onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “fear”

Making a new friend of an old enemy

You may know from last week’s post that I have had an infection in one of my gums. I went to the dentist on Monday and she told me that she thought it was the result of a broken wisdom tooth. So on Thursday I went to an oral surgeon and had that tooth pulled.

Now it is no secret to anyone that I am emotional. But when it comes to medical procedures of almost any kind, I freak the hell out. I always have. From the time I was a little kid. I can remember totally losing it in the doctor’s office at five, when they were going to prick my finger for my routine kindergarten checkup. Once, the phlebotomist at Planned Parenthood had two maintenance guys come talk to me about the heaters they were installing to distract me while she drew blood.

I cry and start to hyperventilate. As I have gotten older, I tend to rock, wring or rub my hands in an obsessive way and do deep breathing exercises. This usually keeps me from actually hyperventilating. It takes a lot just to keep the panic at bay.

There are things that I want to change about myself. I believe in changing. I believe in growing as a person and being better. And hell, I am good at that. I am really good at it. But I also believe that there are things that you have to learn to live with, that you just have to make friends with. For me, being sensitive to sugar, grains and starch, and not being able to “eat like a normal person” is one of those things. And freaking out about medical procedures is too.

It is humiliating to discover that you are a compulsive eater and a sugar addict. It takes something to stop being ashamed of not being able to control yourself when it comes to food and accept the truth of it. But as long as I fought against admitting that I am a food addict, I was never going to get any relief. I was just going to keep trying to get it right, keep trying to manage, keep trying to eat in moderation. And I was going to keep failing and falling deeper into misery.

Once I admitted that I had a problem with food and that I was incapable of eating like a regular person, I was able to really do something about it. Namely putting boundaries around when, how much, and what I ate. I was able to make it work. And I was able to stop fighting against myself. Fighting myself is just plain exhausting.

I have come to the point where I have decided to make friends with my medical panic. When I called to make the appointment with the oral surgeon, I told the receptionist that I would cry, that I am emotional. I said, “you might want to make a note of that in my file.”

The truth is that it makes other people deeply uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many people in the office asked me if I wanted to postpone, come back another day and have them put me out for it. (Thank God I didn’t agree to that. My mother pointed out that if they put me out, they would have given me an IV!!! Just the thought of that gives me the chilly-willies! I’m still shuddering at the idea.)

I am sorry that my emotions make people uncomfortable, especially my irrational fears over medical procedures. But so do my food boundaries, and I am not willing to make other people’s comfort a priority over my own wellbeing.

So I am not going to be ashamed of the fact that I freak out before procedures. I need to make friends with it so I can deal with it. It’s one thing to be deathly afraid of being poked and prodded, but it is something else, something extra and totally unproductive, to be ashamed of that fear. I have decided I can do without the shame.

My shame, the idea that I shouldn’t be this way, is the kind of thing that makes me walk away. When I was younger, I absolutely would have walked away from every stitch, blood test, physical exam, and shot, if my mother had let me. I would have forgone all needles and drills and what not if they would have let me go to school without my shots and tests. But in my old(er) age, I have come to recognize that not having the procedure wasn’t going to get rid of the infected tooth. I wanted the results of the procedure. So I cried, and wrung my hands, and panicked, and did my very best to breathe. And I stayed, and opened my mouth, and kept still and quiet, and let the man do his work. And he was awesome!

The procedure was quick and easy. The oral surgeon, against the odds, got the infected tooth out in one piece. (I know because I asked him the odds and he said it was an 80% chance that he would have to drill it into pieces to get it out, and then stitch my mouth.) It literally took him longer to numb my mouth than it did for him to extract the tooth. And I have had minimal discomfort, completely manageable with over the counter pain relievers. And when the doctor called me that evening, I was eating dinner and I told him (while laughing) how I told everyone the story of how I freaked out and how he was awesome.

P.S. Did you get that? My oral surgeon personally called me that evening to ask how I was doing! As my husband said, “Now that’s small town living!”

 

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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.

