I’ve been feeling quiet about some things lately, especially when it comes to writing about them here. Then this morning, reading the Day #2 email from Adreanna Limbach’s Meditation In Bloom program, I was reminded of why I write, why I share on this blog. Adreanna shared a definition of love from All About Love by bell hooks, “The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”
Writing for me is about understanding and awareness, expanding my sense of wisdom and compassion. It’s about easing suffering, in myself and in the world. It’s about figuring out what it means to be human, and more specifically what it means to not give up in the face of the brutality and the beauty of this experience. It’s about love.
Writing for me is a mindfulness practice, and in her video for Day #2, Adreanna shared a definition of mindfulness from Jon Kabat-Zinn, “the awareness that arises when we’re paying attention on purpose in the present moment, without judgement.” And as Adreanna said, it’s that non-judgement part that’s “the real kicker.”
I’ve been being really hard on myself lately. My physical body confuses and confounds me, and this is complicated by the shift I’m trying to make in my view of bodies and health in general. To review: I was a disordered eater for 30+ years, not realizing that what I was doing wasn’t “normal” because I live in a culture where women are expected to hate their bodies, themselves, are encouraged to restrict and punish and distrust their bodies and themselves, are urged to constantly try to “improve,” to chase an impossibly out of reach standard. In that sense, for 30+ years, I was a very good girl.
And then I encountered Rachel Cole and her work, and my ideas about my body, food, exercise, health, wellbeing, my own worth and desires were upended, in the best possible way. I realized I was a disordered eater and started working with a therapist, continued working with Rachel, and made other changes in my life with the intention of being healthier, more content. I was disappointed when my therapist told me it usually takes about 7-9 years for someone to fully recover from disordered eating, but it was so much better than the alternative — a life in which I hated myself, hurt myself, suffered to such an extreme that I sometimes thought about killing myself.
In the past week or so, I’ve been triggered by a series of things. I could write ten blog posts any one of them, but some of the highlights are:
- This post from Isabel Foxen Duke, Separating “Health” and “Weight” for Binge-Eating Recovery, which explained something I’d been unsuccessfully trying to tell my husband for months so well that I sent him the link and said “just read this” — especially this part, “successful recovery from binge-eating usually involves redefining our definition of ‘health’ to exclude forced attempts at weight loss—since it’s pretty clear that these attempts lead to poorer health (and more binge-eating) long-term.”
- Overhearing one woman comment on another woman’s body after not seeing her for awhile, telling her that she looked thinner, fitter, and asking if she’d been working out, and cringing remembering all the times I’ve done the same thing or had that said to me. And for all the times I’ve heard the opposite from people who think because we are close, they can comment when my body swings the other way, can make remarks or even jokes about my size, my weight, my body, because they “love” me and are “just trying to help.”
- Having someone ask me how I can have all that chocolate in my office and not eat it all, and I gave some old answer about it being “safe” at work because I’m busy and don’t think about it, how I can’t be trusted with it at home, but then feeling so bad after that for not telling the truth as it is now that I wanted to find that person and tell them the real story, that I don’t do that to myself anymore, don’t micromanage everything that goes in my mouth, don’t punish myself for even thinking about food or eating, don’t binge or even just eat in private and in secret, don’t surround the act of eating with shame or pain or guilt, that I eat whatever I want and as much as I want whenever I want and because I do that I’m satisfied, there’s no regret and there’s no punishment necessary, and I can trust myself around food.
- Rachel asked, on a Feast alumni Facebook page, how we were doing and I couldn’t answer right away, because on that very same day, I was beating myself up for the ongoing pain in my right leg, all the way from my low back down to the bottom of my foot, and I’d convinced myself that the origin of my pain was my weight (even though I’ve had chronic pain issues in that area of my body for decades and there are all kinds of valid reasons for it that have nothing to do with my size), so I’d driven home from a long day (week, year) at work with the plan to start starving myself again. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t go through with it).
- Going to a fancy work event and feeling like I had nothing to wear, feeling bad about my body and thus feeling bad about myself, but going anyway, and because I did, getting to talk directly to Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, and I guarantee he didn’t care one bit about my body or what I was wearing.
So I’m still struggling. I’m trying to be non-judgemental, to be gentle with myself, to relax with what is, to allow whatever might arise (even if that means being fat for the rest of my life), but sometimes I fail. And when I fail, I try not to beat myself up about it. I have no idea what I’m doing or how this is going to turn out, but I’m not going to give up.