a very ill girl. It is something I life with every single day in a myriad of ways

meno said...

It's hard to admit our weaknesses. But really, we all share them. Without them, we'd be perfect, not human.

I wish you as much strength as you have courage.

Geneviève said...

Being nothing else but excessive in many fields, and having the opposite way of upbringing than yours, I suppose that there are mainly genetics and self history that "help" to be so. Discipline is my worse enemy, and I don't think I will ever change, nor am I sure I would like to!

slouching mom said...


It's so difficult to avoid being tempted by food, when our supermarkets are stocked with so much, too much.

I gape sometimes at the 100-plus varieties of cereal.

It's out of control.

(And this is not to say you don't bear some responsibility here, but my, oh my: our damn supermarket palaces!)

Pam said...

It doesn't help with dicipline when we live in a country of extreme excess. Instant gratification seems to be the motto and it's shoved in your face at every turn.

But you see your problem and I admire you for being so straightforward. You are right, you have to look to a new way of thinking and behaving but it seems to me you are well on your way.

Patience helps with dicipline.

Bob said...

it is OK to be good in some things and not in others. Despite the problems you are having with self discipline, you do have a lot of wisdom to offer. That wisdom has no less value coming from you than it does were it offered by someone who doesn't share your predilection for strawberries & banana pudding! That was what I was trying to say a few posts ago about recognizing your strengths.

Mary said...


You are a very conscious person and wise, too! I think you are on your way.

Excess is everywhere and we all have our addictions in one way or another. At least you aren't ignoring yours. Many of us do.

Susanne said...

I'm with you on that. I remember suddenly stepping back and watching myself complain that I had eaten an entire bag of potato chips the night before. And only that moment I knew that disciplining myself like I would my son would be the only way out of this. Acknowledging that the way I looked was a result of my own choices.

There is still a spoiled child in me that gets tantrums because she isn't allowed to eat chocolate all day but she is getting a little calmer nowadays.

On the other hand it really helped too to realize how grateful I am for a body that is able to carry me around and allows my brain to function too.

And like someone before me said, patience helps with the discipline. One doesn't have to be perfect.

deb said...

I have an addictive personality as well, which I worry about endlessly, always wary of potential addictions. That's one of the reasons I don't drink much, it would be too easy for me to slip into oblivion, maybe not. What do I know?
As for weight, the only thing that makes me work harder is having a goal, something to look forward to and work towards. And then it's just lots of hard work. Good luck.

thailandchani said...

Jen, I know this place is a bad influence on me... in more ways than one.

Good on you for getting back on the green tea/jasmine. It's one of those things that will grow on you eventually and you'll miss it when you don't have it.

I still drink diet coke, too.


Flutter, I do, too. I live with the consequences of my excesses in many ways. That doesn't mean we're doomed to put up with them forever though.


Meno, thanks. I hope I can muster up the courage to do the hard stuff. I'm really sick, sick, sick of this fat!


G, there are certain areas where I have no interest in developing discipline. It's unnecessary. The eating thing though.. definitely.

I don't entirely blame my background. I'm a big girl now and take responsibility for my choices.. but it definitely didn't help! LOL


SM, definitely on th grocery stores. If I stayed in the produce area, I'd probably be okay.

I agree that we really don't need all the food choices we have.. but then it's the same old song: someone profiting off of our weaknesses.


Pam.. patience.. yes. That, I do have. :)


Bob, thanks. :) I definitely see them as different also. I take wisdom wherever I can get it.. and I don't care if the person sharing it has a big butt. I shouldn't have conflated those.

But, yes, I know we are all good at some things and not good at others. I just don't intend to dissect myself for employers. That was my main point before. :)


Mary, thanks. It is hard to ignore a big butt. Maybe that's why it is making me address the excess.


Susanne, I do recognize that my commitment to Thai values is compromised by my excess, too. That helps to a degree because I know that being grateful for my body is important. Thanks for reminding me of that aspect.

I wouldn't mistreat plants, animals or other people.. yet I am abusing my own body.


