Leaving “Home,” Part 1

Extrapolating from yesterday’s post about not trying to fit into other people’s labels . . .

Sometimes my brain needs to percolate for a while about things before I really know what I think.  It’s strange, and often inconvenient, but I have a tendency to take everything at face value, and only later does it occur to me to think, “Waaaaaaait a minute . . . ”  So based on various things I’ve been reading lately, I’ve been thinking about gratitude, compulsion, addiction, how I present myself to others vs. how I feel about myself, loving myself vs. not loving myself, etc.  LOTS of stuff, people.  All percolating into one mess that’s only now becoming coherent. 

So I’m sorry in advance for the meandering.  And the length.  Because this post is LONG, people.

Over in the sidebar there is a link to a post called “The Fantasy of being Thin.”  Go read it if you haven’t.  It’s an interesting thing to think about: that I have this idea (which I do) that when I am thin, I will not only be thin, but I will be inherently DIFFERENT.  Except I won’t be.  I’ll still be me, just thinner.  I won’t be someone who hikes Runyon Canyon every night and surfs on Saturdays and is a must-invite-type of guest to every party.  I won’t be more confident or less self-conscious.  I won’t be someone who suddenly can’t get enough salad and is disgusted by alfredo sauce (seriously, is that even POSSIBLE?).  Lounging on the couch watching Alias reruns and chowing down on macaroni and cheese will still seem like a GREAT way to spend a Saturday, especially a cold and rainy one.  Exercising will not be something I eagerly look forward to every morning.  I won’t leap out of bed at 5am “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” as my grandma would have said; I’ll still want to hit snooze and snuggle down into the comforter for an extra hour and skip the exercise “just today, just this once.”  I won’t magically have more hours in the day to do all the things I want to do, and I won’t go out every night with friends and laugh and party into the wee hours (and then get up feeling great the next morning).

I just won’t.  Because THAT’S NOT WHO I AM.  But it’s funny, because there is a part of me that really BELIEVES that it will work that way; that if I lose weight, I won’t just get a body makeover – I’ll get a whole-SELF makeover.  And THAT leads me to the next question: why do I want a whole-self makeover?  What am I trying to leave behind?  What part of me isn’t good enough?

I read another post over at Shapely Prose about how many women live in the future “when [they’ll] be thinner.”  We are somehow disconnected from our bodies, thinking that “there is a thin person in me trying to get out.”  We dissociate from our bodies, thinking, “This isn’t really who I am.”  But if it’s not really us, then who is it?  Who are WE?  I mean, I might be different tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.  I might be thinner or fatter, I’ll definitely be older.  I’ll be different.  But does that negate the fact that right now, this IS who I am?  Just because it’s not my idea of the “best” me doesn’t mean it’s not me RIGHT NOW.  Just because I have a  different idea of the “real” me, that doesn’t make THIS me, right here and now, any less “real.” 

And then that loops back to living in the moment and being grateful for the here and now IN the here and now.  I commented over at MizFit’s blog today about how whatever you put your attention on is what you get.  It’s the “advanced” version of the Law of Attraction.  If you parrot gratefulness without ever FEELING grateful, and at the same time worry obssessively over what you are afraid will REALLY happen, then what you’re worried about is what you’ll get.  Not because the Law of Attraction doesn’t work, but because it DOES.  You got what you were emotionally invested in: you got what you worried about. 

By the same token, if I’m trying to lose weight because I’m afraid of staying at the weight I’m at – if I’m trying to lose weight because I’m desperate to be a DIFFERENT version of myself – if I’m trying to lose not just the weight, but in some unexplainable, ineffable way I’m also trying to lose the parts of myself that I DON’T LIKE, then guess what I get?  More of what I’m afraid of.  Diets don’t work.  I really believe that, but I think they don’t work because when most people diet, we’re running from something.  And anyone who’s ever encountered a strange dog in the street knows that when you run from something, it chases you.

And then THAT leads me to the bingeing and (sometimes) the drinking.  I drank too much this weekend and ate too many chips.  And I remember a couple of times actually thinking, “Ok, if you’re doing this, you’re burying something or you’re upset about something.  What is it?  Right now, here in this moment, what is it?”  And I got . . . nothing.  I didn’t feel upset or anxious about anything.  The wine and the chips were just . . . there.  So I ate/drank them.  It was more a compulsive behavior than an addictive one, and it was WEIRD.  But now, based on the above, I’m wondering if my time in therapy working out the hows and the whys of the drinking and the bingeing really worked.  Maybe what’s going on now isn’t so much related to emotional turmoil.

