onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “March, 2021”

Contentment: It’s not about where I am but where I’m going.

I have been off of work this week while I wait to get assigned to a new job. I have been cleaning my house and listening to audiobooks. Working out in the afternoon instead of first thing in the morning. I have been enjoying the freedom to get things done in my own time and on my own schedule. And I am feeling ridiculously content. 

Contentment is absolutely a direct result of having my eating under control. I don’t think I ever experienced it until I was literally years into having boundaries around my eating. Perhaps when I was a very small child I was content. But definitely not once I was school-age. For nearly all of my memorable life, I was anxious, worried, fearful, unhappy, and/or overwhelmed. Life was hard for me. Not because I got a bad one. In fact, on paper I got a great one. But that didn’t really matter. It didn’t mean I was happy. It didn’t mean I was grateful. I was not. 

I think a thing that happens to a lot of people is that we can see how good we have it, and it makes us think we *should* be happy. We can see who has it worse. We can see the disparities and it makes us feel like jerks. And society tells us we are jerks. There are children starving. There are kids with nothing. We have it so much better than the ones who came before us.

And all of those things might be true. But what getting my eating under control has taught me is that it is ridiculous to compare my life to anyone else’s. For the good or the bad. It is not a competition. It is not a race. It is not a zero sum game. There is no winning or losing. There is only my experience and my journey. There is only my path, and the places my path intersects with other paths. 

There is a saying that people who do what I do with food say: Keep your eyes on your own plate. This is practical advice. That person may be eating cake, but I don’t need to look at the cake. I don’t need to judge the cake eater. I don’t need to be jealous of the cake eating. And I don’t need to romance thoughts about the cake. I don’t need to focus on who has what I don’t. Especially when I have a full plate right in front of me. (Especially especially when my plate has bacon and homemade chocolate ice cream and melt-in-your-mouth carnitas.)

There is always a thing I think I want, because someone else has it. Sometimes I read a book that is so good, or beautiful,or creative that I am insanely jealous that the writer both had it in them, and could get it out so perfectly. Sometimes I see a dress that is so stunning I ache for it, but it is prohibitively expensive or made for a different body type than mine, and I have to mourn that I cannot have it. Sometimes I see someone do something I have no talent for, like drawing, or ballet, and I get frustrated that I cannot simply have it just because I want it. 

This used to seem so unfair. I was filled with envy and cruelty and shame. 

In these past 15+ years of keeping my eating boundaries, I have learned to treat the acquisition of skills as a practice rather than a gift. If I want to learn ballet, I can learn. I may not have a natural talent, or be naturally shaped the way most ballet dancers are, but I could study it if I wanted to. I could practice. I could try. I could put in the hours and the sweat. I don’t know what the results would be. But that really wouldn’t matter. I could write a book if I wanted. I could read up on the craft, and plan and plot, and sit in front of the blank page and see what uniquely me thing came out. I could give up on the expectation of genius or grace or perfection. I could be willing to make bad art.

One of the best lessons I have learned in my life is that in order to make great art, you have to be willing to make bad art. This is not just about art. I have learned to be willing to make bad life too.

The contentment that comes from having my eating under control is about accepting what is so, deciding what I want, and taking actions to create the life I want to have. It is about eliminating expectations and being willing to do something, anything, without knowing that it will turn out the way I want it to. It is about doing for the sake of doing. And not for the outcome. 

When I was eating compulsively, food was control, even if my eating was out of my control. Food helped me control feeling my feelings, which felt entirely out of my control most of my life. If those feelings were too much for me to handle, food made me numb, so I didn’t have to handle them. Getting my eating under control helped me control the experience of those feelings without feeling like I had to control the results. I could let them wash over me, use them as sign posts and guidelines, and then make choices with my higher self: my head, my heart, and my conscience.

I am still an anxious person. I am still an addict. I am still occasionally jealous and regularly ache for something that seems out of reach. But more than any of those things, I am content. I learned to choose what I already have first, and to strive for something better second. I learned to put in the time and the effort and let the chips fall where they may. I learned to define myself by how willing I am to move forward, rather than where I stand at any given moment.

The intersection of never and always

On Tuesday this past week, I celebrated my 5th wedding anniversary. And by celebrated I mean that I forgot. And my husband forgot. And then at about 10 in the morning, just as I was texting him “Oh my god! It’s our anniversary,” he called me, to tell me it was our anniversary.

For most of my life, and especially when I was an active sugar addict and compulsive eater, I was always waiting for “the good stuff.” I wanted to get through the mundane and on to the fun and exciting. I wanted the celebration, and the special occasion, and holiday. Life was suffering the boring on my way to the exceptional. I only cared about the exceptional.

