If You Want to Get Warm

They say elegance is a glowing inner peace. I say elegance requires a two-egg omelet, gently browned in buttery-hot pan before being ceremoniously slid onto a plain white plate.

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Inner peace doesn’t come from the successful transfer, but from the strategically scattered pockets of softened cheese. Melty cheese. (There’s that glow, burning bright.)

Yesterday I ate that omelet, adored that omelet. It had been two years.

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I hadn’t consciously cut them out, but I had switched to something that tastes as sad as it sounds: vegetables, with a little bit of egg.

Let me tell you: it is hard to make a pretty omelet without any butter, without any cheese. A palm-sized puddle of egg isn’t enough of a binder.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like rocket science to you. But maybe you’ve been in my shoes, which would mean you’ve spent some time slouched over your coffee cup and bowl of steamed broccoli, with eyes dim and downcast. Senses dulled, inner light extinguished.

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It isn’t even that hard for you to ignore the smell of bacon wafting in from the kitchen, is it? Your stomach’s scream faded into a series of plaintive pleas a long time ago.

It makes me sick to think of it now. Just sick. It makes my head spin, and my heart hurt. It makes me want to reach out and cradle my younger self — or every little girl who has ever been angry and afraid, alone and insecure. I wonder if they were like me. If they wanted to stop time right in its tracks, and instinctively thought this was the best way. The only way.

Note to self, to any similar selves: you can’t know joy that way. You will know only sadness for sure, and it will be bottomless.

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It will be hell, climbing out. If you are anything like me, you will need lots and lots of help. You will need people who will be willing to drop back to walk beside you. Not everybody will. It doesn’t matter if you need to hire them — you need people to surround you on all sides. To guide you, to cheer for you. These people will keep you on the straight and narrow. They will yank you along when you need it. (And if you’re anorexic, you will need it. Dragging your feet comes with the territory.)

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I thought I had no one when I started. Now I have relationships deeper than I have ever known. I don’t have a Facebook anymore, but I have ten people I can talk to any time of day or night. I think ten real friends — ten friends who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, when I was so far sunk I couldn’t see straight — far outshine any number of Facebook friends.

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It takes a really special person to try to understand something likely very alien to them.

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It takes a really special person to squat down to where you sit, and hold out a hand. Both hands. Shoulders and arms.

Let them. Let them snuggle you, steady you, shake you, love you. They’ll listen to you. They’ll learn with you. They’ll be there when you slip and they’ll be there when you sprint.

One day you will find there’s been a lot less backwards, a lot more forwards. That’s where I am.

I’m discovering what people have been saying all along: that one day I would welcome every dart of pain, every surge of joy. Every flicker of hope, every last lick of anxiety. One day I would welcome feeling of all kinds.

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“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” -Albert Schweitzer

“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.” -C.S. Lewis

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago.” -Cheri Huber

“But if these years have taught me anything it is this: you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.” -Junot Díaz

“Study the hurtful patterns of your life. Then don’t repeat them.” -Yasmin Mogahed

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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