When it comes to keeping my food boundaries, I am willing to go to any lengths. God, that is such a pain in the ass!
When it comes to keeping my food boundaries, I am willing to go to any lengths. God, that is such a pain in the ass!
It’s Sunday, which means I have just finished breakfast, I will post this blog, then go grocery shopping, and cook breakfasts and lunches for the week. It’s what I do on Sunday.
I used to hate routine. Now I thrive on it. I used to want to be able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. And I did. But the things I wanted to do and did, never brought me anything worth having. Or perhaps that is untrue. They never brought me anything worth having by themselves.
I did a lot of reading and a lot of thinking. And those are absolutely worth doing. But really, only if one is doing the mundane actual living part of life. All of that reading and thinking never gave me a sense of pride, or purpose, or accomplishment.
Doing whatever I wanted never made me content. The life I live now, full of routines and commitments makes me content. It even makes me happy. I don’t know if I know many people as happy in their lives as I am.
It’s not so much the routine that makes me so happy, as what I use it for. I use it to make sure I get everything done in the day that I have promised myself. I make food for the week on Sunday so I know that the food is taken care of for the week. I don’t have to scramble. I don’t have to do it after work when I’m tired and just want to sit, and relax. I work out in the morning so I don’t have to worry about it if something comes up in the evening. And again, after work I don’t want to do things. I like to eat my meals at the same times (ish) every day as a reminder that whatever else I am doing, that is important and needs to get done.
I don’t have to have a routine to do these things. But for me, not having one was the perfect excuse for not doing things. Like I talked about with my food a couple of weeks ago, I wanted freedom, but freedom always led to the day “getting away from me.” Let’s say I was supposed to work out 3 days a week. I wouldn’t even consider it Monday through Wednesday. And then I’d consider it Thursday, but would never get around to doing it. So I would decide that Sunday could still be counted as “this week,” even if it wasn’t. I would then know I “had” to do it 3 days in a row, but would certainly put it off all day until the evening. And by the end of the day, the chances of me exercising were 50/50 at best.
There is a saying among people who keep their eating under control the way I do. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Of course, there are emergencies and moments where I have to fly by the seat of my pants to keep my eating boundaries, but I make those the exception, not the rule. Those are situations to be dealt with, not a way to live my life. That is so many opportunities to make mistakes and create chaos.
I am bad at planning. I think it’s why I love my routine so much. For me, there is not enough room in my head to remember that lunch is at noon today, but 1 tomorrow, or even to remember to check a calendar all the time. I work out at 5:30. I eat lunch between 12:15 and 12:30. I know that. It’s easy.
Obviously, sometimes life doesn’t work that way, and I have to change things around. I can be flexible when I need to. And I enjoy a little change from time to time, like a friend coming to visit, or planning a date with my husband. (And thank heaven for smartphones with notifications and alarms for those days!) But I never miss the “freedom” of doing whatever I wanted wherever I wanted. I may have been free, but mostly I was just free to cheat myself out of doing things that would make me feel good about myself. I was never as happy as I am when I do the things I need to do, not the things I want to.
Yesterday, I did not leave my house, and it was glorious.
I was thinking that the older I get, the more time I need to be still and alone. But then I realized that I used to spend the majority of my time still and alone. Back then what I needed was to get out and mix with the world. It turns out that my day-to-day life is totally different than it used to be.
I am a loner. I really always have been. Even as a child. I need a lot of time to spend in silence. I need a lot of time in my own head. I love my own company. I like getting lost in my thoughts. I can be fascinated by ideas that occur to me only after I have let my imagination wander deep into unknown (to me) territory. And that doesn’t even cover how much I loved (still love) reading novels and comics.
And I have always been a fan of projects. I used to make things all the time from the time I was young. Mix tapes (I’m showing my age, I know), costumes, jewelry, posters, scrap books, crochet projects, etc. As recently as the past 3 years I even taught myself to knit.
When I was eating compulsively, this was the majority of my time. I spent little time doing anything else besides thinking about whatever, accompanied by occasionally feverishly working on making something. I would often manically work on something all night until morning and then pass out and sleep half (or all) of the day away.
