onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “anxiety”

A job, some fear and anxiety, probably a miracle.

One of my favorite things I had the opportunity to learn when I got my eating under control is how to go with the flow. How to let life happen as it does (because it will) and to make the best of it. To handle new and difficult situations with grace and ease.


On Tuesday morning this past week I got a call from management in my company, asking if I would take on a new position. And could I start the next day?


I was certainly happy to take it on. I have mostly just been working part time for almost a year now. And while I have enjoyed it, because I love having lots of alone time, the truth is I like work. I like being of use. I like being good at what I do. I like the feelings I get when I accomplish things. I like being impressive. My best friend’s old therapist said that a huge portion of our self-esteem comes from our job.


And there is another part of it for me right now. I am not working with my husband on this job. My boss is someone I just met for the first time on Wednesday. And while I love working with my husband, and we make a great team, there is something exciting about getting the chance to show someone else what I can do. And knowing that what he has to say means something different to the company, coming from a stranger and superior, than it does coming from the person who chose me as a life partner.


The other important thing about getting my eating under control when it comes to this job is that keeping my food boundaries has taught me how to manage my fear and anxiety. Because for as excited as I am to do this job (and I am very excited), my brain goes on a little merry-go-round ride of thoughts and feelings, and a good portion of them are fears. Fears that I will fail, that I am not as good as I think. That I am not good enough in general.


It doesn’t matter that these thoughts are irrational. Anyone with irrational thoughts will tell you that knowing you are being irrational does not change the experience of it. It’s why self-knowledge was never enough to lose weight when I (and seemingly everyone else) cared so much about my weight. (I’m sure the world still cares about my weight because it cares about weight in general. I just don’t care that it cares anymore.)


But in getting my eating under control, I learned how to stop thoughts. I learned how to change my mind. I learned how to change my thinking. I learned how to harness control over my thoughts as a tool.


Eating compulsively always had me too high on sugar to manage anything, especially my thoughts. It had me foggy, and careless, and numb. These are not ideal circumstances to take control of one’s own brain. The point of getting high was always to stop thinking and feeling entirely, not to control myself.


I am very excited about getting a new opportunity. And if you read last week, I do believe that this job came straight out of a miracle door. So I am going to keep meditating on miracles and the doors they emerge from. And I am going to keep my eating boundaries. And I am going to do an amazing job! Probably. And if not, I expect there will be another miracle coming through another door. But for right now I’ll do the work in front of me.

It’s not really food I’m craving. My stomach might not know.

Lately I have been having cravings. I don’t necessarily mean food cravings, though food would do it if I still did that. I have been craving “more” or some “soothing.” In other words, my addict wants something to drug her so she doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable.

I am grateful to have a history of, and a point of reference for abstaining from most sugar, grains and starches, my personal drug foods. Saying no is easier when I have already said no and found that the world didn’t end. It’s easier when I know what to expect and have tools to manage and deal with the feelings.

My work life has been up in the air for a while. One job fell through. Then we were told we would be assigned to another job. Then told we were not. Then told we were again. And at this particular moment I do not know the truth of the situation. And I don’t even feel like I can just ask, outright. I feel like I have to tread lightly. Manage management’s expectations of who knows what about want. It’s frustrating. I am frustrated.

That is one of the specific things about the culture of the company I work for that makes me a rather crappy match. There is a lot of secrecy that necessarily leads to gossip. And let me assure you that grown-ass construction workers are every bit as gossipy as we accuse teenage girls of being. In fact, some gossip about me (totally untrue, by the way) made its way to my husband and back to me.

When I got my eating under control, I had to stop lying. But I could not stop lying about food while I continued to lie about other things. (Oh believe me, I tried!) I had to stop cheating, stealing and hiding. 12 steppers often say “we are only as sick as our secrets.” 

I am also committed to authenticity. Being myself is another form of honesty. I am straight forward and blunt. I am kind, and I am likable, but I am also interested in getting to the heart of things. I am interested in honoring other people’s time and energy. And I am very bad at smiling in the face of people whom I know are lying to me or cheating me. And in my experience, what most people call “diplomacy” is disingenuous and underhanded.