I used food for that growing up. Frankly, I used food for everything growing up. But one way was to feel something that might masquerade as monumental when the reality was only humdrum. I used it to quell what was essentially continuous anxious boredom. 

In order to get my eating under control, I had to learn to be content in the ordinary. Because there was nothing to imitate that feeling of extraordinary once the food was not an option. 

Look, we all have some experience eating out of boredom. In the US, there are 34 varieties of Pringles. And that is only one brand and one product. That wouldn’t be true if we, as a culture, ate to live rather than lived to eat. (I am not promoting eating to live! If that is how you roll, many blessings to you! But that is certainly not how I roll, even after over 15 years of boundaries around my eating.) But I lived my life trying to continually fly high, so I got high. All the time. 

When I put my boundaries around my eating I had to sit in the mundane. And after a lot of time, and a lot of inner spiritual and emotional work, and a lot of acclimating myself to the general discomfort of life, because life is not comfortable, even for the luckiest of us, I came to truly enjoy the boring, moment-to-moment.

Back to my anniversary. See, I enjoy my marriage every day. I like my husband all the time. (OK…maybe not *all* the time. And I am ten thousand percent positive he’d say the same about me. But like…98.667% of the time.) I don’t need my anniversary to remind me that I am grateful to have him. I don’t need presents to celebrate. (Though I did get a beautiful bouquet when he came home that night.) 

Having my eating under control and the lifestyle I lead because of it has taught me 3 things about my relationship with my husband:

1) Keep my side of the street clean with him. Or clean it up. If I am wrong, I have to admit I am wrong, and make amends. Not just apologize, but make it right.

2) My marriage is not anniversaries. It is all of the moments of every day. It is emptying the dishwasher and watching TV on the couch, and laughing at our inside jokes, and figuring out who needs the washing machine, and who will make dinner tonight.

3) Don’t hold onto resentments. If something in my relationship is making me feel angry or hurt or unappreciated, I have to deal with it. I have to have the difficult conversation. Because it is resentments, insidious and easy to overlook, that eat up intimacy. (Resentments are also the gateway to me eating a chocolate cake. And I will tell you, that would be hell on my marriage.)

There is a quote (often attributed to Einstein, but I can’t find any proof of that) saying that either everything is a miracle or nothing is. And for me, the beauty is that they mean basically the same thing. When I stopped caring so much about what made me feel special, and let none of it feel special, it all felt special. And the most exciting thing about my anniversary was how we both forgot, and we both remembered, and neither of us cared, because we always care.

Happy to be wherever here is

I am not a person who likes change. Or surprises. Or being unprepared. So this week was not my favorite.

My husband and I were set to head to a job in Connecticut. So we did all the things we do when we head out to a job. We found an apartment, and set up utilities. We went into the garage and packed up our second “traveling” home with another set of dishes and small appliances, and sheets and towels, and all of the things that make our home ours when we are working on the road. We even have a traveling Alexa device and a traveling meat grinder. We are not messing around.

My husband had to be there a few days before me, and it was going to take 2 days to drive,  so we picked up his truck and he left on Tuesday. He drove all day Tuesday and then woke up on Wednesday and got half way through the day’s drive, just a few hours away from the apartment we would be renting, when he got a call. The job was canceled. Turn around and go home. 

That is correct. Canceled. Not postponed. Not delayed. Just plain canceled. 

I was kind of devastated. I have friends in that area. Some in Connecticut. Many in New York City. I was looking forward to being driving distance from them. And with the vaccines getting distributed, I was looking forward to getting hugs and in-person laughs. At least at some point in the year. 

And we had made lots of plans for the money we’d make there. Fix up the outside of our house. Have new concrete porches poured in both the front and the back, have the driveway redone, and have the siding on our house replaced. We counted our chickens before they were hatched.

I was also really stressed about money. We had already signed a lease on an apartment. I did not know what that would mean for us financially.

But the apartment complex terminated the lease and it only cost us the security deposit, which was the best case scenario. So all that I really had to do was mourn the lost expectations of living back on the east coast near my friends and the money I had already spent in my dreams. And I did have to mourn those things. So I did.

But a lot of really good things came out of this as well. For example, in a row, we had some little things go wrong right before we left. Our plumbing was wonky because roots sometimes grow in our pipes, so we had some plumbers come over and snake our outside drain. My husband would normally do this himself. But we were busy packing and getting ready to move, so we hired someone and in terms of both time and money, it was the best thing to do. It cost less than it would have for my husband to rent the machine and do it himself. And we are kind of procrastinators, so if we had not been on our way out, we might have left it longer. And then our furnace stopped working so we had someone come out to look at it. Thankfully it was an easy fix. Both of these turned out to be easy fixes and we took care of them quickly, and now they are done.

And then, since he was on his way back to our house, my husband looked to see if he could get a PlayStation 5 and they had one at the store just a few blocks from our house. So because he had to come back, he got the thing he has been wanting most for the past 6 months. Not the worst consolation prize.

