Luke 5:5 (NLT)”Master” Simon replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”
I often feel as I imagine Simon must have felt as I fight the eating disorder day after day, sometimes I have great success, other times not so much. Like my friend Simon, I cry out to Jesus “But I am tired, I have all ready worked so hard and feel the failures more than the victories. I purged again God! I restricted again God! See, I just can’t do this!” “Ah, but you can Liz. I am telling you that you have worked hard and some days it feels like you aren’t “catching” a thing, but you if you keep following my still small voice you will be filled with The Fruit I have promised. Just as I filled Simon’s net with fish. Today is a new day and I am telling you to reach for my hand to pull you up, and keep at it again and again. Just reach for my hand and listen really, listen to my voice.”
So, it with God’s words to me I keep “casting out my net” even when I am tired of working so hard and some times blow it, and literally come up empty as I purge, or restrict. I try to walk through my days I recently spent in Michigan “As if,” I am not still battling the remaining vestiges of the eating disorder and I can (minus a small purge) almost do this. By “doing this” I mean doing what I should even though I don’t really feel safe from its sneak attacks. These attacks are the terrifying ones that can take me down like a sharp shooter with precision aim. I don’t really feel free from the eating disorder. I know the sharp shooter awaits an errant move on my part that will expose my cover while I meander through my day trying to live as is I am free because I am not truly free. When does the freedom come? When will I be free from wondering about my weight or checking my body? When does my defense become my offense? I wonder if my summer friends will look at me and think, “She has gained weight!” Yet, I couldn’t begin to tell you if any of them has gained or lost weight. I can tell you about their smiles and welcoming hugs that warms my heart, and that the little children sprouted up like weeds since I saw them last, but their, weight I notice nothing! Could it be that they too noticed my smiles, hugs, and warmth and not my weight?
I continue to remind myself that I am not my eating disorder, but that I have one. My weight is not a measure of my value and worth. God calls me worthy and that is enough. Even with all of this swirling through my brain, I feel myself drawn towards restricting. As that oddly vacant feeling rises up it feels more scary than comforting. I hope this is a good thing? I take a moment and thank God that he promises me true and lasting comfort and that the eating disorder eventually becomes uncomfortable.
Isaiah 49:13 “13Shout for joy, you heavens;
Rejoice you, earth;
Burst into song you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
And will have compassion on his afflicted ones” (NIV)
The restricting is deceptive. Like a shot a Novocain it simply numbs the pain that is there, eventually wears off, and the pain becomes a throbbing ache. I also know that while it numbs the pain, it also numbs the surrounding area that isn’t in pain at all. If I disguise the pain I miss the joy. So I pay attention to my hunger (sort of). I allow myself my usual breakfast of yogurt and granola. I am still hungry! How can that be possible, I don’t want more, and convince myself I don’t NEED more. I sit silently reading the Bible and praying as I give myself permission to slow down and not rush to workout. I feel like I am always rushing even when I have no place to be. Can I give myself this time to just be? Just “being” feels like work as I sit gazing at the water. The eating disorder and I begin to fight to be in charge, but for a moment I am able to take over and just breathe.
I find myself walking outside to soak in the warm Michigan sun and feel the cool breezes. I inhale the fresh clean air and try to exhale the filthy stench of the eating disorder. It is 9 am and the eating disorder has already exhausted me. I lie down on the warm stones of the patio while still in my jammies (it is what we do Up North) and stare at the vibrant deep blue sky. I contemplate the stark contrast of the emerald green leaves that have just opened upon the branches preparing to nourish the tree. I feel a sense of irony that in order to survive the tree must bloom and receive the nourishment of the sun, but that also means it will grow. If I continue to fear physical growth, I will not bloom, and I will fail to survive. As I retard my physical growth, I am also stunting my emotional growth. I need to allow myself to bloom to receive physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment. I survey the hillside aware of the beauty of the cherry blossoms, and the lilacs. I particularly love the lilacs, but appreciate the cherry blossoms as well. Could it be that if I allowed my self to bloom, I could take in the love that some have for me and rest in the fact that others appreciate me even if I am not their favorite. My intellect recognizes the truth, but in my heart it still feels like rejection, so maybe that is why it often feels safer not to bloom.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sounds of summer rising from its winter slumber as all kinds of activity commence around me. The sounds of summer also drown out the annoying whine of the eating disorder. Our dock is pounded in to its rightful place just in time for my friend and I to take our place on the dock to soak in the sun, rest and read. I have yet to work out, but finally change into shorts and a tee. The silence is broken by the birds chirping, the hum of humming birds, and the hum of boats taking their test runs on the clear cold water.
The best sounds are those of my summer friends, children and dogs as we greet each other after months of separation. Time moves on, but at the same time seems to stand still. Time up here moves slowly, but has away of sneaking up on all of us. I lose track of time until the hunger begins to speak to me. I am once again irritated by it, but heed its call and grab a sandwich of almond butter and homemade cherry jam. I inhale it with some almond milk before I can answer to the eating disorder instead of myself.
“Live as if…” I say to myself. “You can do this. You are God’s not the eating disorders.”
I have plenty of work to do around the cottage, and I hate to admit it, but I am aware that work equals calories burned. Once again it takes me out of the moment of just planting my gardens and savoring the silence of the lake as I paddle board. I am not sure if my eyes mist from the cold breeze, or if I am crying because the eating disorder keeps taunting me. I want to scream, “Leave me alone!” At the top of my lungs and hear it echo of the hillside, but I settle for a quiet angry rebuke.
Why is it so fucking hard for me to just stay in the moment? Laura talks to me about this all the time. Some times I just want to scream, “Do you not think I want to stay in the fucking moment!!!!” I know she doesn’t mean it as a criticism, but it feels like it. Some times I want to just ask her “Are you always in the fucking moment? (I know she is not) I am sorry I am doing the best I can and what if this is as good as it gets? Does that mean I fail?”
I fail at dinner as I purge the Mexican feast and the margarita. I succeed at letting it go and giving it to God. As I go to him he reminds me that I get to “cast out my net again” and I will eventually have more victories than failures. “Are you sure Lord? I have been at this for such a long time.” That night when we got home we decided to fish off the end of the dock while the sunset on another beautiful spring day. Kurt baited my hook, and told me to just let it sit until I felt a tug on my line. Now sitting still is not in my nature, so I cast and reel it in, cast and reel it in, again and again, until finally the sun has just dipped behind the hills. Just one more time, I cast and reel it in. This time I feel the tug, pull back to hook it and reel in the largest bass I have ever caught. I was beaming as I was in the moment and knew God was speaking to me about more than fishing for bass.