Again, we come to end of January, OA birthday party in LA, and evaluating all those New Year’s Resolutions. Now is the time most people realize self-will alone will not make it for the long haul. They become willing to surrender to the need for help. After close to fifty years as a treatment professional and forty years in my own personal recovery, I still believe the best, longest lasting, and least expensive source for that daily help is Overeater’s Anonymous.
Here is my party dress for celebrating how recovery gets us dancing to the beat of a different tune. Notice thigh high boots! Gone are the days when in New York City weighing 222 pounds, I waited in lines around the block at a store with a banner above it announcing ‘WIDE CALVES, WIDE CALVES!'”
Overeater’s Anonymous just celebrated its 55th birthday at the LA Hilton and the registrations were oversold! It was such a lively, entertaining and heartfelt weekend that I thought we were back in the early days of OA. The archives room displayed memorabilia as well as a continuously running DVD interview with OA’s founder, Rozanne. I managed to buy a few things at the clothing exchange boutique while also presenting a meditation workshop one morning and leading a discussion on the “God” issue one afternoon. The opening speaker was so lively and inspiring and every workshop brought even more hope and wisdom. You can hear the recordings at the LA Intergroup website and mine will be soon available at www.JudiHollis.com. Those LA OAers have such enthusiasm!
As Palm Springs heats up each summer, Henry and I try to get away, usually to New York City. This year we took road trips to see Shakespeare and Blues festivals in Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, and spent a weekend at a Mountain Men Festival. These folks set up camps living like beaver trappers of the 1820’s. Visiting their encampments and listening to their workshops helps us get an idea of how little we really need to live on and how easy we have it in the modern age.
A great blessing for me was my friend Arlyn who left us this Fourth of July. We returned for her memorial and set out again for San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a Storyteller Conference. I attended a two-day workshop and then got up and told my story. The parameters are to keep your story down to seven minutes, including a beginning, middle and end.
My story is about how scheming drives us to overeating and how recovery is about living with rigorous honesty. It is one of the points emphasized in my recent memoir, FROM BAGELS TO BUDDHA, where I take you on a surrender journey from a Buddhist monastery where I argue with monks about too many rules, to travels in India, Burma and back home to Coney Island, to a hot dog eating contest. If you’d like to hear the story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also purchase the book at www. Judihollis.com.
A long held dream of mine was to attend the Rosebowl Parade. This New Year’s Day, I hopped on a bus trip at 4:30 am in Palm Springs, traveled to Pasadena, bundled up in a ski suit under a giant white coat and settled into a great bleacher seat. Warm as toast I viewed the parade to see Grand Marshall, son of Louis Zamperini, a true American hero whose story is told in the new film, “Unbroken.” Also inspiring was to see the honoring of Joan Williams, 82, who was voted “Miss Crown City,” but when officials found out she was black, they didn’t let her ride the float. Now, nearly 60 years later, she waved proudly to a standing ovation crowd. We’ve come a long way, baby!
New Years also included walking a 5 k in Palm Desert.
On a recent trip to the Berkeley Buddhist Priory, I had opportunity to visit with my teacher, Reverend Kinrei, (he was the guestmaster at the Shasta Abbey Monastery where I initially fought the rules.) Our discussion centered around the idea of “impermanence,” how everything changes. We can measure our recoveries in terms of our ability to weather those changes, our willingness to give up attachments and “let go.” Our weight is one of the many losses recovery will help us endure and accept.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS?
As usually happens, the end of January brings many dieters up short as they realize firm resolve melts into forgotten commitments. As I mentioned in FROM BAGELS TO BUDDHA, a yoga teacher once told me that it is better to make a small commitment that you CAN achieve than to make a grander resolution that might fail. It is a hurt to your own heart and psyche to promise yourself and then give it up. OA offers us sponsors to help witness our commitments to ourselves. As I travel this recovery journey, ebbing and flowing and living with a “flexitarian” food plan, I follow what was early preached in Desiderata: “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.” Longterm recovery is not about counting days, but about continually getting back up on the horse. That is how I have been maintaining an eighty-pound weight loss for four decades!
If you’d like to listen to a recent interview I did for the 12-Step Gazette about this and other topics please email me at email@example.com.
WILLING TO LEARN
As I settle into less teaching and more writing, I have hooked up with two, count ’em two writing critique groups in Palm Springs. On a recent piece, I received a lot of critique and suggestions for improvement. I left the sessions feeling, not wounded, defensive, angry, and embarrassed, but elated, excited, energized and enthused to do the work.
What a change in attitude from my earliest beginnings in recovery where looking good at all costs was my goal. That position offered no opportunity to grow and learn. Instead, today, I welcome the chance to gain other perspectives and benefit from others. I am so grateful that treating my food obsession gave me a chance for new openness to thrive.
As I continue to recommend attendance at OA meetings, I still find some turned off by what they perceive as an excessive use of “god talk” and a pressure to speak jargon that sounds religious more than spiritual. I am currently writing a pamphlet to tease out the issues a bit, realizing that in recovery from a food obsession, we can’t totally let go and turn things over. Early in OA, I learned that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” I was instructed to take responsibility for my own recovery in many ways, like taking phone numbers with me to parties, possibly “book-ending” meetings before and after “slippery” events, and making a commitment with my sponsor about intentions.
These ideas early infused many attitudes about the cooperative relationship between my actions and results from the universe. I’d heard, “All you need to know about God is, ‘you ain’t it,” and “Pray as if it’s all up to God, but work as if its all up to you.” I am reminded of the farmer story…….
A farmer stands beside a road admiring his fields of corn. A traveling preacher approaches surveying the landscape with him.”What wondrous beauty there is to behold. All God’s graces are bestowed on your crops.”
“Yeah,” answers the farmer. “I worked my ass off for this.”
“Yes, the Lord’s bounty is wondrous, His gifts to behold”
“Right,” responds the farmer. “I am grateful I have the strength to put in all my hard sweat and do what it takes to get the job done.”
“But, surely you realize your contribution is small, and it is a bountiful deity that bestows all this. This is God’s work.”
“Oh yeah,” answers the farmer. “You should have seen it when God had it by himself!”
We will soon have many more videos up on the web page including early Oprah shows and recent lectures. Stay tuned…
In February, I’ll be attending the San Miguel Writer’s Conference where Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker are the keynote speakers.
RETREATS Spring, 2015
June 12-14 – San Antonio, Texas
Contact: Mercy F. Co-Chair (512) 276-2804, firstname.lastname@example.org or Ron J. Co-Chair (858) 688-3579, email@example.com
June 26-28 – Prescott, Arizona
Contact: Rosie O. 602-369-8444 or Jackie W. 602-438-0223