On the Struggle to Become a Person

It's morning. I take a few breaths. 

I am not who I used to be. Then who am I?

Waking up used to be the process of remembering yesterday, the moment to recount what I did and didn't eat, how much I cried and how little I hid my tears.

Mornings are not what they used to be. Then what are they?

I strive for mornings that notice the little joys of today, not ones that try to replicate what made me happy 24 hours ago.

But it's morning. I have been given another day. Another day to hear and read and smell and walk and love and glory. I am alive for another day. I think of those who aren't.

~ Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself: My struggle to become a person

The name of the book is Notes to Myself: My struggle to become a person.

It's from 1970, published by Real People Press. My mom gave it to me, and said she carried it around with her throughout college.

Completely engulfed in the eating disorder and the struggle of staying alive — where I was. Now, I live in the beautiful struggle to become a person and I have to face that I am not invincible.

I was never invincible. When I starved myself, I starved myself of my humanity; I shrunk my self-esteem. I made myself feel special by refusing to swallow my strengths.  

What an absurd amount of energy I have been wasting all my life trying to figure out how things "really are," when all the time they weren't.

~ Hugh Prather again

I am not who I used to be.

I am the things I notice: the smiling baby at the bagel store, public transit camaraderie, the stray cat curled up against the fence, the moon cradled in sunlight.

I take a few more breaths to carry with me for the rest of the day. It's only morning, and I have more time today to become a person.

For Good?

With my headphones curled around my ears, I listen to the song “For Good” from Wicked and reflect on the past few months.

“It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.”

I haven’t engaged in eating disorder behaviors for a few months now and when it comes to the eating disorder (ED), I hope that we will never meet again in this lifetime.

Yet, I’m not going to tell you that I wish I never met ED.

I don’t know if I’ve been changed for the better.

“But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.”

Being friends with ED was destructive, yes.

Being friends with ED has changed me.

I learned how to return to school after having a panic attack during a test.

I learned how to apologize for the mistakes I’ve made.

Yes. I learned how to rip myself apart, but I also learned how to take a breath and sew the pieces back together.

Empathy. Resilience. This is what I’ve learned.

To know how to love, and how to bounce back from pain.

I found the worst in myself. Soon, I’ll be able to see the best and the worst and everything in-between.

Even if I haven’t been changed for the better, there have been good changes that came from dealing with something difficult.

I think I will be changed not necessarily for better, but for good.

Those Things Make Happiness

Minuscule ripples in the lake mark the movement of ducklings and the subtlety of happiness. As the emerald mattress cradles our bodies, the sky sheds its warmth—a gift to all of us here in Central Park.

While I scribbled these words in my notebook, I noticed the way the lake stretched its legs in three directions. On that sunny day in New York City, Central Park was crowded. I unearthed joy from the details of my surroundings—the numerous bodies and beings, the prickly texture of the grass, and the faraway window frames of towering buildings.

Like individual raindrops building a downpour, the seemingly small observations composed my happiness in that particular moment.

“People always think that happiness is a faraway thing," thought Francie, "something complicated and hard to get. Yet, what little things can make it up; a place of shelter when it rains - a cup of strong hot coffee when you're blue; for a man, a cigarette for contentment; a book to read when you're alone - just to be with someone you love. Those things make happiness.”
~ Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Receiving an email with “Congratulations” in the subject line, getting A’s on exams, landing a dream job—these moments indicating “success” have not brought happiness for me. Why? These moments of good news rely on the promise of our future to bring smiles to our faces.

The sunshine bringing beads of sweat to our foreheads does not promise a better life, but rather demonstrates that we are responding to warm weather and that we are alive. When we are focused on experiencing each moment, there are no promises—only gifts.

Things I Love

Thoughts fly back and forth on the cellular swing set of my mind. After scribbling self-hate in my notebook, I reflect on my words. They are the same thoughts always dominating use of the swings.

I pause and decide to give other thoughts a turn—things I love.

Things I Love

  1. Sitting in the passenger seat of a car as I watch the world pass by me. The window slices the landscape into a rounded rectangle. With each moment, I feel the car propel me forward as I leave something behind.
  2. Feeling that I’m allowed to be silly—letting the real kind of laughter spill from my lips. In those moments when I’m cracking up with my best friends, I feel comfortable in my own skin.
  3. Drawing outside, falling into a trance because I’m living in the here and now. Neither emotions nor thoughts can take over because this is a comfortably empty feeling for my mind.
  4. Meeting someone new—or someone I’ve known but haven’t gotten to know—and having a long conversation where we are genuinely interested in the words exchanged between us.
  5. Unexpected sunshine in the morning, feeling the warmth grace my body.
  6. Running in the rain without an umbrella. It’s been a hot day and I don’t care about how soaked I am. In fact, each droplet pounding my skin is a reminder of my existence.
  7. Dogs with owners that let me play with their furry friends.
  8. Leading a yoga class filled with laughter in a dorm room with friends after midnight.
  9. Listening to the muffled sound of the city when I’m in a train gliding above ground. I can see the lights glisten beneath a dark sky and the moon seems like it’s moving with the train.
  10. Mornings greater than the sum of their parts: a bagel, coffee, and newspaper.
  11. Laying in my bed with the lights off. I’m tired and satisfied with the hours past me. I’m hopeful about the hours ahead.

Whatever you’re dealing with, take some time for yourself to think about the things you love—not the “typical stuff”! Being thankful for family, friends, and good luck is great, but the words don’t evoke the same memories for me as the list above does. Write down the moments that matter to you.

Give what you love a chance to fly on the swing set of your mind.

ED Recovery Manifesto

This drawing stretches practically from the floor to the ceiling of my room. The experience of creating it helped me remember the importance of play. Regardless of age, we all can use time to explore an activity for its own sake regardless of the end result. Enjoy my ED Recovery Manifesto!