All Out, All In

This week, 70% of my life is disintegrating.

I feel subdued.

It’s surreal.

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.

This Bright Line Eating™ movement.

Building it.

Nurturing it.

Co-creating it.

With you.

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.

This.

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.

Yeah.

Insane.

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 the result of the Food Revolution Summit interview I played for them on the science of genetic modification, I’m now careful to avoid GMOs.

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.

Deliberately.

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.

Career.

Gone.

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.

Perfect.

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.

He smiled.

Happy it was that.

You’re still sure? He asked.

I nodded my head.

I’m sure.

Career.

Gone.

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.

Whew.

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.

They’ve understood.

I have Bright Line Eating™ now.

I’m like a spider spinning a web, who is also suspended by the web.

Supported.

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.

Perfect.

Have you ever been in a Mastermind Group?

They’re amazing.

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.

Plural.

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.

Terribly.

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.

So much.

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.

With love,

Susan

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Judy Gresser

    I’m all in, too! When does the next boot camp start? Your rock star assistant mentioned mid-May…it’s officially 2 days away from mid-May and I’m chomping at the bit! Ok Ok…maybe “chomping” is my whole problem (grin).

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      Hey Judy,

      Keep an eye out for the videos I’ll be releasing this coming week. The third and fourth videos will tell you all about the Boot Camp.

      Registration will start on June 1st, but if you don’t watch the videos that come out before that, you’ll miss it.

      So long as you open all the emails that come out from me between now and the end of the month you’ll be fine.

      xoxox
      Susan

      P.S. — Love your enthusiasm!!! Your life is about to change, sweetheart, BIG TIME!!!!

      Reply ·
  2. Beverley Woods

    I almost didn’t make time to read this today (as it is a super busy time) but then I did and it made me cry. Wow.
    Thank you for sharing.
    I think it is time for me to be all in also.

    Blessings,

    Reply ·
  3. /Rita Goebert

    Susan, Congratulations on your decision! I wondered how long it would be before you came to that crossroads. My simple comparison was when I resigned from being a Pampered Chef, just before I reached the goal weight I had set for myself. I felt it was too precious to put in jeopardy by continuing to play with food for the sake of meeting monthly quotas. You and those you will touch so profoundly with your Bright Line Eating will be in my prayers. I hope you continue your weekly Blog which has such inspiring tidbits for all of us. You will be missed, but not forgotten. Rita G

    Reply ·
  4. Emily

    Susan, you’re such an incredible inspiration to me!

    Reply ·
  5. Joseph Fleischman

    Wow! Two huge life-changing moments at once! You’re just amazing!
    Joseph back in Missoula

    Reply ·
  6. Margaret

    Susan, I rarely run into you at MCC but will miss you and wish you well as you follow your heart into this new endeavor.

    Reply ·
  7. Betsy

    As I was reading the part on how you used to celebrate I realized how my need for foods that I haven’t eaten for over 2 months is becoming so distant & what a different person I am from the one who started the boot camp such a short time ago. I really don’t feel like I am in mourning over it at all. It is just amazing! You have a special ability to help people change their lives for the better. This will keep on growing.

    Reply ·
  8. Lois Gannon

    Clearing space is so important for us. Congratulations Susan on making this amazing change in your life. Everyone will benefit from your decision and your example is inspiring. I can easily be a “yes” person and try to do it all and then I pay the price emotionally and physically. I love the MasterMind concept. I utilized it years ago through my spiritual community and made some major changes in my life and I’m excited that you are bringing the concept to Bright Line Eating. Also, as someone else asked, when is the next boot camp?

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      Hey Lois,

      Registration is starting soon! Just keep an eye out for emails this coming week and the week after that about my free 3-video series on the Psychology and Brain Science of Sustainable Weight Loss. The 3rd and 4th videos give information for folks wanting to sign up for the Boot Camp.

      xoxo
      Susan

      P.S. — Thanks for all the love and support!

      Reply ·
  9. Cynthia Ferguson

    You have such a gift with words – beautifully written.
    Change is so very difficult even when it is so totally desired. There is value in grieving and sharing your grief, it makes it easier to continue.
    There will be many challenges ahead and of course, you have your trusty Boot Campers.
    BLE has changed my life in a way I thought impossible a few short months ago. You can be sure that I will be a BLE ambassador for the remainder of my life!!
    Yes, unstoppable is the key! We BLErs just keep going and going just like the old energizer bunny ads.

