onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “driving”

Eating and driving

On Tuesday I leave home and head out to meet my boyfriend in Indiana, where we will be staying for the next 9 months to a year. This past week and a half or so has been about preparing to go there. A big part was getting my driver’s license and getting comfortable driving. I have been driving every day. Since I got my license on Wednesday, I have been making sure to go out by myself every day too. I need to get used to it.

I have a lot of anxiety. It’s part of the way I have always been. Except that when I was younger and eating sugar, I numbed that anxiety by getting high on food.

I think the hardest part of learning to drive at 38 is that I am no longer fearless, like teenage drivers, and I am no longer numb, like I was when I was eating sugar. I feel everything, and everything includes a lot of fear.

When I talk to people who are giving up sugar, I like to talk about “a healthy fear of the food.” Look, sugar and carbohydrates are dangerous to me. I am an addict. When I put it into my body, I set up a physical craving and a mental obsession. And that leads to a lot of addict behaviors like lying, cheating and stealing. So I am right to be a little afraid. But chocolate cake is not going to jump into my mouth of it’s own accord. I take responsibility for my part of my food boundaries and I trust the rest will go the way it’s supposed to. I know people who have boundaries around their food who have a kind of panicky fear around the food. But I can’t live like that. I got my eating under control to find peace, not to feed my fear.

I have a similar experience when it comes to driving. I want to maintain a healthy fear of driving. I want to remember that I am controlling a dangerous machine, but not in a panicky way. No, the metaphor is not perfect. After all, when I deal with my eating, I am the only one who is putting the food in my mouth, where as when I am driving, I have to negotiate roads with other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. But for me, there are similarities in the way I want to look at food and driving so that I can have the most peace around it. I do my best to be a safe, and courteous driver. I pay attention to what I am doing. I take responsibility for my part and I trust that the rest will go the way it’s supposed to.

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Killing me softly

I have been having a very emotional week.

I was talking to a friend of mine recently. The one with the button that says “Give A S***.” She said to me, “Every time I don’t eat a piece of chocolate cake, a little part of me dies inside.”

It has been a while since not eating cake made me cry. Many years, in fact. But there are things that are like giving up sugar, actions outside of my comfort zone, that are little deaths.

Giving up sugar was the biggest step I have taken on a journey I started long ago. I knew some time in my youth that I wanted to get better. I wanted to grow and change. I wouldn’t understand until many years later, but ultimately, what I was looking for was peace. Serenity. What I wanted was to rest easy, knowing that I was being the best person I could be.

But every time I get better, the girl I was dies. And while I certainly choose it, a life of little deaths can be decidedly uncomfortable.

So it turns out that driving is one of the more painful undertakings of my life.

My first lesson was just a few days ago. And since then, I have cried a lot over it. I am crying while I type this. This is the death of a very young and tender part of myself. This part of me I’m killing may be even younger than my sugar addict.

I was not terrible at driving, but I wasn’t good either. And that is kind of hard on me. I am used to being good at things quickly and without much effort. Even giving up sugar was relatively natural to me. Vigilance, perfectionism and being single-focused are things I am exceptional at. Being aware of four directions at once, remembering a whole new set of rules, and figuring out how the machine I’m controlling responds to my touch, is a lot of information to process. I find it overwhelming. It makes me anxious. It makes me cry. Either way, both giving up sugar and starting to learn to drive have made me feel raw and vulnerable. Itchy. Like I am walking around without skin.

These little deaths are not murder. It’s not bad that I am killing these aspects of myself. They were useful until they were not. Being sad or in pain does not mean that what I am becoming is worse than what I have been. But I have to be gentle with the girl in me that I happen to be killing off at the moment. It won’t do any good to kill her brutally. I am going to have to hold her hand and tell her it’s ok to go. I am going to have to let myself mourn her. I’ll still let her die, but ultimately, I’ll kill her softly.

Freedom, anxiety, and doing that thing I had hoped I would never have to do.

I took a big step this week. I got a learner’s driving permit, took an online course, and scheduled my first few driving lessons. It’s a big deal.
I am afraid of driving. As a small child, I used to have nightmares about having to drive a car and not knowing how. I can still remember some of those nightmares. I can see images of the dark night and the bright street lights. I can feel my tiny body lean to almost horizontal to try to pull the heavy door closed. I can feel my heart race trying to figure out pedals and gears. I can still remember these images and feelings even though they are more than 30 years old.

When I was living in New York, I didn’t expect I would ever leave. I didn’t expect to ever need to learn how to drive. That was just fine with me. I loved New York just for being New York. But I was also always dimly aware that living in New York meant never having to learn how to drive. And I liked that about it too.

Now I am back in the south suburbs of Chicago where I grew up. I have lived here for a year already without driving.

In being sober from sugar and compulsive eating these past 9+ years, I have learned that I am allowed to do things in my own time. 

Just because I know I want a change, doesn’t mean I am ready for it. And it doesn’t matter what other people think about it either. I am allowed to change in my own way, and at my own pace. 

People keep assuring me that I will catch on quickly. That driving is simple. That even stupid people can do it.

I’m going to tell you something. This is not helpful. The nature of my anxiety is not rational. It’s deep rooted in childhood trauma. It’s not about easy or not easy. It’s about something much more primal. The physical reaction is intense. Fight or flight. And failure occurs like life or death.

And it is. I have never paid so much attention to vehicles on the road as I do now. I look at some guy driving a Hummer in this fully paved and basically flat suburb and I think “when I start driving, that guy will be a threat to my physical safety.” I think things like “perfection is the only option or I die. Or kill someone else.”

And I wonder how it is that every day, people just get into their giant rolling blobs of mass and inertia and go about their day like it’s no biggie.

I’m not saying I won’t do it. I will. I even suppose it will eventually just become life. Like things do. 

I was terrified to give up sugar and carbohydrates too. And in the beginning it was scary. But now it just is what it is. And I’m happy to have the freedom. Which is probably exactly what driving will be like in the end.

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