I have had a pretty intense week, all focused around my job. Some things needed to get done. Things that were (are) “above my pay grade,” as they say. But there was nobody else there to do them. So I got them done. I had to ask for a lot of help, and ask a lot of questions, and there was a pretty steep learning curve, but the work got done. And I learned a lot.
I travel with my husband for work. And I love it. I love the kind of travel we do. Long stints in a bunch of places. (So far we have done Mississippi, a couple of places in Kentucky, a couple in Texas, a couple in Indiana, and one in Tennessee.) One of the things I particularly like is it occurs like the perfect balance between routine and adventure.
I like routine. It makes the food boundaries easier. Having a home with all of the cookware I need to cook delicious meals, and getting to know the grocery stores and butcher shops, and what they have, and where to get what I need as well as what I want. And there is an indescribable peace that comes with knowing that my highest priority is always taking care of my food addiction. I know that if I do that, everything else will be well.
And I like adventure. I like seeing new places and meeting new people. I also like trying new foods, new seasonings, new flavors around the country. My husband and I are on a hot sauce kick at the moment. And it’s fun! And a mini adventure in itself. (Just reading all of the labels and ingredients lists is like an adventure within an adventure. And yes, there are a lot of hot sauces I cannot try because they have a lot of sugar.)
What I love too, is knowing that I can keep my food boundaries anywhere. Some places are less convenient than others, of course. But it is all about my commitment. And sometimes, that inability to get whatever I want at a moment’s notice gives me the opportunity to try new things in a different way.
When we were in small town Mississippi, I did not eat out at restaurants. I knew that they could not accommodate me. I made sure I had my own food all the time. But there, I figured out where to buy beautiful steaks, sugar free bacon, giant cantaloupes and apples. It’s also where a friend found me a recipe for making my own vanilla without alcohol. And I was lucky to have another friend who would bring me kabocha squash and fried tofu up from New Orleans once a month when she came to visit. I had yet another friend who introduced me to a bowl for making my own ice cream. It’s also where I was introduced to Chinese Five Spice, which I still use all the time. So obviously, in terms of food, small town Mississippi was not too bad for me. I did not miss eating out at restaurants.
I love my happy lifestyle, gently swaying from adventure to routine and back. I love the things I learn and the things I get to try. Some of them become staples, and some pass with the next move and the next town. But no matter where I end up, my food boundaries go with me. And I always make sure they are delicious.
In February of 2011, about a year before I started writing this blog, I was having a talk with one of my roommates and good friends. He pointed out to me (it was solicited, I might add) that I had a very small comfort zone. This was spot on. Whenever it was implied to me by any person or circumstance that it would behoove me to step out of that comfort zone, I clung to the edges like a Looney Tunes character in a doorway.
As I said, it took me nearly a year after that conversation to start writing this blog, the purpose of which was to help me take risks with my life, so I could have things like love and adventure. In other words, it took me a year to be ready to be ready, to be willing to be willing.
Now, I have been married to the love of my life for over 2 years and we travel the country for work, moving every 3 months to year and a half.
I love this life. It is fun and exciting. I love seeing new places and learning new things. But it can be exhausting. This week I worked from home part time, plus secured my husband and myself an apartment in our next town, including electricity and internet. Plus, I had to deal with some seemingly shady dealings with our last landlords. Not to mention cooking, laundry, dishes and grocery shopping.
There is a lot to working on the road. And let’s face it, moving sucks. And while we get better and better at it every time, it is almost never just smooth sailing.
Having my eating under control is absolutely the rock that makes it possible for me to not only live, but love, this life. Knowing what I am going to eat, how much, and when, leaves so much of my brain free to deal with inevitable hiccups and snafus. Knowing that I must eat my meals within certain times reminds me to stop what I am doing to eat lunch, no matter what it is or how important it seems at the moment. Eating my meals is the most important thing. Period. Not eating foods that get me high keeps me sane, clear-headed, and focused, which keeps me able to get things done quickly and efficiently.
When people hear about my many rules and boundaries around eating, they often marvel at what they consider to be inconvenience. Sometimes it is. But mostly, it is the thing that makes everything else in my life fit into its proper place. And I can’t think of what could be more convenient than that.
After over a month of uncertainty and moving around, my husband and I are finally in a place we will be in for a little bit of time. Probably about another month and a half. It’s not exactly long-term, but it’s a chance to relax and catch my breath for a minute.
