Stay with the pain. The ambiguous pain. I can’t even name it. I can’t speak of it. And it’s shameful. I want to eat, but I’m not hungry. My body is not hungry, at least. I had dinner and I was full. I was hungry, and then I was full. And I know I’m not hungry right now. At least, I know that. I want to go into the kitchen and slip my hand in a bag of something crunchy-salty-umami. I want to peer into the pantry, the cupboard, the fridge and find something that I can put into my mouth & lick from my fingers, so I can numb my heart….Numb from what? From what, exactly?
So much shame. What’s wrong with me? The homeless are hungry and just want something, anything, and I’m not hungry and want something, anything. The children in less fortunate places of the world, malnourished, bellies bloated. And here I am in my warm house with cable tv, google, and a kitchen full of food. A full kitchen. Full, so I can feel full. And no, it’s not because I feel empty inside. Maybe at one time it was, but not anymore. My life is good, and I’m so grateful.
The shame of this eating thing flattens me. Shame means I’m bad, no questions asked… And it rises above the real pain right now, hovering over me, ready to engulf.
Stay with the pain. Can I do that? Can I really do that? I’ll have to summon up all my courage. What if I feel the pain and it never goes away? What if it just leads to more and more pain? What if the pain is too much, and I die from it?… Maybe I’ll have an apple, because that’s better than bread with butter, leftover lasagne, candy corn from last Halloween, crackers and jam, ice cream… Yeah, an apple is like nothing. But it’s crunchy and sweet and when I eat the apple I don’t feel the pain. It’s just guilt-free-not-feeling-pain…
Stay with the pain. You don’t need to feed it. It’s ok. It’s not some ravenous dog-bear-wolf-tiger-yeti who will only stay away and not kill you if you feed it.
Where is that voice coming from?
Yes, it is! This will kill me. I will die from the pain of living. There’s too much feeling here, only another trip into the darkened kitchen can help me now. I will hide from this unnamed pain of existence by feeding myself into oblivion! I thought I was courageous. I thought I could be brave…
Wait a minute…Maybe you’re being brave by doing the one thing that has always protected you, shielded you from all of the chaos and muck. You took up the bow and arrow and were able to feed yourself into safety and comfort. You wielded your sword so that you could taste what bits of life you could… Yes, just what you were able to swallow…of this life. And you got through it all. Even the little things, the subtle nuances that might not register as pain to someone else. It doesn’t matter. It was your pain.
Oh my God, I was brave! I just need to be brave in a different way now. I am not eating now, when I’m not really hungry. That’s a start. I am sitting. I am breathing. There’s another minute that has gone by without saying “Screw it…”. That’s a tough one. So easy to rationalize why it doesn’t matter if I eat. Feed the yeti. Feed me!!
And how many times have I? Many. Over, and over again, the fear has won. I have eaten over “it”. Actually, that feels good to say out loud!
I ate over it! I ate over all of it! Let it out! I didn’t get the job—I ate over it! That tough conversation? I ate over it! My best friend got breast cancer. I ate over it…
Here I sit. Staying with the pain. I am not eating over it right now. I’m feeling it. I’m present with it. Pain is…painful. I allow tears. I allow big, bold, body-filled sobs. All the times I couldn’t cry and held onto it and ate over it. Yes, that was brave for then. And this is now. This understanding—that I have always been brave—helps me to find the self-compassion I need to stay here for now. And that’s the only place where I truly need to be.
“When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.” ~Pema Chodron
Be gentle with yourself. Always. And know that you are loved.
For your reflection:
How can I be self-compassionate, even when it feels like I’m too awful for words?
What would it be like to remember your innate goodness?