I realized Saturday morning that I hadn't really forgotten to eat. I very subtly chose not to eat. I knew I could go awhile without eating, and I enjoy testing the limits of my body's starvation-coping mechanisms.
This is the sort of thing that eating disorders are made of. I've never had a full-blown disorder, but I have always manifested my control issues through eating - most often, through not eating. There were times in my life when I felt that the only choice that was mine to make was whether or not to eat. College was the worst. If I chose to eat, the lack of food options in my cafeteria was frustrating enough to produce that feeling of being trapped in a life I did not choose, that I did not want, that I felt I couldn't escape from. Chili, chicken fingers, salad and ice cream? Fuck this, I'm outta here. I don't need this shit.
More recently, I believe the times I choose not to eat, either consciously or subconsciously, it has been a denial of my basic needs, which translates, in my mind, as a denial that I have any needs at all. I'm fine, I don't need anything. I don't need girlfriends to hang with. I don't need to feel secure in my future. But I can't demonstrate that. I can demonstrate that I don't need to eat.
Yeah, fucked up. But this is what I do, what I've been doing, pretty much, my whole life.
Those who wish to refute this finding will say "Are you kidding? I've seen Ouiser screaming about not getting her way too many times!" Ah yes, you have. And I would have said, at the time, that I needed whatever it was. A more accurate statement would be that said thing was something I was ok with people knowing I needed. People give you shit for needing certain things, like friendship, love, someone to go to the movies with, eat meals with, talk on the phone for hours. One of the worst, most pathetic, most embarrassing things you can call someone is needy.
Whenever I realize I NEED something, I instinctively back away from it. It scares me. Always has. I don't like to need anything, and I don't like to admit it when I realize I do. I'd rather want thing. America seems to be ok with wanting things. Needing is pathetic, but wanting is acceptable.
I was comfortable being perceived as demanding, as spoiled, as tyrranical, even as selfish. But not needy.
The saddest thing is, in retrospect, I wasn't fooling anybody.
I've known for a number of years now that I had a problem with looking needy, and that I was actually very needy. I've grown more comfortable with my neediness. I've realized that most people I know need the same damn things I do, and I'm not ashamed of it anymore. It's human, people.
I didn't connect this concept with my eating difficulties until Saturday morning, on the Long Island Railroad. I had slept late that morning, lingering with G. I was showered and dressed in plenty of time to have coffee, maybe a hard-boiled egg and some toast, hell, at least a Breakfast Bar before I caught the 11:44 Train from Tarrytown. Instead, I puttered around the apartment, watching a TiVoed episode of Lost, checking my email, changing socks and shoes a couple of times. I'll grab something at Grand Central, I told myself.
When I got to Grand Central, I said Forget it - I'll get something at Penn Station. So I hop over to Penn Station, buy the ticket, eye the McDonalds, walk determinedly right past it, and go hop on the train.
I'm sitting there on the LIRR, reading my novel, while a part of my brain is going That was stupid. You're hungry and you're just going to be uncomfortable. You've done this before and you know that eventually, you'll get a headache. I re-focused on my novel and tuned out the voice. For awhile.
At some point, I stopped reading and started listening to myself.
I need to believe that I'm ok, that my needs are met, that I don't need much. My life, let's face it, is pretty cushhy right now. I don't have to pay rent. G is a great husband -oops, I mean boyfriend - and takes complete, loving care of me. I'm in school, studying something I enjoy, and I'm doing great in my classes, and loving the work. I have a fun temp job, and the pay isn't awful. My cat is healthy. My parents are in good shape. And I'm looking forward to more positive changes very soon. By a lot of people's standards, I don't have much to complain about.
So let's get honest.
I'm still thousands of dollars in debt. I've been managing it well, sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but the debt is still there, and its very existence is a stressor. Most of the time I have a realistic, workable attitude about it, but from time to time, the anxiety surfaces. So the debt is my #1 stressor.