One of the things that makes my life happier is that my husband and I always travel with a little bit of home. My kitchen, with my cast iron skillets, our dishes, our silverware, my favorite mug, and a handful of other things I know I will need to be happy come with us. In bigger places for extended periods, I bring more. For a month or two, I make do with less. I also bring our linens everywhere. We also bring our internet TV and the husband’s PlayStation.
I started doing these things because of my my eating boundaries. Because I needed to cook all the time and I needed to be sure I had the tools I needed. But it started to become a way to recognize a place as home. My decorative shower curtain has hung on several shower rods above my bath mat, and alongside my matching towels. My coffee mug, my ramekins, freezer bowl to make homemade sugar-free ice cream, all these little things make every new sublet feel like home.
If I were a normal eater, I may never have gotten so good at making myself comfortable. I may have disregarded that kind of home comfort as important. I could have eaten fast food, and gotten by in hotel rooms without kitchens, and flown by the seat of my pants.
I am terrible at flying by the seat of my pants. I like routine. I like sameness. Life is complicated enough. I am always going to be expected to deal with life as it comes up. Always. In the in between time, I like to know that my husband and I will eat dinner together at the same time each night. I like to know the mug I have is big enough for the way I like my coffee. I like recognizing my home in a new place. It makes me feel safe.
So for the time being I am in a tiny little studio apartment with my husband. But I have bits and pieces of my home all around me. And there’s no place like home.
I gotta be honest. I have no idea what to write about this week. I am emotionally exhausted. And just as life was finally leaving “surreal” and returning to day-to-day, we were told that we have to leave Texas. Again…
When I got my eating under control 12 years ago, I made my life kind of small. I wrapped myself in my own comfort zone, like a cocoon. And that really worked for me. It kept me protected from food. At that point, food was my problem. I mean I had other problems, but they would all manage to get worked out as long as I took care of the food problem.
But about 6 years in, (yes, 6 whole years of having my eating under control) I wanted a bigger life. And I ended up falling in love with a man who travels for a living. And I agreed to spend my life living in different towns for somewhere between a few months and a few years.
So I don’t really want to leave Texas yet. But this is the life I agreed to. And, really, I love it in general. Though, not all the time. But who loves their life all the time?
Tomorrow I will cook meals for two days of travel. And we will head back to Texas to pack up our apartment. And soon enough, we will find out what’s next.
So I guess this is normal life. It’s the “normal” I chose 5 years ago. And I’m grateful for all of it.
It’s funny to realize that you don’t know yourself. Or that you are not who you once were. Or that maybe you were never that person you thought you were and you didn’t realize it.
I have always considered myself a person who never took chances. Who played small. Who never risked.
To a certain extent, I know that it’s true. Until a couple of years ago, I never took risks with my heart.
But when I look at the things I did do, I can’t help but note my own daring. I auditioned and got hired as an actor in a famous, long-running comedy in Chicago at 20. I moved to New York City at 21. I danced with a modern dance company for years. I wrote a play that went up in San Diego and spent a month there while it ran. And through all of this, I never thought of myself as a risk taker.
I also did all of these things while I was fat and food obsessed. I am not saying that these were bad decisions. They were not. But I was high on sugar. I made these decisions, but I didn’t always take responsibility for them. I had grand notions, but I was not a high-functioning addict. A lot of these exciting things were marred by my needing to get rescued when I couldn’t pull my shit together to see them through on my own.
When I got my eating under control, I let my life get kind of small for a number of years. In retrospect, I can see that it needed to be that way. They tell people who are just getting control of their eating that they shouldn’t make any major life changes for the first year.
The first year. That makes me laugh. I needed at least 5. But I have always been a late bloomer. Quick in understanding, slow to process. Fast with ideas, paralyzed around actions.
But then I started writing this blog, and keeping a commitment to write weekly, which was risky in my little life. And then because of this blog, I fell madly in love and let myself get risky again. Really risky. Like leave-my-home-and-go-start-a-new-life risky. Only this time I was sane and healthy. I was sober. I made bold choices, not rash decisions. Choices I knew I would take responsibility for. Because I had the clarity to think them through, past the current moment. And because I had given up trying to control life.