    Reply ·
  10. Francine Posa

    Awesome wow hopeful faith-filled gratitude loving caring beautiful soulful these are just a few words that come to mind after reading your next path on this journey we have allll experienced.
    While not perfect yet in my BLE the weight is coming off!!! Thanks to BLE and another 12 step program.
    I am always sooo excited when I talk about BLE. As someone posted ‘it’s just different for me’ cannot quite put a ‘finger’ on it.
    I am soooo gratefullll you have come into my life and for the changes that are taking place !
    Congratulations on your decisions made with much love and for your world and those of others.
    May we all continue to be blessed as we move ‘together’ forward into a new vision for our food challenges!!
    Thank you thank you thank you Susan
    Francine

    Reply ·
  11. Josea Tamira Crossley

    Wait to go Susan…!!! Death and rebirth, metaphorically speaking. Love how you are grieving it so deeply. It speaks to your passion for life which translates through into everything you do! xxoo

    Reply ·
  12. Linden Morris Delrio

    Beautiful and tender endings…leading into this new phase of your amazing journey! Your unstoppable selfhood and beautiful soul will continue to stand you in good stead I’m so excited to witness you passing through your personal threshold and onward, as you embark on this most Incredible Adventure yet Susan!

    Reply ·
  13. Laurie L

    Best wishes to you Susan! You will be missed!
    Laurie L.

    Reply ·
  14. Deborah S.

    I have been looking for you …. Now I understand where you went. You will be missed but not forgotten. I will continue reading your blog for as long as you continue to write it …. I learn so much because the messages are so clear.
    Your helping many with your passion and I wish you well.

    Reply ·
  15. Marcia

    Congratulations for walking on faith and following your heart. I hope to join your next boot camp and change my life.

    Reply ·
  16. Aaron

    Sad to hear you won’t be teaching anymore, you were always one of my favorite professors!

    But I’m happy to hear your following your ambition (not a dream because you make it reality).
    All the best!

    Reply ·
  17. Wendy

    Dearest Susan, I’m deeply moved by your blog. Huge congratulations on making these benchmark transitions–they don’t sound easy, though you sound well-prepared and very well supported. I can also feel your sadness–I understand that loss that comes with a big swerve in life, even if it’s deliberate and offers new opportunities. As a new “Bright-Liner” I’ve been inspired how you juggled all your roles; I was grateful you shared about them, which allowed me to step more fully into my own. Now, perhaps a bit selfishly, I’m over-joyed to be stepping into this new phase with you. Thank you for your commitment to building the movement. Thank you for the profound difference you’re making in my life and in the ever-growing community. With deep love, W.

    Reply ·
  18. Luci

    Susan,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure your decision was a very difficult one to make. We will miss you in the classroom but realize that you need to follow your heart. Many people will be grateful for your choice to devote yourself to Bright Line Eating. Congratulations on your decision and best of luck to you!

    Reply ·
  19. robin

    Woohoo! Maybe we can go camping with the girls after all 🙂
    Congratulations, pal. And it’s a leave of absence, too, which is the best of both worlds, just in case….
    I know your love of teaching AND can feel your deep breath–all the way over here!!
    xoxo

    Reply ·
  20. kathleen dalton

    Susan, congratulations! It takes real courage to make the changes you are making but good for you. You will never know if your dream can really come true until you experience it. Give it your best and if not you have many other options. You are an inspiration.

    kathleen

    Reply ·
  21. Cordelia

    Hey Susan, I know we don’t talk much but I would be remiss if I didn’t say just how much of an inspiration you have been to me. I pray you have much success as you reach the multitudes of people who need this program. Stay focused, stay inspired, stay true to yourself.

    Cordelia

    Reply ·
  22. Ajji

    I am touched by the sweet souls whom you have touched! I am getting ready for the new Boot Camp…

    Reply ·
  23. Pat

    Good Blog, step forward with confidence. Love Pat

    Reply ·
  24. Sarah McKibben

    Good for you! You’re so good at what you do…I think this is a great decision!

    –Sarah

    Reply ·
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