Red Light, Green Light

Three folders live on my desktop. I forget exactly when I put them there, but apparently I hadn’t been nearing the height of my creativity when I named them.

Click on “Blog” and you’ll find all of my stops and starts, plus dozens of infinitely likable images, only about 15% of which I actually took.


(If I were a different sort of person, I might’ve posted that one to Instagram with the hashtag “garage goals.” As it was, I interrupted my Sunday morning walk + cry only for long enough to snap an iPhone shot and send it to my mom. We like our heart emojis, especially when there’s an occasion to use the other-colored ones. Onward march.)


The second folder is called “Save.” (Sheer brilliance, I know.) This one houses all of the stuff I’ve written but can’t and/or won’t share. Because boundaries. Because brothers and bosses and, at one point, old boyfriends. Because temporary feelings. Because still maturing. Because process, okay?


I think I’ve told you about the third one before. The one titled “Makes Me Want to Write.” It’s full of — you guessed it — things that make me want to write. I add to it every morning. Sometimes it’s a sentence I scribbled down while reading the night before. Sometimes it’s a quote I saw while endless-scrolling and was quick to copy and paste. Whichever the case, it’s always something that makes my heart go ping.

“His family was more reserved, sometimes seeming a little ashamed of strong emotion, of crying and cuddles and loud laughter. That was foreign to me. My family was the opposite — loved poured out and over in all of its various forms. However it came, it came. Usually in abundance, alongside bowls of pasta.” -Hannah Tunnicliffe

I look for paragraphs that read like prompts. They have to get me thinking, feeling. Aching. In ways identifiable and not.


Yesterday was one of those days with feelings swim-sloshing awfully close to the surface. Do you ever have those? It’d make me feel better if you said yes. Yes, spill.


We’re going to circle back to that walk + cry yesterday, when I cycled through the too-much-to-be-kept-contained. I was sad on one switchback, scared on another, furious on a third, tired on a fourth. There is a whole spectrum of emotions and I am ON IT.


This is probably not going to win me any new friends, but do you occasionally feel like a total basket case? I felt this way as recently as yesterday, when I went to pull my sheets out of the dryer. They were so warm; I hugged the armful to my chest. I think I might’ve actually pressed a pillowcase to my cheek and held it there, for a second. Something about the softness and residual heat — it made it suddenly hard to swallow. I dropped the comforter and top sheet as if they’d turned to hot coals. Right. Time to make the bed.

Progress stopped coming in spades a long time ago. Since then, it’s been easier to say that things have slowed but not stopped. To say that things have just sort of stalled. Of course things have stalled — you’ve frozen them in place.


Want to see what I added to “Makes Me Want to Write” this morning? All six come from an article I’ve linked to before. The one that got me to see and trust and try, initially. [And try again, today. Keep trying, dammit.]

“How do you get past the in-between stage of having regained some weight but probably not enough, of not being sure whether it’s enough, of finding it awful enough already and not believing you can bear any more, of knowing this isn’t being well again but fearing going any further?”


“One obvious though often neglected truth is that a minimally healthy BMI is usually an inadequate basis for full recovery from a severely underweight state. This is something you need to bear in mind when you find yourself wondering whether you really need to regain more weight; if you’re just within the 20-25 ‘healthy range’ BMI, but many anorexic symptoms still seem to be in place, the answer is probably going to be to regain more weight. The fact that that’s the last thing you want to do is also a sign that you probably ought to.”

“There is absolutely no reason to assume that your natural bodyweight is going to correspond to a BMI of exactly 20. This is true for very few people, and because of the overshoot phenomenon, even if your natural BMI did happen to be exactly 20, that doesn’t mean you should force your weight gain to stop there. Your metabolism won’t normalize until you reach your natural bodyweight. Your bodyweight will stabilize without restriction – but only if you let your weight increase to where it’s meant to be. Otherwise, your still lowered metabolism will force you to keep restricting to stabilize your weight.”


