April 21, 2015

on eating. and then not.

I decided to become anorexic while riding the bus one morning in the spring of sixth grade.  I hadn’t heard that word before and wasn’t sure what the requirements were, but all of the glamorous eighth grade girls sitting in the back were talking about becoming it, too. They said they needed to get bikini-ready.  Maybe I could convince my mom to let me wear a bikini if I was “ready”. Every day I’d look back at those girls in awe, longing to be like them.

No one looked at me in awe during my sixth grade year.  Or my seventh or eighth for that matter. I was a lanky kid with a disproportionate body. I had freckles (But not the cute kind), a tangled mass of frizzy hair, and a huge gap in my really huge teeth. (But not the intriguing kind models have. More the, “oh somebody get that girl some orthodontia!” kind.)

I was determined to get a new look. Even though I didn’t really understand the concept of dieting, the glitterati had leaked a secret and I WANTED IN! No one was allowed to sit in the back except the beautiful people of the eighth grade, so I settled a few rows up straining to hear the rules.  I overheard, “never eat lunch” and “drink a lot of…” and a few other chopped up phrases I couldn’t make out. 

“Never eat lunch” was all I had to go with. That was my plan and I began with great gusto.

Unfortunately for my “new look”, it was tater-tot-Thursday in the lunchroom so I fell off the wagon less than five hours after I began. And I never thought about a diet again for the next ten years.


A friend asked me earlier this week, “What was it like when you had an eating disorder?” And so I’ve been thinking really hard about how to answer that. 

I don’t really like the word disorder.  I like to say I had some eating "confusion".  It’s not as if I went to bed healthy and woke up sick.  It would have been super helpful if a runny nose or unbearable toe pain had accompanied my condition.  I might have thought to call someone about it.  But it wasn’t like that at all.  It was quiet and slow.  So much so that I wasn’t sure anything was wrong… until it was.

I confused the fact that food kept me alive with the idea that food was my enemy. I forgot that eating was an every day thing. And three times? It felt like overkill. 

I ate to make myself feel better and I starved to make myself feel nothing and I couldn’t remember how I’d gotten there. But I knew I didn't want to leave.
It was terrifying and intoxicating.

I was confused when people would say, “You are too thin! You should eat!” and I thought perhaps people were playing a trick on me. Clearly this was a plot to make me fat. I could see myself in the mirror- couldn’t they??

“I am really worried about you.” My friends talked in serious, hushed tones, and Matt always had sad eyes when he looked at me. Before long, everyone was trying to help but no one was helpful. 

You see, I was so confused that I didn’t think I needed help. What I needed was to stay in control.  I thought I was happy and headed towards healthy. (After I lost a few more pounds…) I forgot that my size didn’t make me worthy.

 The other day I came across a quote I love.  Albert Camus says,

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.
Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.

That. That is a picture of how I began to heal. 

All of the people in front looked back at me offering milkshakes and disappointment and judgment.  I was afraid they were right about me.  And so I was angry with them.

And those who were behind me? They’d fallen back, deciding I wouldn’t change.  In their minds, I could get better if I wanted. That scared me too.

But there were a handful of friends, steady and constant. They didn’t tell me what to do; they didn’t give up on me.  And finally, when confusion gave way to reality, I felt safe enough to whisper a “help”. They heard me and came rushing in.

You guys, if this is you, you aren’t alone.  You’re just a little confused.  When you are ready (You already are. Trust me.) Look to your left and your right.  See who is there.  These are your people.  It doesn't matter if you are confused about eating or marriage or faith or even fashion. (Because, priorities!) Be brave and let them love you into wholeness. Into who you were created to be.

My entourage stayed the course in the difficult months ahead.  Day after day they loved me and did all the wonderful things. They were terribly clingy with their overly healthy selves and I hoped they’d find someone new to help, but THEY WOULD NOT BE MOVED. 

They reminded me that Jesus thinks I’m worthy, and that is enough. They did this one million times a day in case I forgot again.

I still get confused sometimes.  But my people are always right there, keeping an eye on me.  I am telling you, one misstep and THE SAINTS COME MARCHING IN!  I can’t get rid of them.  It’s better this way, though.  For me, I need friends beside me to help me remember the truth.

April 5, 2015

hunt or be hunted

You guys know how much I love Jesus, so obviously when our neighborhood hosted an Easter egg hunt last weekend, I had a religious obligation to take Mills.

It's important to note that I have a great appreciation for healthy competition.  When I know a prize is at stake, I am OVERCOME by a primal urge to win.  I’ve triggered such chaos in a Dirty Santa party (or two) that friendships have ended. (all because I stole a stupid travel kit and licked the toothbrush inside to secure my win). Once, I made a girl cry during a game of Catch Phrase with our church group.  But, everyone knows you don’t mix religion and game night.  And also, she was the worst Catch Phraser in the history of ever.  She wasn’t even trying. So, that one wasn’t really my fault. 

Saturday morning my neighbor texted to ask if we were going to the Easter egg hunt at the park.  Immediately my heart rate elevated because I DIDN’T KNOW the hunt was that morning.  I hadn’t had a chance to mentally prepare or come up with a game plan. I’d yet to do the first practice run or egg finding drill with Mills. 

