What I’ve Learned While on Vacation

I didn’t take the whole week off, but most of it. I gave myself permission to be myself, to do the things that seemed right and that made me happy. Here’s what I’ve learned this week:

I am a joyful and happy person.

Yes, I get sad, and I can also be worried, anxious, angry, confused, and depressed, but mostly I am grateful. In fact, on a walk we took the other day, I told Eric that I was happier than I’d been in at least the last seven years, maybe ten. The more I think about it, other than those innocent moments of bliss in childhood or the moment when I realized that Eric loved and wanted me as much as I loved and wanted him, I might be happier now than I have ever been in my whole life, (and slightly superstitious about saying that out loud).

Thinking about this earlier, I started to cry–this small and grand shift, moving towards giving and opening and creating instead of hoarding or stealing or numbing out, is simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking. This is who I could have been all the time, if only I’d made the choice to stop generating my own suffering. Knowing this was there all along but that I denied it is devastating.  I chose not to be loved, to be actively unlovable, when love was there waiting all along.

I kept the door locked, the porch light off and the curtains closed, and pretended not to be home. That time I spent hiding, avoiding, denying was not wasted, however. I know I had to understand what that felt like from the inside to gain the wisdom and compassion I have now.

I have everything I need.

I am reading “Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything” by Geneen Roth. In it, she says “You already have everything you need to be content. Your real work…is to do whatever it takes to realize that.” Amen.

I am capable of keeping up.

I can keep my house clean, get the laundry done, keep clean sheets on the bed, pay the bills, do various other chores as necessary, take care of my dogs, etc. I am not lazy or disorganized when I don’t–I am overwhelmed and have too much going on and am tired. I can keep up, but I first need to slow down.

I can have a normal relationship with food.

Okay, confession time, (can’t believe I am going to finally do this). If you haven’t already figured it out, I have food “issues.” I am a compulsive eater, a highly functioning food addict, (highly functioning because I am able to keep my weight relatively workable through lots of exercise, and my addiction doesn’t end up leading to big consequences, like making me unable to keep a job or maintain relationships). According to the WebMB page on food addiction, the characteristics of food addicts can include:

  • Being obsessed and/or preoccupied with food.
  • Having a lack of self-control when it comes to food.
  • Having a compulsion about food in which eating results in a cycle of binging despite negative consequences.
  • Remembering a sense of pleasure and/or comfort with food and being unable to stop using food to create a sense of pleasure and comfort.
  • Having a need to eat which results in a physical craving.

The following are questions that potential food addicts may ask themselves:

  • Have I tried but failed to control my eating? [Me: “I can make it work for a while, but yes.  It goes like this: control and deprivation, which leads to a feeling of scarcity and panic and frustration and irritation that leads to a binge, which brings up feelings of shame, which leads back to the enforcement of punishment and control–round and round it goes.”]
  • Do I find myself hiding food or secretly binging? [Me: “yes”]
  • Do I have feelings of guilt or remorse after eating? [Me: “ugh…yes”]
  • Do I eat because of emotions? [Me: “Yes!”]
  • Is my weight affecting my way of life? [Me: “I can manage it for the most part through exercise, but yes”]

So, while that is all slightly depressing, maybe a bit discouraging, this is what I know: I can have a normal relationship with food. Inviting Rachel W. Cole out to facilitate a “The Well-Fed Woman Mini-Retreatshop,” reading “Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything” by Geneen Roth, and confessing to you, kind and gentle reader, are all things that make me trust this can be true.

I can get enough exercise and rest.

To me, these are two sides of the same coin. I need to move, and then I need to rest, and I need to have a balance of the two. This is possible, even easy.

I enjoy being alone some of the time.

Okay, maybe I enjoy being alone a lot of the time. But, I love, love, love my little house–my back yard, my reading chair by the front window, my meditation cushion and shrine, my art studio, the walls covered in quilts made by my aunt and painted various colors of jade (greens, blues, purples, honey browns, and creamy whites), my shelves of books, the insane number of dog beds and toys, the two couches we need so there is plenty of room for everyone to cuddle at night–my home. Eric is my best friend, and I adore my two (three) dogs.

I have work and practices that I truly love.

The work I get paid for is not what I love. Instead, it is the research, service, reading and writing I do on my own time. Practice–doing yoga, walking dogs, writing, and meditation/prayer every day–is easy and joyful, filled with purpose and meaning.

I know who I am.

And right now, I am so in love with her. I have made new promises, and I am showing up. Sometimes I fall into those same old patterns, the denial, the refusal, the fight, the flight, the freeze, but I am trying. I want more than almost anything to be dependable, loving and kind.

I'd love to hear what you think, kind and gentle reader.

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