onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the category “Relationships”

Back to normal, which is still not all that normal

I gotta be honest. I have no idea what to write about this week. I am emotionally exhausted. And just as life was finally leaving “surreal” and returning to day-to-day, we were told that we have to leave Texas. Again…

When I got my eating under control 12 years ago, I made my life kind of small. I wrapped myself in my own comfort zone, like a cocoon. And that really worked for me. It kept me protected from food. At that point, food was my problem. I mean I had other problems, but they would all manage to get worked out as long as I took care of the food problem.

But about 6 years in, (yes, 6 whole years of having my eating under control) I wanted a bigger life. And I ended up falling in love with a man who travels for a living. And I agreed to spend my life living in different towns for somewhere between a few months and a few years.

So I don’t really want to leave Texas yet. But this is the life I agreed to. And, really, I love it in general. Though, not all the time. But who loves their life all the time?

Tomorrow I will cook meals for two days of travel. And we will head back to Texas to pack up our apartment. And soon enough, we will find out what’s next.

So I guess this is normal life. It’s the “normal” I chose 5 years ago. And I’m grateful for all of it.

Advertisements

Food first means self-care first

This has been a particularly rough week for my family. But I don’t want to talk about it today. I’m emotionally exhausted. So I am going to talk about taking care of myself. And it’s going to be pretty short, quite frankly.

When I am fully committed to putting boundaries around my food, that is my first step in self-care. My first act is to buy food within my boundaries and then cook and portion out those meals. But that is just the beginning.

What the act of keeping my eating under control does is allow me the clarity of knowing when I need to rest. When I need to say no. When I need to take a step back. When it would be just too much to keep going.

When I was in the food and I took on too much, I became overwhelmed. I would shut down. And I would become resentful. I would get angry and rude to the person who asked for something. I would fail to take responsibility for my choices. Partially because I didn’t feel allowed to ever say no.

Now, I say no. Sometimes it’s just no. Full stop. But sometimes it’s not now. Or I can’t do that but I can do this. Or I am not available for that, but I can ask someone I know who may be able to help.

I am responsible for my life. Of course, I always was. But now I *take responsibility* for it. I know not to blame people for asking for what they need. And I know not to be hasty to agree to something I can’t take on. I also know to ask for help myself, when I need it myself.

So I am available to be of service, because I know how much I can handle. And I learned that by taking care of my food.

Three gifts for hard times

Yesterday was a typical lazy Saturday with my husband until we got a call that a family member is dying. Someone my husband is very close with, whom I also love very much. It’s funny how the whole world can shift at a time like this. It’s the kind of thing that gives one a whole different perspective on one’s day-to-day life. The things that we worried about become insignificant. Work, or our apartment, or our cars, or money don’t seem to mean anything at a time like this. Suddenly everything is about connection, love, being there, saying I Love You.

I had worried so much about paying for this out-of-town apartment that we rent while our jobs were up in the air. But in this moment, paying this rent is not an issue. Paying to fly home is not an issue. (My husband is already on the road.) All of my anxiety about material things just flew out the window.

Having my eating under control meant that I could not go with my husband. I had to cook and prep and pack food for traveling. Because I keep my food boundaries no matter what. Even loved ones being sick and dying. Not taking care of myself is not proof of love. It’s not going to make anyone better if I say that my food, which is how I take care of my addiction, is not important. And even after this family member is gone I will have to go on living. So it makes sense to take care of my food, even if it means being separated from my husband for a few days, and taking longer to get home. That’s fine. It let my husband get on the road as soon as he could while I close up the apartment in case we are away for a long stretch. I’m sorry to be apart from him, but maybe he needs a little time to himself anyway.

There are 3 things that having my eating under control gives me that I am particularly grateful for in a moment like this.

1) I am able to be unselfish. Because when I am in the food, everything is about me, my life, how things will affect me. But today is not about me. I can be calm and clear headed. And that lets me be of service to my husband. Am I sad? Of course. But my sadness is not important right now. It’s my job to strong and useful.