There was school as a kid, but I always did less than the bare minimum there. I was super smart, so I got away with it, for the most part. And also charming and manipulative, so what I may not have gotten away with in certain circumstances, I got away with anyway. And pretty much the same with work. Though work was harder. Being a waitress isn’t the same as being a student. People notice when you suck at doing the work. I was a better nanny.
When I got my eating under control, I suddenly had less time to do all the nothing I wanted to. I had groceries to buy, and fresh, homemade meals to prepare. I had to go meet up with people who had boundaries around their food. And then, the longer I had my boundaries, the more I had to “show up” for things like work. I had to get better at life because not being in a sugar fog meant that I could see clearly all of the things I was doing (or not doing) that I was ashamed of. And there was no cake or pizza to mask the shame, to hide it from myself anymore.
And getting my food under control, and getting good at life got me a relationship with a man I am madly in love with. And we started a life together. So there was necessarily more time that I did not get to spend alone doing nothing. And it also ended up meaning that the way I worked and the kinds of jobs I had changed. I wanted to spend time with my husband. So I didn’t want jobs where the hours were flexible, and I worked odd shifts. I wanted to work when he worked so I could be home when he was home. Eventually I wanted to exercise too. So there was even less time to do nothing.
I am not complaining. I am very happy. I love my life. And I know that I love my life *because* I have so many commitments that keep me from doing so much nothing, and so many projects, not in spite of it. But I still love my nothing time, and my projects. (I just finished a baby blanket yesterday!) And I am grateful for having had a whole day to not leave the house.
But now I have to go to the grocery store and then cook meals for the work week. Because that is how I maintain this happy life.
Gosh am I exhausted. My job is finally ramping up, and I am back to working full time. And because of my food boundaries, that means a lot of meal planning and prepping. Not to mention going for my jog at 5:30 in the morning so I can knock it out before work. Because trying to tackle it after an 8 hour day is too much for me.
I am behind on all kinds of social responsibilities. Especially calls I owe my family and friends. But I learned something when I got my eating under control 12+ years ago, and that is “bedroom slippers.” Bedroom slippers is a code word in my community that means “take care of yourself by taking it easy.”
I have commitments I make to myself, and I have to put them first. Food is the biggest one. Sleep is a close second. It also makes the food boundaries easier to keep. Exercise is right up there.
And now that I am working 40 hour weeks, I don’t have a lot of time for other things. And I am OK with that. I have to be. I cannot kill myself to take care of other people. I cannot hurt myself to make them happy.
I wanted to be productive yesterday. I wanted to catch up on my calls, and work on my knitting project. I wanted to get things done. But after my jog and the grocery shopping, I was done. I didn’t have anything left. I couldn’t even manage to lay on the couch to read. I had to lay in *bed* and read for about 3 hours before dinner.
Today I have to meal prep for the coming week. I’m about to do that once I finish this post. And maybe I will have time to make my calls and do my knitting later. But if not, I will have hit my benchmarks. I will have done the things I need to do to keep myself happy, healthy, and sane.
I expect that I will find my groove sooner, rather than later. I have worked 40 hour weeks before, and managed to have a life. But I don’t feel any pressure. As long as I keep my promises to myself, I know that all will be well.
It’s when I start putting other people’s wants before my needs that I start running into problems. Problems of resentment, exhaustion, sickness, and unhappiness. And those are completely avoidable if I put on my bedroom slippers.
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 back in the airport again right now, heading to South Carolina to meet up with my husband who has been there for about a week for work. I could have waited another week at our Chicago home for him to return on his own. It would have saved me yet another day of cooking and packing. It would have saved me a ton of airline points. But I have my priorities straight, and being with my husband is one of my top priorities.We will be heading back to Texas (again) next week when we get back from South Carolina, and I will be working when we get there. And my husband asked me, when will you run? I have been asking myself the same questions. And he didn’t ask, but I have also been wondering, when will I write?
One thing that I learned when I got my eating under control, is that we all have priorities, and they come down to action, not thoughts or beliefs. I could say that my food is my priority, but if I say eff it when it gets hard, or inconvenient, or I just don’t feel like it, then in practice, it’s not.
My food is my first priority, always. But spending time with my husband, and my workout, and my writing are all pretty high up on the list.
So I told him I don’t know when I will run. When I get there I will find out if there is a gym in our apartment complex, or if there is a good place to run outside, or if I have to join a gym. And I will see what my work hours are. So I can also fit in time to write 5 days a week. I will figure it out. Because I have my priorities straight. And that means *doing* something about them.