What you see when you put down oblivion

Since this blog is an eating disorder blog, I generally keep my writing personal, and if I am going to touch on a topical issue, it’s usually one related to eating disorders. And while that is still sort of true today, I’m going to venture a little further out.

I want to talk about how the past few days have left me feeling crazy. I want to talk about rage. I want to talk about the serenity prayer. I want to talk about justice, and I want to talk about peace.

I quit sugar, grains, and starch, and put boundaries around my eating ten and a half years ago. When I did that, I put a kind of change into motion. My entire transformation was not immediate. I had a lot of stuff to clean up with myself and others. I was then twenty-eight, and had lived a life of fear, dishonesty, manipulation, and self-loathing for as long as I could remember. I was pretty far down the Anakin-Skywalker-becomes-Darth-Vader road. You know, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering….But within surprisingly few years of getting a handle on my eating, less than five, I had become someone I liked, loved and respected. I had changed the way I lived my life to point where I had found serenity.

So lets talk about The Serenity Prayer. I know that I have included it in past posts, but I am going to include it again, because it’s worth knowing:

 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

 

When I first learned this prayer, the people who taught it to me explained some things to me. They wanted me to understand the “wisdom” part. They wanted to clear up what I could change and what I could not. The things I couldn’t change included people, places, and things. I have no control over anyone else, or their thoughts, words, or actions. I have no control over past events. And I have no control over world leaders, natural disasters, or grotesque acts of violence. The things I could change were always me. I can change my beliefs, my thoughts, and my actions.

There is something else about the “courage” aspect of this prayer that I want to note. It’s about solutions. If I have a problem, there is a solution, and it is inside me.

But here’s my problem today. I am filled with rage. I am filled with rage at humans murdering other humans. But more, and more, and most, I am filled with rage at those of us defending the murders, defending the violent acts that ended the lives of others of us. I am filled with rage that fear of change, fear of losing privilege, fear of “otherness” has lead us to act, not simply believe, but ACT in a way that declares that some humans are worth more than other humans. I am filled with rage over people, places and things that I cannot control.

And it’s impotent rage. Because for as much as I want a solution, I am not a human being killing my fellow human beings. And I am torn between wanting serenity, and fearing that my serenity will simply be a lack of action that overlooks injustice.

When every Miss America ever said that she wished, more than anything, for “World Peace,” she made it sound like a thing. Like a book, or an apple, or a hobbyhorse. Something she could unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning. Or perhaps like a magic spell that would render us docile, a planet of seven billion Snow Whites and Ned Flanders (Flanderses? – whatever….)

But what world peace would really look like is seven billion people choosing love instead of hate. Daily. Hourly. Moment to moment. It would look like seven billion people answering violence with forgiveness. It would look like seven billion people liking and loving themselves enough that they didn’t have to lash out in anger and hate, and then blame the ones they lashed out at.

In my experience, when you wrong someone, in order to live with what you have done, you have to do one of two things. You can make an amends to them, or you can justify your cruelty by making them the bad guy. In your own mind, and often, in the minds of others. Making amends is hard. Amends take the courage. Making amends is the “courage to change the things I can.” Making someone else the bad guy is easy. It’s terrible, and toxic, and leads to the kind of shame that ruins loves and lives and families, and even whole societies, but you never have to have that hard conversation. You never have to humble yourself. You never have to admit when you are wrong. And maybe most of all, you never have to experience the pain and shame and horror of what you have done. You just have to live with the incompleteness of it for the rest of your life.

I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know how to change the things I can. I have been thinking about it and thinking about it for days. I’m exhausting myself. And I have to do something with this rage, MY rage. Because it is toxic.

But whatever I do, I cannot cover my eyes and pretend that I don’t see. When I put down the sugar, I put down the oblivion. It turns out, there’s no sugar-coating when there’s no sugar. When I put down my addiction, I agreed to look with both eyes open, and acknowledge the reality of things. So I’m acknowledging reality, and the sad truth that sometimes, it f*cking sucks.