So I am uncomfortable about work. And about my future. And that affects both my self-esteem and my money. And those are exactly the kinds of things that I ate over when I was eating compulsively. Am I good enough? Will I be able to pay my bills? Being uncertain about these things masquerades as hunger. Luckily, at this point in my life, I can spot that uncertainty and the discomfort it brings, even when it’s in a full mask and a billowing ball gown.

So now I am in the position of asking myself if I should stay, or look for something better suited to me. But that is also an anxiety inducing prospect. My job may be a devil, but it’s a devil I know. And there are aspects to it that I love. I love working with my husband. I love my coworkers. I love how good I am at what I do. I love making good money. But I also know from experience that when I keep my eating under control, my life gets better, even when I thought it was getting worse.

Years ago, I got this job shortly after I applied for a different job, a writing job for a different company, where I was the only person being considered. I thought that I was a shoo-in. I was even told as much. But in the end they eliminated the position, rather than hire me. At the time I was devastated. And I was depressed. But in retrospect, it was a gift. I can see now that I would have been unhappy there. And I would have never gotten the chance to learn this new set of skills, and find that I excel at them. I would not have made as much money as I have at my current job. I would not have been able to support my husband in doing the caliber of work he does. My support (I mean practical, data and spreadsheet support, not emotional support) allowed him to grow in his job too. And I loved that for both of us.

So I am uncomfortable and worried about my job and I have been having cravings over it. And I don’t know what to do. (About the job. I know exactly what to do about the cravings. 1. Don’t eat outside of my boundaries. 2. Make sure I eat *really* well at meal times.) But I do know this. When I keep my eating under control, Life always gives me something better than the thing I thought I wanted.

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.

It was always life on Life’s terms, but now I accept it

I am sitting home on the 6th day of my self-quarantine after traveling Sunday and Monday. I am feeling well.


The thing is, my life has not changed from my life before this corona virus outbreak in any noticeable way except that I didn’t go to the grocery store yesterday.


Yes, I have more than enough food and supplies to make it the coming week. Maybe maybe at the end I will need more water. The water in this town doesn’t agree with me, and gives me a bad stomach. But other than that, my food supply is fine.


And in general, things are much the same. I go on my jog alone in the park across the street from my apartment complex, like always. I work from home, and thankfully still have a job, like always. I, apparently, am one of those actual introverts (which might surprise people who know me since I am a friendly, loud, social being when I am around people), because I wasn’t leaving my house more than once a week before and I am certainly not leaving it now. And this in no way upsets me. And I am apparently not the rebel I sometimes believe and sometimes fear I am, since I am not itching to go anywhere simply because I have been told not to.


But I am not peaceful. I am not calm. I am maintaining an admirable level of outward calm, but my body betrays me.


I am having a hard time focusing on work. I am not doing any crafts. I can’t even seem to read or listen to audiobooks like usual.


And I have a lip twitch.


I have known for many years that I live with a steady, manageable stream of low-level anxiety. I learned to make friends with it about a decade ago. I think it’s helpful to know what you can change, and what you have to manage. Like I can’t change my addiction to sugar and simple carbohydrates, but I learned to make friends with that and manage my eating. I also had to make friends with my anxiety, and learn not to give it the microphone. It can chatter away all it wants, but I don’t have to listen.


But I also know that stress lives in the body. And because I know how to manage it, sometimes when things are particularly intense, I get an eye twitch. It’s my body’s way of letting go of the stress without me crying and screaming and stomping. (OK, sometimes I cry. But usually over fiction, and it’s an excellent catharsis, even if it is not strictly about my own life.)


But this lip twitch is new. And it is particularly uncomfortable. And a little scary. Probably because it is new.


