On Feeling Inadequate as a Parent

As I watch my sweet oldest boy turn more and more into what some might call an angsty teenager – I recall mySelf at his age.

Not so long ago, I was his age….and not long after that, I was pregnant and giving birth to him.  I was 18 the year he was born.  The only child of only children, I’d never been around kids, never babysat.  I only ever held a baby once, briefly and awkwardly, before I held my own precious child.

I tried my best at the time, but I knew I felt deeply inadequate for the task I was up against – raising another human being, when I had barely even begun to become my own true Self…

I comforted my completely befuddled teen-mom-self with thoughts like, “At least when he’s a teen, we’ll get along great, cause I won’t be so out of touch with him like my parents are with me…  It will be great – we’ll bond over music and I won’t force him to do things he hates, and I will welcome his friends…and I will have peace then, if not now.”

Not only did I miss the point of Living in the Moment, then…but I recognize now, how so absurdly naive it was for me to think that way:

Again and again, every moment, every phase of development – I realize more and more how very little I know.

How presumptuous of me, to ever think that I could “learn it all in time”…

But also, I’ve learned that It’s Okay.

His path is not mine to control, whether by threat & force, or by leading him with stifling, sugar-coated coercion down the road that looks most promising…least painful. I have to recognize, the older he gets, that his path may very well include a foray into what, in my opinion, looks like dire misery – but his lessons and his choices are not mine, and do not define me as a person.

I can lead him, guide him, love him so much it hurts – but I cannot ultimately make his choices for him.

It doesn’t get easier as they get older.

I dunno who made up that lie.. You trade diapers and sleep deprivation for much deeper, more profound, less tangible worries, the older they get. You have to make peace with who they’re becoming, and realize that so much of it is out of your hands, by the time they are 10+ years old. The million moments of babyhood and toddlerhood, whether you manage to keep the exasperation out of your voice as you read The Runaway Bunny for the 30th time…they add up to huge things, somewhere down the line.

But we can’t know what, or where.

Our kids know us better than we know ourselves, and sometimes that in itself can trigger us. As they grow, they might have memories of profound, pivotal, defining moments in their lives….that we are unaware of. What seems insignificant to us might be Earth-shattering for our child – and we won’t always be aware of it.

So if you’re feeling unprepared for this huge, monumental task of parenthood – feeling like nobody told you exactly what would be required of you….feeling often, like you’re not quite up to the task? Well, that’s good. Nobody can ever prepare themselves for parenthood “enough”.

There is no such thing as enough.

You give it your all, and then, incredibly, again and again – you find that more is required of you – so you discover more of yourSelf, and learn and grow alongside your children.

They don’t need you to be perfect – they just need you to be real, and willing to grow alongside them.

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Parenting is the most immense personal growth journey you can embark upon, in my opinion.

You just have to be open and willing to let it transform you.

Inspired by my friend, Cherise.

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misconceptions about unschooling, and choosing connection

I think many parents tend to view their kids as an extension of themselves, as an embodiment of their values, or evidence that they believe/do/feel the right things.. but that’s not really healthy or fair to think of kids that way.  they are unique beings from day one.

if other people think that your child not knowing how to do fractions yet or disliking their hair to be combed MEANS SOMETHING NEGATIVE about you as a parent, well, let them think. their opinions of you as a parent or of your children do not matter.

forcing your child to do something against his will is not going to foster connection and harmony between you. You are free to prioritize the relationship with your child instead of how society may judge you and your parenting, because of what your child knows, or how he acts/looks.

they’re dependent on you, absolutely, but they must be allowed to make their own conclusions in the world–with the “safety net” of our non-judgmental, unconditional love and support when they do make mistakes. too often we think our job is to soften every blow and “help” them make (what we believe are the) “correct” choices–but really we’re keeping them dependent on us–on others, experts, to tell them what’s right and wrong, instead of listening to their own inner guidance.

this is the underlying lesson of all forced schooling:

you are too stupid to know what’s best for you + what you need to know–here, let US tell you what you need to know

it creates a culture of dependency and docility.

if a child doesn’t want to learn to read, for example, we must trust that eventually they will have one or more experiences that convince them that, actually–it’d be so nice to know how to read–and then we can help them in the way that they want to be helped. what if they don’t? well, with something as universal as reading, i can’t imagine how it wouldn’t happen, truly. can you imagine any child wanting to be illiterate?

jokes aside, sometime before they reach adulthood, they will be interested–compelled–to want to know how to read. and that desire will fuel genius-level comprehension and fervor.

