Well, it seems I’m writing this phrase a lot in 2014: It’s been an emotional roller coaster of a week.
Fortunately, my ongoing practice of mindfulness and my recent reading of Brene Brown’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” are helping me accept my feelings with less judgment. The goal of mindfulness is to live more fully in the present without judging feelings or thoughts. This is hard for the part of me that has tried to portray a perfectly put-together woman who is completely in control of her feelings at all times. That need to be in control of myself fed much of my disordered eating and distorted body image. When I swallowed my emotions, I felt an emotional hunger that I tried to sate with physical food.
Although I’ve learned how to express myself more freely, it still isn’t easy for me to feel (or express) anger, resentment, and disappointment. So, this week, when I experienced some serious disappointment and disillusionment, I initially suppressed my feelings. This time, however, swallowing my feelings led to a different manifestation of disordered eating; it led to a desire to not eat at all. For a few days, I thought “the less I eat, the less I’ll feel.” Today, a friend of mine came over for a day of creativity and crafting. As I shared with her my thoughts and feelings about recent experiences, my appetite returned. As we enjoyed coffee and lemon squares while crafting together, I recalled a journal entry I wrote five years ago. Reading that entry tonight has helped me turn the corner towards self-compassion and has once again quieted the insistent voice of disordered eating.
Here’s what I wrote on 4/18/09:
“In her book, ‘Kitchen Table Wisdom’, Rachel Naomi Remen writes that ‘human being’ is less a noun than a verb; we are in the constant act of being, or even becoming. We are works in progress. Last night, as I mulled over that thought, it occurred to me that our lives are much like a canvas and we, the artists. With every choice or decision, we add another brush stroke or new color to our canvas. Those who look at our canvas can see the developing picture, never quite finished until we leave this earth… While we do remain on this earth, we are in control of the brush. We decide what colors to use and where to place them on the canvas. And, like any real artist, there may be times when we choose a color that we think will be terrific only to discover after applying it to the canvas that it looks lousy — it doesn’t fit with our original plan or intention for the work. We may be annoyed or angry for having messed up the canvas. However, we are still in possession of the brush! All is not lost. We can always choose a new color, blend several together, or work the former brush stroke into something different. Perhaps the brown smudge on the canvas a year ago can now become the shadow of a flower. Without the brown smudge, the flower would be simply two-dimensional. With it, it comes alive, popping off the canvas for all to see. The freedom we have to be our own artists allows what were once ‘mistakes’ or ‘messes’ to become part of a beautiful work of art.”
I take comfort in those words tonight. No matter what thoughts and feelings arise, none are ugly. All can be worked into my “canvas”, or the work of art that is ME. I am a beautiful mess or a mess made beautiful by the gift of self-compassion and acceptance. And that’s just the way I like it!
Peace, joy, and health,