Deb, of course you are right. The only way out of being fat is to work out and eat better. At least I managed to get my morning walk in already.

I rebel against routine so I'll have to come up with something for that.




QT said...

Chani - A large part of discipline is actually just fooling the mind. Smaller plates, smaller cups, single size servings. The jumbo size bag of chips is really not "cheaper" - it comes with the cost of added weight.

You DO have the internal resources to do this - you don't lack willpower - you lack a strategy. See if you can find a book called "Thin Tastes Better" by Stephen Gullo. It is old and available in paperback. His strategies are great.

thailandchani said...

QT, just ordered it from amazon this minute. Thank you. :)



caro said...

I believe you are the road to making how you feel on the inside match with how you look on the outside. Food is a hard addiction to beat, one of the hardest.

Tabba said...

Chani, I thank you for sharing this. My stepmother & I just had a discussion last night about discipline, in all it's various forms, and within being a spiritual being.
She is very overweight. She has struggled for years. She recently had the band put on her stomach. She slips. She cries. She calls me. I listen. Reading this was like a window into how she must feel sometimes & not know how to say it.
This is indeed the land of excess. It is so easy to give in to any temptation.
Thank you for sharing this bit of yourself with us.

crazymumma said...

The land of milk and honey. Our society is perverse in its consumption.

It's all in the journey Chani, and you are aware of your weakness in many respects. Just a stepping stone to a better you.

Sober Briquette said...

Chani, I'm going to check out that book too. Controlling what I eat is a real source of frustration and challenge for me. I have been planning to set up a sort of food/exercise diary and then posting it once a week to keep me honest. As you know, I have not gotten around to it...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think that all things depend upon discipline in the end.

And it's so very hard to come by if one is not naturally inclined. I am not, either, and in many ways, have sabotaged my own successes in the past because I didn't think that I deserved them.

Weight is but one manifestation of feeling inadequate and trying to fill up ones life with food because we don't feel loved. But if it isn't food, then it could be failure that supplies us with "proof" that we are not good enough.

You are very wise and most compassionate. Now it is time to direct those gifts of spirit toward yourself because you deserve to love yourself as much as others love you.

liv said...

The thing that catches me is 'discipline' and I wonder if we ever have the presence of mind to realize that it is a practice. I tend to think that you are in a practice if you can see the path and know the way enough to know when you've rambled off a little. So, practice. And practicing long enough a lot of times sticks!

thailandchani said...

Caro, exactly! With booze, I was able to make a choice to simply never drink again. It's not possible to just stop eating! :)


Tabba, it really is very frustrating. I likewise get mad at myself when I slip. And the slips are often for totally stupid reasons, like being bored. You know, like your friend, I'm a grown person and know better. Being bored stopped being an acceptable excuse when I was three or so.

So.. it really is a battle of will to a large degree.


CM, I hate to say it but that land of milk and honey stuff seems to have created a really big problem for a lot of people. I'm only one. And I'm one who has consciously devoted myself to purging the influences of the culture. Just goes to show how pervasive it is.


De,let's compare notes on the book in a few weeks. The reviews at Amazon looked pretty good.. and I do think strategy is a big part of it.


Susan, I am such a "live in the moment" person which is both a good thing and a bad thing. (And of course most often neutral..) That really makes it hard for me to establish discipline in the positive sense.

I'd never really considered it to be a matter of respect for my body until recently. Maybe that's the key to it.

Thanks for such a nice message. :)


Liv, intellectually I know it is a practice. It's like using a muscle. Sometimes my emotions trump my intellect and that's where I get in trouble.

And I know it's a mistake to keep thinking everything will be "just fine", as soon as I get to Thailand.

That's another lie I've been telling myself for too long.

If I don't dump this extra weight, I might have a heart attack (at my age, it's a high risk) and Thailand won't even be an issue... so.. yeah... I need to exercise my discipline muscle as much as my gluteus maximus. :)




liv said...

okay, but maybe I should have mentioned that my biggest weakness is lack of discipline...

now I will try to think of things I like about myself. because you told me to!