I started a new job last week. I’m back in the work force after many months of being unemployed. I like it.
I like the job itself. It’s an office job. I like working with spreadsheets and systems. I like learning new things. Plus what I’m doing is not mindless or unnecessary. It all makes sense. And I find that I’m good at it, which is rewarding.
But there is something else too. I am contributing financially in my relationship. Not as much as he is. But something. There was something slightly off-putting about not working.
Not that I minded contributing by doing the domestic things. I didn’t mind cooking and cleaning and laundry. And my boyfriend did not expect it of me. But it felt good to do things for him around the house while he was at work all day. I was going to have to do that stuff for myself anyway. And doing it for one other person, a relatively tidy adult for that matter, was no burden. But it was still hard to ask for things that I needed when I wasn’t pitching in with the money. Everything that was bought for me felt like a gift. Like something I should be grateful for because I didn’t “earn” it, rather than something I was entitled to because I am allowed to get my needs met.
For the record, I’m not talking about leather handbags and jewelry. I’m talking about food and toiletries. And for the record again, this is not to imply that my boyfriend made me feel that way. He never has. It all comes from my own head. My own fears and insecurities. It’s just that when you spend the first 34 years of your life expecting to be alone forever and having to take care of yourself until you die, it’s hard to go into your first relationship at 35 and immediately have a man take care of you financially without some serious head trips.
Needless to say, working and bringing home a paycheck, even a small one, makes me feel like I’m doing my part in my partnership.
Now if you are new to my blog, you may not know that I am a worrier. I worry all the time. Since I stopped eating compulsively, the worrying is usually just static noise in the background, with occasional spells of noticeable anxiety. But something big (like starting a new job) can trigger that noticeable anxiety. So one of the best things that can happen to me is that something that I would most likely worry about comes from out of the blue and there is no time to panic. There is only time for immediate action.
That’s how I found out I had a job. I was sitting around doing laundry and crocheting when I got a call that a job needed me to start tomorrow. There was no time get anxious about whether or not I were smart enough or good enough. I didn’t have time to worry about whether or not my new boss would like me. Or if I would like her. I had to pack breakfast and lunch for the next day and get to bed early for my 5 AM wakeup.
Of course there are still some things that I worry about with this new job. But they are mostly food related. I worry about having enough time to make and pack breakfasts and lunches for the work day. On the days that I work, I work 9 hour days with a 45 minute commute each way. It does not leave me a lot of time to do much when I get home in the evening. Plus there is still dinner to cook and eat every night. And small town Mississippi is not like New York City, where if I worked late and was too tired to cook for the next day, I could go to Fairway, or one of a number of gourmet delis, or a favorite diner to get fresh, delicious, pre-cooked vegetables in quantity to pack up for the next day. I do not have the option of grabbing something quick and easy from the nearest gas station. (Yes, gas station. It’s super small town Mississippi). Nor the option of skipping a meal entirely. I eat within my boundaries, and I eat every meal. I must. My commitment to my food boundaries is what has saved and continues to save my life. I keep those boundaries no matter what.
But I think the biggest fear I have about this new job, which is the biggest fear I have in any new situation, is what I will do if I have to say no, or walk away, or assert myself in order to keep my food boundaries. I am generally afraid of disappointing or angering or offending people, even if it’s to keep my eating under control. Of course, I try to keep my “Good Girl” under wraps, but she’s still in there. And having boundaries around food inevitably means setting boundaries with people. Any people. Family, friends, my boyfriend…and even bosses. And that’s scary.
The clear-headed, not anxious part of my mind tells me to stop worrying about the uncertain future. That such a thing may never happen. And that if it does, I will be able to handle it with grace and honor and love, and still keep my boundaries, my integrity and my self-respect. And then it tells me that even if I fail to be graceful, I will keep my boundaries. And that whatever the result of keeping my boundaries is, it is certainly the right result. Because not being fat, bulimic, crazy, miserable, angry, selfish, and self-loathing is more important than any job, relationship, or amount of money. Because I am always going to be in my own life. That’s the relationship it’s most important not to sabotage.