Monday, May 28, 2012

I Can't Change History But I Can Live Today

I was taught we must remember history. If we do not, we are doomed to repeat it. Governments, peoples, you, me - when we do not remember and learn from our past we are forced to re-live mistakes or make new ones that could be avoided if we had only remembered - and learned. It took me a long time (too long) to learn that this concept applies to my life and what I do with each day. I got caught up in the mantra of enabling pablum 'It doesn't matter what you did yesterday, just what you do today.' Well hold on to your socks friends, because that statement is a load of crap. Yesterday does matter. If I don't accept and learn from the past I am doomed to repeat it. 

When my grandmother died in 1989, I could not deal with the feelings. The pain of her loss was the worse feeling I ever had in my life. I had no coping mechanisms, except food. I used food to numb the pain and keep the agony at bay while I pretended to function. 

In 1992, when my marriage almost died, I picked up food immediately. I was being forced by circumstances to grow up and be an adult instead of playing one and it hurt. I used food to cope through each day of uncertainty and fear. In return for this "medication," I stifled a lot of my feelings under continued misuse of food. In eight months I gained 90 pounds. The marriage was saved, despite overeating and food binges - not because of them.  The  cycle of overeating did not stop again for any remarkable period until 2003. 

In 2005 my father came to visit for the last time. I knew he was dying. In an effort to keep him alive as long as possible I wanted his food choices to be healthier so I kept mine healthy. I did not allow myself to medicate my feelings with food - until the day he went back home. Then I ate to hold off feeling  powerless to help him. When he died a few weeks later I dealt with his loss by increasing and changing my food - just that day, I told myself. I will return to my new and improved food plan tomorrow. That 'one day' went on for six weeks - or was it eight? I know  

You know what the food did in each of those instances? It delayed the inevitable moment when I had to feel and deal with my emotions for each and every loss and change in my life. Food does not make any loss easier. It only dulls the moment and lengthens the pain. So, while I was thinking the pain would be dulled by food, time and distance - it was just growing more powerful under the blanket of the food-shield I had wrapped around myself. When the blanket became threadbare, the pain was there - waiting as cutting as the day it was formed. 

This is not a valid prescription for pain
In the past year I have had two losses in my family that were close enough that the grief brought out feelings which, in the past, would have been too uncomfortable without the food meds. This time, I remembered the past. I didn't turn to food in 2012. I paused and allowed the pain and feelings to wash over me. I cried honestly, I reflected honestly, I shared honestly and I did it all without abusing my body in any way. I reached out to loved ones. I didn't push away the people who wanted to hug me and offer condolences. I comforted others as best I could. I didn't deny that I felt angry that my loved ones were gone. I didn't deny that I found it uncomfortable to talk to their spouses or siblings or parents on their loss. I did it anyway. If find it uncomfortable to admit my feelings, I force myself to be honest and do it anyway.  I am not using food to sedate, medicate, avoid, dull or delay. 

I am living through these feelings and feel more at peace than I ever was with  food-centered plans used to placate myself in mourning. I find the feelings more bearable when I am food-sober and willing to accept life.  I am not alone with my pain and hiding in a bucket of food. As painful as life might be today, it goes on.

When a loved one dies and we are left to grieve, we dishonor their memory if we use food to numb the pain and hurt our bodies. Honoring our bodies is the first step in honoring those have loved and lost. I can recover from the sadness of a loss without needing to recover from excess weight gained from trying to deflect the pain of the loss over and over.

So, this week sucked big time emotionally, but I am living with it and not using anything to create a barrier between me and those sticky things called true feelings. My food has been clean. My feelings and actions reflect my honest response to the events around me.

I miss my cousin. I mourn his loss. I grieve for the whole family. Eating 'stuff' will not make it better.

I cannot change history but I can remember, learn, and live better today.

Is there any pain that food can erase?



Anonymous said...

That was a very good post. How many times have I shoved down a feeling or dealing with something with carbs? Innumerable. Still want to, but I try to remind myself that it will only delay the inevitable and probably compound my problems. Never say it as eloquently as you though.

Glad you are hanging tough and comforting those who need it.

Food erases hunger pain.

Joan said...

Hi Jane, hi Munchberry. That's right. That is ALL food should be used for. Why is that so hard to keep in mind? I can't believe that when I am "not feeling good" (mentally, but physically as well) my first instinctive thought is still "what can I eat to feel better?". Sigh.

My condoleances, Jane. Thank you for another honest and well crafted post.

Vickie said...

"I'm learning, sometimes you gotta head straight on into the pain, to come out the other side. Sometimes the path of least resistance, just makes the road longer."
From The Cleaner with Benjamin Bratt.

Such a good post, loved every word, you wrote it well. I do not find it hard to read these types of posts. Once upon a time, they would either have been hard to hear or they would have gone right over my head. Now I embrace them.

E. Jane said...

Great post! It says so much about life, which is ever changing and always presenting challenges. When I read this, I think of how far you have come in your life process. Growing up and growing older isn't always easy, but we can do it as gracefully as possible, and it's obvious that you have!

Over 40? - So What! said...

Wonderful post. I love the way you write. I, too, have learned (the hard way) to stop using food as a pacifier. Eating to "feel better" will only make you feel worse tomorrow.

Leslie said...

Thank you for this post. Every word is true, and I've spent most of my 58 years using food as anesthesia. When I was young, I got away with it physically, but it was still pathological and dammed up deep pain to the point that it's heavily installed into my hard wiring. Learning to sit with feelings when they are at last pried loose is difficult - but it feels right and brings relief.

KCLAnderson (Karen) said...

Nope...there is no feeling, except for true physical hunger, that food will erase. I applaud you for recognizing this. I haven't been as successful at it as of late. Not due to grief, but some old ugly patterns that I am now recognizing.

Doug said...

I'm always glad I read your share. I got some news I didn't want to hear yesterday, and one of the first things I thought was, everything would be worse if I was still in the food. Later on, I was picking up around the house, when I found The Abstinence Prayer, which I got at IDEA Day last year. "With You, I can handle anything" was something I needed to read.