When I put boundaries around my food, I learned that you can only do the best you can, only do the right thing, only follow your heart. And then you have to let the chips fall where they may. And go from there. I learned that I don’t get a say in where the chips fall. That I can’t control the outcomes of my choices with manipulation. That even exquisite planning and execution don’t deliver the results I think they “should”. In other words, when I put boundaries around my food, I learned to let go.
And since I have been in love, I find that I really do love adventure. Yes, I am afraid of the unknown. I think that is part of being human. But I am not paralyzed by it. I am actually excited by it. I think love makes me excited for the next adventure. Because it’s an adventure with my boyfriend. Because it’s not my adventure, it’s ours.
And it may be time to embark on the next adventure. I don’t know for sure yet, but it might be time to move forward. And I don’t know what that looks like or where it will take us. And I can’t wait. Because there is something else that I learned when I got my eating under control. If you do your best, follow your heart, and let go, things always get better. Maybe not right away. There might be dips and stalls. But ultimately, I have always ended up happier, wiser, more content, and in a superior position. So there’s always that…
I was about to start this post by saying that it has been a quiet week.
But then I remembered. Right after I posted last week about how I was getting better at going with the flow, my boyfriend called to say that the truck had broken down, that he was waiting for the tow truck, and that he didn’t know what was wrong with it. He just knew that we were definitely not going to make it on the road in the early morning. And he wouldn’t even know when we could make it back on the road until the next day.
The truth is, I wasn’t that bothered. We had a place to stay. I had enough food. There was nothing to do about it but wait. And hey, it meant we didn’t have to set alarms and get up at the butt-crack of dawn. So that was nice.
And in the end, it was a quick fix. We were on the road by 1:30 in the afternoon, and my boyfriend made it in to work the next day.
And now we’re back in our apartment down south. And I love it here. I loved getting back here and unpacking our travel bags from Illinois and Indiana. I loved doing the laundry and putting everything back in its place. I don’t know why. I didn’t expect to love it here. I was a New York City girl for almost 15 years, after all. And it’s not as if I do so much here. Or that there is much to do. I’m just very comfortable.
And I have lots of time to cook for myself. And lots of room to experiment. My boyfriend bought me a deep-fryer and this week I made deep-fried brussles sprouts, deep-fried artichoke hearts, and deep-fried green beans. (The green beans are not that good, the artichoke hearts are actually better reheated later, and the brussles sprouts are ambrosia – you know, food of the gods…) I’m looking forward to making some double fried chicken wings soon.
I have mentioned before that this new life where I travel (and probably more importantly that I am in love) has made me more willing to experiment with my food. I hadn’t eaten cabbage or cranberries in years for fear that I would be disappointed. I have been enjoying both recently. And I started making pork tenderloin. I made one wrapped in bacon and one rubbed with onion powder.
And then I have a bunch of travel over the next two weeks that I am looking forward to. Later this week, I go alone to visit friends in New York City. And then the week after, my boyfriend and I are going to his cousin’s wedding. It means a lot of preparing and packing of extra meals, but I have traveled so much in the past 6 months that it doesn’t even scare me anymore.
Plus tomorrow, I am going to meet up with a woman I have never met before, but got in touch with via the internet. She and I and a friend of hers are going to have coffee for a bit and talk about food and our solutions to eating disorders.
I guess I’m getting even more adventurous. Or maybe it’s just less afraid. Either way, my life seems to be moving ahead, and I seem to be managing to keep up. Maybe it’s not about a quiet week. Maybe it’s about a quiet mind.
I have mentioned before that I am a different person than I was growing up. Not just that I was morbidly obese and now I am a healthy weight. But that I think and act differently.
And today I am marveling a little at myself. Because for the past few days, I have been in the middle of change and discomfort. And I have been (mostly) pretty graceful.
I left New York in May to move in with my boyfriend. He travels for work. It was time to leave one job and it’s a couple of weeks before we move along to another. So I just packed up life for the second time in 3 months. And this time, got in a pickup truck and traveled on the road for 19 hours. Which I’ll do again in a couple of weeks. And then again. And again. From job to job. Forever. Or at least for a long time. We don’t have plans to settle in one place any time soon…
The idea that I would choose this is sort of fascinating to me. I am historically a person who avoids change. In some ways I still think of myself as someone with an aversion to the unknown. Markedly unadventurous.
I certainly was when I was a compulsive eating sugar addict. I never anticipated any difficulty. But was explosively furious if even the smallest problem or discomfort should arise.
