Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “setting boundaries”

Clunky and graceless is OK for now

This week I celebrated my 13th anniversary of keeping boundaries around my eating. One thing I was taught early on was to set boundaries with people. Even if they were “clunky.” Even if they were graceless. Even if I sounded like a jerk. Even if I *was* a jerk.

It has occurred to me in the past few months that I avoid difficult conversations. In some ways, this came as a surprise to me. I like to think of myself as a model of self-expression. And I thought I had already overcome this. Which I had. But I should not be surprised. My experience is that we all have our lessons. And we have to learn those lessons over and over, deeper and deeper.

Once I realized this, I knew that I wanted to do something about it. And I have. A little snappy. And a little pushy. But moving ahead.

Right now, I don’t know what to do about it in terms of concrete actions. There are ways to make commitments to things like this, but they are not as obvious to me as food boundaries or water drinking promises. Those are no brainers. 4 oz of meat, weighed on a scale. Three 20 oz bottles of water a day from my reusable water bottle. That’s easy. Or at least, easy to wrap my mind around. But having uncomfortable conversations occurs to me as less clear-cut.

Still, I will work at it. I want it. I want to say the things I need to say so that I don’t feel resentful, or self-pitying, or stifled. I don’t want to be “nice.” I want to be kind. I don’t want to be “likable.” I want to be authentic. I don’t want to be “good.” I want to be powerful.

When I don’t muddle my thinking with food and sugar and carbs and things that make me fuzzy, I can feel my uncomfortable feelings, and consider what I want to do about them. I am in no hurry. I can be happy for now with the baby steps I have begun to take, even if they are clunky and graceless. I can think about it a little bit longer. I am in no rush. I have all the time in the world to grow. And there will always be more growing to do.


This is me not holding my breath

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! 

I’m not willing to give it up, or say “not today” for even one day, or even one meal, but good lord, it can be exhausting. And it can be inconvenient.
I heard someone say the other day that before she put boundaries around her eating, she was waiting to not *want* to eat anymore. I feel like that is the myth perpetuated by society. That if you are good enough, or spiritual enough, or “conscious” enough, you won’t “want” to eat. It’s why things like “mindful eating” are talked about so often in regards to obesity.
I have nothing against mindfulness. But it’s not practical for any addict, and truthfully, for most people when it comes to food. We, as a society, put too much emphasis on what we want. The idea of “listening to my body” is hilarious to me. My body wants pizza and cake and coffee day and night and to skip my morning jog basically every morning, and never drink a sip of water. Or at least, that is what my brain tells my body I want. In a modern culture with devices we hold in our hands, while we watch devices that mount on our walls, or put devices in our ears so we can hear our very own soundtrack while we go through life in our temperature controlled pods, it may be asking a lot to expect our bodies to *feel* what what we should be doing and eating and drinking to take the best care of ourselves. I feel like in order to really be attuned to one’s body, one has to be used to squashing desire, in a way most modern people would call deprivation.
Just look at the way people deal with those who choose not to indulge. Seriously, go to a holiday party and don’t eat the sweets. Say “no thank you,” to the host’s “famous” cookies. People will act like you have given up all of your worldly possessions in favor of one robe and one bowl.
I don’t want to imply that I don’t like my modern conveniences. I love them! I listen to books and check social media, and am even writing this blog right now on my handy-dandy iPhone. I read comics and shop and look up knitting patterns on an iPad. I have an internet TV, along with myriad streaming services. I am not saying these things are bad. I love them! But so much comfort makes it harder, not easier, to wake up in the morning, drink a bottle of water, and jog two miles before I go to work. It makes it harder, not easier, to meal prep on Sunday and weigh my food portions out for the week so I can grab them and go in the morning before work.
I have boundaries because I want results. And I gave up on needing to get those results by becoming “spiritually fit” enough to want them naturally. I never “don’t want to eat.” And I don’t feel like being fat and miserable until that becomes true. I never want to get out there and run. But I do it anyway, because I love what it gives me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I think it’s unfair to tell people that they will ever “want” to do the things that make them healthy. I’m sure there are a few people on the planet for whom that is true. And I would bet they are all fitness bloggers making their money by making the rest of us feel like jerks, or meditating monks in the mountains praying for for us, because gosh do we need it!
Maybe someday I will not need boundaries and commitments to force me to do the things that give me a life I love. But I’m going to prep my meals and fill my water bottle, and wash my workout clothes in the mean time. And I’m not going to hold my breath.

The ability to be uncomfortable long enough to make a change.

I am having some problems at work. Personality problems. And they difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of restraint on my part. 