2) I am aware of what is really important. And that is relationships. It’s the people that we love that make our lives what they are. And this is coming from an introvert and borderline misanthrope. At some point, all of us will die, but when you can see it coming, that’s an amazing opportunity to get completion and closure. It’s a chance to say “I love you.” “You were important in my life.” “You made an impact.”

3) I am able to go with the flow. This situation is the kind of thing that comes out of the blue. There was no preparing for it. So the only thing there is to do is go with the flow. Fighting and resisting are not going to help. They won’t change the situation. I learned that when I got control of my eating. I spent my time as a compulsive eater trying to control everyone and everything. And not doing a very good job of it. Today I can let life be what it is. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. It just means I don’t waste my energy trying to will the world to be that way I think it should be. I can use that energy to love, to help, to make others comfortable.

So for now I have a lot to do. And I am grateful for the personal power and clarity that my eating boundaries have given me at such a difficult time. And I am most grateful to be present for the person I love most when he needs me to be available for him.

Christmas magic and miracles

It is Christmas Eve, so a Merry Christmas to you.

I don’t love love love Christmas. Though I don’t hate it either. I don’t feel the need to personally avoid it, like Thanksgiving. But I do not identify as a Christian. And I don’t particularly care about the rituals. But I can enjoy it for what it is, and participate, because it is not only about food.

Plus, I really like giving people presents. I’m pretty good at it. And I like the energy of a Christmas party with kids. They get excited to be with each other. They get excited for presents. They feel like it is a special day, and that energy is kind of contagious. (Also, I don’t mind kid noise. My husband is not so comfortable with it.) I like kids. Especially when I get to go home and sleep in my quiet house with my husband and we don’t have to build toys with some assembly required as quietly as possible in the middle of the night so as not to disillusion little people who still believe in magic and wishes.

Also, I, too, still believe in magic and wishes, just not in such a literal, innocent way. But I thought for much of my life that I would never get my eating under control, or live in a body I loved, or like and love myself. So that it happened felt, and still feels, a lot like magic.

Is it work? Of course it is. But I was working before too. I was trying, and dieting, and starving and exercising, and doing whatever I could to stop being fat and food obsessed. And I was terrified that my lot in life was to be miserable. So having my eating under control is a joyous miracle.

So today I will be around a lot of food I don’t eat. But it’s not for me. And that’s ok. I got my joy and my gifts. I keep getting them. They have gotten bigger, and more valuable every day for the past 11 years, 11 months, 3 weeks and 1 day.

This holiday I am in it for the people. I am in it for the joy of connecting, and the joy of giving, and maybe even the joy of receiving. And, yes, I will do some very joyful eating. But all of it within my eating boundaries. And that’s not something I need a holiday for anyway.

So Merry Christmas to you! I hope yours is magical too.

Food and friends

My husband and I are having company for dinner tonight. I like having company for dinner because I don’t love eating out at restaurants. Not only is it hard for me to get food I can eat in the quantities I need without spending a fortune, (have you seen what restaurants charge for two clumps of broccoli or 4 asparagus stalks?) but it’s also not very very exciting food. Steamed broccoli isn’t one of the worst 10 things in the world, but it’s not one of the 10 best either.

So tonight I am making filet mignon, roasted Brussels sprouts, and French green beans sautéed in garlic and olive oil. I will also make corn for them, and my husband will make roasted red potatoes. I even managed to find individual serving desserts for them so I can feel like a good host, without having the stuff in the house for an eternity.

Which is not to say that it bothers me having food I don’t eat in the house. My husband has a veritable hoard of sugar and carbs. But it’s a hoard basically because it lasts for freaking ever. I may buy him candy, and throw it away 6 months later because he never finished it…I know. I know. What is that? I couldn’t keep candy in my home for six hours, let alone six months.

I am not opposed to going to restaurants to be with people. I am happy that others eat well and happily. And I’ll do it as part of my Christmas celebrations this year. But when I do, it’s about the people and not the food. Which is great. I am grateful that my life doesn’t revolve around food anymore. But I’m excited to cook for company so it can be about both food and friends.

