onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “non-attachment”

Alas, reality doesn’t care what I think

I’m an addict in the middle of playing the waiting game. If you are an addict, you know that this is not the most comfortable place to be. In fact, the jaws of Hell might be more comfortable. The jury is still out.

My husband has gotten word that his next job is lined up, and we know where (at least we are as sure as we can be – it’s construction after all), but we don’t yet have any information on when we will move. At first we expected it to be in the next 3 weeks, but it may turn out to be closer to 5 weeks. And it is the nature of his business that any job is subject to change. Investors pull out, companies go bankrupt, the market shifts. We do expect him to end up on this particular job, and we do expect to be moving soon, but the details are not set.

So I am packing and cleaning, getting everything as compact as possible so that at a moment’s notice we can load up a moving truck and get back on the road.

This is not how I live my daily life. I am a preparer. I like lists. I like schedules and quality information. I like to have a plan and a contingency plan. Or two.

When I was younger and eating compulsively, I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal. It was easy. I wasn’t ever expecting to be responsible for my actions anyway, so it didn’t matter if I knew how things would turn out. They would turn out fine because someone would swoop in and save me. I am not saying I was this way maliciously. I wasn’t meaning to use or abuse anyone. It was just that I could only handle so much of life. I was bad at living. I was easily overwhelmed. I shut down at the first sign of difficulty or pain. I had zero coping strategies that did not include getting high on sugar and just not thinking about, or dealing with, the problem.

When I first got my eating under control, I had to start dealing with all of my feelings. And if I couldn’t get high and forget my problems, it became clear that the only real way to deal with my problems was to solve the ones I had. And as for the problems I didn’t have yet, it seemed best to head them off at the pass. To streamline my life, my actions, and my relationships so that as much as possible was predictable, convenient, and clean.

And I have to admit that that way of living was particularly helpful when I was just starting to be responsible for myself. But there is something that I learned (very, very slowly) while I was keeping my strict food boundaries: the moments that move me, the experiences that make the biggest impact, the really juicy life-nuggets, happen in the unforeseen, unwieldy mess.

For most of my life, I never wanted to commit to anything because I didn’t want to have to readjust when things inevitably changed. But now I believe that self-respect and pride lie in making the commitment, even knowing that circumstances will eventually change. There is peace for me in fully committing to something, until it is time to readjust, and then changing, and fully committing anew.

So here I am, knowing that a big change is coming, but not knowing when, and not having the option of specific planning. The only thing I can do is get everything as close to ready as is possible, and then trust that it will all work out exactly as it is supposed to. (And I will admit that I keep my fingers crossed that the way it is “supposed to work out” is in line with how “I would like it to work out”.)

Maybe that’s the other part of it. Recognizing that how life is “supposed to” work out might not look like how “I want” it to. Let’s say, for example, that the apartment that I want to rent gets snatched up in the time between my talking to the nice lady at the apartment complex and the time I get a concrete moving date. I can be angry, but there is no use for it. I can be sad, but it won’t help.

What I need to do if something like this happens, of course, is acknowledge it, accept it, and take action to find a new apartment. And to trust that how it worked out is, indeed, how it was supposed to. My experience of reality has nothing to do with reality. Feeling that reality is “frustrating” or “not fair” does not change the facts of the situation. So I need to adjust to life as it is, not as I want it to be. And when I pick myself up, brush myself off, put on the big girl panties and do something about the way it is, I have a reference for the magnitude of my resilience. I have a sense of my own power. I have life.

The longer I have my eating under control, the better I get at life. And the better I get at life, the more I realize that it is all about the place where planning and flexibility meet. It’s about both preparation and non-attachment.

The opportunity to live on the road with my husband has been a blessing and a joy. I would not give it up for convenience or predictability. After all, life has a way of happening, unpredictably, whether you want it to or not. Living like a recluse wouldn’t guarantee me predictability, it would only make me ill equipped to deal with the curve balls I would eventually get thrown.

I have loved living all over the country, meeting new people, enjoying the different cultures and experiences. And moving comes with that. Packing and waiting and going with the flow are all part of that package deal. So I am sitting in the discomfort of waiting to find out what happens next. And when it’s time to do the next thing, I will meet life head-on. And I will meet life on its own terms, with uncertainties, and delays and all, because there is really no other way to meet life.

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I was taking to a friend the other day about compromise. She was confused about why someone was acting a certain way when a compromise would be easy. I told her that this person most likely didn’t want to compromise. My friend asked, “then what do they want?” It was funny to me because the answer was obvious to me, but because of the nature of my loving and generous friend, she could not imagine it. She could not fathom that people want what they want. They want to win. They want complete and total victory.It’s perhaps obvious to me because I lived like that for so long, wanting what I wanted, feeling defeated or put upon if I had to let go of my (often grand and exorbitant) expectations. Feeling cheated and wronged by anyone who got even a fraction of what they wanted at the expense of the total of what I wanted.

Addiction makes most of us self-centered in the most unhealthy ways. We believe we should have all the good, and yet we expect everyone else to deal with the bad. We decide that we deserve our good fortune, but in the face of bad fortune, or even just the consequences of our bad decisions, we condemn life as completely unfair, and others as wicked, cruel, and out to get us.

This ultimately comes down to our attachment. Attachment to the way we want things to be. Attachment to our expectations.

In recovery, I had to learn non-attachment. Non-attachment is a spiritual idea that I have known about for some time, but was unable to practice until I got my eating under control. When I was younger and searching for a spiritual practice to make me feel whole, I read a slew of self-help, spiritual, and religious books. Zen Buddhism books talk a lot about non-attachment. But I was never able to fully grasp it until I put boundaries around my eating. I am sure that had something to do with the fact that addiction is attachment. It is attachment to one’s substance, the belief that you simply cannot live without it.

In recovery, I had to learn that I could only control my own thoughts, words, and actions. Of course this started with the food. I was no longer going to eat cake. Ever. And I was going to have to come to terms with the fact that other people were. And that I could not be resentful of that, or I would be in danger of ending up back in food hell. Even if They weighed 300 pounds and were diabetic. Even if I thought they were sugar addicts like me. I made a choice for myself and the only person I could expect to live the way I wanted to live was me. And soon, it became clear that this needed to be true in all areas of my life.

I do not get a say in what others think, say, or do, and (here’s the kicker) that is exactly as it should be. It was confronting to realize that I was not the center of all of my dealings in the world. It was painful to accept that I, not only would not, but should not always get everything I desired. But there is also something very freeing about recognizing someone’s autonomy as sacred, rather than inconvenient. 

I do not claim to be a guru. But I am good at non-attachment. Not because I think it is holy, but ultimately because it is convenient. I live a happier life knowing that other people’s choices and behaviors have nothing to do with me. Of course I still want things. And yes, there are things that are important to me that I do not get. But that’s life. And that’s another thing I have found since I put boundaries around my eating. When I don’t fight against other people’s choices, trying to force the outcome I think I want, in the long run, life always gives me better than I thought I wanted in the first place.

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