The other day the personality I have the most trouble with made trouble between me and another worker. Thankfully, I calmed down (way way down) before I talked to this other worker. And because I went in calm, and did not act out like the crazed person I felt like, all turned out just fine. It turned out to be a miscommunication. It was presented to me differently by that first personality.
That first personality likes to create panic. I don’t have time for panic. I don’t have room to be guided by my feelings. (Not my intuition, from which I do have room for guidance. Feelings. Yucky, human, unpredictable, physical reactions to situations.)
Feelings are useful, certainly. They let us know when we are on the right track. They also let us know when we need change.
I masked my feelings with food for the first 28 years of my life. It was easy to live in the discomfort of something being wrong when I never had to experience the discomfort.
When I first got control of my eating, I was so bad at living with discomfort that I would rush headlong into “fixing” my problems so I could get past the uncomfortable part. I didn’t have much grace, but I did start to get myself some boundaries. Not just around my food, but around all aspects of my life. And while I had a lot of apologies and amends to make for my rashness, I was actually getting things done for myself and making changes in my life.
But now, I try to be softer on myself. I have frustrations, and things make me angry, but I can take my time to consider how I am going to deal with them. Not everything has to be now. Because I can be uncomfortable. (That’s a blessing!)
If you don’t know, I am blunt. I don’t like to talk around things. I don’t like to give wishy-washy answers to things for the sake of politeness. I think direct honesty is infinitely more polite. And I don’t think “no” is rude or wrong. I think it’s quality information. I like quality information. It saves me time and trouble.
For example, if I go to a restaurant and ask if the asparagus can be made without the parmesan cheese, and my server tells me “Probably not,” they have not helped me. They have not done me any favors. They have now forced me to ask more questions about the asparagus. And they have not been any more polite than if they had said, “No. it’s already pre prepped with the cheese.” At least then, I could move on.
But being blunt at work is harder. It’s harder to set boundaries with people who, technically, could get you fired, even if they can’t fire you themselves. It’s also harder to be straightforward with people who are passive-aggressive. They have already set up the context for a given communication, and trying to navigate that with both honesty and grace is not simple.
There are two major life lessons that I got from getting my eating under control that apply to this work conflict. The first is “When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.” I get to take my time and trust that the right answer will come along at the right time. I don’t need to leap into action. I need to be committed to change, and keep my eyes and ears open for the best time to take the right action.
The second is that we do the best we can and let the chips fall where they may. I can certainly allow myself to bullied and cowed on a regular basis in order to avoid having a difficult conversation with someone higher up in the company than myself. I can let that difficult personality get me riled up and panic-stricken. And I can be constantly worried about the quality of my work, because that personality is looking to find fault (or maybe just looking to push someone around). But I am bad at that. And that is not the best I can do. The best I can do is set boundaries around how I will be treated.
I know that I am good at my job. Really really good at it. I know that I am friendly, efficient, organized, consistent, and that I have a great work ethic. I do not have any qualms about whether or not I am doing a good enough job. But that has nothing to do with office politics. And if I am going to be reprimanded for not accepting unacceptable treatment, then this is certainly not the job for me.
But the truth is, I don’t think this personality would ever really try to get me fired. I think they like the threat, and the power of the threat. I think everyone knows that I do quality work.
I forget that as an addict, I am not the only one who is sick. I forget that other people are sick and cruel and behave badly all the time and they’re not necessarily addicts. Or they are and it’s not obvious to me.
I will not make any rash decisions around this. But I will also not be treated poorly. I owe that to myself. Because I don’t have cake to numb the pain of abuse. And I do have the ability to be uncomfortable long enough to take a stand and make a change.

I love nothing. And I always will.

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.

Commitments, alarms, and reminders. Oh my!

I set alarms for so many things in my life. Just now, an alarm went off asking if I posted a blog this week. And the answer was no, and I had totally forgotten. But I had an alarm set, so here I am.

Before I got my eating under control, I had people in my life, people I paid in either time or money, like a personal trainer, and a life coach, telling me to make plans, and keep those plans, regardless of how I felt. And I refused. Where was the joy in that? What about spontaneity? What about fun? What about what I “felt like” or “had a craving for?” What about eating out with friends or last-minute adventures?

When I got my eating under control, I realized how much I was self-sabotaging by clinging to what I thought was spontaneity and fun, but was really just an out to let myself not do something uncomfortable. I didn’t want to plan what I was going to eat because then, if I didn’t follow through, I might have to look at myself. If there was no rule, there was no rule to break, and no behavior to scrutinize.