A new learning curve

I have been working for about a month now, and there is a learning curve when it comes to time management and priorities. Finally this past week I started jogging again. But I have not been writing. And frankly, I am too exhausted.

But ultimately, that is not good enough for me. I have a novel that I have been working on for about a year. And I love it. I’m proud of it. I want to finish it and get it published. And right now, the way things are, that is not an option. So I have to change the way things are.

I forget that it takes time to get my bearings after a major life change. More than just a week or a month. I forget that I have blind spots where I can’t see the pitfalls, or recognize what can be changed. Change is so scary to me, often it feels like nothing can be changed safely. That all change is the potential for ruin.

And there are things that must get taken care of. First and foremost, I still have to take care of my food. Every day. No matter what. And what that means in practical terms is grocery shopping for the whole week in one go, and spending hours of my time packing breakfasts and lunches in advance for the week ahead. It’s an area I cannot cut corners in.

Food addiction is my problem. Really the only problem I have. Other things go badly and need to be remedied or cared for or dealt with, but they are not “problems” like food is a problem. When my food is out of control, my entire life is out of control.

The truth is, I like my job. The work is interesting. I like that I am good at it. I take pride in it. I like learning new skills. My difficult co-worker has calmed down and returned to behaving in a normal, respectable, and respectful manner. (I have also remembered that people in the world, especially in the workplace, have a wide range of personalities, but that I honor my principles in the face of difficult personalities.) But in all honesty, right now, I am not very happy. I’m just too tired. And I am having a hard time imagining how I can change my circumstances in order to both, not be constantly exhausted, and still do all of the things I want to do.

This is a luxury problem. If I were eating compulsively, I would have already given up on writing. I would not have figured out how to get my jog in 5 days a week. I would not have made time for it. But then again, if I were eating compulsively, I would already have been looking for a way to not jog, to not write, to not take care of my head and heart and body. I was always waiting for any excuse to abandon my goals and dreams, or really anything that was work, anything that took something, but made me feel good about myself.

There’s one more thing that I haven’t been doing that I need to get back into, and that is meditation. I think my first priority this week will be to get back into that habit. If any practice will help me figure out the next right step, and how to get the things I want, that’s probably it.

It turns out I’m positively treacherous. Who knew?

At work this past week, someone in a higher position than myself has been giving me a hard time. I say a hard time, but it is abuse. Low-grade abuse, but abuse none the less.

This was hard for me at first, because I was 1) trying to be professional, and 2) trying not to be affected by it. So I took it. With a smile. And at the end of the day, I went to my car and cried before I drove home. And I thought about how much more I could take before I would have to quit.

And then I talked to my best friend who is wise, and also has her eating under control. And she said, “Stop smiling. Stop pretending it’s all OK. You wouldn’t smile like that at an abusive boyfriend.” She said, “Bullies are terrified. If you push back, even just a little, they will get scared, and change their tune.”

Now I will be honest. I had a hard time believing this. Because this person has all the power. They have been in their job for many years, and are high up in the company. I am just an office worker. And relatively new at that. Also, I didn’t even apply for this job. I was asked to take it, so from where I stand, I could just as easily be asked to leave.

I will say that I am good at my job. Really really good. But on paper, I’m nothing. I don’t have a degree. I don’t have any accounting experience. All I have is the fact that I am smart, I have integrity, and I’m a good worker. I’m not saying that those things are not valuable. I am saying that their value depends on the person doing the evaluating. And for the most part, my experience is that bosses evaluate based on what you look like “on paper.”

So here I am with no power, but I’m tired of crying in my car before I drive home. So I take my friend’s advice and I start pushing back. I openly sneer when I am berated for not knowing something I was never taught in the first place. I sigh exasperatedly when I am second guessed without being allowed to explain. I walk away when this person implies that I am not explaining something to a coworker properly. I let them do it themselves.