I don’t want to pretend everything is “fine” because my life looks the same as it did a month ago. Things are changing. And I am not immune from the heightened sense of fear that everyone is experiencing right now. And I would not be doing myself a favor if I acted as if nothing is wrong. Even if nothing is “wrong” in my life at the moment.


And the last thing I want to say is that having boundaries around my eating has created a structure for me that is invaluable in an upside down world. I learned 14+ years ago how to do things “no matter what.” Like my 3 portion controlled meals a day. Like my jog. Like my wake up and bed times.


Aside from not eating myself into oblivion out of anxiety or boredom, which I am particularly grateful for, I am not ruled by circumstances. It feels great to go about my life. To feel the fear but not be overwhelmed by it. To know that this too shall pass, as all things pass. To understand that no matter how the world changes, that I know how quickly I can adopt a “new normal.” To know that having my food under control has taught me how to adapt and change. The world has always been “life on life’s terms,” but it wasn’t until I got my eating under control that I could understand how to accept that. And once I learned how to go with the flow, even when the flow is like white water rafting, I can hang on and, if not enjoy the ride, certainly make it to the shore.

Self-care is a virtue. Thinness is a state of being.

When I realized that I was a sugar addict, I got to understand that being fat isn’t a moral issue. And that what I eat isn’t a moral issue. And that was a great relief to me. 

When I was fat, I had a lot of mixed up thoughts and feelings about fatness and about myself. I thought that I was “broken” and my body was “substandard.” I thought that I was morally deficient and that if I were “good enough” I wouldn’t be fat. I thought that having a fat body was a sign (and a neon one at that) that basically said “this girl is unworthy.”
But then I started to understand that there were foods that I had a reaction to. Foods that, once I put them in my body, set up a craving for more. Not a craving. A CRAVING! A desperate need. I felt like I might die if I didn’t eat more. And I would live in deep pain until I did eat more. So I ate more. And was fat, and I hated being fat. And I hated not being able to stop eating. And I was overwhelmed with shame *all of the time!* There was literally not a waking moment that I wasn’t aware of how “wrong” I was.
For all of the non-weight related benefits of having my eating under control, when I gave up simple sugars and carbohydrates, and put boundaries around my eating, I did it to lose weight; to not be fat. And it worked. It was not easy, but it was simple. And in the beginning, I had a few years of being skinny. And they were lovely. I enjoyed them. It was fun to not only not worry about my body, but to have it admired. (OK, sometimes I really did not like the attention, but often I did.) 
Over the years (13 years, 11 months and one week, give or take) my weight has fluctuated. I have not been skinny like I was for a while there for the past 7 or so years. But the definition of fat in the US has also changed in the past several years.
See, fat Kate would have wished desperately to be the size I am now. A straight size L. Sometimes XL depending on the cut. (I have a big butt.) And the world that fat Kate lived in would have said that L or XL wasn’t fat. But in the world today, “fat” keeps getting smaller and smaller, while real human bodies keep getting bigger and bigger. And thinness is being seen more and more as a moral issue. Thin people (women) are “good” and anyone (any woman) who is not thin is now fat, and also “bad.“ And who qualifies as thin keeps getting more and more exclusive. And harder to achieve. 
I am very happy in my body, which can climb stairs with ease (a very real anxiety for my fat self) and jog 2 miles 5 days a week (it would not have even been an option for fat Kate to be anxious about.) I am happy naked and in my clothes. I am happy because I am not a slave to food. And in not being a slave to food, I can also not be a slave to public opinion, or cultural standards. I do what I do. I stay in my lane and mind my own business. And I don’t have to worry about who thinks what about my body. *I* think it’s a miracle!
I want to continue to devalue thinness in my world and in my thinking. I value my eating boundaries, not for keeping me “socially acceptable,” but for keeping me free of food obsession, for keeping me active, for keeping my comfortable in my body and in my skin, for letting me not be constantly thinking about what other people are thinking of my body.
I want to continue to dismantle the ways I have internalized “thinness as a virtue.” I also want to note that when I was skinny, besides having my eating under control, I was a pack-a-day-smoker. Since I quit, I have never gotten back to being as skinny as I was then. So part of my thinness was due to abusing my body. Hardly virtuous. I want to be virtuous by caring for my body with good food, good exercise, good sleep, good hydration. I want to remember always that self-care is a virtue. One I want to cultivate. Thinness is a state of being, and it has zero moral implications or ramifications. 

