Everything Unconditional

I am not someone who writes in pencil, keeps an extra eraser on hand. I don’t come here with a rubber rectangle, ready to smudge away whatever suddenly seems a little too raw and a little too real, in the light of day. Oh hey, World Wide Web.

I come here with a jumble of thoughts. Some on sticky notes, some still taking shape in my head. I come here because I need a place to put them down, let them flutter away.

The point is to consider them all. All of it — the chaos and the poetry. The dull pieces of truth and the occasional moments of clarity, ding-ding-ding.

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Yesterday’s moment of clarity didn’t really come while I was writing. Read: plucking at thin air, trying to come up with a paragraph that would bring me some small measure of peace.

Yesterday’s moment of clarity actually came to me while I was sitting on a bench, staring out at a cluster of low-lying clouds stubbornly hiding Mount Hood.

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P.S. Shooting a mountain is hard, even on a good day. The professionals make it look so easy, don’t they?

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Anyway. It got me thinking. There was something so breathtakingly beautiful behind those clouds — I was certain of it. One good gust of air, and I would have been able to see it. Mount Hood sits there every single day, even when the cloud cover is so thick it’s hard to imagine/remember/believe.

Imagine, remember, believe. Sounds an awful lot like what we keep trying to do here.

Anxiety isn’t blazing through my body today, and I can’t tell you how good it feels. People grow at the rate they’re meant to grow — usually in fits and starts. And I’m healing at the rate I’m meant to heal — also in fits and starts.

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Sometimes it feels incredibly slow going, but that’s not really true. At all. A month ago my biggest worry revolved around how to have 3 meals and 2 snacks without losing my mind. Now it has to do with learning how to do scary-consequential things with not-monopoly money for 5 different offices from a cushy corporate chair. (Kinda.) And live on my own again. And stock my own kitchen and manage my own budget and cook for myself. (All the blissfully normal things.) It’s been a lot.

There’s this thing called a grace period. Uh-huh, I know, I’ve heard. We’re still getting acquainted.

I’ve slipped since I started working. I know that. But I’m pretty sure I’m finding my footing and back on the right track again.

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Yesterday I asked myself how this would ever end, but really, I know exactly how: by gaining more weight.

This is not an insurmountable thing. I’ve come so far since October. Made so much progress. Old Hannah would race-walk to the coffee shop, half-starved but so desperate to burn off breakfast. New Hannah — healthy Hannah — meandered over, marveling at the sky. Stopped and stooped down to take a picture of something so pretty and pink.

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Old Hannah would have looked at last night’s sirloin steak and cut it in half (probably in half again, when you weren’t looking), before carefully arranging it on a small plate to photograph. Healthy Hannah was busy whisking together Dijon, extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and chopped-half-a-shallot to drizzle all over the top. Old Hannah would have had the better part of a bag of arugula on the side. Healthy Hannah had rosemary-roasted fingerling potatoes and a fistful of sugar snap peas. Old Hannah would have obsessed about what (not) to have for dessert. Healthy Hannah had a chocolate chip cookie and forgot to take a picture of that too.

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If/when I ever start to feel as awful as I did during the first week of the refeed, the fact of the matter is that I probably haven’t eaten enough. Most likely for a few too many days in a row. When it all comes crashing down — when the loneliness starts to feel crushing, when the anxiety spirals out of control, when the future looks impossibly bleak, when I can’t really concentrate on anything but how fat I feel, when exercise starts to feel more like punishment and less like play — the answer is probably simple. More food.

It really should be so simple. And when I’m full (and my life feels full, too), it is.

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I said yesterday that there was really no contest between giving into illness or fighting for freedom, and I meant it. I think of the time when my shoulder blades were sharp enough to slice through a tomato can, and I feel no pride. Old Hannah and Old Hannah alone loved those bony shoulders.

So I just have to remember that, when the going gets tough and I feel really bad. I have to remember that there is no winning in the war against appetite. And it would not all be better if I were thin. It would be a hell of a lot worse, actually, because there is no such thing as “thin enough” for an anorexic. There is thinner and thinner and then so far past too thin, and then there is dead. Not to be overly dramatic.

Trying to lose weight, whether it’s totally conscious or not, has only one assured outcome for me. More damage done. More time lost. More life missed. (Maybe three outcomes, oops.)

The bottom line is that all losing weight does is suppress my appetite for everything else. For all the lovely things that exist without condition, and could exist for me too.

I will not go through life paralyzed by what other people think of me. Of my stomach and my thighs and my 3940393049 other less-than-perfect parts. I will not. I refuse.

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“I was afraid but that is the beauty of past tense. It’s over now.” -Amanda Helm

Someday I will be confident enough to do all the things I am still so afraid to try now. (90% of which are not food related.) I will be able to check every old thought to the tune of screeching tires in my head.

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I didn’t gain weight for FOUR.AGONIZING.MONTHS. only to start chipping away at it again. To end up where I was before, or, more than likely: worse.

Recovery demands that I look at all the positives associated with gaining. Over and over and over again, until I just don’t need to anymore. I got there for a little while, and I’ll get there again.

This helps, too: when I look at people who look like they’ve won the life-lottery, what I’m really jealous of is how happy they look. How apparently at ease they are — with themselves and with the people they love. With the lives they’re leading.

I couldn’t care less what they had for breakfast, what they did for exercise, or how spotless their apartments are.

{Mt. Hood via @harshendra, Thor’s Well via @dspeten, Chocolate Chip Cookies via @jamesransom_nyc, Misty Road via @lily_rose.}

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