Because I spent six years in the trenches of a really severe eating disorder, much of what I know and understand about life I learned from that very peculiar disease. Food became both a metaphor and microcosm for how to deal with the larger world. Tom once said to me, Food isn’t always meant to be enjoyed. Sometimes you have to eat the thing that doesn’t taste that great because it is really, really good for you. I think of that so often. Because the thing about life is often you have to do thing you really don't want to, but have to do, because it is really, really good for you (or for the people around you).
I dated a guy last year who was--without question--good. He’d pick me up at my door and return me there at the end of the night. He’d plan dates and map out small road trips. He was respectful and kind. He actually listened. And all of these things engendered within me a feeling of total safety. And that sensation of safety is--for me--like the bit of the boat submerged beneath the water; it keeps everything afloat. What was remarkable was that he wasn’t reinventing the wheel; everything he did was actionable--a sort of return to basics. And there was a very great lesson in that. I began to look around at my friends and family, wondering what small things I could do that would allow them to feel loved. Basically, it meant responding to emails in a timely fashion, and picking up the phone and putting a letter in the post. It meant gifting the book and paying the extra twenty dollars without complaint. It meant saying thank you and I love you and I’m sorry, even (and especially) when those words didn’t come easily. It meant being a person of my word. It meant daily forgiveness and honesty and grace.
I am a fearful person. By nature, I am a truly fearful person. I am afraid of small things and big things and blue things. Of first dates and cross-country flights and running into friends on the street. But what I’m learning is that not only do you have to eat the things you don’t want to eat, you have to do the things you don’t want to do--the things you are afraid to do. Because the truth of it is, we are all afraid. Every last one of us. So fear does not absolve a person from showing up. That’s the phrase that I’ve been coming back to these last few months: showing-up. It can mean so many things, but in the end it’s an attitude. And it's about accountability.
Mary Shelley once wrote, “Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.”
Heartbreak is inevitable. Life is scary and terrifying and more often than not, overwhelming. And to show up is to risk all of these things each and every day on a grand-scale. But that is the entire point. And the more you risk, the more you experience freedom from fear itself.
I ate a lot of food and gained a lot of weight as a way to absent myself from my own life. But no amount of food or added fat or lost hours could alter the gravitational pull of life itself--its precariousness and beauty and utter persistence.
This existence may just be one grand illusion, but the moon moves the ocean and a small, round globe spins on a fixed axis hurtling through space. And the taste of life, bitter and sweet and sharp, is better than any food I’ve ever known.