On making friends with a new devil

I consider myself pretty good at change. I have a lot of experience with it. From all of the kinds of jobs I have had, to all of the moving I have done to different homes and different cities and towns. And I have learned to give up things. Like simple sugar and carbohydrates. And smoking. 

And I have an experience. That life will always give you the opportunity to go back to the way it was before. It will always let you choose to go back to the *you* you were before. Because when you make a commitment, you change your life’s trajectory. You set yourself on a new, unknown path. 
When I was single, and it didn’t work out with a man, he would inevitably show back up in my life just when I had moved on. Within a week of the day I quit smoking, I had a neighbor stalk me and I had to call the police and my landlord. It was very stressful. Exactly the kind of emotional upset I used smoking to soothe. 
It comes back to that old saying: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” I find that life always gives me a chance to escape the unknown and return to that comfortable misery. 
Now, I don’t believe that the devil you know is better. And I have known plenty of devils. When it comes to change I agree with Mae West. “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”
There was the devil of significant weight gain when I quit smoking. And wow was that difficult and painful. And there are, of course, lots of devils to keeping boundaries around my food. There is the time it takes to shop, prep, cook, and pack. There is the navigation of the feelings and expectations of people who don’t understand. There is the planning involved in having my meals be complete and accounted for daily, while still having a life. There is all of the extra work involved in eating out, when for most people, eating out is when they *don’t* have to do any work. And there are all of the *feelings* that can be painful, overwhelming, scary, uncomfortable, unwelcome, or just plain yucky.
But when I was eating compulsively, I already knew a lot of devils, and they were shame, self-hatred, self-doubt, crippling anxiety, an inability to move forward with my life, fear of failure, fear of humiliation, regular emotional paralysis, and physical pain and difficulties.
I promise, those devils were worse. But if you asked that Kate, who was suffering under all of those devils, she would most certainly have told you the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. And if you had told her that she would spend a huge portion of her time shopping and prepping and cooking, and also feeling uncomfortable feelings, she would have said that sounded like the worse devil! Who would want something like that?!?!
But now, I have reached a point of no return. I am not saying I could never go back into the sugar. I am still an addict and it is still as dangerous to me as it ever was. When I put sugar in my body, it sets up a craving for more. That is biological and inescapable. But I know all of the devils now, and I’ll never be able to think of the difficulties of food boundaries as worse than the prison of self-loathing.
I hated myself when I was eating sugar and carbohydrates. And I hated myself so much and for so long that I didn’t even know I hated myself until it stopped. But the point is, it did stop. And I found that in doing all that work, and feeling all of those feelings, I came to love myself, to like myself, to trust myself, to enjoy my life, to have fulfilling relationships, and to respect myself and others.
And I want to say something about this regarding fat acceptance. I hear a lot on social media about how society has socialized us to hate ourselves if we are fat, and to internalize that bigotry. And I don’t think it’s necessarily untrue. There is certainly an aspect of being taught that we are less than. But I want to note that after quitting sugar, grains, and starches, I did not loose weight all that quickly. And there have been many times in which I have gained weight keeping my boundaries. But my self-hatred has been stilled ever since I started. And when I was thin, but eating compulsively, I hated myself as much as when I was fat. Perhaps more, because I felt like the body I was in was a lie. I don’t want fat people to hate themselves. I don’t think it’s healthy, or helpful, or right. And it is certainly my wish for you to love yourself in whatever body you are in. But for me, it is very clear that my eating, not my body, or my weight, is what made me miserable and ashamed. And in taking care of my eating, I learned how to love my body and my life. So consider that just maybe there are angels hanging out with the devil you don’t know.

