All my life, I have had a fascination with “edges.”
Some of this is likely because I am more than a little claustrophobic, and edges tend to be nearer to open areas, or at least to openings to these areas such as windows and doors, and these larger open areas are where I feel more comfortable hanging out.
But most of it, I suspect, is because I can’t resist seeing what will happen “if.”
Once I know where that “if” leads, I stop pushing (that is, if I haven’t already pushed myself over that particular edge by that point).
For example, when I was struggling to recover from my eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia), I never got what doctors and therapists might call “really sick.”
Rather, I mostly lived right on the edge between “pretty bad” and “much worse.”
Today, I honestly believe this was somewhat of a functional decision for me, because what I was really craving was more autonomy and independence in the areas of my physical boundaries, personal appearance, daily choices and life, plus more protection from some bad stuff that had happened to me earlier in life, and somehow I had decided the eating disorder could help me in both of these areas.
So here, pushing through that already flimsy edge from “pretty bad” to “much worse” would have backfired, leaving me with even less control over the elements of my life I was fighting to gain more control over. The few times I did gently shove on that edge showed me that getting sicker would have taken away even the little amount of protection, autonomy and independent decision-making I already had.
Ultimately, over the 20 long years of my journey to recovery, I kept my symptoms somewhat manageable, if you can ever truly call having an eating disorder manageable. In other words, I was generally still able to function in public, go to school, work a job, move out of the house, make friends, and, most critically, throw up a facade of living a “normal life” for the benefit of those around me who might otherwise have worried or – horror – interfered.
Did I know any of this at the time I was struggling with the eating disorder? Nope. Sure didn’t.
I mean, I may have sensed it down deep in the farthest reaches of my being, but I was pretty much far too busy at that time in my life keeping up with the type of fine-tuned balancing act that being sick while acting well typically requires to notice anything so nuanced as all that.
It has only been later, post-recovery, looking back and having met hundreds upon hundreds of other recovering and recovered persons who have shared their personal stories with me that I have slowly realized what my own underlying motivations for not pushing harder on that particular edge might have been.
But there are other edges in my life today where the point of no return is far still less clear.
For example, let’s say there is a relationship where I am feeling kind of uncertain or even stuck. I might push a bit here and there to see if I can get us unstuck. But sometimes that can mean getting unstuck and landing in a place where I don’t want us to go. So here, the pushing tends to be more like a gentle nudge or tap on the shoulder rather than a full-on shove.
And sometimes this works to at least give me a heads-up about what direction we might head in if I then chose to push just a little harder. But then again, sometimes it doesn’t give me any insight at all and I just stay confused.
Here is another example. This past summer, my box turtle, Bruce, suddenly began snoozing all day long even though it was warm outside and warm weather is typically weather Bruce likes. So I decided to introduce some extra incentives (such as letting him interact for a few minutes here and there with my pretty lady tortoise, Malti) to see if I could encourage him to wake up already.
(This particularly strategy worked, by the way. Yay!)
Here is yet another example. When I used to wait tables, the stress of busy nights could sometimes really start to wear on the wait staff and managers. When this happened, harsh words were often spoken. Looking back, I can recall at least four occasions over the five long years I waited tables when a manager decided to push me towards one of my many edges with some poorly timed criticisms or demands. In each of those four instances, my instant response was to quit.
This proved to be a very useful tactic, as my spontaneous resignations were never once accepted.
I push myself sometimes, too. I push in the areas of money, friendships, romance, and career. There is this part of me that thinks, “So what if I end up homeless, friendless, with no partner, all alone and broke on the side of the road? The worst case scenario here is I die.”
After all, we all die at some point.
But I suspect my pushing in these key areas is more akin to either courting the inevitable or thrill-seeking or both, since I don’t actually truly want to find out what would happen if the worst case scenario, well, happened.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever find yourself pushing against an edge of something or someone, say in areas like romance, career advancement, friendship or budgeting? If yes, why do you think you do this? Has it ever yielded helpful information or good results? Was there ever a time when you wished for a “take back?” I’m really curious to know if there are other people besides me that do this!