Maybe what’s going on now is that I’m getting what I’m emotionally invested in: I’m afraid of being fat.  I’m afraid of being someone with an Eating Disorder, ESPECIALLY Binge Eating Disorder because it makes me feel like an uncontrollable pig, and it’s not “glamorous” in the outside world.  (For the record, NO eating disorder is glamorous, but some are perceived that way by outsiders.)  Some days I hate my body.  I have more dislike of myself than like of myself, if that makes sense.  THAT’S WHERE MY ATTENTION IS.  And maybe, just maybe, the food-related behaviors are my psyche’s way of giving me EXACTLY what I’m invested in/afraid of: weight gain, an eating disorder, and to a lesser extent, ill health at some point in the future.  All the things that make my gut seize up in raw, unadulterated PANIC.  Panic is a very powerful emotion, and we get what we’re emotionally invested in.  Maybe I’m getting EXACTLY what I’m afraid of, because that’s how I know how to function.  It is, in its own way, even with all the self-loathing, SAFE.  It’s familiar.  I know how to navigate these waters.  They are, in a sense, my home.

But eventually, we all have to leave home in order to find our way in the world. 

(And you thought I’d never get to the point of the post title, didn’t you?  ;))

Part 2, tomorrow.


8 responses to “Leaving “Home,” Part 1

  1. the home metaphor is interesting because home isn’t always good, but it is all we know

  2. Emily, that’s a really good point. Sometimes the familiar is not so great, but because it’s all we know we gravitate to it over and over. (And by the way – congratulations on the baby!)

  3. Ooh, I like the “home is all we know” thing. I had a moment of clarity the other day and tracked my eating disorder back to an incident when I was eight years old. Seriously, what was an eight-year-old doing trying to starve herself?? It wasn’t even diet-connected, it was just an impulse that’s always been in me. So it’s comfy and familiar, but since I got so very ill it’s ALSO now labelled as bad and unhealthy – and this is where the craziness comes in, in the conflict. Its like an abusive parent. No wonder our brains pingpong around fretting about it and yet needing it (we think) so much. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

    Maybe the trick is to disassociate the disease from ourselves. In the “yeah, that happened, but it’s not WHO I AM” sort of way. Take our attention elsewhere, to other aspects of our personality, other things we’re good at and hence feel comfy, but in a slightly more productive (!!) way…?

    TA x

  4. I hadnt thought of it in the home sense (not sure what that says about my home :)) but always in the THE PAIN OF WHAT WE KNOW CAN BE BETTER THAN THE PAIN OF WHAT WE DONT!

    I saw that a lot in (myself :)) my clients when I had my studio.

    the sticking with what they were doing when they came to me and resisting my help—-because their discomfort was at least familiar.

  5. I read this and I wanted to cry:

    Some days I hate my body. I have more dislike of myself than like of myself, if that makes sense. THAT’S WHERE MY ATTENTION IS. And maybe, just maybe, the food-related behaviors are my psyche’s way of giving me EXACTLY what I’m invested in/afraid of: weight gain, an eating disorder, and to a lesser extent, ill health at some point in the future. All the things that make my gut seize up in raw, unadulterated PANIC. Panic is a very powerful emotion, and we get what we’re emotionally invested in. Maybe I’m getting EXACTLY what I’m afraid of, because that’s how I know how to function. It is, in its own way, even with all the self-loathing, SAFE. It’s familiar. I know how to navigate these waters. They are, in a sense, my home.

    This, THIS is where I am. I didn’t know how to explain it, to my self or to anyone. But this is where I am.

    Thank you for your honesty, thank you for sharing this.


  6. I have read The Fantasy of Being Thin and it really speaks to me.
    And what you said about the “safety” of being where you are familiar and know how to function…it’s like you just crawled inside of my head and read my secret diaries. If it makes you feel any better, you are certainly not alone! Thanks for being brave and sharing this!

  7. You know, I was talking to the chiropractor about this a little bit in a different sort of sense. He was saying how sometimes, people will come back and they’re perfectly fine but still feeling pain, and I commented that sometimes people get so caught up in labels, that it’s part of their self-identity.

    I am Jenna.

    I am a horseback rider, novelist, dog trainer, warrior, optimistic, cynical, with brown hair and bad knees. NO, WAIT! *grins* But to take out the one means re-defining who I am, and that’s scary. Scarier, if it’s a huge part of your life.

    Anyway–good luck. *HUGS*


  8. TA, seriousy? EIGHT? Ouch. It totally makes sense then that the behavior would be comforting at the same time that it’s destructive. I think the abusive-parent analogy is actually very apt.

    As for the dissociation, I had a meditation teacher who talked about how, when we felt emotions, we should remind ourselves that the emotion itself is not who we are; it’s something that moves through us, but the essential US is still us. Does that sort of make sense? I found it useful.

    Miz, definitely. There’s even a saying: The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. It permeates the American culture. (I don’t know about other cultures, be we can’t be the only one.)

    Oh, Sarah. *hugs* Hang in there. It gets better. It helps me when I can analyze it to death, because it makes it seem less PERSONAL somehow. If that makes sense.

    Missicat, apparently there are a lot of us out there! I’m always amazed to see folks come out of the woodwork (on ANY blog), saying, “Hey, me too!” It’s comforting, in a weird way.

    Jenna! You’re here! Leaving comments! Yay! (Jenna is one of my little sisters, folks. The only one with a blog, though :D)

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