And you know what? Every time, this person really does change their demeanor. Not long-term. But in the moment, I can see them become afraid of me. And soften their stance. And try to explain away their bad behavior. This person is terrified of being called out by me.

So it turns out I have all the power. But here’s the secret. I only have all the power because I am sure of myself. More sure of myself than this person with so much clout in the company. My power is all in my confidence. In that relationship, even though that person has all of the hard power, I am the scary one.

But I’m only sure of myself because I have integrity. And I only have integrity because I have my eating under control.

Could this person get me fired? Absolutely! Here’s the other reason I have all the power: I have no attachment to keeping this job. I like the job. It’s rewarding. The money is terrific. I really hope I don’t get fired. But I refuse to live in fear of losing this job. What happens happens. And that makes me positively treacherous to an insecure person. Even an insecure person with all the power.

Not much more to ask for

Last weekend, after a months-long stretch of moving around, and being up in the air, we moved into our new sublet. And it is amazing. We have a fully furnished “open concept” living space (can you tell I watch a lot of home renovation television?) with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, cable and internet included, washer/dryer in unit, and a terrace facing the bay. As in the bay is literally my back yard.

Before we found this place, we had another place lined up. It only had one bathroom, and did not have a dishwasher. I told my husband I wanted to keep looking. He did not like this idea. I don’t blame him. We were tired. He had been sick. We had been travelling non-stop. We had been working full time. He wanted to be done. I wanted to be done too. But I was also filled with dread every time I thought about the idea of working 40 hours, plus all the meal prep I would have to do to bring my food to work every day, and not having a dishwasher. Not to mention having two people who need to get to work at the same time having to deal with one bathroom in the morning.

It was not fun to tell him I wanted something else. It was a difficult conversation. But having my food under control makes it possible for me to have difficult conversations. If I had not, I would have been unhappy and resentful. And I cannot afford to be resentful. Resentment is just 2 steps away from eating a cake. Not to mention, it’s bad for a relationship.

I ate my unspoken truths for most of my life. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to coast under the radar. I wanted to not make waves. Until I was angry and felt put upon. And then I would explode. This is also not good for a relationship.

So in the end, I had the conversation I didn’t want to have. I got a place better than I could have expected. And my husband and I are both happy. All because I said something it would have more comfortable in the moment not to say. I don’t know what more there is to ask for than that.

Until I can melt back into my couch 

Tomorrow morning I am back on the road. To Corpus Christi. Yet again. First, to a kitchenette hotel for 2 weeks until our apartment becomes available. My husband went ahead of me today to get to the job earlier. This time, hopefully, we will be settled down there for about a year with only occasional weekend trips home for family visits. I’m looking forward to that. Because I’m tired. Being on the move, driving 9, 12, 14 hours at a time, sometimes for days in a row, is exhausting. Or flying home from a trip and turning right around to go fly to be with my sick husband…also quite tiring. And every time is preceded by at least one day of cooking and packing. And this type of travel situation has been going on pretty consistently since early September. So I’m really really tired.

But also, it’s been pretty amazing. There is something for me in gaining all of these new experiences. Being out in the world, being around people. Because I could melt into my couch sometimes. I could happily never leave the house. I could read, and make stuff, and cook, and not think much about the world out there. I love my boring routine. Sometimes too much. 

This travel has been sometimes stressful, of course. And I am offering you the “bright side” but I want to be perfectly clear that I really can’t wait for it to be done. But it has also been a lot of fun. 

My trip to LA was a ridiculously good time. And I feel like every time my husband and I move around, we get better at it. And I, personally, get better at it. Better at cooking faster, better at packing more efficiently. We make better time, just have better travel. And I like that part of it to. I like attaining new skills. I like leveling up. In any situation. 

So tomorrow I hit the road, and drive half way. And then wake up to do it again. And I will enjoy the enjoyable parts. And I will happily take my experiences as they come, because not too long from now, I’m sure I will happily melt back into my couch. 

