Eating [and Being] Alone

July 24, 2012

Confession: I am one of those people who knows that you should eat without distractions, and secretly whips out her computer for a new episode of White Collar during lunch or a book to read during breakfast.

I am one of those people who know what is good for them, but somehow thinks that they will be able to manage the impact of not following my own advice.

And so, I get all of track: ignoring my stomach grumbling and drinking coffee instead of eating breakfast, refusing to be alone – ever – by the tag-a-long presence of my smart phone, and watching TV during lunch. Dinner, if I have a proper dinner, dissolves into a series of snacks, without any vegetables, because, well, when eating “snacks,” I don’t feel the urgency to incorporate something green.

You already know the end of this story.

You already know that the cycle that I described above is dangerously close to the eating brink for me, and possibly, for you too.

And yet, even when I’m writing this post, there is a part of my brain that is whining: but eating without any entertainment isn’t any FUN. I’m going to be BORED. I don’t have the TIME. I don’t like being alone.

In examining the response of that part of my brain, I am so curious. Fun? Boring? Don’t have the time – to feed myself?!

And then, ahh, the ultimate of all ultimate confessions: I don’t like to be alone.

I have spend many, many moments of my life alone. When I was in elementary school and middle school, I was bullied and deeply unpopular. My mother often let me stay home “sick.” When I was in high school I had so many secrets wrapped up around my closeted relationships that I didn’t let a soul in completely, for fear of losing the person that I thought loved me. When I graduated from college, not knowing what else to do, I returned home, with out a single friend and spent every evening with my Father and my dog – not technically alone, but…

More importantly, I have often felt alone when I am with other people. I have felt like I should shut up or sit down or make myself small, so that I won’t intimidate them or make them feel badly. I scared many friends away, because radiated a light of my own, living according to my own rules even when they diverged from the crowd.

I have been told, many times and in no uncertain terms, that I am too much and that I will never be loved for who I am.

I have been told to cover up my weirdness, my excitement, my passion, and my intellect, to become more palatable and easier to swallow.

And so, even though I know,¬†now, that those things aren’t true – I still pull up a computer, Twitter, Facebook, a book, a magazine, Harry Potter books on CD, Pandora, TV, blog posts, whatever I can to distract me from the dis-ease of sitting here, doing nothing but spending time with myself.

I run a quick inventory: Do I think I’m worth spending time with? Yes. Do I like myself? Yes, for the most part. Do I know that I will better honor my body if I shut the computer down and ate my breakfast? Yup.

Why do I hate sitting here and eating quietly, in my own space and solitude?

Because it feels like a punishment.

It feels like only the bad kids have to eat alone, surrounded by the undying shame of their social stigma. It feels like being left at school¬†for three hours, because your mother has forgotten you. It feels like something that people do who don’t have the social clout to command a crowd.

It feels like something that Ishouldn’t have to do, if it were true that I am a sweet person, with a beautiful heart. A person that people like,now, and want to have around. A person that contributes to the world around her, making things that are a beautiful as she possibly can. A person who tries to be kind to everyone.

Sitting alone, eating in solitude, doesn’t feel like something a good person should have to do, because good people are a pleasure to be around. They have friends! They get invited to parties! They love their lives!

This revelation represents the deepest, most heart-clenched core of my relationship with food – that teensy place in my body where a little girl curls up with fists balled and eyes shut, praying to be loved by the world around her. It is that little girl whose heart is broken, a product of her childhood circumstances. It is that little girl who deserves all of my love and compassion.

But it’s not food that little girl is after.