The joy of not being a jerk

Yesterday was, as the 12-steppers say, life on life’s terms. I went to the grocery store, got about $100 worth of groceries, checked out, and tried to pay with my debit card. It didn’t go through. I tried it again. Nope. Then the checkout clerk said the bank was declining my purchase.So I asked the clerk to take care of the people behind me while I called the bank.

It turns out someone used my card information to make some purchases. The first went through. The second, for over $300 went through. And the bank shut the card down when they attempted to make purchases for $500 and $700.

The gentleman at the bank unfroze my card long enough for me to buy my groceries, and asked me to call back when I was done to have the card cancelled. 

So I did. I bought my groceries. I packed them into the trunk. I got back in the car and immediately called the bank and cancelled my card, and confirmed that the fraudulent charges were not mine. 

The lady I got that time cancelled my card, took my Kentucky address so the new one could be mailed to me here, as well as the paperwork to dispute the fraudulent charges.

Do you know what I kept thinking the whole time? I kept thinking how much I like myself, and it’s all because of having my eating under control.

What I am saying is I was gracious and grateful and kind to every person along the way. I was friendly with the clerk at the store when he told me the bank declined my card. I was friendly with the man from the bank who told me about the fraud and reactivated my card so I could pay for my food. I was friendly with the lady at the bank who helped me cancel the card and who issued me a new one. I was able to make jokes with them all. 

I was more than just nice. I was grateful. I was grateful that the bank was looking out for me and shut my card down when purchases looked suspicious. I was grateful they could unfreeze my card so I could buy my groceries. 

This is the stuff that happens to everyone. This is the stuff that is not personal. This is life. But when I was a compulsive eater, when life happened to me, I was a complete jerk. 

I was already angry at life all the time anyway. I had a lot of anger and rage. And I used any opportunity to unleash my rage. Even, or maybe especially, at people who had nothing to do with it, and were trying to help.

My first reaction to this kind of thing is fear. Fear of what did wrong. Fear of losing. Fear of having things taken away. Fear of scarcity. 

In order to keep my eating under control, I had to learn to do certain things differently. I had to learn to cultivate gratitude. I had to learn to behave in a way so that I would not be ashamed of myself. I had to do the next right thing, one step at a time. This all comes from having my eating under control. 

When people see or hear that I have lost 150ish lbs, they think that is the accomplishment. They assume that is the ultimate reward. And while I do enjoy this body, and how it looks and how it moves and how easy it is to get around in, the parts of my life that are the most profoundly impacted by having my food addictions and eating disorders taken care of are the parts of my personality that have improved over the last 10 years. 

For me, the real gifts are all of the ways I like and love myself. For me, the real gifts are being calm and peaceful in the face of fear. The real gift is that I can look back on yesterday and not have to justify why I was a jerk. Because I wasn’t a jerk. I was a nice lady, grateful for other nice gentlemen and ladies, who helped me get a lot of unpleasant stuff taken care of. 

The luxury of comfort 

It has been a long week. Cleaning, packing, driving 7ish hours, and unpacking, on top of the usual everyday life stuff. But I’m with my boyfriend again. (Yay!) And we’re on the road.

I’m happy. But I’m also raw. It’s emotional. And that’s uncomfortable.

Driving in this town is very different from the suburbs I am used to. It is stressful for me. I am going out every day to practice, but it I’m still not at ease on the roads here. The internet at the hotel is bad, so I called around to Internet and phone companies, and thought I got better web access. But after all that, I couldn’t get on to send out the invitation to an important video meeting. Then we decided to start looking for an apartment closer to my boyfriend’s job site. Plus keeping in touch with various people who are taking care of our house. 

It’s a lot. And I feel it. Of course, I feel it. I’m not high on sugar and carbohydrates.

I was talking to some friends the other day, and one of them was talking about how she was feeling nervous, and anxious, and worried that she didn’t know how to do some things she was doing. And then she realized that she was feeling like that because she was doing new, exciting things. She was pushing her comfort limits. She didn’t know how to do things because they were things she has never done before.

I could live a very small life with relative ease and happiness. I can find a million reasons to say no, stay home, take my usual path. I like the usual. It’s comfortable and comforting. 

