This past Friday, one of my tenants came barreling into the office with grocery bags, ready to pay his rent and to insist that my co-worker and I indulge in some banana cream pie that he just purchased.
I politely and repeatedly declined the offer. So did my co-worker. She’s changed her eating and nutritional habits and has lost a significant amount of weight in the last year. I had just seen a picture of her fitting into the prom dress she wore 25 years ago, and it was even a bit loose. (To be honest, I am absolutely jealous of and frustrated by my own lack of follow through in this area.) I, on the other hand, truly do struggle with food as my substance of choice, and sincerely didn’t want to eat it. The entire incident was probably less than three minutes. However, because of his pleasant but overbearing insistence, it felt like much longer.
Finally, I told him point blank that he was a food enabler and that I really didn’t want any. He laughed it off and stated that he’s not using alcohol or other drugs and he does have a food problem, but since it wasn’t the other issues he was o.k. even though he may be a little crazy. Finally, he left, much to my relief. Side-note: This is a guy who has identified himself with me because I am a professed Christian, but due to his past expressions of intolerance and bigotry I find it really difficult to interact with him. And he’s right – he’s kind of crazy. Oops, there I go being judgmental – gotta work on that…moving on.
My co-worker and I briefly commented on the craziness and went on with our day, allowing the incident to drift away from our consciousness.
Suddenly, a few hours later, he bustles in, talking about how badly he felt because he hadn’t been able to leave us any pie earlier and starts pulling these things from his bag and drops one on each of our desks. I was soooo very frustrated and angry. I really wanted to tell him that it wasn’t my responsibility to make him feel better by abusing myself with food. I have caved in and eaten the several other times he’s done this: Bavarian Cream filled pastry, pizza, and other kinds of chocolates from Hawaiian Host…I’m pretty fed up with being force fed by this guy. But, I guess, since I was the one putting hand to mouth, I was choosing to eat and he wasn’t forcing anything, despite his forcefully, happy and insane insistence that he leave food in the office. I was absolutely determined not to do the same thing even one more time. Incidentally, Force is his middle name, literally.
After he left, again, I carried my box over to my co-worker’s side of the room, where she had opened her box. I ate ONE piece and left my unopened box on the top the highest shelf against the wall, behind her desk. She and I have had a number of discussions about her weight loss and new eating habits, as well as my compulsive eating/food addiction issues. So, she calmly accepted that I was putting her in a gatekeeper position over the chocolates.
I was still very agitated and upset over the incident. I mean, really? I’m completely exhausted emotionally, psychically, and spiritually from all the various people I love and care about in my life whom I’ve trained to make me responsible for their feelings, but to have a relative stranger put that on me as well, was just too much. I was also upset by the fact that, even when I politely and firmly set boundaries and clearly stated that it was because I have a problem with food the way others have problems with drugs & alcohol, I wasn’t taken seriously.
It’s very frustrating, infuriating, and downright hurtful that so many people in our society will criticize, make rude comments, and think judgmental and horrible thoughts about people who are overweight and morbidly obese. While at the same time people will push and offer food as a way of making themselves feel better in a situation and then take offense if the food is declined, taking it as a personal rejection.
Honestly, I know that my food addiction and compulsion is my issue and not anyone else’s, so I shouldn’t get upset when others don’t take responsibility for my issue. It just feels very disrespectful and invalidating to be open, honest, and clear about my personal boundaries, needs and intent, only to have those boundaries broken, needs disregarded, and intent misconstrued. These are a regular occurrence in my personal life with my family and the few friends I have. To have it happen in my work environment as well, set me off emotionally because I’m really limited on how I can react when it occurs.
Ultimately, I realize, that the issue isn’t whether or not others are going to take care of me and respect my boundaries. The real question is: Am I willing to let go of my expectations and desire for others to do so and trust that God is carrying me through and has the power to heal and restore me? The answer is that I want to, I really do, but I haven’t quite gotten there. At least not enough that I accept, believe, and trust beyond the surface layer. I still want to sit on the throne and be the one in control. That’s what my actions and inaction in working the steps indicates.
The good news is that previously, these realizations would have led me into a spiral of self-recrimination, self-doubt, and self-flagellation, this time is different. Right now, I’m smiling, because I know and understand that I had a victory when I ate just one piece and didn’t open and eat the entire box or go on a binge later that night. I may not have eaten as healthfully and nutritiously as I should have, and may have eaten somewhat more than was needed, however, I didn’t gorge or binge compulsively because I was feeling my emotions. I still have a long way to go, but where I am at today is a different and better place than where I was at a year ago. Progress, not perfection.