When I was eating compulsively, I had things I wanted to be my priority, but in terms of what I *did*, shoving food in my face was number 1. And numbers 2 and 3, too.
I am grateful for the clarity that I have from having my eating under control, because when I keep my priorities where they should be, I actually get the life I want, not the life that circumstances dictate for me. And that makes for a pretty damn sweet life.
I read a meme the other day that said “Make yourself a priority once in a while. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.”
It seemed innocuous enough, but good golly did it get under my skin. Let me tell you what frustrated me about it.
First, we should always make ourselves a priority. Not once in a while. Not when we are on the brink of a nervous breakdown. As a way of life, we should be making it a point to meet our own needs. I am talking about self-care. You could call it “radical self-care,” but that is simply an illustration of the way so many of us think we have to be some sort of revolutionary extremist to love ourselves.
Many of us (especially, but not exclusively women) put a kind of grotesque value on diminishing ourselves for the benefit of others. And for the most part, society praises us for this. I do not. I do not honor or cherish this. You will not get a high five from me for neglecting yourself for someone else.
If our own health, happiness, wellbeing, and life are our real priority, as the rule and not the exception, then we will be exponentially better equipped to handle a situation where we have to help someone in real need. And we will be better able to deduce when it is time make someone else a priority, and what exactly it is that we can sacrifice that will help our loved ones without harming ourselves.
Second, self-care is not ever selfish. For some reason, the way this meme is worded, it feels more like it reinforces the idea that to care about one’s self is actually selfish (unless you only do it “once in a while”, then it’s necessary. *blech*) When I say self-care, I am not talking about getting everything you want. But I don’t think this meme was made for people who choose to live out a perpetually drunken party life rather than spend quality time with their children. It is almost certainly for the people who can’t manage to eat a balanced meal, or make time to work out, or give themselves 20 minutes a day to meditate, or pray, or walk outside, or just pause, because their schedule is full of everyone else’s errands, needs and appointments.
I would like you to consider that all of the time that we spend making someone else a priority is time that the other person is not exercising their ability to be, or experiencing themselves as being, capable and self-sufficient. And regarding children, they do not learn by hearing what we say, they learn by watching what we do. So when we make everyone else a priority at the expense of our own health and wellbeing, we are teaching our children to do the same.
No matter what is going on in my life, I eat within my boundaries. It is my primary act of self-care. It keeps me nourished, grounded, clear-headed, and peaceful. Nobody’s wants, needs, feelings, or agendas come before that. I don’t allow anyone to get in the way of it. And it goes beyond that. I am constantly gauging what I can give and what I can’t, in every area of my life. I am always looking out for myself first. Not only, but first. And what the people in my life get in return is a healthy, confident, happy woman who is available for them. I am able to help, guide, nurture, and love, because I take care of myself. And my ability to make myself a priority, and even say “no,” means that when you get me, you get me 100%. You get me present, capable, efficient, and useful.
Third, on the surface, these acts might seem like acts of love and sacrifice, but I have played this game, and for me, and I think for many, they were, and are a scam. When I have made everybody else’s life a priority, I was actually making myself a priority. But not in the obvious way. Not in the way I was selling it. I was making my drama the priority. I was saying “I put your life first, constantly put your needs in front of my own, and sometimes even at the expense of my own needs. And now you owe me.” Maybe I want martyrdom, a holy place where I am lauded for having done the most, but in return have gotten nothing but pain and suffering (and maybe even a nervous breakdown.) Or maybe you owe me everything done exactly my way. Or maybe you owe me your feelings of guilt, shame and misery. Or maybe you owe me staying forever and never being able to leave, even if the relationship is terrible for both of us. Or maybe you just owe me “the right” to be mean and cruel, a free pass to crap all over you when I feel like it. Like when I’m on the verge of a breakdown. But make no mistake. You owe me, and I plan on collecting.
When I put myself first, you don’t owe me anything. Why not? Because I am already taken care of! So if I make myself a priority, and I help you, it’s because I have something to give, and I get to enjoy being generous. And I am able to be generous because I am giving from my surplus.