I’ll just be over here doing my flawed thing that works

I have had boundaries around my eating for over 13 years, and those boundaries are really specific (as working boundaries are.) But there is a thing that happens to me occasionally, where upon hearing one of my boundaries, a person wants me to know that whatever food I have just mentioned I abstain from is “very healthy,” and I should reconsider eating it. Avocados, bananas, and grains like quinoa are the usual suspects. 

I promise I know that avocados are both delicious and packed with nutrients! Guess what!?!? I’m still not going to eat them! 

There are other times things like this come up. On Twitter the other day, someone told me that drinking water by “quota” was “flawed.” 
I always have to remember that what I do is not science. I don’t do it because scientific research says it works. I do it because in my own experience it works. I do it because a bunch of people who were fat and could not control their eating found a solution. And I tried it when I was fat and could not control my eating, and it worked for me. So I continue to do it to this day. That is the only reason I do it. Because it has worked for me for over 13 years. And really, you have to admit that’s a damn good reason. 
Is it flawed? Certainly! Are there things about it that I am not sure are valid? Yes. Does that make it any less effective? No. No it does not. I am not a stickler for perfection. I am a stickler for the rules. As they are. Because not questioning them gives me freedom. 
I fought with the food for most of my life. I don’t want to fight with the food anymore. Especially now that my way of life works.
I want to say that I believe that someday there will be many volumes of scientific evidence that say that refined sugar, grains, and starch are addictive and have adverse effects on our bodies, brains, and hormones. And that for many of us, once we become addicted to these foods, putting them in our bodies sets up the phenomenon of craving more. 
But for now, there have not been a lot of studies. And many of the studies out there are paid for by the food industry. So I have to continue to do what I do without science-based evidence.
I am OK with that. 
Because there is something else that I have, that science couldn’t give me. A community of people who are doing what I do, and supporting me to continue. 
Because all of the science-based knowledge in the world would not help me not eat a chocolate cake if I were sad or anxious enough. But a friend could.
Knowing myself has never deterred me from eating a cake. Not wanting to eat a cake has never deterred me from eating a cake. Hating myself has never deterred me from eating a cake. 
When people ask about the way I eat, I usually say it’s not rocket science. Don’t eat sugar or flour. Eat a little fruit, and lots of vegetables. Portion control.  But, of course, just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Turning down cake when your whole body seems to light up at the prospect can be daunting. And it took about a year and a half of no sugar or simple carbohydrates at all for my body to stop screaming at me about how it wanted them. A year and a half was a long time to deny that crying toddler in me who is my sugar addict. Most people can’t be in Target for 25 minutes with their kid without giving in. A year and a half is a little bit of hell. But as they say: When you’re going through hell, keep going. 
But there is a point where science becomes a “problem” for me. It’s when someone (often a doctor or medical professional, but it could be anyone, frankly) decides that the way I eat is unhealthy. That everyone “needs” carbohydrates. Without noticing, apparently, that the majority of my food is fruit and vegetables. 
(What do people think those are, btw? Also, I do eat a small amount of wheat germ most days. Though it is a choice, and not a requirement. And I know plenty of people who never touch the stuff and are perfectly healthy.)
What they never seem to take into consideration is that for me, a diminutive slice of whole grain bread is a step away from that cake. What they don’t seem to fathom is that a banana sets off a craving in me that makes me feel crazy and out of control. Perhaps it is unfathomable to someone who has never had the desire or capacity to eat an entire chocolate cake, especially as the result of eating a slice of spelt bread. But it is not unfathomable to me. It is not even hypothetical. It is a thing that has happened in my life. (Though first I ate the whole loaf of spelt bread.) It is also an illustration of much of my first 28 years. Even though there is very little science to prove it. 
What I do is not science. It’s common sense. Figure out what you are addicted to, and stop doing that. Do what works. And keep doing it. That’s as common-sensical as stuff gets. 
Do I honor that avocados and spelt bread are nutritious foods? Of course! Hooray for them! I hope all of you non-addicts enjoy them! 
And don’t worry about me. I have given up my own experimentation. I don’t need to know if I could now eat an avocado with impunity. Because the result if I couldn’t would be far worse than any potential nutrient benefit. And I promise, whatever it is that you want to offer me as a gift, it’s nothing compared to the peace of mind and body that I am experiencing doing my “flawed” thing that works.