But one of the things I learned when I got sober from sugar is that life happens. To everybody. To not take it personally.
Because I did! So personally. And everybody else was to blame. If I were stuck in traffic, it was the cab driver’s fault. It didn’t matter that I left the house at rush hour. Late. Or that every other person on that road was also stuck in traffic. Or that traffic is a part of life. It was a personal affront from God, the cabbie, and all of the other people in my way. It was a conspiracy against me! (I was that important. Impressive, huh?)
I threw a lot of temper tantrums over life being “not fair”. Which were really temper tantrums over life being “not easy”. Because I think life is a lot more fair than I ever gave it credit for. (And it helps that I stopped comparing my personal experience with what it looked like everybody else’s experience was. I have heard it called comparing my insides with everybody else’s outsides.)
I won’t pretend I wasn’t overwhelmed and exhausted on Friday night. The hardest part for me is point where my home around me is chaos and everything is a jumble of things to pack, things I don’t know if I want to pack, and garbage. And after spending most of the day packing, it didn’t help that I was physically exhausted too. It was certainly the most graceless I was this weekend. (Sorry, Baby. Love you.)
But I am going to be doing this. Regularly. I am bound to get better at it. And I want to get better. I am already thinking about ways to get better. How to downsize. To figure out what is the minimum I need to be happy and comfortable. And live like that. How to enjoy the adventurous life. Because life actually is an adventure. Even if I’m not looking for it to be. So I might as well embrace it. It’s what I’ve been offered as the best option.
No, I don’t have to go. I don’t have to agree to it. Getting my eating under control taught me about taking responsibility for the choices I make. And this adventurous life is the one that comes with my Love. And I choose my Love with all of the things that come with it. And I am enjoying it so far. Even the unknown.
That’s a gift of getting my eating under control. I actually enjoy life. All of it. I am not just tolerating this moving around. I am looking forward to the next adventure.
And I will tell you that there is one other gift of getting my eating under control. I had all of my food packed in the car. I ate when it was time to eat. I didn’t have to worry about where to stop. Or when. Or if I could put it off until the next time we needed gas. Or being ravenously hungry. I didn’t have to think about food. The food was taken care of. And I enjoyed the time with my boyfriend.
This week’s post is early. And short. Because I have going away parties tonight and tomorrow. Plus I still have meals to prepare. Because life-altering moves are no reason to cross my food boundaries. (And thank God for that!)
It has occurred to me that I haven’t yet freaked out. I haven’t cried. I haven’t mourned. I haven’t panicked.
Maybe I won’t. Maybe.
But I love New York City. Obviously I love my boyfriend more. But I’m still going to miss this place. This city shaped me. I grew up here. From a 21-year-old, fat, compulsive eating, dishonest, bad at life, wreck of a girl to a beautiful, capable, woman of integrity. (Did I mention humble?) With a handle on my eating. In a body I love.
It will also always hold a very special place in my heart because I got my eating under control here. And this place made it easy for me. Or at least as easy as it could have been. If I needed to get out of my house at night because I was afraid of binge eating, I could go to a bookstore that was open until midnight. Or I used to go to a bar down the street from my apartment. In my pajamas. To read comic books and drink diet coke. Nobody gave me a hard time. Or even looked at me funny. It’s New York City. Neighborhood regulars are expected to be neurotic and weird.
Plus, you can find anything in New York City. So if I needed vanilla extract with no alcohol, I could find it. If I wanted pasta when I stopped eating sugar, grains and starch, I could find soy pasta. If I wanted a cantaloupe bigger than my head, or a 1 ½ lb apple, there were famer’s markets.
I never expected to leave. But when I look at my life, the way it has turned out, so many things make sense.
My boyfriend and I knew each other 23 years ago. When I wasn’t ready for him. So God sent me to the big city. To grow up. To learn about myself. To become the kind of person I wanted to be. To become the kind of woman I wanted to be. To dismantle my fortresses. And to learn to love myself. And to learn how to be awake and alive and good at life. Without being numb. To learn how to deal with my feelings. To learn how to stop eating compulsively.
New York City was a fantastic 14 ½ year adventure. I’m so grateful for my life here. Because of all of the things that I did here, I am available for this next adventure.
But by next week’s post, neither this apartment nor this city will be my home any longer. And as I look around at my life in boxes, I’m a little sad. Not sorry. Not for a moment. But a little sad. (Ahhh. There are the tears…)