we all have the potential for genius–it’s less a state of being and more of a verb.

if something’s important, your child will recognize that. my son did it at age five when he really wanted to know exactly how to play his video games–so he delved into those manuals with zeal. other kids won’t take an interest until later–occasionally much later. but contrary to popular belief, reading young, or doing anything else young, doesn’t give a child any edge in life by the time they reach adulthood.

a child who reads at 2 and a child who reads at 11 will, all other issues aside, be impossible to tell apart by age 14. i read at age 2–and i mean everything, newspapers, greeting cards, etc. i’ve always been a writer and a reader. my German-born hubby learned English at age 16, from television, and learned to read English even later than that. he’s never cared for grammar, spelling, etc–jokes that he can misspell two languages. Yet he reads much faster than me.

it only takes about 100 hours of focused, dedicated effort to go from learning the alphabet to learning to read. desire is the key for results! a child that’s internally motivated and focused on something of his own choosing can learn almost anything, thoroughly and quickly. that is an experience that hardly ever happens in the current system, and is inhibited even in school-at-home situations.

kids are intensely interested in the way their parents view and interact with the world, but to reject the possibility that they may make different choices than we do (even before they reach adulthood!) is not choosing love and connection, and can become a huge problem in your relationship, especially if you present your opinions as “correct”.

for example, vegetarianism used to be a very dear value to me. i knew i’d never allow my children to eat meat–it was just unthinkable. then i met my husband, an omnivore–and we fought bitterly about whether or not our child(ren) would be allowed to eat meat. in the end, i decided that one parent eating meat and one parent abstaining was actually going to present a very fair set of choices to the kids–even moreso than both parents being veg or both parents eating meat. no judgment, no shame, no coercion.

i strive to uphold this in all my interactions with my kids now: no judgment, shame, or coercion for their choices. i don’t make things a battleground when i can choose understanding, curiosity, and connection instead:

“Tell me what you like about that chicken …”

I don’t agree with the idea that it’s “my house, my way” until my kids are 18. I think they need the freedom to learn from their own choices as much as possible–that way they’ll be even better prepared for missteps, because they’re able to learn from many of those as a child, under the safety of our roof, as opposed to having free reign for the first time at age 18 or 21 or later, whenever they move out into their own place.

whether it’s wearing short sleeves in winter (i bring their jacket, just in case), eating something that i don’t think is the healthiest choice, or buying the heavily advertised, pricey toy that i’m sure will break within two days of purchase, i let them learn lessons from these sorts of things as much as is feasible.

that’s not to say my kids run the show–but there are many situations where i CAN give them autonomy and relinquish arbitrary control without harming others, myself/them included.

Also–unschooling is about respect. Some people take that to mean that instead of kids being forced to respect the parents, as per mainstream parenting models, the parents defer to the kids… In my opinion that’s not sustainable in the long run or fair. Respect is extended to and encouraged between every member of the family–yourSelf included. Your freedom ends where another person’s begins–no one should have the right to bulldoze or disregard another.

it’s about continually striking a balance, modeling respect for others and for ourselves, and gently intervening when necessary. for example, my 13 year old’s desire to fight with weapons does not mean that he gets to do battle with unwilling participants! my 10 year old’s desire to sing doesn’t mean she should do it in the room where others are watching a show or listening to the radio.

find ways to say YES while accommodating everyone’s comfort and desires–not just the “squeakiest wheel”–and that includes yourself!

unschooling is a family affair–so pick up that hobby you’ve always wanted to start, or read the books that you’ve been wanting to read. do what makes your heart sing–reconnect with your own desires. not because it’s good for your kids, or because they might see you doing X and want to join you (“ooh, they might learn something!”)–but simply because it’s healthy for you to take care of yourSelf–body and mind.

choosing connection and trust over coercion and fear is the basis of an unschooling lifestyle.

My Journey to and Beyond Vegetarianism, Part 2

So in my last post in this series, I left off at the point where I was a complacent vegan who felt “pretty good” about my choices from an ethical and a nutritional standpoint, and was more or less satisfied with my diet for the time being.

Then, gradually, I lost passion about veganism.  Now, I was never one of those street-corner supporters, denouncing the evils of flesh food to anyone who would listen–but from the start, I had been quietly passionate about lessening animal cruelty and helping the environment–and being vegan was the most tangible way I thought that I could effect positive change.

