So, it's been four days since I hurt my ankle playing soccer, and I've quickly melted into a mess. I know, only four days! I am not proud of how quickly I have crumbled. I'm cranky and angry and have taken to lying in bed reading mysteries for a good 12 hours a day (as opposed to my usual 6). Already I am freaking out that my goal of running my first marathon on May 1st is thwarted, that all the effort I've put into becoming a runner is going swiftly down the drain.

Most of all, however, being injured has made me realize that my relationship with food remains (has become) (once again) (still) unhealthy. At the risk of starting a too-long story, or becoming confessional, a bit of background: like most women (unfortunately), it's hard for me to remember a time I wasn't at war with my body. I recently found a journey of daily measurements of height and weight at an age I don't even remember being aware of "fat." And yet, apparently, I was aware. Or at least I was aware that something needed to be closely monitored. The low point in my body-life came as an 17 or 18 year old. An overachieving high school senior with good grades, a wonderful family and best friend, and all sorts of personality, I found myself in the grasp of a horrendous eating disorder. Starving myself, working out incessantly, drinking coffee by the gallon, tracking every calorie, and torturing my body with laxative and caffeine pills, I whittled myself away, bit by bit. Those closest to me could see I was miserable, and so I pushed them away. Everyone else congratulated me on my weight loss, and asked for my secret. Long story short, thanks to my mom, my best friend, and an amazing nutritionalist, I slowly started the journey back to health.

It's been 12 years since then, and becoming a healthier person (on all fronts) is, perhaps, the accomplishment I am most proud of. But there has still never been a day when what I eat, and what I weigh, has been far from my mind. Jump forward to now. At 29, I am a healthy person by all accounts: active, achieving physical goals I have set for myself, at a reasonable weight according to the hated BMI, and I even choke down the occasional fruit and vegetable! But 4 days without intense excercize, and I'm a wreck. Obsessed with the fear of gaining weight because I'm not exercising, pushing myself to limit my food intake, and then lashing out by stuffing my face with Girl Scout cookies. This tells me that something is not ok. This is not the behavior of someone healthy. This is not how I want to live my life.

Why do I put this all out there? Partially to force myself to write it, to be honest with myself about finding a way to say "Hey lady, you have made a lot of progress" and, at the same time, "Girl, you still got some work to do." Partially because I don't know how else to move forward. Partially, because I think a lot of other people will relate. We want so badly to have moved past our issues, to feel like the hard work we have done on ourselves is this concrete thing that can never be taken away from us. We are so so scared of having slid back, back to a place it took all our strength to get away from.

In church today, when we were invited to go up front and light a candle for the prayers in our heart, I moved forward and stepped into the end of the line. The first candle I lit was an easy one, a prayer of health and joy for a pregnant friend. The second one I lit impulsively, and guiltily - a prayer for myself. A prayer asking God, or whatever is out there, to grant me compassion. Compassion for myself, the strength to be gentle and forgiving. I spent the rest of the service wondering if it was wrong that I had done that, if lighting a candle for myself was a serious Christian faux-pas.

But how else can we gather the strength to walk out the door every day, into this harsh world, this world whose beauty is rough and sudden, whose silence can be as overwhelming as its noise? How else can we find patience with all our annoying and pushy and hateful and scared co-habitants of this place? Because, seriously, us humans are a mess. We have no chance at surviving out there unless we start here, lighting a small candle for ourselves, admitting that we need prayer as much as anyone else.

(Image: source)


Caiti said...

not selfish in the least...like you said, it starts here...I heard a sermon once where the speaker talked about how we tend to treat those closest to us (children, significant others, parents, siblings) the same way we treat ourselves, and then she gave us some high statistic of negative thoughts that occur in a person's head daily and how we would never speak to others in the same way. Anyway, her point was the same as yours. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for being so open. I can definitely relate as I've been on ends with my body since I was a teenager. As I come to terms with it (and myself), I'm reminded to forgive myself. It is not selfish or indulgent to pray for yourself. It's needed. It's healthy. It shows self concern and self-respect. You acknowledge that you're worthy of a prayer, as is any one else whom is meaningful in your life.

You've come a long way and I honestly think it's beautiful that you're taking this moment to reflect in a time where you're otherwise vulnerable. Don't forget how resilient you are!

Best wishes :) -- Anon.

Sarah Von said...

Sending good thoughts in your direction, friend. <3

Valerie said...

I so recognize what you are going through. And applaud your honesty--you will work this through to the end. Compassion for one's self and frailities is the cornerstone of compassion and love for others. "Love thy neighbor as thyself"--you have to love yourself first (sort of a spiritual catch 22). I hope you light many candles for yourself.

As a former fanatic runner, I declined to participate in many (FUN) things, for fear of injury. It didn't stop me from getting injured, just kept me from participating in my own life.

Let your body and soul heal (I am totally on board with reading mysteries for hours on end).

Phoebe A. Cohen said...

Hello darling -
You know that I can relate to how you are feeling, as it's something we've talked about many times in the past. I was sitting here trying to think about what has helped me through similar tough times. I think your focus on self-compassion is great, and that when you feel guilty about it remember that most of the horrible things done in human history were done because someone felt angry, afraid, or hurt, and did not have compassion and love for themselves. From 'selfishness' comes selflessness. Listen to what your body wants. Does it really want cookies? No. Your hurt self want cookies. By loving that hurt part of yourself, you can release it from it's cookie-monster identity. Of course, that takes time, as you well know!
Sending you lotsa love from back East

Amy --- Just A Titch said...

I understand this completely, even down to the timing, as I'm in a bit of a workout slump this week. Sending you my best thoughts, lady. xoxo