This week, 70% of my life is disintegrating.
I feel subdued.
But it’s happening.
And, as Sesame Street would say, “This transition is brought to you by the number twelve.”
Twelve years ago, I moved to Sydney, Australia, Ph.D. in hand, and started my career as a psychology professor.
For twelve years I’ve been teaching psychology full-time, at two major research universities—the University of New South Wales and the University of Rochester—plus one small liberal arts college called Hobart and William Smith, plus my current institution, Monroe Community College.
I’ve been promoted.
I’ve been granted tenure.
I have thrived.
And I have loved it. Nearly everything about it. (The administrative politics I could do without…but other than that, everything.)
My favorite thing is being in the classroom teaching.
Followed closely by advising students—helping them find their way in the world.
Up until last year, I most definitely pictured myself professing (is that a word?) until my last working day. Being a professor was as much a part of my identity as having brown hair.
Until I stumbled on something even better.
Something that calls me even more.
This Bright Line Eating™ movement.
Watching it transform lives, restore self-esteem, and bestow joy.
Blogging about it, designing courses for it, charting its course.
Hiring a team and creating an amazing team culture.
But I can’t do it all.
Teaching four college courses each semester, serving as Assistant Chair of the Psychology Department, being a wife, mothering three young children, growing a large internet business, hiring and managing over half a dozen employees and sub-contractors, participating in the Baha’i Faith, and sponsoring and doing service work in two different 12-step programs.
That’s what I’ve done for the past nine months.
But I have known that this day would come.
This day of letting go.
I’ve been preparing for it.
I’ve been looking forward to it.
Contrary to what some might think, I’m not actually fond of working myself to a nub.
I like to push hard, but I also like to rest well.
I’m a big fan of restoration. Of sharpening the saw.
And there’s been very little time for that in my life lately.
So things need to change.
I’ve been working on creating that change, that space. But I was already committed to teaching spring 2015 classes when my Bright Line Eating™ business took off late last fall. The Master Schedule was live and students had already started signing up for courses.
Leaving abruptly or improperly was not something I was willing to do.
I needed more space in my life, but I had to do it right.
So, earlier this year, I applied for a leave of absence.
And, last month, the Board of Trustees granted me a one-year, unpaid leave of absence from all teaching and administrative duties at my college, starting September 1st, 2015.
Which means, essentially, starting when classes end this spring.
Which is now.
Granted, I don’t have a crystal ball.
It’s possible I’ll go back.
But if things continue with Bright Line Eating™ along the current trajectory, that won’t be happening.
There simply won’t be room in my life for another professional involvement, even part-time.
So I’m experiencing the loss now.
Yesterday I taught my last class.
It was a three-hour weekly seminar on the psychology of eating.
We ended with our desks in a big circle, doing a round on our key takeaways from everything we read/watched/discussed/experienced this semester and another round on how our eating has changed as a result.
Even my eating has changed.
As they spoke of how profoundly their lives have changed, my soul filled up.
At the end of the last round, when everyone had spoken, there was silence.
I gazed around the circle, meeting twenty-four sets of eyes.
I didn’t break the silence.
I just looked at them.
And felt the moment.
I let it swell and turn rosy.
I invited the sadness up.
My face started to break.
Someone staid stop, you’re going to make me cry.
So we did.
I got so many hugs.
So many thank yous.
The very last student to linger said something that created the perfect segue.
She said, my mom is doing Bright Line Eating™. She’s in your Boot Camp. She weighs less now than she did when I was five years old. She’s so happy now. And we’re so close. We’re cooking together and sharing healthy meals. I know she’ll be in my life a lot longer thanks to what you’re doing for her. So don’t feel bad. What you’re doing is helping a lot of people, and it’s really important.
I went back to my office and on the way I ran into a dear friend.
I collapsed into his arms in sobs.
He let me cry for a long while, wondering what divorce or child dead or sudden upheaval had happened to me.
When my face was calm again I could only speak in the merest whisper.
I taught my last class, I said.
Happy it was that.
You’re still sure? He asked.
I nodded my head.
But that’s not all.
At the beginning of this blog I said that 70% of my life was disintegrating.
My career as a professor wasn’t 70% of my life.
Not by a far cry.
No, the rest of that belongs to my involvement with my 12-step program for food addiction.
Which I joined twelve years ago this month, in May of 2003, right before I moved to Sydney, Australia.
And now, twelve years later, I am leaving.
