I had a powerful session with my spiritual director Anna today around my relationship with food. What's missing, she said, among other wise things, is joy. And I thought back to my childhood and the tensions at mealtimes and how food seemed a necessary evil to my mother, who'd grown up in a conservative religious home and battled her weight for decades, doing Weight Watchers and stashing Mr. Goodbars all over the house. I was stick thin in those years, running on nervous energy, stuffing myself with my own hidden candy bars, guiltily stopping at the Rexall Drug for cherry cokes and Milk Duds.
My mother fixed good food for us. There was pride in her work; staunch Puritans always have pride in their work. But there was no joy in it. Over my own decades I've taken a lot of sensual pleasure in eating and even for a while in cooking, but there was little joy, always a big tinge of guilt, both in the pleasure and in the calories.
When I got sober, I went back to food but always with guilt, always with that not-so-little voice telling me I was harming my body or harming my soul by enjoying the brownies I'd bake after dinner or the ice cream I'd bring home. I ate a lot in secret, just like my mom, I see now. Ashamed, guilty, embarrassed, and defiant.
Add to that the cultural guilt that gets lobbed at us by the media. That being overweight is a failure, that we lack discipline or will power. Many of us have plenty of both. But we are reluctant to give up this pleasure in an insecure world.
I no longer want to feel those emotions around food. I've got some big unlearning ahead of me.
My good friend Cynthia, after reading my last post, said that she heard a tug of war in my words, a struggle. What would happen she said, if you put down the rope, and found another way to be? What would happen?
I'm now ready to wonder.