But for some reason, I have repeatedly chosen to do things that make me uncomfortable. Or perhaps it’s just that I have decided that comfort will not be a major factor in whether or not I do a thing.

I ate sugar and carbohydrates to feel comfortable. Dazed, zoned out, numb, heavy. They call it a food coma for a reason.

Being aware can be uncomfortable. Even when it’s beautiful. Even when it’s pleasurable. I have to make decisions. I have to take actions. I have to be in new, uncertain, scary situations. It’s just the way it is. 

When I quit sugar I agreed to be uncomfortable. Not only did I have to sit in feelings I had been avoiding by eating sugar, but I had to sit in the feelings of withdrawal too. Thank God I stuck it out. It turns out the feelings I was eating are almost never as bad as sugar withdrawal. And even the most painful feelings, the ones that are worse than sugar withdrawal, pass so much more quickly, and are ultimately so much more easily soothed and satisfied. 

Being okay in the face of discomfort is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

I don’t mean to say that I don’t enjoy comfort. I do. Maybe I love it all the more for keeping it as a luxury, rather than a necessity. A thing my compulsive eating self would never have understood.

All there ever is to do is what is in front of me 

I don’t think about sugar and carbohydrates very often. Or I should say, I don’t think about specific items of sugar and carbohydrates.(Obviously I think about it. I’m constantly looking for it on ingredient lists and explaining that I can’t eat X, Y, or Z because I have an allergy to sugars, grains and starches.)

I don’t think about what it would be like to eat bread or cake. I am not actively worried about sugar. I don’t expect it to jump into my mouth, and I am not afraid of putting it there myself. 
But I know that it is still a danger to me because I still have pretty much all of the things I used to eat over. 
I still have fear and anxiety. I still worry about being wrong and messing up. I still question if I am good enough.

I am being looked at for a writing job I really want. And the process is slow. It can go long stretches without my hearing any word about it. That’s really no big deal. Except that I have a mind that can create doom and gloom like nobody’s business if I leave it unchecked.

See, if I go through the list of what I am afraid of, it’s all false. It’s a mind game I play on myself. I am afraid I am not a good enough writer. I worry that I won’t be able to manage my time properly. I’m worried I am too lazy. I’m afraid I will mess up irreparably. I am afraid I will give up and let everyone down.

All of these fears are groundless. I am highly capable, a hard worker, punctual, honorable, honest, and responsible. When I look at these fears, they seem silly to me. I have flaws, but they are not these things I spend so much time worrying about, oddly enough.

My addict loves drama. She always has. And she is still using the same fears to drum it up as when I was an elementary school student. They are all about how I am not worthy.

When I add food to the equation, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I become lazy, unable to manage my time, irresponsible, dishonest, and ultimately a quitter. My addiction made sure that I had an endless supply of drama.

But I took food out of that equation 9 years and 11 months ago. It’s funny how that kind of thought pattern will stick with you, even after it’s obsolete. 

So for now, my job is to be patient and peaceful. To trust that everything is going exactly as it should. To remember that I am sought because I am qualified and desirable. And to put my faith in knowing that whatever happens is for the best. 

One of the most important skills I have attained in the past 9+ years is the ability to give up attachment to an outcome. 

Of course I want this new job. I won’t feign indifference. But any time I have wanted something and failed to get it, what was in store for me was so much better than what I lost.

So I keep my mind from wandering into Doomsville. I focus on this day and this moment. And I take the next right action. Because that is all there ever is to do anyway.

I suppose “better late than never” is a saying for a reason…

I was in the shower today, and I realized that for the first time in over 3 years, I forgot to write a blog.

Obviously, here I am, a day late. Writing because I have a commitment. But I have to be honest with you. This scares the crap out of me.

I fear the first chink in the armor. I fear the first mistake. I fear the first slip. Because I fear that snowball effect. I don’t like knowing that I forgot to write a post and the world didn’t end. It would be so much easier on me if everything had bigger, scarier, more life-changing immediate consequences.