And finally, I really hate the phrase “once in a while.” It is so non-specific. I know it’s a meme, but it’s still wishy-washy. “Every once in a while” is a limp handshake (along with it’s cousins “more” and “more often,” as in I’m going to drink “more” water, and exercise “more often.”) And the vapidity of it means one gets to feel like one has done something, without ever having to actually change. When I hear “once in a while,” what I think is “Not today.” Phew! Dodged that bullet! (*wipes sweat from brow*) And then I forget about it. I am not out in my daily life looking for that “once in a while” moment. I am business as usual.
If you want to take care of yourself, for realsies, then figure out what you can do to nurture yourself, every day, or every week, as a practice. Perhaps it’s making time to cook every day so you eat less fast food, or carving out 20 minutes for yourself to journal so that you can get your thoughts out of the echo chamber that is your own mind. Find one thing that makes your life happier and more fulfilled, or more peaceful and less stressed, and don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of it.
So what is my contribution? What would my meme be?
If you want to live in a world of love, love yourself first. Self-care keeps us whole and healthy. And a world of whole, healthy people must necessarily be world of love.
So, fine, it’s not catchy. But it makes my point in 3 sentences with a pretty picture.
The husband and I went home for a few days this week. We had to see the new baby in the family. I sure do love a newborn. She had that new baby smell.*swoon*
The thing about traveling, especially when we go home for a visit, is that the tastiness of my food is is less important while I’m there. I make sure it’s within my eating boundaries, and that I don’t hate it, and that is about it.
There is always so much to do when we go home. We have people to see and errands to run. And cooking the way I like to cook is time consuming. Fresh food cooked daily, or every two days is a lot of work. And after all of the running around and the visits we have to make, I would rather have something easy that I can mix up and pop in the microwave for a few minutes.
When I gave up sugar and stopped eating compulsively, I gained a new kind of experience of being with people. Prior to that, parties, get togethers and visits were always colored by what there was to eat. Food was more important to me than people or events. And, more than that, I was embarrassed about being fat. I didn’t want to be seen or judged for how or how much I ate. So not only was food more important, but people could be a burden.
But when I gave up the food, company and experiences became the point of life. After all, I wasn’t going to eat the birthday cake at all anymore. I might as well enjoy the relationships I was in.
So I spent the last few days eating mostly mediocre food (though in truth, I did take one afternoon to cook two days worth of delicious lunches) and being with friends and family.
We also had a friend bring us with him to a baseball game, and we got there just as a crazy storm rolled in. I had such a great time anyway. I had eaten an efficient dinner on the way, and was able to just be available for whatever happened. I got soaked, the crowd was crazy, we ended up leaving early, and it was still a wonderful time because it was exciting and we were with friends. Instead of being a disappointment, it was a fun adventure.
I am so grateful that, when it’s just for a short time, having delicious food is not the most important thing. I couldn’t do it forever, because I am not neutral about food. I love eating and I am sure I always will. But it’s nice that I can have different priorities when the situation calls for them.
The past few weeks, I have been feeling sort of like life was on hold. I wasn’t really sure what I should be doing in terms of work and writing. I couldn’t practice driving because while our car was getting repaired, we had a rental, and I don’t have a driver’s license. Plus, my boyfriend wasn’t working as much so it was a really nice chance to just sit around and spend time together.And now life is back in motion. On fast forward.
Today, my boyfriend goes ahead of me to an extended stay hotel in Indiana, where we will be living, back on the road for the next 9 months to a year. For the next week or two, I will practice driving and get my license. Then I will drive to meet him. (But you know, no pressure.)
For the past week, my time has been spent doing the things I am committed to doing for my life: meditation, jogging, driving, and of course, as always, 3 meals a day within my boundaries.
At times like this, when all of the things I have to do can get overwhelming, having commitments makes priorities a no-brainer.
When I got my eating under control I learned that taking care of myself makes it easier to take care of the people I want to care for. If I know that my health and sanity come first, who and what comes next and next and next seem to fall into place effortlessly.
So I am cutting this week’s blog short. Because writing a blog is a priority. But making it long and poignant is not. There are clothes to pack and time to spend with my boyfriend before we are separated for over a week. (The separation part is not my favorite, by the way.)
So cheers to commitments and priorities! It’s nice to choose them for myself, instead of being thrown where the wind blows me.