I recently started working as a literacy volunteer in New Britain. I had to undergo training first, and was then assigned two students, women from Poland who needed help with their English skills. I’ve been teaching them once a week for a while now, and it’s wonderful.
They’re learning, I’m learning, and I’m feeling a bit more useful once again.
The organization (LVCC — you can find them at www.literacycentral.org) provides lots of support and ideas for tutors and students alike. In keeping with the traditions of January, they suggested we explore the topic of New Year’s resolutions. A bittersweet exercise for me, since I was already several weeks into a failed attempt to keep my own promise to myself — to get back on the weight-loss wagon. I just couldn’t seem to get up the resolve.
Willpower, that oh-so-elusive, so very slippery factor that rides off into the sunset exactly when you need it most. That ethereal virtue that disappears faster than quarters at a magician show.
I’ve read all about habits, stimulus-response, conditioned learning, cognitive control circuits, the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, dopamine, etc., etc., – the plethora of theories and facts, hypotheses and studies that you find when you have a look-see at the modern science of overeating. Right now I’m looking into neurolinguistic programming, and might supplement that with some self-taught tapping as espoused by the EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) gurus. What’s a mother to do? My limited personal resources preclude options like consultants or classes, but then it’s all up to you in the end anyway, isn’t it?
So resolve, resolution, what can help me here? The Oxford English Dictionary describes a resolution as “a firm decision to do or not to do something,” as well as “the quality of being determined or resolute.” Resolute is “admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.” To resolve is to “settle or find a solution to (a problem. . .)”, to “decide firmly on a course of action.” Yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it. Right now, absolutely none of that applies to me!
And here’s another problem: the Latin root is solvere – to loosen or release! Oh, no! This is no help whatsoever! I’m loosening all right – my clothes, my sweaters; I’m scrounging around for the loosest, biggest stuff I can find! I don’t loosen belts, because I stopped wearing those years ago! Now I’m really stuck; the deeper meaning of this word gets me absolutely nowhere.
Yesterday I found a scientific article in which the authors propose the paradigm of a reduced control/self-regulation brain center, coupled with an enhanced reward/motivational center, as a way of understanding addiction to various substances, including food.
This little diagram somehow made me feel better, and since it’s all posited to be connected to dysregulated brain chemical flow, it feels like it fits right into my chronic depression. And so, for now, I’ve decided to add another layer. I’m going to tailor my meditation work to try and activate my self-control center. Maybe I’ll even throw in some written affirmations. I’ll just write “My control center is open,” or “My control center is active,” or “My control center is stronger,” over and over again. What have I got to lose (no pun intended)? Pretty soon, my brain might actually believe it!
In that case, maybe “release” is indeed the operative word; I’ve got to unlock and loosen whatever is keeping that control center dormant. I thought this word had failed me, but now there’s a tiny crack open in a new little door. I’ll just have to see where it takes me.