Somewhere along the line, I lost passion for most other things in my life, as well.  I was in the grips of a deep depression.  I realized that I wanted out of my marriage at the time, and felt that I was trapped in a vortex of negativity and fear.  It took monumental efforts to shift my thinking and move forward from this dark place.  Naturally, things that were not of the utmost importance fell by the wayside during this time.

As I picked up the pieces, slowly, I started to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t have the finances to return to the way I had been eating before, when I was “healthier”.  I talked a lot about my vexing relationship with food at this time in my life here, over a year ago.

Truthfully, we ate pretty well after we mastered the learning curve of having a very strict budget to contend with.  But it was a far cry from my previous, convenient, “fast-veg” diet.

That year–the year I got remarried and had my third baby–I learned to cook spaghetti sauce from scratch, and to cherish the feeling of a full stomach.  I had to re-train myself to eat things that I had worked so hard NOT to eat, or want, or even like.  During that year, I think what kept me on the path of vegetarianism more than anything else was that it was cheap.

I developed a really rotten philosophy about food.  It was arguably necessary at the time, but it’s not easy to just reboot your internal programming and change your diet back to a healthy one after eating addictive crap for over a year.

I also learned a lot about how I regarded food.  I was never a good cook, and mostly I didn’t care about how my food tasted.  For all my high-minded idealism, I mostly just ate whatever was convenient that fulfilled the label of “vegan”, to shut my stomach up when it complained.  When I met my now-husband, however, he showed me a completely different way of thinking about food–one that I am still struggling to embrace after all my negative conditioning!

My husband now is an excellent cook.  He has a passion for good, fresh food.  He’s respectful of vegetarian and vegan diets, but he’s an omnivore.  One of the first days we spent together, he cooked me an unbelievable feast.  I thought, when I met him, that he might end up as a star chef one day–and I still do.

Ironically, the foods that my husband prepares are sometimes full of dairy, fat or sugar–but I feel differently about them.  His intentions of what he is trying to create–something beyond simple sustenance–cause a sort of alchemy to happen to his food.  He is able to infuse the food he cooks with a sort of energetic vibe that makes it fortifying and life-affirming, in spite of what the nutritional facts might say about it.

So I reveled in things I had never allowed myself to try before–like cream cheese, white sauces, homemade spring rolls, and more.  As money became less of a problem, we enjoyed our food even more.  Cooking a big dinner for the holidays has become joyful and amazing–instead of a drudgery, or even something to avoid altogether, like when I was a child.

However, as time went on, my husband’s health issues got worse and worse, but not in the typical “you eat the standard american diet” ways.

Then I met Catherine.  Catherine is my very best friend–and a cancer survivor.  She is passionate about food, but in a slightly different way than my husband is.  She describes her diet as “clean”–and it was very impressive to meet someone who ate like she did, especially to me.  Mostly organics, fresh fruit and veggies, nothing with more than six pronounceable ingredients on the label (yes, really!).

Although, I admit that I felt very uncomfortable when I saw that she ate organic dairy.  Oh no!  Dairy is so unhealthy for a cancer survivor!  I thought.  I never considered that there was a reason beyond that she wasn’t hungry, when she politely declined the pasta I fixed when she came over to visit.  But Catherine blew my mind when I learned that she regarded grains as unhealthy.  What???  That’s the foundation of my diet!  And you try not to eat them at all??.

She told me about Paleo and Primal diets, and I had never heard of such a thing.  Previously, I had considered the diet options of man as being on a sliding scale or continuum, with from least healthy/enlightened to most healthy/enlightened–and you moved up or down that scale mostly related to how much meat or dairy you ate.  Raw veganism was, in my mind, the pinnacle of dietary health, and something that mere mortals like myself were mostly incapable of.

Then we started putting the pieces together, and we found that my husband has celiac disease.  He is severely allergic to wheat, among other things.

Whaaat??The foundation of my diet was being implicated again!  I still had a lot to learn.

Here’s a link to Part 3 of this series.

Why I Don’t Like Rewards and Punishments

Gentle discipline. That sounds pretty progressive, right? Not spanking or hitting children IS still a pretty progressive concept in our society. In my opinion, it’s disheartening that we’re still not collectively as a culture at the place where hitting kids is just accepted as absurd, archaic, and wrong for any reason…

But I digress. This post isn’t about non-gentle discipline. It’s about the ways in which we are moving forward, but in very small, still-misguided ways. Not that I’m the perfect parent, as if there is such a thing–but I am willing to admit that there’s still plenty of room for positive change. I am willing to acknowledge the ways in which we (collectively and personally) are still held back from relating to our kids from a place of love and trust, instead of fear and control.

