I can’t believe it’s the last day of November. This month really flew by…probably due to lots of exams, Thanksgiving break, and dealing with my concussion. It’s strange when I think back to October and how sane everything was – life was moving slower. This month, things really picked up speed quickly and I found it hard to keep up.
I think that’s kind of how life is – there may be months or even years where everything seems sort of in control, where you’re not dealing with any crises or emergencies. Then there are weeks or months where things feel out of control and you have to just try to survive on a day to day basis. I feel like for me November was one of those months. Let’s just say I’m glad that it’s over tomorrow 😉
On to what I really wanted to touch on – holidays. The word “holiday” has a different connotation for everyone, depending on age/stress level/personality etc. My mom (and millions of other people) claims to hate the holidays, I think mainly because she’s under a lot of pressure to do Christmas shopping for so many different people. We have a huge family – my mom has 4 siblings and my dad has 5 – so there is admittedly a lot of shopping and planning to do. She’s in particular under pressure to ensure that my sisters and I all get “equal” presents – my older sister is notoriously cheap and gets really upset when things seem “uneven.”
I, on the other hand, love the holidays. Going to Catholic school when I was young probably cemented this for me. Once Thanksgiving was over, each class would have an Advent wreath and lots of Christmas decorations. In elementary school we’d make gifts for our parents in class and have Christmas parties. There would also be a lot of education about the Catholic meaning of Christmas. This is one of the main reasons I’m glad I was sent to Catholic school – Christmas for me isn’t a completely secular holiday. Sure, I love getting gifts and giving gifts. If someone tells you they don’t – they’re lying. But Christmas to me is about singing carols, the candy cane in your shoe, decorating the tree, going to Midnight Mass to celebrate, and spending time with my family. My absolute favorite smell in the world is a real Christmas tree – nothing better than those lovely pine needles! I could go on forever about everything I love about the holiday season…but I won’t 🙂 The holidays have always been a very happy time for me, not because of some accomplishment or achievement – but just because everyone sort of slows down for at least one day and takes note of the present.
All holidays began in some way or another, but I think one of the best consequences of a holiday is that it allows you to mark the passage of time. Think about this – do you remember what you did last April 28th? Unless it was your birthday or a day of some significance, the answer is probably no. BUT if I asked you – do you remember what you did last Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/etc? I’m almost positive that everyone could remember something about the way they felt that day, or something that happened, or what state their life was in.
Celebrating Thanksgiving last Thursday was very special for me because it allowed me to reflect on the past year. I’ve been “in recovery” almost a year now, and on any given day it’s often difficult for me to evaluate progress I’ve made; I know I’m doing better than I was before recovery, but it’s hard to honestly say how much because I was so positively miserable while in the depths of my eating disorder.
On Thanksgiving morning my parents and I went for a long walk (the only exercise I’m allowed to do right now with my bum brain!) down by the Hudson River. We live on the side roads right near the Hudson and Vanderbilt Mansion (I’m blessed to have such beautiful and inspiring landscape so close by). I took the time to think back on last Thanksgiving – how I felt and what I did. I was so afraid of eating too much that day – it is, after all, a holiday that truly centers around food (giving thanks for the harvest). I remember running the same walk I was doing, and running as hard as I could to try and burn a lot of calories. I remember restricting all day and then only allowing myself to eat the “healthy” options on the table and only to have one small serving…despite my hunger. And I remember thinking all of those rules were completely normal – I remember feeling like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, doing right.
Fast forward one year – I’ve gotten to a place where food isn’t always what I’m thinking about. I haven’t been allowed to exercise for three weeks and I haven’t “blown up like a balloon” like I used to believe would happen if I even missed one day. More importantly, I’ve come to terms with more important things – issues I had with my ex-boyfriend, with my family, with myself. I’ve learned a lot about who I am and what is really important to me. And I have things that I want to do with my life outside of school and athletics. I’ve found writing as an outlet, I’ve opened up to friends and gained the most amazing support system, I’ve been honest with myself and I’ve learned to let go of the fact that I had a full-blown eating disorder and to move forward, knowing that I’ll always have those temptations but I am stronger than an illness. I’ve learned how to eat again and do slip up from time to time, but the important thing is I let myself start over at my next snack/meal and forget about what I did instead of harping on it.
Yes, I enjoyed my Thanksgiving meal. But I enjoyed more the feeling of home, the time spent with my family members, the laughter and stories that were shared. I enjoyed talking about my plans for next year. I ate turkey, stuffing, gravy, acorn squash, pumpkin AND apple pie. I ate until I was full but not stuffed like a normal person. It’s taken some time for me to “re-learn” how to eat, but I think I am almost there, and Thanksgiving helped me take an honest look at how far I’ve come and how close I am to being free.
I’ve had a rough month, but Thanksgiving break came at just the right time. It allowed me to recharge for finals and to heal my concussion without the stresses of school. I’m hoping to get cleared to swim today after almost a month out of the pool! AHH! But this rest has taught me a lot about exercise. My exercise habits were definitely not healthy, and as poorly-timed as this was it was definitely necessary for me in the future.
I also had the opportunity to go to an interview in Boston yesterday -more on that in a later post 🙂 cross your fingers for me!!
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.