I am so incredibly afraid of my own lack of character. I am terrified that if I let my guard down, I will revert to being the kind of person I have been. The kind of person I was ashamed of.

I feel like the words I am writing here are not enough to explain to you the terror I am in. I sometimes wonder if anyone can understand what it is like to hate yourself so thoroughly and completely that you don’t even know that you hate yourself until it stops.

I fear slip-sliding back to that place. In tiny movements. In nearly imperceptible increments. An insidious regression.

I have gained so much peace in the past 9 1/2 years, since I got my eating under control. Even when all is not well, I am well. Even when I am in pain or unhappiness, I am still strong in my heart and soul.

But today, I am afraid. Not of what I am, but of what I know I am capable of being, because I have been something else before. And it was a terrible way to live.

I am also reprimanding myself right now for my perfectionism. It’s a kind of sickness for me that is also tied in with my eating disorders. It is the M.O. of The Good Girl who wants to please everyone but herself. But on the other hand, that same perfectionism is the very thing that can allow me to say “F*** it! You’ve already ruined everything,” when I slip up, like I did last week when I forgot to write a blog. My perfectionism is the back door to my laziness and resignation.

Forgetting to post in the past two days was, without a doubt, an honest mistake. I have had a lot on my mind lately. And Easter yesterday made it more complicated in my head. So far, in 2015 I have had a lot of malice pointed in my direction. And it has been taking its toll on me. It makes me tired and has me distracted. I have accidentally hurt myself more in the past month than usual. It takes a lot of patience for me to let things go again and again and again. And then messing up on my own, especially something so important to me like this blog, makes everything feel so much more overwhelming.

And I am embarrassed to have screwed up. I don’t like coming here and saying that I have a commitment and I failed.

Needless to say, I am putting an alarm on my phone to remind me to post to my blog every week from now on. I don’t want to let this mistake become a regular occurrence until I just stop blogging and the whole thing falls away.

I don’t want to be cruel to myself. I don’t want to blow this out of proportion, either. But the fear of regression is real for me. I don’t want to wake up one day hating myself because I let my commitments break apart one by one. It took too long to live a life I love to let it go without a fight.

This is where I don’t blink

So many things I want to get out and get off my chest. But this is not my diary. And you, as a collective, are not my friends. (Though obviously some of you are.)

I have to remind myself that this is a blog about living with eating disorders. And that can mean so many things for me, because my eating disorders touch every part of my life. But this is not a place to complain.

And even in those places that are places to complain, I try to do minimal complaining. Or at least minimal “all I’m doing about it is complaining.”

I am in a lot of pain lately. About circumstances. And life. And it is time to do that thing where I look at what is my responsibility, and what I can change and what I can’t, and what I have to let go of. And then let go.

And that is always wrapped up in my eating disorders. Partly because feelings are all wrapped up in my eating disorders. When I ate compulsively, pain is what I ate.

The correlation between an event and a feeling doesn’t even have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be some huge incident. It doesn’t have to be traumatic for me to be traumatized. So much of it is about feeling helpless.

This is a good lesson for me right now. I just had a little epiphany writing that. I don’t know if I have ever been able to pinpoint this feeling. I know its physical sensations. The intense tightness in my throat, like I am strangling myself with my own throat muscles. And the feeling in my arms and legs, hands and feet, like they don’t exist. Sort of the opposite of phantom limb syndrome. But I don’t know if up until this point I have ever been able to clearly note that it comes down to wanting something to be different that I have no power to change.

I don’t know the last time I had this feeling. It comes, and I let it go by trusting. By trusting that life is going the way it should. That whatever situation will be resolved and I, personally, will be better off with whatever the outcome. That has always been true, even though at the time it didn’t always seem to work out in my favor.

But the last time I remember this feeling being so terrible that it was practically unbearable, was about four years ago. I was a babysitter at the time and I could not stop thinking about the possibilities of the children I took care of getting hurt or dying. Especially when they were under my watch. I could not get these thoughts out of my head. Not matter how many times I tried to stop thinking them, they kept creeping in.