I’m just going to do Bright Line Eating™.
I’m all out.
And all in.
It’s a big decision.
For me, maybe the biggest.
This particular 12-step food program has been instrumental in changing my life.
It gave me the powerful transformation that allows me to be who I am today.
Yet I keep getting glimpses that my highest calling is not to be in it forever.
I’ve tried to leave before.
It didn’t work.
Perhaps it didn’t work because I deliberately tried to eat sugar and flour again, thinking I was cured.
Perhaps it didn’t work because I didn’t have Bright Line Eating™.
I have to stick with my Bright Lines.
That’s just how I’m built.
I hope I’ve learned my lesson.
I trust that I’ve learned my lesson.
Folks in the 12-step program might look at my departure and see it as a clear sign that I most definitely have not learned my lesson.
But the few people I’ve talked this over with haven’t said that at all.
I have Bright Line Eating™ now.
I’m like a spider spinning a web, who is also suspended by the web.
And happily spinning away.
One thing I wondered, as I contemplated leaving, was whether being “all in” with Bright Line Eating™ would make me a better shepherd of the movement.
Without the fallback of regular, live 12-step food meetings, frequent 12-step phone calls, and the guidance of a food sponsor to give me MY support, would I develop a better gut-feel for what people in Bright Line Eating™ need to be successful?
In Bright Line Eating™ we have an online support community, a buddy system, and the Boot Camps.
And as I left my 12-step food program this week, I quickly realized that it isn’t enough.
I need more support.
I didn’t have to think about it for long.
I easily knew what form that support should take.
A Mastermind Group.
Have you ever been in a Mastermind Group?
I’m not sure, but I think the idea comes from Napoleon Hill’s classic book Think and Grow Rich.
Probably it’s a much older idea than that.
In any case, I was in a Mastermind Group for the first time last year. I met weekly on a telephone conference call with three other women who were building socially-conscious businesses, and we supported each other in our endeavors.
I hired Monica Leggett, who is a fabulous coach and an expert in structuring Mastermind Groups, to help us do it right.
She guided us in coming up with the structure, the format for the calls, and a weekly Call Prep Form for extra accountability.
It worked SO WELL.
So, this past week I’ve been busy assembling my Mastermind Group for Bright Line Eating™.
There are four of us (including me), from all over the country, and in a few days’ time we’re going to start meeting via conference call for 90 minutes each week.
We’ll have group accountability to stick with our Bright Lines.
Plus ample time for sharing.
And lots of loving and being loved.
Now THAT’S support.
In the next Boot Camp that is coming up in just a couple of weeks, I’m going to be introducing the full Mastermind blueprint, sharing all the resources I have on how to do it right, and inviting Boot Campers to form their own Mastermind Groups.
Bright Line Eating™ is evolving again.
Life marches on.
But every change is, by definition, a loss.
I love that I get to feel the feelings of this loss as it’s happening.
Maybe I should say these losses.
Even though I’m happy to have fewer eggs in fewer baskets, and to reclaim a measure of sanity and proportion in my life, I can’t pretend it’s not sad.
It’s very sad.
I’m going to miss being in the classroom.
I’m going to miss being a part of the close-knit worldwide 12-step fellowship that has meant so much to me these past twelve years.
And all the people I have loved in it.
We’ll stay in touch, some of us, but it won’t be quite the same.
I’m happy to now have just one 12-step program to work, my original program that lifted me from the scrap heap on August 9th, 1994 and struck me clean and sober.
But I’m definitely grieving.
Grieving is good, though.
It’s better than the alternative.
I’m not stuffing my feelings down with food.
Nor am I rushing around, so busy and distracted that I don’t even notice my internal state.
My food is in its place, and my feelings are free to come up to the surface.
I think everyone who starts Bright Line Eating™ does so with a wave of big loss.
Loss of the foods you used to eat, the way you used to mourn, numb-out, and celebrate, and perhaps even loss of the relationships that were founded on shared food comas that won’t survive the transition.
Even in a fresh new beginning, there is loss.
And make no mistake, though this is a week of two huge endings, two huge losses for me, it’s also a week of new beginnings.
In a very real way, I’m beginning Bright Line Eating™ this week.
I’m all in.
I’m all yours.
P.S. – In deference to the 11th Tradition which reads, in part, “…we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films,” please remember that this is a public forum and refrain from mentioning the names of specific 12-step programs in your comments. General wording is fine. Thanks.