Category Archives: Favorite Posts

A Lesson in Art and Perseverance

Wednesday’s discussion on sugar and sugar substitutes was really informative.  Not only are you educated and strongly opinionated on your use of sugar and/or sugar substitutes but there are several of you who, like me, are still searching for a comfortable coexistence with the right sweetener.  Thanks to all of you for bringing your opinions to the blog.   It’s an important discussion and one that I’m sure will reappear sooner rather than later as I keep trying searching for foods that I can live with and feel good about eating. 

 

I consider this a kind of hybrid of blogs, weaving topics of weight and maintenance with subjects of art, dogs and life. Since it’s Friday, and since I accomplished something big this week (I finished reading the biography of Vincent Van Gogh -  all 950+ pages, aloud my employer) I thought I’d change gears and write about my favorite painter today not just for you, but for me as well, because my mind is packed high from corner to dusty corner with information that I need to release out into the open.  If I don’t, I may never find my car keys again!

First, I should let you know that I’ve read many books to Mrs. P before, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.  Those books were enjoyable, but reading them out loud was no easy task.  The author was Swedish and even though the books were translated, many words were incredibly frustrating to try and pronounce.   Imagine how hard it is to constantly attempt the correct pronunciation of words like Aftonbladet or Dagens Nyheter while still trying to make the book sound interesting.  Not an easy task.   FYI, reading violent anal rape scenes to a 90+ year old woman can sometimes leave you feeling more uncomfortable than she.  Sometimes I’d be interrupted during a particularly graphic depiction because she’d calmly want to know, ‘Now, how on earth would that even work?’ Don’t ask me what I ended up telling her.  I’ve blocked it from my memory.

Ahem. Back to Van Gogh (yes, please let us get back to Van Gogh).  This was by far, the most comprehensive, thorough book I’ve ever read about him.  In fact, it took 2 forensic authors more than ten years to complete.  They had access to more than 1,000 saved and archived letters that were written between Vincent and his family, many of which described what Vincent was feeling at the time he painted certain works of art.  There were many urban legends laid to rest as well.  Here are a few that you might find interesting.

Myth Number One:  Vincent cut off his ear to show affection for a local prostitute and sent it to her as a gesture of love. 

Truth:  Vincent suffered from what was later diagnosed as temporal lobe epilepsy, which likely caused most of the anguish in life.  He had several mental breakdowns which brought on tremors, loss of consciousness, severe depression, agitation and terror.  When he cut off his ear it was because of a psychotic break triggered by an argument he had with Paul Gauguin.  Gauguin threatened to leave the house they were sharing and Vincent wanted him to stay.  He cut off part of his ear, wrapped it in paper and delivered it to a local brothel where Gauguin was known to visit and asked that the parcel be delivered to him. 

Myth Number Two:  Vincent’s last painting was entitled Wheat Field with Crows.  It depicts a road with no end, symbolizing the end of Vincent’s own life, for which he was about to take. 

Wheat Field with Crows

 

Truth:  This was not Vincent’s last painting.  Wheat Field with Crows was completed a couple of weeks before Vincent’s death and symbolized his increasingly despondent mood after having had an argument with his only friend, his brother Theo.  He completed several more paintings in the 2 week period that led to his death. 

Myth Number Three:  Vincent committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. 

Speculation.  There is not much evidence that supports the claim that Vincent shot himself.   The only controversy surrounding this book is that the authors firmly believe that Vincent did not shoot himself, but was shot by a young man named Rene.  There are several pieces of evidence supporting this theory and it sounds entirely likely (to me, anyway) that this is how Vincent truly died.  For a very well-done 2 part story that 60 Minutes did on this book and Vincent’s life, you can watch here.

 

What saddens me is that Vincent failed at every single thing he ever tried.  He was ridiculed, rejected and humiliated by everyone he ever came into contact with, including his fellow painters.  No one wanted to be friends with him.  In fact, the only communication he ever received later in life was when ordering food during mealtime.

How could someone paint something as beautiful as this…

Four Cut Sunflowers

 

…also inscribe in a letter, “As a painter I will never amount to anything important.  I am absolutely sure of it.”

 

While reading this book it was difficult to remain uplifted when here was a man who failed at practically everything he ever tried, but I think it’s important to see the beauty in his perseverance. He never gave up, despite humiliation and constant dead-ends.  No matter what people said or did to him he was true to himself. 

He wrote, “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”  

I intend on borrowing some of that passion and conviction and use it in my own life.

 

Have a  great weekend, everyone.  Persevere, no matter what.

XO,

~Ellen

Memory Lane: The Dream Body Lottery

Expectation [ek–spek-tey–shuhn]: the degree of probability that something will occur; a prospect of future good or profit.