My eating is taken care of, so all is well with me

There is a saying that “Hell is a hallway.” That it is the transition, the periods of unknown, that make us unhappy, anxious, and weary. I am in a hallway. I’m right at the threshold,  but I’m not quite in the door yet. 
I moved this week. Packed. Drove 8 hours. Unpacked. (OK sort of unpacked. There’s a lot left to do. And a lot of clutter in our new living room.) But a lot is still up in the air. Unfinished.
My furniture and internet don’t come until Tuesday. What office space I will have on my new job is unclear, and I will be working from home until that is figured out. 
And grocery stores are not what I would prefer. I have been spoiled. It turns out that small town Oklahoma is not going to provide for me in the manner I am accustomed to. Even driving an hour to the nearest city I can’t find some of the things I really “need.” Like Italian Sausage without sugar. This is a bit of a blow. I will have to see if there is a butcher who will make it for me by special order, like I did in Texas. Or maybe Amazon. You can but almost anything on Amazon.
But what I do know is that I will adapt. I always do. My eating habits will change, but I will stay within my boundaries. My routine will change, but I will figure out how to take care of myself. Some new things will be better and some will be worse. That seems to be the way of it.
But because of the consistency of keeping food boundaries, new normals come quickly to me. I think this much travel and change could have a hangover effect on me if I didn’t have a touchstone in my food commitment. 
Don’t get me wrong. I’m tired. I have gotten less sleep and more physical exertion in the past few days than usual. And I am ready for my new home and new job to be settled. But my food is already settled. It was while our old apartment was in disarray. It was while we were on the road. And it is while our new apartment is littered with crates and boxes. My food is always taken care of. And that makes my life better.
People often shudder and balk at the idea of what I do. So restrictive! So extreme! So unyielding! But in actuality, it makes times of difficulty easy. I don’t always get to eat my favorite foods when I am living in the crazy, but I never have to worry about food. I have already planned, and prepared. And the truth is, there are lots of ways to do what I do quickly and efficiently. Ways to cook huge batches of food to freeze. Ways to buy pre-packaged proteins that travel well. Ways to simplify that part of my life so I can focus on the tasks at hand.
I still have lots of unpacking to do. And I still have work that needs to get done from my last job that has fallen by the wayside in the face of a big move. But my food is taken care of and my eating is under control. So all is well with me.

Irrational thoughts about value

So work. It’s a thing for me again. I started working for my husband’s company (again) this week. 
First, there is the whole food thing for me. I have to make lunches in advance so I can grab them in the morning and go. But, of course, that is something that I have been doing to travel a lot lately, so this has been, in some ways, on a smaller scale. I haven’t had to prep every single meal for days. I have just had to make lunches. And I have worked before. I was single for 35 years, after all. So I know how this goes.

But the first few days of work have been bumpy. Mostly, it’s just that there is some sort of problem with my work computer that the company sent to me. And instead of sending me a new one, they are trying to fix it remotely. For days. Several days.

But all of my work is to be done on this computer. In other words, there is nothing for me to do without it. So they are just not having me come in. So my first week of work has barely included any work. And I still have no idea when the computer, or at least computer, will be available for me. And nobody is telling me anything.

Needless to say, I’m frustrated. 

But there is something else. I am having a hard time not feeling like should be doing something about it. Or it is my fault, or my responsibility.

Rationally, I know that this is stupid. I didn’t build the computer. And I didn’t break it. I have done everything I could to help the IT people fix it. I have offered information. I have stayed on the phone and helped with lost internet connections. And I have stayed home and not worked when I was asked to. 

But there is this nagging feeling like I could do more. That I should be doing more. 