Now that I think about it, that was simply that I was overwhelmed by my lack of control over life. I was a fantastic child-care provider. I was not flighty or careless. I just knew in that moment that things happen in life, and people get hurt and it’s nobody’s fault. And I couldn’t control that. And it terrified me. And traumatized me. And it created the most intense pain.

That was when I started meditating. That was when I made an agreement with God, and then took time every morning to renew it. I agreed that I would honor what ever happened in a day as exactly what was supposed to happen. I didn’t have to like it. I didn’t have to put some spin on it. I just had to honor it. In other words, I had to trust.

That agreement doesn’t mean I always trust. It doesn’t stop this feeling from showing up. And it’s intense. But I will say that wading through it is so much better than eating it.

I used to eat all of my feelings. But I can think of growing up, and the times I felt the most crazy and out of control, and it all came down to this feeling, magnified times a thousand. Because I ate it. And then I ate it again. And again. Until eating it wasn’t going to work again. Until it had to come out. And when it did, it was all tied up in my worthlessness and my brokenness and the shameful things I had done and the shame in what I had failed to do. It was muddled and cloudy and I couldn’t see it clearly. And I couldn’t hold it in. I could eat as much cake as I wanted, but it was going to come out. And by that time it was so big and heavy and intense that it scared the shit out of me. There were times that I actually thought I might be going crazy.

There is something about using a substance that is ultimately lacking. If it weren’t, it would work. If I could have numbed my pain with food, and it had kept working, I would have done it. Eternally. Before I had love in my life, I would have gladly traded love for numb. I did, in fact trade love for numb for so many years. If only I could have stayed numb, I would have happily gotten fatter and fatter. I would have happily died of some obesity related illness. If only it had worked.

Thank God it didn’t. Now I would never trade love for numb. Even when this pain is so intense. And anyway, it passes, eventually. But first I have to let myself fall into the helplessness. I have to look my lack of control in the eye and not blink.

Money is money. And time is money. But my attention is worth more than gold.

Twice now in the past three days I have had to speak up for myself. I have had to say no and stop.

It’s always an experience to see where I resist this. My “Good Girl” is a bit of a die-hard, it turns out.

Although it is not all about being a “Good Girl.” There is a line many of us walk. That line between self-care and egotism. I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing that line. I know that living my life generously is a gift back to myself. But taking care of, and responsibility for my own needs is also a gift to myself.

My mother and I were talking not too long ago about money. She said that my whole life, even when I was a child, if I “lent” somebody money, chances were I would never get it back. Because I never made it a priority. In some ways that was generosity, and in some ways it was a lack of self-care.

The truth is that while I like money, I don’t love it. It does not motivate me or thrill me. Losing it does not scare me. But over the past several years, as my self-care has become ever more important, I have done very little “lending.” And more often than not, if I am going to give you money, I am going to gift it. I don’t want there to be expectations. This also makes it easier for me to say no. If I pretend that I might get it back, I might feel like I “should” say yes. If I know that once it leaves my hand, it is gone, I can better gauge if I am willing to part with it. It’s a kind of Jedi-mind-trick. But it works. And brings me peace.

But what I had to do this week was not about money. It was about time, sort of. But really, it was about something else. It was about access to my attention. It was about allowing people in. And this is a line I have a very hard time walking.

My first reaction is to keep everybody out. I spent my life building fortresses and hiding within them. When I was actively in my addiction, I lived in a fortress of fat. That I fortified with isolation. I would hide away and eat. I would sit alone for long stretches and binge. I would eat all day until I passed out in a sugar induced coma. And I would wakeup fatter and more “protected” than I had been when I came to from the previous night’s passing out.

But I also have a history of doing things I don’t want to do because I “should.” (There’s that word again. I hate that word…) Things that I thought I would want to do if I were a good person with a pure heart and an honorable soul. I have a history of being a “Good Girl” and resenting the hell out of the people I was being “good” for.

The first boundary I set this week was a long time coming.

I am part of a group. A group I like and love and enjoy. We meet once a week on a video conference call. And it is important to me.

Several months ago, I was asked to help a couple of people to get set up on their computers. Make sure they had the proper accounts and software. And I did that. Even though I don’t like computers. Or interacting with strangers for that matter. And then it became expected. And for months, the expectation was that I would help everybody and their brother set up their computers. And even the few times I said no, I didn’t stick to it and ended up doing it in the end.

Part of this was my “Good Girl” who could not bear to say that my time and attention were too important to help somebody else. And my ego that told me that I had let it go on so long that it must officially be my job and that I would shame and dishonor myself by saying anything about it after all this time. And part of it was my arrogance that insisted that if I didn’t do it, it was not going to get done. And that that somehow made it my responsibility.

And I got more and more resentful. And as time went by and my resentment grew, the level of responsibility that I grudgingly and hatefully took on grew. Until this week I got a message from a complete stranger, saying that somebody had told her that there was some sort of meeting on the internet for our group and that she should get in touch with me.

First I boiled with rage!

And then I said no. I said that they should refer back to the person who referred them to me for help.

And then I wrote a message to the group and I said no again. To everybody. I said that I was not available to help people get on the group any more. That if people wanted people to join us, they were going to have to take some responsibility for it. And I am so grateful to have said it. I am so relieved.

Resentment feels awful. It feels dirty and itchy. Plus it’s exhausting. You would think that I would recognize right off the bat that it is not something I want in my life. That if a behavior of mine is cultivating it, that I should stop that behavior. Immediately.

But it can be so hard. It can be so easy to second guess myself. And this is coming from somebody who works at exactly this every day. I’m not some schlump walking through life blind. My only ambition in life, besides being an amazing girlfriend and partner, is to grow spiritually. To be an amazing friend to myself. And I can still harbor a resentment for months and months.

And then two days later the next one happened.

It was late at night (for me. I happen to be incredibly lame.) I got a PM on Facebook from an acquaintance. She wanted to ask me about something and told me that for that purpose, I needed to accept her friend request.

Now you should know that I have a hard time with Facebook and friend requests. I already have many people on my friends list that I have hidden from my news feed. If you share a lot of pictures of cakes and brownies and various foods I do not eat, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of weight-loss/diet articles with pictures of skinny women in yoga pants, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of violent stories and pictures, chances are I have hidden your posts. Or just generally, if what you share upsets me or makes me uncomfortable, chances are I have hidden your posts.

But there is also another aspect to being Facebook friends with somebody. It gives them license to comment on your life. When you say yes to a friend request, you are saying, I care if you “like” what I post. I am willing to hear what you have to say about what I have to say.

And guess what? If we are not friends or family, I don’t give a shit what you think.

Now the reason this was particularly poignant for me was that this is not the first time that this person has sent me a friend request. The first time, I told her no very clearly. I even gave her a brief explanation. Which I did not owe her. I do not owe people explanations for the choices I make. (And no, I did not say that I did not give a shit what she thought. I was clear but diplomatic. In case you were wondering.) And shortly after that, she sent me a Facebook message that said she did not know how to get in touch with me since I wouldn’t accept her friend request. Of course I responded, without noting at the time that she was, in fact, being in touch with me.

A few months ago I got yet another friend request from her. By then I had realized that if you just leave the friend request there, you don’t have to reject the same person repeatedly. So her request has been sitting there since then.

And last night it happened yet again. Her PM said that there was something that she needed to go over with me, but she didn’t know how to get in touch with me if we weren’t Facebook friends.

Now I was angry.

And I took a few deep breaths, and I wrote her immediately. Sure, sometimes I believe that communication should be slept on and considered. When I need to disentangle what part of it is my BS and what part of it I need to address with the other person. But there was no doubt in my mind what I needed to say. It was obvious. It was simple. It was “Respect me.” “Respect my no.” “Stop it.”

When I was eating compulsively, I ate difficult conversations. And sugar made me high enough to make the uncomfortable feelings go away. And not feeling the uncomfortable feelings allowed me to convince myself that a conversation didn’t need to be had. Or a statement didn’t need to be made. Or a boundary didn’t need to be set.