The truth is that 1) planning makes it easier, not harder, to eat out with friends and take on last-minute adventures. With my eating under control and firm boundaries around food, there are fewer moving parts. The food has to hit certain marks. Once those marks are hit, everything else can be pretty loosey-goosey. And 2) the things that I was fighting against were not boredom or monotony, but long-term fulfillment.

Instant gratification and long-term fulfillment occupy the same space, so you can really only choose one. If I don’t want to go for a jog, I can think of a million excuses not to. I need the sleep, my hip is tight, I should do x instead. But what happens is it becomes easier to not jog. Every time becomes easier. And suddenly, I don’t do that anymore.

That is how every diet ever worked for me. I went on a diet. Instant gratification won once. Then it gradually became the norm. Then I was not on a diet. Then I gained back all the weight I lost, and then some.

I love my life of rules and reminders. I love my alarms. I love the sameness of people calling me every day at the same time to make a commitment of what they will eat the next day, and my call every day at the same time, to commit to what I am going to eat the next day. To have a plan and a commitment to that plan. To have a witness and to be a witness.

I won’t pretend that I am a particularly spontaneous person, though I have my moments. My rigorous adherence to my rules and reminders and commitments gives me a great sense of peace. And I cherish that peace. But also, I have made some bold choices and some daring leaps, because I am grounded in my commitments. After all, I left my home and my city about a month after I re-met my husband, to start a new relationship where I travel around the country with him, constantly moving. That’s pretty bold, if I do say so myself.

I did not used to like promising things to myself. And I used the excuse of freedom. But I was never free until I gave myself boundaries. Since I put boundaries around my eating, I have found that many things that seem counterintuitive are absolutely right. Boundaries lead to freedom. Commitment leads to spontaneity. Rigidity offers fluidity.

Hashtag! You’re it. #Betterthanchocolate

This week, I took my Twitter app out of a folder of apps I never use. I decided it was time to use it. I always post Onceafatgirl there. But honestly, I have it set up so that WordPress does that for me. All I have to do is hit “publish,” and each post goes out to my social networking sites. Easy-peasy, as the kids say.

But now I have decided I wanted to use Twitter to hone my comedy writing skills. And I don’t know what has shifted, but I am suddenly not afraid of it anymore.

When I started writing Onceafatgirl, a friend told me to get on Twitter, and start using hashtags to grow my audience. It was good advice. I did it, but I didn’t do a very good job. And then I gave up. I wasn’t ready. Partly because I didn’t have an audience in the beginning and I didn’t know who they would eventually be. I didn’t know what this blog would end up being. I didn’t know that I actually wanted to hit the blogosphere big time. Really, I just wanted to share my story. But also, and importantly, I didn’t understand Twitter. And that made me fear it.

I didn’t want to feel foolish. Or worse. People on the interwebs can be vicious. Especially when they don’t have to look you in the eye while they tear you down, beat you up, and bully you. And this is a brutally honest blog. Brutal for me. It can be intense to admit some of the things I think and say and do to a group of friends and strangers. It is a deeply personal look at myself. Stretch marks and all.

But I am feeling better about Twitter. I have been tweeting this week, and it has been a confidence-boosting experience.

One of the things I really came to appreciate when I got my eating under control, is that boundaries are a fantastic catalyst for creativity. I put some serious rules around my food choices and portions, and ended up with more enjoyable meals than when I could eat whatever, whenever, wherever. 140 characters is an exciting limitation in the same way. I have loved being forced into brevity. It is a delicious exercise in how to put the entire context of a joke into the joke itself. It is an invaluable lesson in editing for a particularly wordy person, like me.

But I want to try something else too. Because this is a very personal blog, I have been protective of myself. I love the feedback I receive, but I am not sure how much I should do about it. I have noticed that I haven’t responded to any comments on any posts for a long time. I have felt uncomfortable with the idea of constantly saying, “Thank you. That means a lot to me.” It’s not a lie. It does mean a lot to me, but it is starting to feel hollow after 3 years.

So I have registered a hashtag. #Betterthanchocolate

Peace is #Betterthanchocolate is the tagline of this blog. For me, it’s about the gifts that I got when I started taking care of myself and stopped hurting myself with food.

Now I want to know what you think. And not just me hearing from you. I want to create this conversation.

If you are a sugar addict like me who has given up sugar, let me know the gifts you get every day that are #Betterthanchocolate. Here are some of mine:

Not being afraid of a flight (or 6) of stairs is #Betterthanchocolate

Dancing the night away without wanting to die is #Betterthanchocolate

Having shoelaces not be an issue is #Betterthanchocolate

But even if you are not a recovering sugar addict, let me know the gifts you get from taking care of yourself that are more important to you than eating. Or the things you love to do that are #Betterthanchocolate.