From 1990 to 2004 I knew exactly what that word meant. To me, it meant that when I met my goal weight of 130 pounds, I was going to be living a different life. When I won the dream-body lottery I was going to have a better job. I was going to have more friends. I would be happier, prettier, oozing with confidence; I would be more appealing to other people; I would feel better, stronger; I’d be more respected and admired; I could go on, but you get the point.

Did it change my life like I expected it to? Well, in truth the unexpected happened: Along with the weight, I thought all of my other problems were going to disappear as well.  That didn’t happen.

I didn’t land a better job (I waited, but no one offered me one.  Go figure). And I didn’t gain more friends.  No one noticed me any more or less than when I was heavy. I didn’t particularly see that strangers found me more appealing, either; nor was I admired more.

People in the world had their own problems; they were too busy living their own lives – too busy to fix mine.

Losing the weight did give me moments of happiness, however, once the weight came off there was (and still is) a constant fear of gaining it back so it’s quite bittersweet. The one thing I can honestly say that changed was my health. I do feel better; I do have more energy; I am stronger. Physically, I’m more comfortable. Emotionally and mentally however, I still have some of the same personality issues that I did when I was heavy. I am still shy; I still consider myself a control-freak; I still get lonely, and I still at times wonder why I can’t just accept who I am right now, this second.

When my expectations weren’t met, I had to sit back and figure out what happened and why. Then it became clear: I made the mistake of thinking that if I changed my body on the outside, suddenly everyone around me would see that I was now worthy by completing my transformation on the inside. With the weight gone I assumed people would find me more appealing and want to be my friend. It took 100+ pounds to figure out that what I should have been working on was not my physical health but my mental health. If all of my worth was completely dependent on being a size 6, then I was missing out on the part that was already lovely and perfect: my kindness towards others, my empathetic nature, being an attentive listener, being a loyal friend and a good person.

Years have passed and I feel a little wiser, now. Maybe it’s because I turned the ripe old age of 40 this year, or maybe it’s because I finally cut through the crap. I still have insecurities and fears, but you know what? Working on those things will give me the life I’ve always wanted. Being a desired size is simply a perk of an already fulfilling life. I only wish I’d had this knowledge back then.

Changing my body did not change who I am. In the end, I’m still me. A work in progress; whether I’m 235 pounds or 130 pounds. 

Live your life.  Be your best self.  Now. 

 

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What does Memory Lane mean? 

It’s a code word used for one of my specially chosen favorite posts over the past year which has been republished to celebrate my one year blog anniversary this month. 

Why is this one a favorite of yours?

I love this post because I wanted to write a brutally honest account of what my expectations were before and after I lost all of my excess weight; I wanted people to see that I had unrealistic expectations of weight loss, and wanted to show how important the mental and physical health connection truly is.

Isn’t there some kind of giveaway going on here? 

Why, I’m glad you asked that question.  Yes!  Because I posted a Memory Lane post, you now have the opportunity to win this truly awesome prize:

If you have never worn Smartwool socks, please understand that these are NOT just a pair of socks.  They are so much more than that, and you can read all about them from a post I wrote which is located here

Description:  These are a soft lime green color, sized medium (which fits up to a 9.5 shoe size) and are a Ladies sock. They are labeled as a running sock but I use them for any kind of workout or just lounging around.  They are particularly great for long walks because they have a wonderful cushion in the heel and the ball of the foot.  They sit right by the ankle, which is great if you don’t like your socks to show when you’re wearing your shoes.  Retail value of these socks from Smartwool is $13.95

 

Is Smartwool paying you to endorse these socks? 

No.  Every prize I give away during my blog anniversary month are things that I’ve carefully considered and purchased with my own cold, hard cash.  I’m giving them away to you because they are some of my favorite things and I hope you’ll love them as much as I do (I feel just like Oprah!) Plus, I want to let you all know how much you are appreciated as my readers. 

So, what do I have to do again to enter?

That’s the simple part.  You don’t have to become a follower; you don’t have to follow me on Twitter or any other social network.  All you have to do is live in the US, let me know that you are a reader of my blog by leaving a comment below, and you’re entered.  This isn’t mandatory for entry, but if you’ve never left a comment before, I’d love to know how long you’ve been reading!

You will have until 9 PM EST. on Sunday night to leave a comment.  I will announce the winner during Monday’s post.  The winner will have 48 hours to contact me with his/her mailing address so I can send out these great socks.  If I don’t hear back from the winner during that time, a subsequent name will be drawn from Random.org until a winner comes forward to claim this nifty gifty. 

Good luck!  Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday :)