I am having some problems at work. Personality problems. And they difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of restraint on my part.
I am having some problems at work. Personality problems. And they difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of restraint on my part.
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.
I am in a perfect storm of misery lately. I have an infection in one of my gums, and that means: 1) I feel sick from the infection. 2) It hurts to eat, which I must do 3 times a day, and which I usually love more than almost anything (husband not included), but which is currently being ruined by my pain. 3) I had to go through the tedium of finding out my insurance ID number, and finding a dentist in both my network and my area to treat me in the next few days rather than weeks. And 4) I had to make a dentist appointment while I deeply dislike and fear doctors and dentists in general.
I spent my first wedding anniversary moping around, dealing with the red tape of dentists’ offices and insurance companies, swishing my mouth with peroxide or salt water, and crying in frustration.
Here are some things I want to point out. I have not eaten sugar, grains, or starch for over 11 years. On most days, I brush after every meal, and always brush at least twice a day. I floss daily, often more than once. So this sort of pisses me off. I feel like I so don’t deserve this.
Here are some other things I would like to point out. I used to eat a diet almost entirely made of sugar, grains, and starch. I was not always a rigorous brusher, and never flossed until about 10 years ago. I only recently got insurance so I have not kept up with regular maintenance like cleaning and checkups for years. I don’t like to think about these things when I am slamming up against “the unfairness” of life.
Life has pain. If one is lucky enough to live any length of time, one will experience it. That I live a generally pain-free existence means I am lucky, not that I have done something to deserve it. Not even flossing.
People I know who also keep boundaries around their food would call this “A No Matter What.” Part of our lingo is to say that we don’t eat no matter what. (What we mean is that we don’t eat compulsively under any circumstances, because, of course, we do eat 3 meals a day within our boundaries.) So we use the term “no matter what” as a noun when we are describing those circumstances that could potentially throw us back into acting out our sugar addiction.
All of those things I mentioned at the beginning are “no matter whats” for me. I don’t want to eat. I want to skip meals because it hurts to eat them. I want to eat “comfort food” because I don’t feel well. I want to numb out rather than have to do the footwork to make an appointment with an appropriate dentist, because that kind of big-girl-panties stuff is always overwhelming and scary to me. And I really don’t want to go to the appointment I made in the first place because I am afraid. I am afraid of the pain and the cost and just generally having to come face to face with the truth about the state of my health.
That last one, having to face the truth about my body, is probably one of my all-time biggest struggles. I don’t like to look at uncomfortable realities, kind of ever, but especially about my body or my health. I mean, I weighed 300 pounds at one point. I was doing a lot of eye-covering and la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you-ing. I do make a point to live a relatively healthy lifestyle now. But I like going along in the predictable, and making changes and growing because I want to, not because I have been forced to. And that is not the way life goes.
I know that I am not alone. Plenty of people don’t choose to look at the reality of their health. There are people I know personally who have gone to the doctor to discover that at some point in the recent past, they had had a heart attack, and they “had not noticed.”
My guess is that they noticed, but when it passed and they weren’t dead, they figured no harm no foul. I understand. Not knowing can be much more comfortable than knowing.
So much of getting my eating under control was about facing reality. I used food, sugar especially, to avoid reality, often to the detriment of my welfare. If I was worried, I ate. If I was really worried, I ate until I passed out. Not a lot gets done when you are passed out in a food coma. Certainly not anything productive like paying bills, or working on a project, or finding a dentist. Not the kind of things that assuage worry by taking care of the problem, anyway.
The truth is that I am annoyed and cranky. I don’t feel well. I would love to tell you that I am keeping my spirits up and being grateful for all of the things I have, like insurance, and mostly good health, and a husband that I am crazy about, and a really happy life. But I’m not keeping my spirits up. I’m pissed. And I am doing the bare minimum to get through the days. There is no going above and beyond for me while I am feeling crappy. And I am cool with that.
Maybe someday I will be able to smile through pain and frustration. That’s certainly a worthwhile goal. But I am not there today, and I don’t want to make it seem like I am. Just like I believe in facing the reality of my health, I believe in facing, and showing, the reality of my experience. I don’t write this blog so that the people who read it (you) will think I’m special, or super-human, or admirable. I write this because it is an opportunity to tell my truth. Even the less attractive aspects.
So I am doing what needs to be done with a bad attitude. Because I need to take care of myself, but I don’t have to do it gracefully.
Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about what it looks like to let people be themselves. Make their own choices. Fight their own battles. Live their own lives.
It’s a hard thing. I know that it is hard for everybody. And I like to think it is something that I am relatively good at.
Relatively. I mean, it’s not easy. Especially when I love somebody. Or in my pride I think I know what would be best.
And maybe what I think other people should do really would make them happy, or give them peace, or just generally make things work out for the best. But none of that matters.
When I was growing up, a lot of people wanted me to lose weight. Doctors and family and friends. Not because they didn’t like or love me fat, but because they did. They wanted better for me. They wanted me to be healthier and happier. They didn’t want me to get obesity related illnesses. Or be made fun of. Or get hurt and rejected.
But nothing those people wanted for me ever helped me. None of their opinions or advice ever landed as anything but judgment, cruelty, and conditional caring. I am not saying that that is what it was. I am not saying that it was not genuine love and concern. But it did not occur that way. It occurred as intrusion. And for the most part, it still does.
I love advice.
When I ask for it. Because I am choosy about whom I ask. I go to people who have something I want when I ask for advice. When I wanted peace around food, I went to people who had peace around food. I did what they did. Not people who were skinny. Not even people who had lost a lot of weight. I wanted food to stop being an issue. So I went to people for whom compulsive eating was no longer an issue. When I wanted to open my heart and find a powerful relationship, I asked for advice from people in the kinds of relationships I wanted. Not people who happened to be married. Not women who were trying to land a husband. It was about relationships. When I wanted to quit smoking, I went to people who had successfully quit smoking and were empowered by it. Not people who still had a puff every once in a while. Not people who had never had or wanted a cigarette. People who quit so that they could grow.
What I do around food is not for everybody. Plenty of people are not sick with sugar addiction or eating disorders, and can eat sugar and drink alcohol normally and without negative repercussions. Or have other food issues that would be exacerbated by what I do.
And no. Not everybody wants what I have. And I can understand that. I think most people can’t imagine how sweet and delicious my life is. I don’t think many people can fathom what it is like to have found a certain amount of peace. I bet they think that what I have is a dull as can be.
But even more, there are people who do, indeed, want what I have, but are unwilling to do what I do. Almost everybody wants to know how I live with the idea of never eating chocolate cake again. Or never having a glass of wine with dinner. Or they want to make sure that I know that they never could. So many people, when they hear my solution, decide that it’s too much. They want an easier, softer way. Not so hard. Not so extreme.
And who am I to tell them differently? Who am I to judge them for not doing what I do?
And it’s not just food. Food is just the most obvious example to me. My “amazing” weight loss transformation that is written all over my body. (Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I put amazing in quotes because I happen to know that my weight was the symptom of my eating disorders. That what’s really amazing to me is the gift of having my eating under control, which takes care of my weight issues. And that more than amazing, it’s work and dedication and giving myself over to grace.) Who am I to offer advice about any choice. Who am I to tell anybody anything? Who am I to tell another person how to live. Or what happiness is. Or where to find it?
Unless you want to ask me. And then I would love to tell you what works for me. And even then, I give it as a gift. With no strings. To do with what you will. Because your life is yours. And you get to live it for yourself.
I was thinking today about what I want. And I can’t think of anything. More time in the sun, maybe. But I took a few hours this morning and laid out by the pool. Another trip to Florida. But that will happen. Probably in the next couple of months. But even if it takes longer than that, it’s not some long-term, impossible goal. It’s not a dream.
I used to want things. I used to want to be and do and have.
But I don’t have much to prove anymore. And I like it this way.
I think that what I want most in the world is more grace. To grow ever more graceful at dealing with life.
When I was fat, I was self-conscious about how graceful I was physically. If I tripped, I was humiliated. And often angry at anyone who saw me. Especially if they had the indecency to smile or laugh.
Graceful as an elephant. It was a phrase that was used in my family. And I was fat. Like an elephant. And could imagine how people saw me. Lumbering around. And I was bitter about it.
In retrospect, I was physically graceful my whole life. Even if I didn’t know it. Strong, flexible, with great rhythm. I was not personally, spiritually or emotionally graceful though.
When I lost weight, I wanted to look like a beautiful, confident woman. I wanted to look like I belonged in my body. I didn’t think I did belong in my body and it often felt like I was an “eternal fat girl” conning the world. But I was interested in selling this con, so I started to look around and notice what beautiful, confident women were doing and copying them.
One of the first things I remember taking note of was grace in the face of being ungraceful. I found that beautiful, confident women tripped when they were walking, too. Sometimes they even fell. And do you know what they did? They smiled!!! They laughed! They made some charming remark and moved along! It turned out that grace was not about moving flawlessly through the world, but rather about how one dealt with the flaws.
I started to do this too. I got myself a little shtick. I would curtsy, and say, “You can call me Grace.”
And this was so incredibly freeing. I could let it go. I could have peace. I did not have to feel like a victim. Of an uneven sidewalk. Or my grotesque body. I did not have to feel ashamed for the rest of the day. I didn’t have to lumber around, stomping and snorting. Graceful like an elephant.
This has been a lesson to learn over and over in different ways. Grace is not about perfection, but about my attitude and reactions to imperfection.
And that is the only thing that I can think of that I really want. That is my dearest goal right now. To be ever more graceful. To find the peace that brings the grace. And the grace that brings the peace.
Maybe some idea or intense yearning will come out of the blue and light a fire under my ass one of these days. And perhaps I will have the grace to go fearlessly forward into the unknown with excitement and wonder. I’m not ruling it out.
But it sure is nice to sit here with nothing to wish for.
I have written quite a bit so far about how I ate my negative feelings. My shame and pain. But I also ate my good feelings. My joy and excitement. My happiness. This may not make sense to you. It doesn’t make sense to me either. I didn’t even know I did that until I stopped. But real joy is intense and confusing to me. And I have never been good at riding the waves. It is easier to be numb. And I am never numb anymore.
When my feelings get unmanageable, I have generally had three strategies. The first, which I no longer utilize, was to eat. Sugar. That would get me numb for a while and then make me feel bad about myself. Problem with joy? Problem solved. The second, which I am doing less and less lately, is to make a rash decision and take a drastic action. Specifically, to make a big ol’ mess of things. Then there is no need to deal with that feeling. There are too many things to do in order to get my life square again. And the third is what a friend of mine calls Pick A Panic, Any Panic. (I can still get stuck in this one. Baby steps, Kate.)
Pick a panic has the advantage of providing all of the drama of making rash decisions, but without all that mess. I can keep it contained enough to only hurt and torment myself. This eliminates a lot of the guilt associated with lashing out at others. But it’s also harder to distinguish. My panic occurs to me as real, not like I fabricated it. Pick a panic is very close to the highs and lows of compulsive sugar eating. I’m guessing that’s actually where my brain learned it. And did it so often and so regularly that it doesn’t even need the sugar anymore. Pick a panic is useful if your goal is to get worked up enough to declare certain doom unto yourself, quit, and return the damp cocoon of resignation.
So let’s get to men (ok, just one man) and my heart. And happiness. I asked the man I like if he liked me. (See! I did take a risk with my heart!) And wow, did he give me a response! He positively touched me. I felt so incredibly honored and appreciated. The whole thing left me speechless. It made me really really happy!
Which makes me really really uncomfortable.
So I want to pick a panic. Any panic. About all of my faults and flaws. About not being pretty enough. About fucking up. About time and money. About logistics. About how many beautiful women there are in the world and where they are located. About the uncertainty of the future. Really. Any one will do.
While I am letting my panic blossom and flourish, I am never thinking about where it will ultimately lead. But panic is a straight line to resignation for me. It is the first step down the short, desperate road to…well, anywhere but here where I’m uncomfortable. Where I have to deal with life, and other human beings. Or, God forbid, joy!
So what’s the remedy for panic? Now. Here. This moment exactly as it is. Being still. Being quiet. Not panicking.
I am responsible for my thoughts. And I know what it takes to change my mind. And not just on a particular subject or issue. I know what it takes to change my thinking. Meditation. Standing still. Taking in. Being.
And it turns out I like these practices. They take the pressure off. They remind me that I am not in charge of the world or anyone in it but myself. That I have only one responsibility; to live. To be in the place and moment that I am in. To do the next right thing.
Basically, I think the cure for panic is surrender. And I believe that surrender is a grace. In other words, you don’t work at it, you receive it. I want to keep myself open. Eyes, ears, arms, heart, and mind. I want to be available for grace and peace. I want to be available for this moment. Whatever moment it is. And if it’s joy, intense and confusing, may I know how blessed I am.