One of the things–tools, if you will–that parents often turn to, or use more heavily, when they are working toward a more gentle way of relating to their kids, is using rewards and consequences. “Hey, the kids did what I told them to, there was no yelling or hitting (which is spanking, don’t kid yourself), and everything is great!”

Well, yes. But no. There is much more going on with rewards and consequences than just the immediate behavior changes that are effected. For many parents, the question of whether rewards and consequences “work” is rather a moot point. We don’t care whether they “work”, because we are more concerned with the long-term behavioral and psychological consequences of using such techniques.

Incidentally, of course they “work”. Pavlov proved that with doggies in the 1890s–but I deeply question the integrity of behaviorism as a school of thought when applied to human beings–in other words, beings who are intrinsically motivated to think critically and to make decisions based on internal judgments, not external carrots and sticks. For more on this, please check out Unconditional Parenting, by Alfie Kohn. You can read the first chapter, which goes into behaviorism and why it’s not appropriate for parenting, here.

The thing is, the concepts of rewards and punishment are so ingrained in our culture and our thinking that it’s at first hard to see how it might be damaging. Think of it this way: We are putting out little fires again and again, instead of investing a lot of time and money to create a fire-resistant structure. And we’re neglecting to notice all the little scorched spots adding up…

I am not merely interested in changing the day-to-day behavior of my kids–and I believe that that’s all rewards and punishments really do. Behavior is really just a symptom of the way that the child is currently perceiving the world to operate.

Behavior is like the mushroom (incidental), while the essential substance of belief/worldview (which manifests behaviors of all sorts) is the mycelium–invisible, yet vast and essential. Just stamping out the mushroom won’t get of the mycelium from which it sprung.

Punishing “bad’ behavior might get rid of the behavior, but punishment does not help the child to internalize why the behavior is being labeled as “bad”–WHY he shouldn’t do it. He is learning that the adults in the world around him don’t like when he does X, so he learns to avoid doing x when they’re around, or until he’s grown up.

Or–perhaps just as bad–he learns that pleasing the people in his external world is what’s important in life, and he dissociates from or subverts those parts of himself that display as “bad” in the opinion of the people around him. Never questioning why x is “bad” is the first place, what circumstances make x “bad,” or whether x is indeed “bad” at all.

Punishments create a worldview in which the child learns to look to others for what’s right and wrong, and critically thinking about WHY things are the way they are is not emphasized. Even the laws of the land, ideally, are followed because they make sense, because there is a rhyme and reason to them that we generally agree with. We don’t all drive on the right side of the road solely because we’re afraid we’ll get a traffic fine or go to jail if we don’t.

There are plenty of things in life with natural negative consequences–we don’t need to arbitrarily create more of them to teach kids about actions having consequences. If your kiddo leaves his skates out in the rain, and they get mildewed, he will likely learn from that without any additional negativity imposed by you. He’ll have to scrub the mildew off, or the skates will need to be thrown out, or he’ll have to save his money or wait until you can buy another pair for him. He might miss out on skating with his friends for awhile, etc.

Incidentally, this is not the same thing as purposely cleaning up the rest of the yard but leaving his skates there to “teach him a lesson”. There’s a line between natural consequences and on-purpose consequences–and you also don’t want to miss an opportunity to be nice for the sake of niceness. Next time he might remember, and bring your garden tools in along with his skates, for niceness… Think the best of your child–giving the benefit of the doubt to him will teach him to do the same with others…eventually.

That’s not to say we should embrace and encourage tantrums at the grocery store–but we’d certainly do well to recognize that children don’t WANT to lose control, or make us angry, etc. If they do something that makes us angry, most likely they had a need that they were trying to meet (in their not-yet-developed, immature way), that precluded our opinion about what they were doing.

One caveat here, however–if there’s already a controlling/manipulative, adversarial relationship firmly in place, an older child might actually be retaliating with his behavior–i.e, trying to make his parents angry. By the time I was about 8 years old, I did sometimes try to make my parents angry–becasue I felt like I had no way to make them understand me, so i wanted to get back at them for making up arbitrary punishments and “consequences”, and never believing me when I explained the reason why I’d done something “wrong”. Kids can be hurt so much more deeply than most parents realize. We say kids are resilient, and they are, but that’s no reason to treat them as if their emotions are trifling.

We can apply this concept of whether the child is “trying” to make us angry to this common scenario: The two year old who tells bald-faced lies. You see them unroll the toilet paper.

“Did you just unroll the toilet paper?!”

“No,” they say.

