I used to dread the month of November.
And not just because of all the scary F.O.O.D.
I dreaded it because November is the “month of gratitude.”
I so wanted to be grateful – to feel grateful – to feel _genuinely_ grateful (as opposed to “faking it until you make it” grateful).
I wanted to be that kind of good person who could feel totally, deeply grateful for life’s blessings….without simultaneously wishing for so much more than what I had.
For instance – I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to have friends (besides my eating disorder, that is!).
I wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy a festive meal with loved ones free from fear.
I wanted to like what I saw in the mirror.
I wanted to love and be loved – to fall in love – to have romance and peace and joy and fulfillment in my life.
So I would start listing out the things I was grateful for, only to be confronted by this other list of all the things I felt I desperately wanted and needed that would never be mine.
In a word….PAIN.
I was in my late 20’s, and well into my struggles with anorexia and bulimia, before I began to perceive a tangible difference between “my body” and “me.”
After so many years of casually speaking about “my body,” “my mind,” “my heart,” “my spirit,” I finally started to wonder just who the “my” was who claimed all of these things.
Who owned “my body?”
Who was in charge of “my mind?”
Who sensed the presence of “my heart?”
Who was it who spoke of “my spirit” with such confidence?
Well, it must be …. “me.”
All at once, I became deeply curious about just who this “me” was who rated a body, a mind, a heart, a spirit all her own.
The other day, a friend said to me, “We are all in recovery from something.”
I deeply resonated with her statement.
For instance, while I no longer struggle to nourish my body appropriately, I am still working hard to reprogram old tapes in my brain that speak to me, saying, “your body should look different.”
This morning I caught myself looking in the mirror as a way to settle this exact type of dilemma.
Did I hate my curves or like them? I couldn’t decide.
In that instant, I realized the solution comes down to one of permission.
I have to decide – I GET to decide.
Do I like my curves? Or do I hate them?
Do I see beauty when I look in the mirror? Or do I see a shape and form that causes me pain?
If, in a flash, I catch myself thinking, “Wow – I look good today!,” do I allow myself to own and enjoy that sentiment?
Everywhere, all around us, people are fighting.
They are surviving the un-survivable.
They are choosing to find that one tiny ray of hope in the hopeless.
They are creating a path to make the un-workable work.
They are inspiring others (like me) without even wanting, trying, or meaning to!
You are too.
Every time I sit down to write this monthly e-newsletter, I think of each of you who are receiving it.
I realize there is so much struggle – so many trials – so much pain and challenge in the world.
The other day I caught myself saying these words out loud:
Today, I am so much closer than I ever have been before to becoming the person I want to be.
I seriously impressed myself.
Not just for having the guts and the honesty to state my truth, but also for recognizing that this IS the truth, and for being able to look at the past-present picture of me and predict such a positive future for myself.
I was all kinds of proud of myself for that.
But the real truth is, I can still remember a time in my life – many years in fact – when I honestly hated who I was.
I didn’t think I would ever turn out to be anybody worth being.
I looked for ways to help others to justify the space I took up….somehow assuming that if I didn’t “pay rent” on my life, it would be taken away and given to someone much more deserving.
Today I know that the real me – the me I thought I would never be able to be – has been inside me all along.
I wish I had known that earlier.
I wish I had known I would someday be proud to be who I am becoming.
I wish I had known I have had it in me all along.
So I am telling you now, here, just in case you don’t know this yet either.
Not that you asked, but my mom had me by c-section.
So – without even the courtesy of a minute to prepare – I was literally infant-jacked from my nice, warm, dark, solitary shelter and summarily thrust into the “real world.”
I know you will think I’m crazy (sometimes I can’t help but agree) but I still totally remember that day.
I remember the glaring high beam headlights, the unwarranted whack on my sensitive booty, that awful siren sound (which I now suspect was my own wailing), and one solitary repeating thought:
Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! Who signed me up for THIS?!?
Somehow I made it through that day….the day I still consider to be the most challenging, terrifying, incomprehensible day of my whole life.
I also made it through 5,475 later days (or approximately 15 years) of battling my eating disorder before I started to gain a toehold onto recovery.
And (more recently) I survived the first few days of my young tortoise’s life – but it was touch-and-go there for awhile for this new turtle mama.
I’ve survived breakups and makeups, the dissolution of dreams, friendships, and whole careers, a grueling six months in India (which included both the “hot season” and the “monsoon” season – whew!), an unexpected side trip to Serbia during the Gulf War Crisis (which is why you really want to make sure you get on the right train when you’re traveling)…..
I’ve survived a lot of very bad days.
I’ve also survived a lot of very good days.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve always felt the same about myself.
For many years I felt like two people – the gentle, appreciative nature-lover who would melt at the sight of a fledgling songbird….and the terrifying tormenter within who raged against even a glimpse of her own reflection.
Finally, I had simply had it. I was dying and I knew it – if not yet in body, then most certainly in spirit.
I also knew my only option – if I wanted to survive – was to live the life I’d been given as “me.”
So I started wriggling and wrangling and twisting and turning, trying in every which way to find something to enjoy about being me.
You may not think this statement is true.
I know I didn’t for many, many, MANY years.
This is because, while it is happening, time appears to move ohhhhh sooooo slowly.
This is a problem because, when we are in pain, we want healing NOW.
Like what the &$*! is taking so long?!
I know I personally never felt content to sit back and wait for the healing to happen. No way. It had to happen NOW. NOW was the only time. It was NOW or NEVER.
Yet as I look back now over the decades I struggled to heal from an eating disorder, I see that time itself was perhaps my greatest healer.
Time is simply amazing.
Time doesn’t care about terms like “now” and “never” – it is not at all intimidated by scare tactics, insults, or disbelief. It won’t cut corners and it is impervious to peer pressure.
Even today, having witnessed its power firsthand, I honestly have no idea how time does what it does. But I do know that, whether it is a broken bone or a broken heart, given enough time, both will heal in full.
Time works miracles.
Time can turn the impossible into the possible and the actual.
Time is the cheerleader we often don’t hear screaming itself hoarse from the sidelines of our lives.
When I was young, I was in love with Luke Skywalker.
I was also sure that, if offered the option, I would not have struggled one bit to choose between Jedi-dom and “the Dark Side.”
Yet, given my own mind’s long and well-documented affinity for negative thinking, perhaps my youthful confidence was a tad premature.
The “dark side” is fueled by anger, regret, pain.
For many years, I, too, was fueled by the same.
I’m in my 40’s now, and am just now learning how to teach my mind to seek – and like – and trust – the light.
It is still all too tempting for us to dive into darkness, depression, despair. But when we can resist, not only do the fears driving them ease, but their dire outcomes fail to materialize!
The truth is, I am discovering that most – perhaps all – of the power I need to change my life for the better resides right within my own mind.
As I think, so I live.
There is nothing like taking 43 years to figure this out.
But I will be honest – it wasn’t until just this month – and just a few days ago, in fact, that I finally convinced myself to stop worrying so much about whether who I am, how I act, what I prefer, and how I live is the “right” way to be.
Can you relate?
For 43 years, I have logged daily high quality time lecturing myself about how I need to do more of this, less of that, adjust my preferences or habits “or else”…..and yet after all those years of well-meaning and well-composed self-lectures, here I am.
I am still me. I am still the same me. I still act the way I act and think the way I think. I still have certain preferences and other aversions. I still live the way I live, and no amount of lecturing or motivational speeches or dire predictions can sway me from it.
Then it finally occurred to me – mid-way through this second month of my 43rd year – that maybe there is a reason for it.