Three Good Signs

I just put my sheets in the dryer, which means I have 55 minutes to process the last 7 days, get myself into a good headspace, and do something inspired with what I’m hoping will be my last squash of the season.

We’re looking good already. Much better than we were a little while ago.

Spring is coming. It’s still soaking wet — I swear this city does nothing but drip — but it’s milder. I can’t tell you how encouraging it is to see groups of daffodils poking up from the ground and twisting their heads around, looking for light. We’ve only had something like 5 days of partial sun since October, although I try not to keep track. I started doing that my first winter here, before realizing such a practice fell squarely under the Not Helpful category.

But hey, should we talk about what IS helpful?

Eating more. Eating more is an enormous help. (Hat tip to every person so patient and kind and supportive. You make this feel much less ‘big’ than it does in my head, in the nicest possible way, without trivializing it or pretending to fully understand it. I know it’s something that makes no sense, and just is until it isn’t.)

It’s hard to feel happy about gaining weight. I feel approximately a thousand ways, often all within the span of a single meal. But mostly I feel proud. I have let go. I am actively letting go, every hour of every day. It feels good to surrender. It feels like my whole body is sighing in relief.

I feel good about being able to say: this is the beginning. The actual beginning. I’m not just *thinking* about eating enough again. I am doing it. (And trying not to give it too much thought.)

Starting ‘again’ is less depressing than thinking about starting over completely. I am glad I’m not way back in the beginning, when it was all, what do you mean, I’m fine. I just won’t eat that. Or that. Or that or that. And we can’t go there, or there or there.

At this point, I’ve already done a lot of the legwork. I have had the benefit of a whole lot of professional help. And I’ve gotten better 40x better at quieting the voice in my head that says to others, ‘Please Like Me,’ and amplifying the voice in my heart that says, ‘Please Like Yourself.’

I remember this from before: it’s kind of crazy how quickly it’s possible to feel better physically. There’s no way to say this without sounding completely deranged, but even after just a couple of weeks without dieting, there’s the singular sensation/experience of dropping back into your body. You’re so disconnected for so long, and then all of a sudden it’s like, oh, hello. And again: that sigh of relief, even as half of your brain shouts that you’re ugly and undisciplined and [deservedly] alone.

I wish I could cut straight to the part where it’s not so hard to turn down the volume on that voice, or even turn it off entirely, for months and months at a time. But I know it’ll come. I’ve done it once; I can do it again.

Everything is already less immediately exhausting. Walking around my neighborhood, going to work, staying up a little later, connecting with people, making real deal decisions from a place that feels levelheaded and mature — it’s all easier. That piece, at least, is wonderful. I could do without the irrefutable evidence of clothes suddenly a little snug, but I have zero complaints about the indisputable improvements in quality of life. At least I am no longer spending whole days trying to silence my body’s screams.

It makes me angry-sad to think how long I’ve spent doing just that. Denying myself what I want and need — not just for days or weeks or months, but for years. I know it’s useless to beat myself up for coping the best way I knew how, but oh man. How much wasted time.

It’s no longer inconceivable to think about anorexia being reduced to a thing I had ‘back then,’ during a particularly trying time in my twenties. I can see it being something I’ll talk about (if asked), but it won’t be something I lead with.

Here’s another uplifting piece of news: there are so many other things to think about. When your body is oscillating between dead to the world and hyper high alert, you forget how much else there is. It suddenly seems pretty selfish, to be anorexic. With a steady stream of good, regular meals, it’s like your viewfinder finds a way to expand back to normal. You’re squinting at everything through this incredibly narrow slit, and then it’s: look. Look at all this. Remember?

I’m also less worried about finding someone, *the* someone, than I have been. The type of person I want to be with would want me to be healthy, whatever that looks like. I’m just not willing to give up so much in order to stay small. Not anymore. It’s [much] too much of a price to pay.