Most parenting “experts” would say the child should be punished for lying AND unrolling the toilet paper, at this point.

Here’s an alternative interpretation of what’s going on, which I believe is much more plausible:

The two-yr old has poor impulse control (incidentally, impulse control is not fully developed in humans until somewhere between 18 and 22 years old), and also has a magical and/or very subjective (i.e. what HE believes is what IS) view of reality. He saw the toilet paper and thought it would be fun (educational!) to unroll it! Whee!

Then he saw your face and heard your tone of voice, and realized that he’d upset you. Ohh–oops. He wishes he hadn’t done it, so he says “No” when you ask him if he did it. He is responding to your question in accordance with what he *wishes* were true, now that he realizes he upset you. Further, the two year old knows fully well that you saw him do it.

So, it’s setting him up for confusion and asking him to displease you even more, when you ask him a question that he knows you already know the answer to!

It’s much more helpful to just clean up the toilet paper mess together and calmly talk about why we don’t play with toilet paper (it hurts trees, that’s not how we use it, it’s expensive, etc etc)–or even better, just laugh with your child about it–delight in his delight! Then, make sure the toilet paper is not available for playtime in the future.

I already hear the objections: “That’s not feasible/convenient for everyone!” But of course, nobody said that mindfully raising a child was going to be even close to convenient 😉

So we’ve talked about punishments and consequences–now, rewards.

I know, I know. When I was first introduced to the concept of rewards as harmful, I felt frustrated! I’d already come so far from hitting and yelling–even rewards are harmful?

“I give him chocolate, he pees in the potty! I let him watch TV with me for an hour, after he eats all his dinner! How can this be wrong?”

The research of behaviorist psychologists has found again and again that introducing rewards for certain activities actually decreases motivation for those activities, compared to before rewards were introduced. So even if we do succeed in getting rid of a negative behavior by offering rewards, we are actually reinforcing the desire to do something if, and only if, a reward is involved–still not addressing the underlying cause of the “bad” behavior.

I put “bad” in quotes because often we label behaviors of children as bad or good, when really we aren’t aware of the underlying reasons why a child is acting the way he or she is.

If we provide rewards for our children reading books, doing chores, or other “desirable” behaviors, then we actually dampen the natural desire and instinct of children, which is to learn and interact with their environments. Rewards interfere with the natural process, which is to derive joy from learning, helping, or otherwise participating in daily life.

I understand that offering rewards is a really hard habit to break! My mother raised me on a steady diet of “good job!”, presents for good grades, and chore charts–and it just created apathy and distrust.

“She said my drawing was awesome when I barely even tried. Does she really even look at my art? If I get a dollar for “doing the laundry”, what if I can’t fold the sheets? How much less can I get away with?”

Incidentally, it’s the same with grading work in school:

“If I know I can get an A with minimal effort, why waste my time doing more? If I don’t do the report at all, I can still pass with a B? How many days can I miss and still pass the class?”

These are the sorts of questions I think virtually every opportunistic teenager asks in junior high and high school–because schools especially train kids to focus on “getting the grade” rather than actually challenging their mind or pushing to learn and try new, difficult tasks. Hyper-focus on grades is a big part of the reason why I think our schools are failing. We are looking at education as a product to be prepared, instead of a process to be explored and savored.

If the goal in school is to get the grade, then minimal effort is going to be expended to achieve maximum grade percentage. Kids usually aren’t willing to risk a lower grade for going out on a limb and pushing themselves to improve upon their personal best. If they can get a 90% (i.e, a “reward”) with moderate effort and few mistakes, why would they risk getting a lower grade (i.e. getting “punished”)–even if the alternative assignment is more challenging, interesting, or mind-expanding?

Ultimately, what it comes down to is your underlying beliefs about human nature. Are we self-destructive, hapless beings who naturally gravitate toward negativity in our relationships with self/others/environment if not for artificial constructs keeping us in line (rewards, punishments, rules, laws, etc)? Or are we naturally self-affirming and growth-oriented, naturally inclined to meet our needs, and in need of only minimal, gentle guidance to help us learn to do so in ways that are respectful and helpful to the world/others?

I believe the latter, without a doubt.

What do you think?

Living Deliberately Versus the Path of Least Resistance

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” –Gandhi

If your choices are not in line with your values, then you don’t really value yourself.  

