This is about food. It’s about body. It’s about control and lack thereof.
It’s also about wanting to connect. It’s about wanting to be known. It’s about wanting to be able to talk about things we tend to hide.
The Geneen Roth thing worked many years ago, when, after a long 10-year struggle with bulimia I came upon her books and somehow, someway, something in me said enough: enough dieting, enough binging, enough throwing up, enough controlling, enough weighing and measuring (food and myself!), enough enough enough… and I had SO had enough that I was willing to even gain weight and be a good 25 or 30 lbs above my best weight, in order to not have having the perfect great body be what defined me.
Truthfully, I was also really excited about her concept of being able to eat whatever I wanted, at any time, even if that meant having M&M’s for breakfast lunch and dinner (her self-proven theory being that at some point, when we truly are not depriving and controlling it all, our inherent bodily wisdom kicks in, raises its hand politely and says, “spinach, please… feed me spinach now…” and then, because you are giving yourself whatever you want, of course, you feed yourself spinach).
Well, so, back to the Geneen Roth thing… I gained the weight and then slowly but surely I stopped having M&M’s for meals and slowly but surely somehow I came down to a good weight for me. And then I met a man and fell in love and dreamed of the picket fence and happily-ever-after and being so into love and into one another, well, I just didn’t seem to care about food for the longest of times. Weird, huh? Maybe, I thought, I’ve become healthier and my food addiction days are over. Or maybe falling in love is the perfect solution.
But, as many of you wiser women might surmise, it seems I was simply substituting one craving for another and at their essence they sounded pretty much the same: fill that empty hole in me, comfort me, make me feel OK… And whether I was saying it to a chocolate bar or pint of Ben&Jerry’s or a man, well, when “fill me” is the motivation, eventually not the best chocolate and not the best man can do it.
So now. The man is gone—in the “filling my hole” way, at least!—and after being so careful for so many months about not eating sugar and wheat and dairy (because I had a good suspicion of having a food allergy or Candida—or was it just my anxious, obsessive self doing its scan of the mental rolodex for a new problem to fix?—and because they messed up my digestion ) I have fallen off the wagon in a big way, and FOOD once again, is in capital letters, 48 point bold font, everywhere I look.
Somewhere I read that our biggest challenges are our biggest teachers. I should mention that another thing that happened in the last few years, simultaneously with beginning to get an inkling about the marriage and picket fence thing not being in the stars for me at that time in that way with that man, was that I began to get this insatiable curiosity about me, and getting to know me, and observing me and what makes me tick. This is a good thing for someone that had for all her life had the secret (it’s out of the bag now!) wish for a beautiful, loving savior—in whatever form, be it therapist, lover, teacher, sponsor, etc.— to rescue her from all her troubles and give her the answers and all the things she ever wanted and hadn’t gotten.
And so yes, suffering got me on the path, and for that I’m very thankful, because it is the best path I have found. This is a path of discovering and getting to know someone I’d been running away from all my life, the one I’ve stuffed and starved and cut and beat up and ignored and abused and hid away… and there’s no turning back now.
But tonight I’m writing you because I want help. Help not advice. I know none of you can do any of this for me but there’s something about writing it and putting it out there and sharing it, well, it seems I’m just needing to do this.
One of my heart’s desires is for connection. To be noticed. To be loved. To be intimate… intimate as in: no separation. And I love writing. It goes way back, maybe to my 11-year-old days when I was first in boarding school and began writing letters home practically every day, documenting all that I was doing. I see now that all the details were about connecting back with my family, who were many countries away, who’d never seen the room I now slept in or the dining hall where I now ate, just one more kid among 40. Writing is about connection for me. Connection with myself, and, connection with Another, and tonight that would be you.
So what is this thing about food really about at its core? Sure I can give you the psychobabblish blah blah blah and the more analytical among you—or those of you deceived by words and analysis—might think I’ve got it. But I don’t. Who cares if I’m eating to fill an old hole? Does it help me end my suffering to know that? Ultimately no. (And therein lies the beef I have with psychoanalysis, which is a wonderful thing in many ways for many people, but can also become an endless exercise in analysis and talk without getting to the heart of something in a way that will allow it to transform without trying to make it change).
I feel myself in the grips of a two-faced monster: control, rigidity and a constant striving for perfection on the one hand, and explosion and chaos and complete loss of control on the other. One is skinny and unhappy and uptight, afraid of making any mistake, of gaining any weight. The other is fat (even if just in her mind) and unhappy and out of control. I call one the control freak perfectionist and the other the slob. Can you tell I dislike them both intensely? Despise is more like it, sometimes. Compassion has become a companion on my self-awareness journey, but about this food thing, I just don’t know. There is so much fear about this food thing. “Not this again!” it says. “You should know better by now.” And since these days it’s the slob running the show, the fear is that I will gain and gain and become 200 pounds, and then who will ever love me? Yeah yeah, YOU might still love me, but no man ever will, and so I won’t be desirable and then I won’t marry, and then I won’t have a child while my body still can, and then I’ll keep getting older and I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.
Alone. It’s back to Alone. Hard to be alone, though, ironically, when in my last relationship I yearned for it often… simply to be still and quiet and alone… I wanted the alone time so that I could re-nourish my soul and come back into relationship. But now it’s a fear about alone all the time, about alone getting older, about alone forever.
And yet when I can be with myself in that deeply connected way—not reaching for food to stuff down aloneness—even if there’s not another living soul around I feel full and so content and the simplest pigeon feather in the breeze can make me happy and I can stare up at the sky completely engrossed or feel myself in the blade of grass as if I myself were swaying in the breeze.
Could it be that I’ve not suffered enough with this food thing? While I don’t want advice, I would love connection, though I don’t know how that might look with email as my medium here. While I don’t want advice, I would love to hear if you can relate and what it’s like for you. While I don’t want advice, I would love to hear what helps you find inner stillness in the face of compulsivity. I would love to hear about compassion. I would love to hear about love. I would love wise questions. I would love to hear what you see. I would love for you to simply be with me, with your greatest gift of presence. I know all about dieting and strictly controlling and I know all about giving in and eating whatever I want. What is it that I’m missing?
Sometimes I feel there is this beautiful goddess in me, so full of vitality and creativity and compassion and wisdom, and I just keep stuffing layers of junk on top of her, not allowing her to live fully. What do I fear? Or, why can’t I just simply embrace her and let her shine?
Sending love to you all and looking forward to your response, if you feel so moved,