You have no power over me

The other day, for the at least second, or possibly 3rd time, I had a particular guy from junior high pop on my Facebook feed. Not by mutual junior high friends, but by people that I don’t think know him personally. He is the significant other of some social media personality that I don’t follow, and whom I am not interested in. And this woman sometimes tags this guy, and waxes poetic about how wonderful he is. But this guy stands out in my mind as the fat shaming bully of my junior high years.

So, when I was seeing friends of mine reacting with thumbs ups and hearts to some woman going on about this guy being the hero who changed her life, I wanted to write to my friends privately, tell them my story, stop them from liking and loving, and fawning over someone who humiliated and shamed me. I wanted to tell the world, or at least my small corner of it, that I hate that guy. That he is a bully and an arrogant jerk.

What? Am I twelve?

Well, actually, yes. The girl who wants to do that is absolutely twelve. And fat, and awkward, and bad at navigating the world. And she wants to shame and humiliate a forty-year-old man that she has had absolutely nothing to do with for the past 27+ years, just like he shamed and humiliated her.

I decided to take a step back and look at my part, my mess. Acknowledge my own dust and debris, and sweep around my own front door, before I go sweeping around this guy’s. (A shout out to the friend who posted that song this week.)

When I try to think back to specific incidents where this guy shamed and humiliated me, I can only think of one. And the truth is, in retrospect, it was not earth shattering. And it was not directed at my weight, but at my weirdness. Which is something I can’t deny. And which, at 12, in the company of other 12-year-olds in the homogenous south suburbs of Chicago, was not the cute, quirky asset that it would come to be in my adult years. Being a non-conformist didn’t make adolescence any easier, I’ll tell you that.

There is that quote that is attributed to many people, but as far as I can find was by a guy named Carl W. Buehner.

“They may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Did this guy make me feel ashamed of myself and my body? Absolutely. I still very clearly remember those feelings. Enough so that I wanted to rant about him at people who don’t even know the guy. Do I really think he was a jerk? I sure do. But he could not have affected me the way he had, if I had not already hated myself so much and been so ashamed of myself. Perhaps I projected my own fat shaming of myself onto him. I don’t believe so, but it’s a possibility. Or perhaps I remember the experience of his meanness clearly, and I have blocked out the more painful and humiliating particulars and incidents. (I have discovered over the years that I have blocked out many of the more traumatic parts of my childhood.) But either way, the only reason I was having such a strong emotional reaction was because I was not complete with myself, or him, in my own heart and mind. And I don’t need him to hear me or see me or acknowledge me in any way, in order to get complete. This is between me and me, and it always was. Especially since I have had zero to do with this guy at all for nearly 3 decades.

But it’s still hard. Because it still hurts a lot. So much that it has made me cry more than once in the past days. Less when I think about his cruelty, and more when I think about how scared and alone I felt those two years that I was in junior high. I think that those two years were the very worst, most miserable of my entire life. I would say that they were even worse than the years just before I got my eating under control, when I was in the throes of my most destructive eating disorders. Ok, maybe it’s a tie…

So I expect that my problem is not really this guy as a person at all.  It’s what he represents in my memory about those years: the loneliness, and fear, the feeling that nothing would ever work out, or be right. The fear that I was forever going to be shameful and ashamed. And that there would always be someone, like him, who was eager to point it out.

And I don’t know. Maybe he’s changed. I certainly did. I changed myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe he really is an amazing partner and father. Maybe he is a good, kind man with a heart filled with love and honor. Or maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s still a jerk and a bully and this woman doesn’t know the difference. Maybe he’s just better than her last one. Maybe she posts only the good and never the bad. She’s a social media personality, after all. I already know not to compare my insides with other people’s outsides. I, too, made sure I looked like I had my shit together when I definitely did not.

In the movie, Labyrinth, there is a line from a book that the heroine can never seem to remember. It’s a declaration, the kind of thing that most of us forget, conveniently or inconveniently, all the time when we are dealing with difficult people or situations. It’s a line I also forget, yet would do well to remember.

You have no power over me.

Post Navigation