“Recovering fully requires that, at some point, we start accepting that we can’t predict or control everything. This may as well begin with the most important thing: how much you weigh. There is absolutely no way you will ever recover fully if you decide on an arbitrary BMI and, once you reach it, start restricting again to make sure you stay there. Dieting is incompatible with recovery from anorexia, both physically and psychologically. This should be trivially obvious, but with all your anorexic instincts screaming at you not to lose control and let yourself get fat and ugly, it can be easy to forget.”


“What if there’s still that niggling little voice that says, well, surely this is the absolute best place to stop, isn’t it, because after all, this was what I was aiming for all along, wasn’t it, to be just at the nicely slim end of normal? There are a few ways of arguing that voice down.

1) Look where it got me, that ambition. That worked out brilliantly, didn’t it: I’ve just spent however many months clutching my way back from danger and misery. Why should it be any different second time round?

2) The ‘low end of healthy’ may be where you always wanted to be, but it now gives you the worse of both worlds: you’re nowhere near thin enough for your anorexia, and at the same time you’re missing out on all the benefits of going all the way.

3) Your months or years of illness mean that you simply can’t think and act in relation to diet and weight and shape in the mildly disordered way that other people can get away with.”


And lastly:

“Getting to EDNOS status and staying there is better than remaining trapped in anorexia, but because it is (or should be) a way station on the journey of recovery, not the destination, it isn’t that much better. You deserve way better, whether or not you believe you do, or indeed believe that better is possible for you. You do, and it is. Looking back, you’ll kick yourself for not having called time on the limbo between sickness and health sooner, but then you’ll forget all about it, and get on with the complex business of living.”


Apologies if you’ve seen some or all of that before. I just…needed to beat myself over the head with it again. Practicing our gentle/kind/compassionate, can’t you tell?


I am exactly where the author of that article describes. Out of the danger zone physically, but still pretty deeply entrenched, mentally. Because how do you not diet, at all, ever? How do you switch from Project Gain Weight to Project Just Don’t Worry About It? How do you tolerate being much bigger than you can ever remember being, without slowing starting to chip away at it?


That’s what I’ve been doing. Slowing chipping away at it. I was crying on my walk yesterday because I realized I haven’t had to buy tampons in six months. Because when I look in the mirror now, I’m all angles again. Ribs and abs and hipbones — none of which I would be able to see so clearly if I weren’t still dieting. If I weren’t still being so careful. If I weren’t still struggling.


I was crying because it isn’t over, because I have to start again. Because I have to let go. And because one day it’s going to happen again: I’m going to look down at myself in the shower or see my reflection in a store window, and feel horrified, so ashamed, like that body cannot possibly belong to me.


But I feel that way now, too. I’ll see if I can make this make sense: I don’t feel authentic this way. I don’t feel like my real self. My real self is hourglass-shaped. My real self is curvy and soft and doesn’t keep track of a thing.


If I take a look around this coffee shop, not one person has a perfect body. And they look loved; they look happy. I don’t know why I find it so hard to believe that wouldn’t be the case for me too.


I think I need to table my efforts to meet someone. Stamp down those hopes, for now. Because worrying about whether I will or won’t seems to be my single biggest roadblock. Because I still have this fear that I won’t ever be chosen [again], and I’ll always be this lonely. And that attracting someone/being loved hinges on looking a certain way. Which I know is so not the case, but continues to feel that way, anyway.


“There is something beautiful coming, even if it’s only the sun.” -Ashe Vernon

“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” -Bertrand Russell

“Let’s remind ourselves of all of the adulting we do with moderate to great levels of success.” -Joy Wilson

{Thor’s Well and Cape Horn via curtreesor, winter to spring via @artifactuprising, Munra Point via @oregon.nw, roses via @ohhoneybakes, downtown Portland via @lovewasher, Oregon coast via @alison_wu, old-growth forest via @andrewgolesch, clothesline dress via @bythebrush, Commissary Café via ttothen, Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm tulips via @jakeegbert — all on Instagram.}


4 thoughts on “Red Light, Green Light

  1. Your honesty here is gut-wrenching, but healing I hope. Remember we are given tomorrows so we can begin again – clear the slate and start over. Be gentle with yourself you are an amazing woman deserving of forgiveness and grace. I wish you many better tomorrows!

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