Identity Agreement

My resistance to writing is related to my stubborn insistence on having one single “thing” to write about. I thought I needed a focus to give my writing some shape. But the minute I set out to write a “parenting” blog or a “recovery” blog, a wave of Nope would crash over me.

My identity is this bizarre, multimedia collage I’m still learning to interpret. I can’t write about that discovery process if I have to stay “on topic.” How do I bring in mental health? How to I talk about this book club podcast that has been better than any class I could ever imagine? How do I write about just, you know, day-to-day shit? Do I have to relate it all back to my children? To my eating disorder?

Ugh. “My eating disorder.”

I saw my doctor recently, and she said, “I don’t think you have an eating disorder. I think you have had an eating disorder in your past, but I don’t think you do now.” She was careful to point out that it’s imperative that nothing we do in our treatment should reverse that progress.

The most startling thing to me about her statement was that I fucking AGREED WITH HER! In the past, I might’ve resisted internally. I’m not proud to admit it, but as recently as a few months ago someone telling me “you don’t have an eating disorder” would’ve sent me over the edge: Oh, I DON’T, do I?! I’ll show YOU!

But I’ve come to see that I got tangled up in a series of eating disorders because I didn’t have anything else. I thought I needed a focus to give my life shape.

It sounds pathetic, but it’s the truth. I was totally out of touch with any sort of creative identity; I thought a “topic” was the answer to my curious, capable, always-churning mind. I was empty and open, and misogynistic cultural messaging flowed right in. If my children were well-fed, well-dressed, and well-behaved, and I was really, really thin, everything would be okay.

Nope.

Everything was so far from “okay.”

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My children and I started walking to school again this year. The last time we walked to school regularly, my daughter was a baby, and I was trying to subsist on less than a thousand calories a day. I would: walk my son to school, pushing the baby in the stroller; walk home with the baby; research the relationship between binge-eating, starvation, and heart failure; nurse the baby for hours; eat a plate of food; research potassium supplements and wonder if my heart was going to up and quit on me; walk to school again… Not okay.

Last fall, I thought about that four-miles-a-day heart-taxing starvation. I longed to be the not-even-that-skinny, sick person again. Last fall, I was focusing on recovery but feeling empty again. I didn’t understand it. Wasn’t recovery my “thing” now? This year, I’ve given up on the idea of having a “thing”—and I find myself with so much to think about that there’s no room for dangerous nostalgia.

When I was attempting to starve my body into thinness (and binge-eating my way out of it), I was also starving my mind. I fed it calorie-counts and macro numbers and approved food lists and fear and panic instead of pleasure and wonder and curiosity and connection and joy.

Fuck mind-starvation.

I want to devour joy.

When I closed up shop on my old (pregnancy/baby/parenting) blog and opened a new one, my first thought—before I settled on “recovery”—was to write about this strange process of learning about what I like and what I’m like in my mid-thirties. Can I learn to see myself in what I love? I learned the visual language of film, for example, and now I can’t un-see what’s there. I take for granted that everyone is looking for foreshadowing in a movie’s editing or production design, and I’m often genuinely confused when my partner or friends say they “didn’t see that coming!”

Really? It was right there all along!

I’ve got this glass in front of me. There’s been water in it all along. I still see “half-empty” first. (I still see myself as “empty” first.) I want to learn to see “half-full.” To be joyful.

For now, I’m joy-curious.

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