Posted by: innerpilgrimage | November 16, 2011

Ringing in Reality Awareness This Holiday Season

Holiday Eating Season Countdown: 47 Days

      The flow of this entry may not make much sense, since I’m touching ideas which sit below in the darkness of my easy-access memories. I accept that perhaps I chose to forget the worst of the worst in order to keep myself holding onto sanity. They are, however, affecting me, and I guess that’s where I get to dive into the abyss and hope HP’s net is waiting for me at the bottom.

      Two years ago, it was so much easier. I had a lot of resentments floating right on top, a lot of obvious work I had to do which stemmed from what was sitting far beneath. Well, two years has gotten me here, and even though I am food abstinent? I face a deeper and more subtle threat to my abstinence.
      The holiday season is a strange one for me. I hold onto these golden memories of good holidays, desperate to say, “At least I had,” and let it go at that. These things, of course, are not part of my life today, and I cannot correct them in my children’s life. Faced with an inability to heal that past (The things I cannot change), I feel ashamed and anxious and angry. I feel ashamed because I promised myself I could fix them when I had a chance, never realizing that “when” was actually an “if.” I feel anxious because the addict in me wants to use this as a goal to achieve perfection. Any goal, I have found, that could potentially bring perfection is always out-of-reach. My addiction chooses unattainable goals for this every damned time. It, of course, is exhausting, and the desire to control that which is utterly out of my control leaves me in the addiction–by getting me to isolate. The isolation stores up the anxiety-energy which will eventually cause me to act out in order to break violently free from the isolation. Knowing that potential of destructiveness is there makes me pull hard the other way. I don’t want to binge, so I restrict.
      It’s a bit of a gift to have a cross-addiction in food which parallels (in scale) so beautifully with the toxic love addiction. Even now, I find it excruciating to eat enough to get to my food plan minimums. I did the math recently. At my food plan minimums, I take in perhaps 860 calories. It’s scary to think that I sometimes have to fight myself to get in that 860 calories. To put it into perspective, that amount of calories maintains a person just over 71 lbs. (based on the 12-calories-per-pound math). Considering that I am supposed to weigh two-and-a-half times that to be totally midline normal weight (180 lbs. at my height BMI x 0.9 because of my large frame)? That is the essence of food-based anorexia, right there–barely able to get myself to eat enough to sustain a third of my “normal” weight. To be 180 lbs. again is loathsome to me, and I would have to force myself to eat up to it.
      So, the food addiction is using what’s closer–death by starvation instead of death by bingeing–to guide me into that unmanageable level of suffering that the addict coping mechanisms work on. It’s a grim prognosis, but at least I see it now. And yes, I still work to keep abstinent both as a binge-eater and as an anorexic. Happily, when I break the anorexic minimums, I often eat to the edge of my food plan and am okay. But it does disturb me that I struggle to get to those minimums, when only two years ago I struggled to stay within my food plan.
      Struggling, of course, means to me that I’m not surrendering and relying on a Higher Power. Why? Because I fear that my Higher Power will fail me just like people fail me. That awareness statement has so much recovery potential within it, too. First, my Higher Power cannot fail me because it is the guiding principle of life. If I lost abstinence, there would be a purpose to that loss–a lesson I needed to learn to have more empathy for those who exhaust themselves trying to restrict food even as their souls starve for spiritual nourishment and self-care. Second, a being failing me has nothing to do with them. We are imperfect, and if I expect perfection from myself and others? I’m rejecting life. See, life is about growth. Life is about evolution. Perfection is about already having reached the apex of growth and evolution. There’s no more to learn if one is perfect. While it appears there would be the peace of having no challenges to face, the reality is that there would be no adventure to life. The friction that we endure in order to rise above where we were brings us a joy that we cannot feel when something is simply given us. To survive and to thrive appear to be hard-wired into the physical self, enough that we are given positive emotions (even for a few moments, though the seem to be lasting, overall) which are not soured by negative ones. To overcome hardship is a mark of strength and courage; to overcome hardship and use it to bring experience, strength, and hope to others who are preparing to do the same is a gift of community and unity.
      Does it change that I fear HP will fail me? Nope, but that comes from a limited definition of a Higher Power given to me as a child. I started with an infinite HP. I started with an HP which was not vindictive and vengeful and capricious. That HP is the one I’ve returned to, the one I turn to and feel the comfort of not being lonely. I am not alone, because all of us are connected through that Higher Power (even if my “definition” of a Higher Power does not match another’s “definition” of the ineffable).
      So, the holiday season. I have an awareness of this emotional minefield I get to cross every year. I want an all-or-nothing relationship with my family, and that’s not reality. What’s worse is that it’s all about presents. I don’t want things. I want their time and love. To be honest, receiving gifts yearly offends the living crap out of me. I’d rather have nothing–especially since I am often given gifts I do not (and sometimes cannot) use. It is a yearly reminder of how little my family actually cares.
      Strike that. It’s a yearly reminder of how little my parents care. My sisters send their regular gifts without fail, and they send pretty cool ones. One sister sends chocolate from Europe every year (very nice); and the other sent a local farmer’s wheat products last year. That was a perfect gift to me: acting to support an ethical, local businessperson while giving me something I can use. So, I was very thankful for it.