But the farther I get from the food, the harder it is to sit in the discomfort. And I will say this. I have been keeping my commitments to water and meditation this week. And it has occurred to me that it is perhaps no coincidence that I have had a little breakthrough in saying what needs to be said. Perhaps it was hard to sit still and be with myself when I was itchy and gross with resentment. And perhaps forcing myself to sit still has made not saying what I needed to say unbearable.

I don’t know. It might be a coincidence. But then again, it might not…

It’s funny where you actually find freedom

Today was the first time since our trip to Florida that I went sun bathing. I have been working more than before and I have long work days with long commutes. And the days that I have off need to be spent cooking and prepping and packing meals for the work days ahead. Not to mention laundry and some minor housekeeping. And then there are walks for my health and sanity. And the occasional manicure and/or pedicure for my vanity. I haven’t been able to lay out until today. By late May I am usually a bronze goddess. This year, not so much.

So today I put on my bikini and I went to the pool.

On my way, I saw two women in their cover-ups with their pool toys and their kids headed there too. And I got scared. That I was going to take off my cover-up and they were going to be disgusted. And maybe even make comments to each other about how I shouldn’t be dressed like that in front of their children. Maybe even say it right to my face.

Now I have still not lost any of the weight that I gained after I quit smoking. Or maybe I have dropped 5 or so lbs. But I’m not weighing myself, so I can’t be sure. And either way, my clothes have not gotten any bigger. Nor has my butt gotten any smaller. Which is not the torture that it was in the beginning, but it rubs me the wrong way.

I oscillate between being resentful of God, and choosing peace and acceptance. Though I also spend a good amount of time avoiding thinking about it, which is like a not-unhappy-medium. I mean, it is almost 2 years since I quit smoking. And it is over a year since I stopped gaining weight. I feel like it “should be” time for me to start losing weight. Like I deserve it. Like I paid my dues and now God owes it to me to let me get back into that body I loved being in. And then there is the thought that I “should” love being in this body. That it is beautiful too.

And the truth is that I do believe this body is beautiful. When I stop comparing it to that other body. When I stop wanting to be thinner because I have been thinner.

And as I write this, I can see another part of it. A part that is embarrassing to write. I loved being on the skinnier side of thin because it was the opposite of what I had been. It felt like an “in your face” to all of the people who judged me. And it felt like a kind of redemption for the fat girl I was. Because there was a part of me when I was fat that thought that my broken body meant that I could never be “skinny.” And then I was. And it was painless. (Not effortless, of course. Because there was all of the shopping and cooking and packing. There were all of the boundaries to keep. But there was no pain. No deprivation. No torture and no crazy.) And now, on the bigger side of thin, I feel like it’s not so much of an accomplishment in the eyes of strangers. Or even family and friends. It feels like the world is secretly thinking, “Sure, she lost weight. But a fat girl can never get really thin. They are not built that way.” It feels like more of the same “fundamentally broken.”

But of course, I don’t keep boundaries around my food to be skinny. I say of course because if I did, gaining thirty pounds would have made me give up. Sure I would have gained another hundred and thirty, but that thirty felt like a hundred and thirty anyway. And I certainly don’t keep eating boundaries to impress other people. Frankly, for every person who is impressed, there are three who think that I am extreme, or unhealthy, or just plain weird.

I keep boundaries around my food to keep myself sane. To keep being a person I want to be. In life, and with money, and work. And with people. Strangers and family and friends. And especially my boyfriend. And for me. To keep liking and loving and honoring myself.

So anyway, back to the pool. I took off my cover up, and I set myself up in a lounge chair and closed my eyes. And when I opened them a while later to take a look around, I saw that one of those moms was wearing her own bikini. And she looked a lot like I did. A real woman in a real body. Getting her sun.

And then I remembered something else. That those years ago, when I was in that skinnier-side-of-thin body, I never wore my bikini in public. I was too embarrassed and ashamed then. It wasn’t until after I gained my 30 lbs that I started wearing it where people could see me. This body that I judge so harshly is the one I found freedom in.

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