And I need to squash this feeling. Because it is false, and blaming myself for things beyond my control is not only silly, it’s destructive to a person like me.

Work is an area in my life where you could say I still have a lot of fear. It’s not that I haven’t been a good employee. I certainly have. I am smart and capable. And I am willing to take direction, and I love to learn new things anyway. 

But I have issues. Value issues. Worth issues. I have had them all my life. And I am sure that in some ways they are tied to the fact that I am an addict.

My inability to control my eating for so long made me feel worthless and ashamed. How could I expect to succeed in anything when I couldn’t even take care of my own body? How could I fix or help others when I couldn’t even fix or help myself? What does a person like that, a person like me, even deserve? Money? Money for services rendered? 

Of course, the answer to that is yes. If I do the job, I deserve to get paid for it. But even as I write yes, there is a part of me that says “just for doing the job? Don’t you have to really prove your worth?”

I am talking about the irrational here. If I do the job, I am worth the money. Obviously. But that is not always obvious to the shamed, embarrassed, sorry compulsive eater that lives in me. 

I am sure this will change. Slowly, but surely. Already it is changing. It’s changing because I am writing about it right here. And saying the scary things out loud, and shining a light on them is the surest way I know to start a shift.

Two parts clarity, one part magic

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago where pretty much everybody drives, but I never learned how to drive. I was afraid of it. I used to have nightmares as a very small child about being expected to drive a car and not knowing how. I can still remember how small and frightened I felt in the big driver’s seat in these nightmares. I didn’t even understand there were peddles when I started having these nightmares. And my fear of driving did not really lessen as I grew up.When I was 18, I left the suburbs and went to college in the city of Chicago, and lived on campus. Public transportation was the norm. And then at 21, I moved to New York City. Where the subway was not only the norm, but was cheap and reliable, definitely the best way to get around. I loved NYC immediately, and expected to live there for the rest of my life. I remember a feeling of relief at one point early on when I realized I would never have to learn how to drive. 

But 14+ years later, and I did leave New York City to be with the love of my life. And oddly enough, to return to the suburb of Chicago I grew up in. And that meant I did have to learn to drive.

So just about a year ago I got a permit and got behind the wheel for the first time. I got my license in February, at the age of 38. 

Last week, I did something a little terrifying, and pretty exciting. I drove over 2 1/2 hours, by myself, to an airport in a city I have never been to. And it was particularly empowering. 

I have always been an anxious person. When I was a kid, I used to bite my nails, and chew on the sleeves and collars of my shirts. I would often have large wet spots under my chin, or up my arms. It was how I managed. As I got older, I numbed my anxiety with food, specifically sugar and carbohydrates. True, I was less anxious. But I was also either ineffectual, or reckless. Instead of worrying about everything, I didn’t worry about anything. And nothing got done. Or I would fly headlong into a situation without thinking it through. But either way, the situation probably turned bad, and I got through by expecting someone else, usually my mother, to bail me out.

A lot of the anxiety I feel is not specific. It’s like a fear of the unknown and unknowable. It is fear for the sake of fear.

What having my eating under control does is allow me to break my life down into manageable pieces. It allows me to look at real possibilities, and create contingency plans. Like having enough meals with me, or leaving myself more time than my GPS estimates I need. And it also allows me to trust that all is well, no matter what happens. It reminds me that I am capable and clearheaded. It lets me recognize that if I stay calm and present, any issue can be resolved. That it’s all just experiences anyway.

I don’t really know why it works that way. I’m pretty sure it’s two parts peace, quick thinking and self-possession, which come from not being high on food all the time, and one part magic. But either way, it works. 

This drive to the airport felt like a turning point in my life as a driver. I expect there will be more of those turning points in the future. That’s life, after all. But I don’t want to miss feeling the satisfaction of this one. And I can feel the satisfaction, just like I felt the anxiety. Because I feel things when I’m not numbed out on sugar. And that’s as it should be. It’s all just experiences anyway.

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