I have a new notebook for journalling. The timing worked out well; I used the last page of my previous journal on the last day of the month. Such lovely synchronicity.
I have a new notebook and that’s an intimidating thing.
I’ve already started wrong. I bought a small notebook this time – five by seven. I was seduced by its pretty floral cover but as soon as I started writing, I realized my mistake: I should’ve bought the eight-and-a-half by eleven.
Yes, the smaller journal takes up less space on the shelf but I need the bigger pages. This one is awkward to hold on my lap, the date takes up half a line, and my hand cramps when I get to the bottom of the page. At least I got a coil-bound one.
I’m such a screw-up.
I’m not sure why but changing it was not something I considered. Some “use what you have” crap, probably, some virtuous effort to be a greener citizen. At any rate, it now has entries, so I’m committed.
The last one was pretty imperfect by the time I was done with it too. It’s not about content, after all, it’s the appearance of the thing that matters.
That journal at least started out right – nice cover, actual letter-size pages, smooth action for the pen. I didn’t do a good job with my handwriting though, for all that I told myself it was important. I wanted consistent copperplate. I wanted it to look good for perpetuity (I like to pretend someone will read them once I’m dead. That’s probably not a thing that’s going to happen. On the bright side, my collected works will feed a lovely and large bonfire). I wanted perfect. But I focused so much on getting the thoughts down and the feelings out that I forgot I was supposed to pay more attention to how it looks.
Because this is what’s important in life. Substance is irrelevant. Appearance is everything.
This is such eating disordered thinking. Eating disorders adore perfectionism and delight in pointing out the myriad of ways in which you are falling short.
Eating disorders don’t end at the kitchen. They’re not only about what you do and do not eat. They inform everything. They demand perfection everywhere and from everything. Good enough is not good enough. If you aren’t perfect, you’re failing.
If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap.
It took me a long time to learn to recognize her voice. Longer to realize that she was always there. I was never not afflicted; there was no time off. I’m abstinent with certain behaviours these days, but she still tries to poke her nose in. Witness the problem with the journal.
Eating disorders are not merely about the food which means there is more to recovery than fixing how you eat. There are many related behaviours to address, things that may have started as benign but became co-opted by the disease.
Take my clothes.
I like to say I dress like a slob. It’s a pre-emptive strike. Hit yourself first before anyone else can. The thing is, it’s not entirely true.
You are not likely to find photographs of my outfits in Vogue, to be sure. I have issues with clothes. And seams. And textures. And bind-y-ness, which I know isn’t a word. The point is, the feel of clothes can be agitating for me and that’s before I add in the “fat” eating disorder talk. So, I err on the side of loose, cotton, and comfortable. It makes my brain feel better.
However, for all my self-deprecation, I don’t get dressed in the dark. I give it some thought. I even work a colour palette with the outfits I put on. Take today. Grey track pants with a burgundy stripe on the side and a matching loose top of grey, the same burgundy, and white. Grey socks, grey shoes. A toning, vertical line. Silver jewellery today to match the whole “grey” theme. The makeup is subtle for a variety of complicated reasons but it’s there. I put some on. It may not look like haute couture but there is a method to the madness and the fit is largely a choice.
I don’t just roll out of bed and stagger out into the world however much I might wish to. Guilt can trump depression at times. But I do not do tight, or on-trend, or come-hither, or even close-fitting and I get a bit of grief for that.
My friends often point out that people (men) can’t see my ass in my clothes. They think this is bad. They can’t seem to imagine it’s baggy by design. Tight clothing makes me uncomfortable. Overt sexuality makes me uncomfortable.
I make clothing choices that won’t have a negative mental or physical impact but I try to pay attention to colour, line, and cohesion. There is a method to my madness.
I pretend, however, that there isn’t. I accept the jabs and slams. It’s just honesty, right? And I tell myself I deserve it. I’m not perfect. Perfect would look more like the glossy pages in the magazine that I will one day stop buying. My guilt over utterly superfluous paper usage is a strong motivator.
To summarize then, my notebook is a failure, my journaling a mess, and my clothes a disaster. Is there anything right? My eating disorder says “no”, suggesting all could be forgiven if I jumped on the elliptical for thirty minutes and had only a small serving of supper. Yes, I know I need to eat to heal from the radiation treatments but the thought, “thin is the only thing that matters” is still the first one to appear.
Slamming and criticizing yourself is very negative behaviour. Unfortunately, it’s not limited to people with eating disorders.
We should be our biggest fans. We can have standards, but they need to be ours and not externally imposed. A pleasant inner dialogue and a tendency to cheer yourself on and like your choices is a good thing. There are enough people in the world who delight in criticizing and tearing us down. Why give them any help? Why give disorders that and do the same any more space?
It is okay to like yourself. And contrary to what many are still taught to believe, it’s okay to be different. Different is not wrong and perfection is not a requirement.
The eating disorder doesn’t believe it. She scoffs. Which means, of course, there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe it. There’s a part of me that very much wants to get a new notebook and copy out multiple days of journal entries so I won’t be a failure for the duration of the notebook’s useful life. I am avoiding the impulse. Some urges and anxieties are okay to acquiesce to. Some are not.
But it is okay to choose human instead of perfect.
That’s a thought I’m hoping will sink in.