Ultimately, I want to be with the type of person who considers imperfections to be little more than evidence that we’ve lived. But more importantly, I want to BE that person.

Yes, I long for the day when a goodbye kiss means I’ll see you tonight. Yes, I’d love to roll over and curl up against someone solid and warm and so at ease with who he is. But even if I never meet a person like that, I can start being more that way myself.

Of course, it would be really nice if someone could take a quick look deep into the future and say: oh Hannah, of course you’ll love [and be loved] again. There’s just no way you won’t.

That’s the scariest part — not so much the thought of looking different. There’s just no guarantee that everything I want so badly will be waiting on the other side. Again, there’s no way to know about anything — not about what will happen at work or in Portland or in the world. I’m finding it doesn’t matter, though. I’m still ready to do something different.

That’s what I found myself repeating that over and over this week: do something different. And I did. I have. I am.

I saw 3 good signs on my walks around the city this week. I didn’t have my phone with me, but:

  • Etched in hot pink sidewalk chalk in a nearby park: “Self-love is a daily commitment.”
  • Scribbled on a napkin in my favorite coffee shop: “Keep being you. Somebody’s gonna feel it.”
  • And splashed in colorful cursive across a side alley in Southeast: “Stay soft, it looks beautiful on you.”

I’m just going to file those away under the ‘Helpful’ category. Be back soon.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“We think of happiness as something we can find. But usually it comes from being content with what we have, and accepting ourselves.” -Cynthia Hand

“My problem with body love, beside the fact that it’s a high standard, is it asks women to regulate their emotions, not just their bodies. I don’t see the pressure on women really easing up, and then we’re supposed to have this bulletproof self-esteem on top of all that. It’s not something we can really live up to. Body love keeps the focus on the body. Instead, I dig the idea of body neutrality. The times I’m happiest are when I’m not thinking about my body at all.” – Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

“Small amounts of ‘better’ count. In fact, maybe those are the best amounts of all, because they’re not too hard to create and they add up quickly. Before you know it, you’re big-time better.” -Unknown

“You will only be happy when you start to focus on the small, simple things that bring you daily joy. And that might mean letting go of other things.” -Iain S. Thomas

“Remember no one is coming to rescue you from yourself — your inner demons, your lack of confidence, your dissatisfaction with yourself and your life. Only self-love and smart decisions will rescue you.” -Jenni Young

“I think the relationship you have with yourself is everywhere, every moment of the day. To be able to be alone, to be able to think, to be able to count on yourself, to be able to console yourself, to be able to inspire yourself, to be able to give yourself advice…it’s so important. You are your own best friend.” -Diane Von Furstenberg

“Sometimes I feel like a caretaker of a museum — a huge, empty museum where no one ever comes, and I’m watching over it for no one but myself.” -Haruki Murakami

“When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields and consider the orderliness of the world. Notice something you have never noticed before.” -Mary Oliver

“You must know how to want what you want.” -Hélène Cixous

“We are so afraid to change careers, to end relationships, to outgrow people or places — and that’s just growth. To me, choosing to go toward the cracking in order to keep expanding is the only way. The only way to get out of pain is to go through it. Pain is information.” -Sophia Bush

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.” -Simon Sinek

“The high value put upon every minute of time, the idea of HURRY-HURRY as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy.” -Herman Hesse

“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety, when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.” -Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“When you feel scared, hold someone’s hand and look into their eyes. And when you feel brave, do the same thing.” -Amy Poehler

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” -Fred Rogers

{PDX at night via @dobrean.a, Rattlesnack Ledge via @michaelmatti, watercolor via @sasha.swerdloff, flower shop via @solabeeflowers, Haystack Rock via @northwestcreatives, rearview mirror and grassy knoll via @a_nunley, Mt. Hood via @gemini_digitized, falls via @a_nunley, chalkboard art via @schoolhouse, coffee shop via @alysegilbert, OK via @akaybarlow — all on Instagram.}

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