      The hardest thing to face is that I lied to myself yearly that the family get-togethers were idyllic. I binge-ate at the holidays. Over the table, the adults argued everything–especially politics. Lots of wine was opened, and it fueled the insanity even more. It was not a peaceful meal where people discussed the emotional connections made over the year. Some of it was–trips were discussed a lot. However, the holidays were touchpoints to a family which stayed apart as often as possible. Yes, even with my grandparents next door, my parents and they did not connect on a daily basis. That’s bizarre to consider, since I tended to run back and forth on a daily basis through the gate between the fences. I mean, I look back and actually ask myself, “Why didn’t we all eat dinner together regularly? Why was it only at the holidays–when my relatives who lived hours away descended on us?” That’s so bizarre.
      Yet . . . it isn’t. My parents, once their parents had died, left. I still have the resentment of wanting to take my older son to Christmas at my parents the year that my sister from Europe was there with her family. My son really wanted to go to Christmas, since my family of choice didn’t celebrate it. I asked my parents if we could come to Christmas.
      I was told no.
      That year, we created our own holiday tradition. My son was deeply disappointed, and I was angry. I think that’s probably one of the few times I used that anger productively. In the end, my sons both have a family tradition which we can smile about. Despite not being able to give my son the big family Christmases I wanted to give him (he has them, now, since he lives with his father’s family, and they do a big family Christmas). I cannot control that my parents betrayed me completely, that I was asking for my son and they rejected him out of hand. See, it appears my parents hated those big family holidays as much as I long for them. So, when the people who demanded they host them died? My parents did what they wanted to.
      I know it’s not about me, even as it is about me. The part that’s not about me is my parents’ decision to avoid doing big Christmases. It is about me because I choose to let their decision completely wreck me in the head every damned year. I may put on a good face, but I look back and see my adulthood as a combination of desperately wanting to create an idyllic holiday memory for my children and completely emotionally withdrawing from it all. The stress to perform during the holidays gets really ugly. This year is no exception–after seventeen years of not cooking poultry whatsoever, I get to take on a turkey at my spouse’s request. The first time I cooked a Thanksgiving turkey twenty years ago this year, it was an absolute failure. Well, it would have been worse, but I cooked it upside-down. The thing was juicy simply by luck, and it is a really funny story. I do think it’s hilarious that I cooked it upside-down–because it is.
      I put too much on myself about this. I know what to look for in a cooked bird. I know how to cook them unstuffed, and I am pretty sure I can stuff a bird and roast it just fine. I know that I can prepare the sides the day before and start the turkey at six in the morning. I know this weekend I can clean my recently-neglected home, so I will be ready for the holiday on Thursday. I even know I won’t binge on any of it, because I just don’t any more.
      The desire to achieve the perfect life from the perfect turkey-n-fixins, however, is still part of that damage I take forward.
      Holy cats . . . I think I just had a wave of empathy for my mother. That must have been awful for her. What’s worse is that she overcooks her meats to make sure no one gets food poisoning, so I never had a moist piece of poultry that she made. Ever.
      You know what? Maybe I should just experiment this year. Yes, there’s a lot of financial investment (big trigger, spending money and failing miserably with something I spent so much on). I think I will. I think that I am going to take it slow this year. I’m going to relax and decide how I want it all to play out, what kind of sides I want, what kinds of sides my family wants. I’m just going to relax and trust my Higher Power will be there to help me cook this turkey, that all of the time I spent learning won’t ruin the bird. If it’s a little undercooked, there’s always the French oven. But I really believe it won’t be. I really believe if I surrender to the years I learned how to do it from my ex’s family? I will bring forward a pretty awesome meal and sit down with my family.
      After all, isn’t Thanksgiving about being with friends and family above all? And even if I mummify the turkey this year, I will have done it with love. I will have tried.
      And in that spirit, I think I will be actually making my first real pumpkin pie this year, from real sugar pumpkin, using a pie dough I found in a really cool local-published cookbook (I collect old cookbooks put out by clubs and churches and bed-and-breakfasts).
      Not sure why I’m feeling hope and energy after feeling glum so far, but I think that it has to do with whatever is deep in the recesses that I haven’t touched yet. It will come up. When it does, I have faith that HP has left it out of reach until that time for my sanity. When I can surrender fully through a holiday regularly, I’m sure it will come up. I’m happy I have a Higher Power to turn to, because I really, really, really hate the exhaustion and consistent addiction coping mechanism triggering that the holidays bring forward every year.
     
      My name is Jess, and I am a food and toxic love binge-arexic. I want to be around people, want to be the center of attention, want to not fail anyone. I have fantasies of promotional cookbook parties, where I am the snazzy-dressed hostess with my table filled with delightful and merry amuse-bouches. “Oh, Jess,” they would say, “how do you do it all?”
      “Easy,” I can reply. “I retreat from all human contact and enter into a ‘perfection fantasy’ where I am the perfect hostess with a magically-filled buffet table which I magically made myself with joyful and I think delirious glee–knowing that I would be earning your eternal love because I martyred myself in a kitchen for a week.”
     
      Here’s to an imperfect holiday . . . and maybe another upside-down turkey story. I don’t know, but I want to smile this year instead of fear I’ll fail people I couldn’t make happy with me anyway–no matter how much martyring I did (or how fantastic a lobotomy I had so that I could do it with delirious glee).

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