I’m one of those people who picks a word of the year every year. Typically, I make a low-grade production of it early in January as a sort of milestone to help me look back, be aware, and ask God what he’s trying to teach me through this word. I always put some prayer behind picking my word because I want to make sure it’s something God wants me to work on and not just something I think is cool or would be fun or would make a popular Instagram post. Not that I’ve ever been guilty of that before or anything; you know, I hear some people might do that.
This year, I prayed and looked at lists and really struggled to settle on a word that made sense to me. Every other year I’ve done this, I felt one word jump out and flash in front of me in a way there was no mistaking it. This year I wrestled with a few words that didn’t hold up while one word kept peeking out from behind.
Why AWAKE? It didn’t make sense to me and didn’t resonate with me. I sort of thought I already was awake. I mean, I’ve been in recovery and therapy and all the self-aware places for a long time. For. A. Really. Long. Time. If I wasn’t awake by now was it ever really going to happen? I would slam my laptop closed and walk away. But every time I went back at it, there was that word again. AWAKE.
So I went with it. And I waited. I waited for something to make sense or jump out or speak to me. January turned to February and then March. Nothing. I began to think maybe I was being foolish and had picked the wrong word. But then, mid-March, some things started shifting. There were moments, instances, brief happenings when I felt like my eyes were being opened. And not like a gentle sun rising through the curtains sort of eye-opening. These moments felt like when a friend dumps a bucket of ice on the first kid to fall asleep at a sleepover. These were eyes wide open moments. I was awake.
There were things about my health, things about my parenting, things about my marriage, things I believed to be true and weren’t, and things I thought were lies but were true. I was waking up to lies I had told myself since childhood and truth I had ignored for years.
When a person is working the 12-Steps in their life, they are supposed to take inventory of behaviors and not allow themselves to sit in denial of how these behaviors affect their life and the lives of the people around them. In a sense, stepping out of denial is like an awakening. I am very aware of certain behaviors I have a tendency to slip into. But I have been struggling to get to the root of one. Numbing my pain. I have become such a pro at numbing the pain of stress, anger, heartache, etc. that I had slipped into denial that I was doing it most of the time. I was numbing in so many ways that I didn’t even realize what I was doing.
Years ago I had a therapist tell me that the state of your desk at work and your closet at home is a good tell on the state of your mind. I don’t know that I buy into that as an absolute, but I can tell you that my desk and my closet are both out of control.
I’ve always felt like the state of my body is a better indicator of how I’m doing spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I can tell you in all honesty that I weigh more right now that I ever have in my entire life. All that numbing meant packing on layer upon layer to protect me. It meant mindless choices to eat and drink, drink and eat, all in hopes of feeling something, experiencing something other than what was in front of me.
This puts me in a quandary. It was only a year and a half ago that I made a fairly public proclamation that I was done treating my body so terribly. I announced to the world that I was tired of mistreating myself and ignoring my health and pretending I’m not a diabetic. I went on a KETO diet and told everyone. I did a 21 day fast from alcohol and grains and ate less than 20 carbohydrates a day. I started dropping weight like crazy and felt amazing. Then the holidays hit and I cheated a little here and a little there but always got back on track. Then the spring came and was full of celebrations and parties and I fudged some and it was harder to get on track. And then when summer arrived, I leaped off the wagon willingly and quickly. I said I didn’t need strict rules. I told myself I could manage myself, my weight and my health and my spirit, without the need of a diet. Diet was a 4-letter-word.
I was closing my eyes to the reality that I am an emotional eater. I was pretending I’m not a food addict. I was lying to myself that I could deal with my marriage and parenting and job just fine on my own and that having an extra serving at dinner or popping a few pieces of chocolate on a stressful day didn’t mean I was out of control. I told myself that everyone eats ice cream when they’re stressed or grabs a snack bag of chips to take the edge off. I laughed at people who couldn’t hole their wine because I was quickly becoming the lady who could hold my fair share and yours as well. And with all these choices, I was diving into the depths of denial. Denial is a warm and cozy place where I could curl up under a blanket and go to sleep, pretending the troubles of the world weren’t mine and that I didn’t need to deal with them anymore.
God wants me to wake up. He wants me to throw back the blanket and step into the sun. His Son came to live and die so that I could be freed from slavery to sin. He broke the chains of sin and death for me to live in the freedom he offers freely. I would love to tell you I got out of bed one morning and was wide awake to my issues and dropped them off at the side of the road. I’d love to be able to write that my mind was opened, my heart was healed, and I haven’t touched a carb since. But that is not the case.
Here’s what I’m doing. I am praying every single day for God to open my eyes to the moments, the triggers, the people, the instances, that make me reach for food or drink instead of Jesus. I am asking him to help me be present when I eat. This means engaging with the people at the table. Back up. This means sitting at a table and not eating on the run. It means putting the phone or tablet away and looking people in the eye. It means sitting down my fork and spoon and breathing between bites.
Being awake to this issue also means treating my body with love and respect because it’s a gift from God. I have strong legs that used to run very fast. I have hands that write, type, create, and love. My hands held my babies hands and still do when they let me. My eyes are not as strong as they used to be but they’ve seen beauty and ugly, joy and pain. They’ve read thousands of stories. They’ve looked into eyes of people who love me and people who don’t. My curves have grown and changed through my life – from giving birth, from having a hysterectomy, to entering menopause. My curves give my husband a place to hold me, to love me.
But I want to be healthy with both my body, my heart, my mind, and my soul. They’re all so connected that I can’t separate them…and I’ve been trying to do that for much of my adult life. So here I am, putting myself out here – AGAIN – saying I’m trying. I’m asking God to help me. This attempt to hand it all over to God has daunted me for years. I’ve given in, I’ve given up, and I’ve tried again. This habit of numbing has been the heaviest set of shackles I’ve ever worn and I’m ready to be free.