But maybe most importantly, my husband and I were both working on a project that was causing us a lot of stress and frustration and we are now in the process of getting out of that job. Today we are writing a letter together to say that we cannot go back to that job. That in leaving it, we realized how it had been affecting us detrimentally, both individually and as a unit, over the past several months.

I will tell you that one reason I know I cannot go back to that job is because I know what it feels like to give up poison, and to know that I cannot go back to feeling like that. I did it with sugar.

I know that some people think I am crazy for keeping my eating boundaries. They think it’s extreme. They think I must be suffering because they believe they would suffer to give up cake. I need to express to you that I could not do what I do every day for over 15 years if I did not get one hell of a payoff. That payoff is not feeling toxic or poisoned or trapped. I felt all of those things when I was eating compulsively. Now I feel free and light and able to take life as it comes. Like when a job I was really looking forward to falls through at the very last minute.

Leaving this job feels a lot like giving up sugar. I feel sort of disoriented. I am afraid of what I just gave up and what I will lose because of it. Money security in this case. And potentially the good will of certain people in the company we work for. But also, when I even think of letting it back into my life, everything in me screams that I do not want to go back there ever again. I do not want to feel that way ever again.

And in general, I do not want to go backwards. I want to move forward all the time. I want to keep getting better, and to keep getting a better life because of it. That is also a gift of having my eating boundaries. Growth.

We don’t know what is in store for us moving forward. We don’t know what our next job will be or where it will be, at home or on the road. But we did learn some things about ourselves. 1) That we miss the road. 2) That we can’t do that awful job that we may have ended up stuck in for years if this canceled job had not come up. 3) That we are resilient. 4) That we are excellent at packing quickly at a moment’s notice. (Actually, we already knew that but this was a nice reminder.)

I will tell you what this feels like. It feels like a fresh start. It feels like someone hit the reset button. It feels like exactly what I need and where I want to be, even if I am not sure where, exactly, I am.

Anxiety All Along

On this coming Tuesday, my husband packs up his truck heads out to Connecticut. I will pack up my own car and follow on Thursday.

And I’m anxious. I’m not anxious about the move itself. I have already secured the apartment, set up the utilities, scheduled the internet tech, all of the little annoying parts of moving. When I first started this lifestyle, the moving did make me anxious. I was not used to things like credit checks and calling utility companies. But in the past 8 years since my husband and I have been living mostly on the road, the world has changed in ways that make all of these things easier. It moved from scanning and emailing and printing PDF copies of documents and leases, to all electronic interactions, including digital signatures and internet portals, paperless billing and autopay.

But the job I will be doing this time is not the job I have been doing. Or at least not most of it. I am not running this job. I am not tracking cost on this job. I am not responsible for every little thing on this job. You would think that would make me less anxious. You would be wrong.

I have a lot of anxiety. Or you know what? Maybe I don’t. Perhaps I have about the same anxiety as everybody else. Or perhaps I even have less. But it affects me in big ways. It gives me nagging thoughts and prickly fears. And in retrospect, after 15 years of having my eating under control, I know that it is a big part of why I ate sugar and ate compulsively. 

They say that if you want to know why you eat compulsively (or smoke, or drink alcohol, or gamble, or whatever your poison is) stop. You’ll figure it out real quick. When eating was an option for me, I never had to notice the anxiety. As soon as I got even the slightest whiff of it, I could put something in my mouth. At that point, it was all happening in my subconscious. I never had to let it see the light of day.

But when I stopped eating compulsively, and started to eat within my boundaries, when there was nothing to numb me or get me high, I started to really experience my own anxiety. 

The deal is that once I started to really sit in it and with it, my anxiety started to affect me less. Do I have less of it? I don’t know. But it doesn’t hurt the way it used to. I am not itchy in my skin the way I once was. Now it’s background noise. 

But here I am going to a new place with new work colleagues doing a new job I haven’t done before. And I am worried. 

WHAT IF I AM NOT EXCELLENT AT IT?!?!??

When I put it like that, it sounds ridiculous, even to me. I may not be excellent. But of course, I may. The point is, that people do all levels of work, from down right bad, to spectacular. And I will do the best I can and even in a worst case scenario, that will probably still be pretty good. And if it is not, well, then I will see what I can do to make it better.

For someone who has changed cities, and jobs, and lifestyles as often as I have, you would think I would be much calmer about it. But maybe the point is that I don’t have to be calm about it to do it. I don’t have to like the way it feels to get things done. And every time I get things done, even when I don’t want to, and every time I do it without eating a chocolate cake, I realize that it can be done. And without eating a chocolate cake! That I can do it. And that the way I feel about it doesn’t really matter.

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