It was one of the first beautiful days of spring and Matt thought we would walk to the park and enjoy the sunshine.  I thought this was a terrible idea because Mills would clearly lag behind and slow us down.  (have you tried walking with a toddler lately?)  He did not appreciate that observation or my proposal to take the car (because SPEED! And PARKING!), so I shoved Mills in a stroller instructing him to keep his feet from dragging the ground.  I instructed Matt to refrain from commentary about Mills being a foot too tall for the stroller.

With T-minus 60 minutes to go, we rolled down the driveway.  Matt seemed to be struggling with math as he repeatedly reminded me that we were only a five minute walk away and advised me to calm down. Agitated, I explained the need to factor in time for inclement weather, foot traffic and other various possible delays.  I hadn’t even hit a brisk mall-walking pace before Matt suggested I was running.  I suggested that he keep up. 
We were almost to the park and hadn’t seen any of the competition.  Feeling nervous, I Googled the hunt to double-check the time.  Much to my horror, a flier appeared stating the hunt was taking place AT THE PARK ACROSS TOWN.


It’s a little fuzzy at this point, but I remember running back towards the house in a panic, screaming at my family to hurry up so we could “GET THERE AND HAVE SOME FREAKING FUN!!!”

I’ll spare you the details of the car ride over except to mention Matt’s threats to take my phone away if I didn’t stop checking the time and yelling at traffic. And also setting a terrible example for our son.  Meanwhile, I was facing the back seat chanting, “Get those eggs! Get those eggs! Push! Shove! HIT! Just, GET THOSE EGGS!" in hopes of raising Mills’ adrenaline so he would be game-time ready. 

There is a chance I jumped out of the car before we had come to a complete stop.  “KEEP UP!” I howled over my shoulder and began jogging towards the field. 

The set-up was tricky.  The grass was sectioned off into four different squares surrounded by caution tape.  Each square was labeled with a different age group and had one million eggs smashed inside.

Although the competition wasn’t particularly impressive, the crowd was thick and the odds were stacked against us. I pushed my way to the front of the “zero to three” zone and anxiously looked for the guys.  Matt was just strolling along (SLOWER THAN A SLUG) and I screamed, “HURRY! THEY ARE STARTING IN LESS THAN SIXTY SECONDS.”  This didn’t go over well.  Also, my timing was a little off.

While Matt pretended not to know me and introduced Mills to kids all around (=the FRAY!) I came up with several strategies.  My cheeks were on fire and I could hear my heart beat throbbing in my ears as a teenager held up a megaphone to make some announcements.  He said, “The sparkly eggs have prizes, please make sure your child doesn’t get more than one.”  Frantically, I began to point Mills in the direction of the closest sparkly egg and explain the importance of getting that one first.  Allegedly I was “yelling” and “making other families uncomfortable” at this point. Mills began to whine and ask me to hold him.  I was not “scaring him” as SOMEONE implied. Clearly he, too, has the primal competitive drive but doesn’t quite know how to channel it. 

The next few minutes are a blur. I heard the whistle and flung myself towards the grass.  Out of my periphery I noticed I seemed to be the only person out of diapers heading towards the glittering prize.  I slowed to check again and, as it turns out, all of the other parents were still outside the perimeter! I swiveled back scanning the crowd for Matt and Mills. In that instant, all the other parents swarmed the field.  I (gently) shoved a few kids out of my path trying to get a visual on the prize.  A GRANDMA was scooping it up in her hot little hand.  I angled towards my back up option only to see a fat baby shoving it in her slobbery mouth.  A quick scan of the space confirmed that all the other eggs were long gone, prize or not.  Just like that, it was over.  

Angry and defeated, I wandered around looking for the guys.  I found them happily sitting in the grass celebrating a measly few finds.

“What happened back there?? You totally dropped the ball!” I looked to Matt for some answers.

“I mean, I didn’t know other parents were going to help. I think you should relax a little, Amanda.  The prizes aren't even a big deal. This is just so the kids can have some fun!”

“Relax? FUN?? This is ridiculous! There was nothing fun about being obliterated back there and walking away empty handed. I HATE EASTER EGG HUNTS!” I stomped off towards our car while Matt kept his distance and again pretended not to know me. He told me I should "take a nap and get control of myself" before the afternoon.  

My behavior there has come under investigation and I’ve been placed on probation for any upcoming games (or social gatherings) until further review. Matt said if I don't learn how to handle my crazy, there will be consequences.

The take away here? 
1)Take my own car next time.
2)Easter Egg hunts are from the DEVIL!

April 1, 2015

your other mother

Jody Landers said, "A child born to another woman calls me Mom.  The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege is not lost on me.”  I think of her every day, your other mother.  But on these days, the big ones, it consumes me. Three years ago today, on this very moment, I held you in my arms. Finally. 

Last night we were with her. The two of us sat side by side and watched our sons, both of whom she carried. It felt messy and tangly, but mostly it felt like home. Even in the midst of it, I knew this was a moment I'd remember always. 

I asked her (like I always do) “Are you sad? Do you wish things were different?” 

And she sighed and smiled at me (like she always does) and said, “I’m not sad.  I’ve never been sad.  I’m so content.”  

But when I began to try and say thank you, this time she stopped me.  “Don’t thank me anymore,” her eyes were looking far beyond me, beyond the moment.  “That is the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Oh, my darling boy... May you always know how loved you are. And that, to me, she is the strongest, most beautiful woman I know.