You get the idea. Let me hear from you! Let you hear from you! You can post them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or wherever you are using hashtags.

And if you want, follow me on Twitter @onceafatgirl5

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…

Good fences make good neighbors

Lately, I have been thinking about the saying “Good fences make good neighbors.” I said it to somebody recently, telling her that it was ok to set a boundary with someone. It is a saying that has come to mean a lot to me.

I never really understood the saying before I put boundaries around my eating. I don’t even mean that it used to mean something different to me and now it has taken on a more profound meaning. I mean it used to seem like just a bunch of words. (Like “We have to let them win a few battles so we can win the war.” I still have no idea what that actually means. Apparently it is a good thing that I am not a military strategist…)

I talk a lot about how I keep boundaries around my food. But I don’t remember how much I have talked about how I put boundaries around how I am willing to be treated. Because I do. I draw lines. I say no. I say that things are not ok. I make requests for people to stop doing things that I find intrusive or abusive. I walk away when I am not honored.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I had to uphold those food boundaries with people. No you can’t have a bite. I can’t wait for you, I need to eat now. I can’t eat that. No, thank you. Etc…

But it eventually became clear that I needed to put boundaries up with people for things other than food. And that these boundaries were linked to my eating disorders and keeping them under control. It was about what I thought I was worth and how I deserved to be treated. First by myself. Then by everybody else.

“How I’m willing to be treated” and “intrusive or abusive” makes it sound like I’m talking about big, scary, obvious things. You’re not allowed to hit me. You’re not allowed to call me a stupid bitch. You’re not allowed to steal my money. But really, it can be things that other people think are silly or petty or ridiculous. It can be things that make other people say, “You’re overreacting.” “You’re being extreme.” Please don’t give me unsolicited advice. Please keep your opinions to yourself. No, I can’t do what you’re asking me to do.

It turns out that people aren’t mind readers. And that many people think they are being kind, or helpful, or playful, or friendly, or intimate when they do things that are hurtful. And many (many) people don’t have any boundaries of their own, so they can’t even imagine what it means that I do. So if I need something that I am not getting, I say so. And if I don’t want to do something that is being asked of me, I don’t have to. I can say no. Because when I ask for things clearly and answer requests honestly, I am giving people an opportunity to honor me.

Right. An opportunity. That sometimes, some people will refuse to take. There will always be people who hop fences. Literally and figuratively. There will always be people who either don’t know how, or just plain refuse, to honor my boundaries. There will always be abusers and thieves. There will always be bullies and assholes. But my personal experience is that setting the boundary is more important than whether or not others honor it.

It is also my experience that somehow, some way, almost magically, if I honor myself, people will either be compelled to honor me too, or they will disappear. I have found that the ignorant and misguided will learn. And that bullies and assholes, thieves and abusers fall away.

But there is something else to setting boundaries. Maintaining them. Because people test. They think I was just being cranky when I told them that it was not ok for them to give their opinion about my weight. Or how I eat. Or whether or not I wear makeup. Or if I use artificial sweetener. They think I will realize that I was being silly. Or that I will change my mind once I realize that they were trying to be kind. Or they don’t care that I have said no, so they think that if they badger me enough or try to manipulate me, I will be coerced into doing what they want. Or they think that if they cross my boundaries enough times, I will stop setting them. I will let it go. I will let them pass.

Because so many times, people do let it go. They let the boundary-crossers pass. Perhaps they think that boundaries should be set nicely, so as not to hurt anybody’s feelings. Or perhaps they wonder who they are that they should be allowed to say no. And don’t. And that is not ok. Perhaps they think that it would be rude to walk away. That it would be arrogant to assert themselves.

It is a scary thing to honor yourself. When I was first learning how to do it, it seemed so much harder to have a difficult conversation with somebody, than it did to shame myself and decide that I was the one with the problem. It was easier to fall back on the idea that I was the one who was overreacting and being extreme. But the more I do it, the better I get at it. And eventually it became the natural choice. It can still be scary from time to time. And some conversations are still difficult. But for me, it’s about my life and my sanity. So a difficult conversation is still easier than failing myself.

I agree that in a perfect world, we would all be able to set boundaries in a pleasant manner. With kindness. And in a gentle loving way. But it’s not a perfect world. And as a friend of mine says, it doesn’t matter how gracefully you set boundaries. It only matters that you set them.

If you know why this fence was put up, you know it’s best not to take it down

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.

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