I had a lot of epiphanies yesterday. I mean, it’s not as if each one was some earth-shaking, overhauling revelation, just a series of small little “aha” moments, but combined, they did a lot for my motivation.
Looking back on them, I’m realizing that a lot of them have to do with letting go. Of control. Of certainty. Of old beliefs. In fact, “give up control” was one of the very epiphanies that I wrote down on my fingers to remember throughout the day. I’ve been told that I’m a control freak (granted, this was by someone who’d talked to me for a grand total of fifteen minutes. And when I say talked to me, I really mean talked at me for most of those fifteen minutes. I think I spoke for a whopping three minutes of those fifteen), and while I don’t like the label, to a certain extent, it’s true. I don’t like situations where I don’t know the outcome. And I do control things – my food and weight, predominantly – as a way to express myself. Messed up, right? Specifically, “give up control” was applying to that pesky food yesterday. I realized that I was still holding on to ED’s categorization of “good” vs. “bad” foods and trying to avoid the “bad” foods. What is Leah (the dietitian) thinking? ED would say. You shouldn’t eat that. Don’t eat that. You can just calorie count, fat gram count, and have equivalent calories and fewer fat grams through an ensure instead. Just leave the rest of that nonsense there on your plate.
I know. Messed up.
For much of program, I’ve still been trying to control exactly how much of “the bad stuff” I’ve been allowing to enter my body. But to really ditch ED, I need to ditch his rules, too. And that means giving up control of exactly what’s going into my body. I have to just eat the lunch that’s given me as is. I have to trust the program. I have to trust something other than the voice inside my head that’s trying to kill me.
Letting go and giving up control play out in a bunch of other areas in my life, too. Taking risks, for example. I have to go on faith, on trust in a God who’s bigger than any mistake I might make, to be able to work with the decisions I do make. I have to let go and let God. Whether it’s in small risks or big ones. Whether it’s in trusting that eating dinner and not skimping on stuff will work out, or whether it’s in trusting that making a decision to do something radically different in my life and not go back to school this year will work out. I have to trust that God’s going to work with things, with my faith in him, to not let my life go to utter and complete shit. I have to let go of the fallacy of fairness that says that if I make all the right decisions my life will be wonderful and if I make “wrong” decisions my life will be nothing but crap. I have to accept that sometimes things are going to work out, maybe even be wonderful, even if I make a sketchy decision, and that sometimes, I’m going to make good decisions and things might go to hell anyway. But then I also have to be careful not to just go ahead and future trip and negative predict and think that because there’s the possibility that things won’t work out even if I’m making “right” decisions, I should just expect that nothing will ever work out because it doesn’t matter anyway. That’s not what letting go of the fallacy of fairness means. It means trusting that things can work out despite my potential errs. There’s that positive side to it too, you know.
I realized there was another false paradigm that I needed to let go off, too. The “miraculous recovery.” For years, I’ve been moving from impactful moment to impactful moment, hinging my recovery on the force of those things in my life. I’ve been trying to make my recovery hingent on some extraordinary revelation, some monument emotional event that would change everything, no looking back.
But that’s not how recovery works. Recovery is an ordinary process, not an extraordinary one. Recovery isn’t built on those monumental moments. It’s built on eating dinner even though you’re still full from snack. It’s built on doing the thing that you don’t want to do, that the back of your mind is screaming at you not to do, and feeling shitty about doing it but doing it anyway. It’s about feeling crappy. But it’s about pushing through all that, one ordinary decision at a time, to rebuild your life. One moment, one now, one plain old second at a time. There may never be a grand “Eureka!” moment. But that doesn’t mean that you can never recovery. And it’s not settling, going for an ordinary recovery. It’s being realistic. It’s not holding yourself back or setting yourself up for failure when the strength of those “aha” moments fade. It’s just plodding along, one foot in front of the other, doing what you need to do and settling for never feeling great about it.
Because there’s still the hope that one day, all of a sudden, you’ll be able to look back and realize how far you’ve come. Realize that hey, you feel a little less shitty doing things than you did yesterday. And then looking forward with just a bit more strength, just a bit more determination, just a bit more “umph” that will last and stay and stick because it’s got all your hard work built up behind it, rather than the flightiness of some transitory transcendental moment.
I think I can go for an ordinary recovery. Because an ordinary recovery is still a recovery that’s very, very much real
And part of that ordinary recovery is going to be constantly reframing how I think about things. I’m terrified of not being perfect. But I’m a little less afraid of being imperfect. There’s a difference, you know. One is focusing on something that I’m not, while the other is focusing on something I am. One is a failure, one is a success, in a weird way. Telling myself to “not be perfect” focuses on the ways in which I am living that lack. Telling myself to “be imperfect” is still telling myself to be – just to do it imperfectly. It’s focusing on something that I am doing, instead of something I’m not doing. Feels a lot more affirming.
And hey, I am a human being. For some reason, I forget that. Yesterday I wrote it on my thumb to keep reminding myself of it. I can accept that human beings have faults – and that that’s okay. I can accept that human beings aren’t perfect and yet are still wonderful. I can accept that human beings are imperfect and have value. I can accept that human beings deserve food and enjoyment of that food. I can accept that human beings deserve to take care of themselves, no questions asked.
I just so often don’t accept those things for myself. So apparently I don’t think that I’m a human being.
So go ahead. Write on your fingers. Let go. Give up control. Trust. Remind yourself that you’re a human being. Be, and be imperfectly. I promise it’s something you can succeed at. Throw away trying to be a standard and let yourself exist the way you really are – a little less here, a little more there. A balance.
What are you risking? For me, on the one side, it’s the chance that despite all my fears and failures, things just might work out anyway. On the other side, it’s never seeing my friends again, failing to be the healthy person they want me to be; but it’s something bigger than that, too.