#2 - Still missing my parents dreadfully. After ten years of seeing them a couple of times a year, and never really having a large chunk of time with them that wasn't riddled with extended family drama and lots of crying... I just am such Momma and Daddy's girl after all. I wonder if having children of my own won't seperate me from them, cut that umbilical cord. I don't rely on them for money, or really for anything... it's a simple comfort zone for me, to have their arms around me from time to time, arguing in the kitchen with them, making each other laugh over stupid things, commiserating over cub and packer games with Dad, shopping with Mom. I really thought I'd be ok, living far away, not seeing them much. Most of my friends have no problem with it. But I seem more attached to them than I'm willing to admit. I've actually gone so far as to ask them to move out here. I've given mom some shocking lines... asked her if, when I give her grandchildren, will they outrank her job at the daycare center? Honestly, I can't believe I even said that, but there it is.
#3 - no music. I'm not singing, anywhere. Haven't for a year. Recently, I had the opportunity to sing in a benefit concert at - brace yourselves - Carneige Hall. I would have been just one soprano in a 160+ person chorus, but hey. Carniege Hall. I had to make the difficult decision not to participate, because I had only two weeks to procure and learn the music, and one week into that time, I still had not bought the score. with my 17-hour days, and an all-day Saturday class last weekend, I just could not squeeze this in. I remember feeling somewhat cavalier at the time... but since the day of that concert has come and gone, the gravity of what I passed up has gripped me.
And it's not even Carneige Hall - it's the chance to sing. I just don't ever sing, anywhere, anymore. And I miss it more than I can say. I feel like something inside me is rotting, decaying. Sometimes I physically ache, and when I'm in the apartment and not sleeping (which doesn't happen often), I sing. The ache goes away. I don't know how to feel about this, really, I could say all sorts of dramatic things about letting a God-given gift go to waste, and such and so... but I think, simply, that there are things we all have that we simply must do. For me, ugh, it's sing.
I hate that. I wish it was writing. With writing, the blog might assuage this need. But singing is so fucking public. Singing in my shower and living room just doesn't cut it. Singing in choirs... frustration. And I've tried a few times, feebly, to hook up with a jazz session here and there, or just any kind of band at all in Rockland county. The frigidity is incredible. Nobody wants to hear from a singer. It's really amazing, the dismissiveness, the outright hostility, the turned backs. Jeez, people. I can't help but feel if someone would actually listen to me sing, give me a chance, then somebody might let me do it somewhere on a regular basis. But nobody is anything close to interested, at least, not that I've found yet.
Everybody is full of suggestions. Hang out at clubs! Try a new one every weekend! Have you gone to (venue)? They're great, they have new people all the time! Oh, email my friend, Ouiser, they have a band, blah blah blah. So far all those good intentions have yielded nothing.
I could write paragraphs on this, but the point is: Big Stressor #3.
Ok. So I need my family around me, I need to find a place to sing, and I need to be out of debt.
My goddess, this seems so insurmountable.
Uh... so, I've changed my mind. I'm ok with being in debt. And I'm ok not seeing my parents. And the singing thing, I'll do in the shower. No problem, really. Hey, I sang opera in Manhattan for seven years. I don't need to perform anymore. Yeah, I'm ok with all that. I don't really need those things.
You know, for a minute there, I thought I felt hungry. But I really don't need to eat. I'll do that later.
Oh - and the idea of want? Just wanting something doesn't justify getting it. We all want stuff, and we can't all have everything we want. My Mom's been telling me that for years. You don't need it, you don't get it. Wanting something isn't enough. We can't afford things we don't really need.
I want a bagel. I need breakfast. I'll have whole-grain toast and peanut butter.
I want to sing. I need...
I want my family around me. I need...
I need to be ok with needing some things, and with wanting others. I need to get better at identifying what feeds me (pun intended), and making sure I get enough of it.