1. don't put all of your eggs in one basket. happiness is a tricky thing, wouldn't you say? it's always somewhere else. over there. contingent upon when i's and if i's and the like. for me, for so long, it was well, when i'm thin, if i ever get thin then i'll be happy. i won't feel sadness, i won't feel anxious. i'll get the parts i want, i'll get the guy i want, i won't have to worry about sidelong glances from this person or that person, i won't have to fear. i won't have to fear. that was probably the big one. thin would eradicate all the ills of my life. it would be the plateau on which i would coast. here's the thing. thin does none of those things. absolutely not one. don't get me wrong, it has its advantages, but it does not heal relationships--it doesn't heal the part of yourself that is so hurting and broken--the part of you that becomes co-conspirator in this fallacy so that it gets left alone to fester and brood. a few years ago when i was coming out of the worst of the disease, but still very much in it, i dated a man many years my senior who made me feel like a giant among women (in the best possible way) until he didn't. you're so young, he would complain. you have so much to learn, he'd reproach. and all i could think was, but i'm trying. are you? i wake each morning fighting to get better and be more and inviting the demons into the ring with me. do you? he wasn't worth it. so i didn't really ask those questions. he's not the only person i've cared deeply for who i look at and think, all that wasted time. all those many years spent disliking yourself--spent focusing on this or that just to avoid dealing with what you clearly need to deal with. the eating disorder forced the boil. it made manifest my problems in a way that i couldn't help but deal with them. and for that i'm so tremendously grateful. the perfect job, the acclaim, the moment you become a parent--if you expect those singular moments in time will bring lifelong happiness, well you set yourself up for one hell of a fallout when you wake up weeks, months, years later and realize it wasn't everything you expected it to be. and man, does that fall hurt. i may be getting a late start now on certain things (careers and relationships and the like), but i'm pretty damn confident in the foundation i've built.
i remember the first time i told tom i was glad to have had the eating disorder. it must have been nearly three years ago and i probably didn't use the past tense because it was still very much present. he immediately challenged the statement: you're glad you had it, or you're glad in spite of it?
that question has hung in the air between us for years now. tom knows the answer. and he knew, even those three years ago, that i knew--deep down i already knew. but he also knew it would take the intervening time to know i knew and then be able to articulate it.
yes. the whole thing. the whole fiasco of a thing (a thing i would never wish on anyone) i count as one of the great blessings of my life.
and let me tell you why: the eating disorder proved the single greatest educator of my life. or if not the educator, it was at least the classroom in which i learned.