Control freak

Trigger warning: If you struggle with an eating disorder or body image issues, skip this post, please.)

How do you respond to uncertainty or unexpected challenges? Are you inclined to yield to the universe and roll with it or do you instead try to grasp what you can and refuse to let go? I think the answer you provide may vary according to situation, like it does for me. I’m sure, however, that it’s related to your childhood and the traumas, large and small, you experienced.

What do I mean? I’ll try to explain.

When I grew up there was very limited security, particularly economically and emotionally. As a result of this, I’ve grown to be hyper responsible financially. I don’t have debt beyond my mortgage and spend far too much mental energy reviewing my expenses and the balances in my various bank and credit union accounts. It’s like there’s a constant tally running in the back of my head. 

I recently purchased a new desktop computer and have shifted my checking accounts to an online platform linked to my bank. This means that I literally balance those accounts almost every single day. For my own comfort, I must know how much money I have available and reconciling my checking accounts is the best way to satisfy this need. Crazy, right? Maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable enough to not be as conscious of my finances, but not today.

Or – as my friends in San Francisco and I found ourselves saying repeatedly, “Not today, Satan.”

The emotional stuff, of course, is even more complicated.

I’ve spent the last few years believing that my feelings are tightly wrapped and buried deep. I’m not certain I was correct about that because when I encountered someone who I found to be stimulating and somewhat exotic, I opened myself up way too fast. The result was emotional whiplash, something I’d rather not experience again anytime soon.

When my heart aches, a condition I will not criticize myself for allowing to occur, I deal with it in ways that aren’t always healthy. There’s the typical too-much-wine-stage, but, I’m actually more inclined to deny myself than I am too overindulge. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m seeking clarity even more than oblivion. I just want to know and understand wtf happened and being fully present is what I find to be best for me.

Since I returned from San Francisco last week, I’ve curtailed my ingestion. Period. That means limiting alcohol consumption to weekends exclusively, something that fortunately isn’t a struggle for me. I probably, in part do this to remain in control of my emotions. I don’t drunk dial.

The other thing I tend to not do is even more elemental than not pouring myself a cold glass of rosé…

I don’t eat.

Now, before you get alarmed, understand that I know this behavior is unhealthy. I also know, from experience, that it is temporary. I’ll restrict my intake of food for a week or two until I feel as if I’ve got myself under control and then I’ll resume my usual ice cream eating ways. I promise.

For the record, it isn’t a complete denial of food – I continue to eat, but just less frequently and freely. I’ll have breakfast and something later in the day, too, I just don’t allow myself to have everything I might want. As an example, when I had breakfast with a friend I ordered poached eggs, toast and sausage. I left a single sausage, a piece of toast and some home fries on the plate. I had had enough. Later in the evening I had a great salad at home, followed by a single dark chocolate covered salted caramel, which I really enjoyed.

It’s almost like being on a diet.

I’ve observed this pattern over the years, but only recently made the connection between not eating and feeling some sense of ownership of my body, heart included. By minimally eating, I gain control over myself, something I very much need at certain times in life.

I understand how this might be perceived as potentially problematic, especially after reading this definition of anorexia, but I know myself and understand that this is a way for me to flex and regain control of myself. I’m not overly thin, nor do I want to be, especially after an old friend described me at < 120lbs as frail looking. That most definitely is not who or what I aim to be. Trust me.

When you allow a person into a place inside you that you didn’t know was available until they occupied it, there’s bound to be an emptiness in their absence. For me, hearing that echo from the very bottom of my belly provides a distraction from the other internal reverberations. And, when I’m “empty,” I get a chance to choose precisely how to fill myself up again.

“By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”

Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

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