What provocative statements these are for me!  A good word to sum it all up is “congruency”.  We won’t feel happiness or fulfillment in our lives if we are constantly in an internal conflict over what we do and say versus what we feel and think.
Are there elements in your day-to-day life that are at odds with the way you feel or believe?  Maybe you aren’t even fully aware or conscious of these conflicting feelings, but they will show up invariably as stress or irritation, reluctance to follow through, or simply depression.  To get through the daily grind, many people have had to dissociate themselves with their core values and emotions, sometimes for years.  
I recall having to do this to cope with school and life in general sometime before junior high.  I felt so bored and frustrated, and would rather have done just about anything instead of resigning myself to the pace and stagnancy of public school’s educational and social “diet”, yet I was not presented with any viable alternatives.  By the time I was seventeen, I was barely even aware I had emotions or opinions of my own.  I did what was expected of me, and followed the advice of my friends or my parents.  Even though those were often of opposite flavors, both were equally fruitless, diminishing paths for me to have followed.  
That year I had a vision of myself standing in a raging river, with my feet in two separate canoes, each drifting away from each other.  I was approaching the falls, and I knew that something had to change profoundly.  I took the path of least resistance and allowed fear and shame to rule me.  I entered a holding pattern–a placid, even joyful facade, with a deep numbness buried leagues beneath the surface.  I would not awaken from this paralysis for many years.  
I still have a long way to go before I am anywhere near to achieving congruency in my life, although I am light-years ahead of where I was, say, five years ago 🙂  My art is one of the many things that I simply didn’t allow myself the thought of pursuing.  I think I first spoke of wanting to be an artist when I was about four years old, and since then, everyone who was anyone in my life made sure to tell me about the “starving artists”, how people can’t really do that as a career, how it’s not really useful or necessary, not stable or respectable, and so on.  I have come to realize, however, that even if I don’t make another dollar with my artistic pursuits, even if no one “gets it” but me–I still need to allow myself a creative outlet for my own emotional health and happiness.  Otherwise, I’m missing on of life’s key points–at least in my own worldview:  Enjoyment.
Art aside, however, there are still things that I follow the path of least resistance on, and I am experiencing a feeling of tension about these things.  They are out of sync with my supposed vision and goals for the future, and they are holding me back spiritually–which is to say emotionally, socially, financially, and so on.  (It all comes back to Spirit, I believe.)  So why do I allow this incongruence?  Why does anyone allow this to persist in their lives, even when they are aware of the self-sabotage they are creating?  Maybe we are attached to the current situation more deeply than we are consciously aware of.  Maybe the fear of the unknown is more upsetting than the fear of failing to achieve our goals.  
Let’s take one familiar example:  Caffeine.  I have been fighting this battle for years, more often on the losing side.  However, I am even more aware now of how foolish it was of me to not conquer this issue years ago, because it would have been easier on me, and everyone around me as well.  Perhaps 10 years ago, caffeine was something of a mood lifter to me.  It was a nice extra, a boost to my day.  Today, it’s more of a need.  I feel like I can’t function properly–like I am below my baseline if I don’t have a cup of coffee in the morning.  Does that mean I should surrender and admit defeat?  Hell no!  However, this “below normal” feeling is what leads me to keep having that cup of coffee.  I don’t want to be an unproductive, whiny jerk to my family, and so I drink up.  In truth, my current circumstances reinforce the bad habit instead of my desire to overcome it, with fear closing the circle.  
I feel similarly about my diet.  I have been a vegetarian for over 15 years, but lately I have not made nutritional excellence my top priority.  I think about it, read about it, analyze my own rhetoric, but in the end, I don’t eat that healthfully–at least, not for a vegetarian! Worse, since I don’t want to give my kids the punitive “do as I say, not as I do” treatment, they eat pretty much the same way that I do.  My leading-by-example is pretty soft on this one!  Now, we are far from the “SAD diet,” (Standard American Diet, for those not up on veg-speak 😉 but there’s still loads of room for improvement.  
With regard to our diet, I think I am attached to the current situation in terms of feeling unable to afford a healthy diet (financial fear), and unable to commit to the extra time and planning required to eat healthfully.  That is a lame statement to make, but it’s all I’ve got!  I am right-brained to a fault, and I suck at time management.  I have fallen into a pattern of eating the foods of least resistance, and that is NOT in line with my long-term goal of optimum health, fitness and longevity.
In short, I’m no longer in danger of going over the falls, so to speak–but my life is largely following a path of least resistance in other areas.  This inner turmoil is going to increase until it’s louder than my own numbness and I will be forced to take action–either bravely toward my goals or away from my fears.  I am at least firmly grounded in one boat, but I need to pull out some bigger oars–or maybe a rudder!