When I was young, my family went through some financial hardships, as so many families do from time to time. My dad was sick and unable to work, and my mom and I were sort of marooned on a bit of property in the middle of nowhere. My family had been in the middle of building a house when my dad collapsed and had to be hospitalized. Two of my brothers were able to come home and help my mom. One worked in town, and the other worked with a friend at a local dairy farm. Once the bills were paid every week, there wasn’t much left.
I remember, one night, one of the boys came home with a special treat. He had stopped to fill up the truck and had some change left over. He bought a candy bar. Instead of enjoying it all by himself (after all, we would never have known), he brought it home to share. I still remember the four of us standing around the table. Mama brought over the cutting board and her paring knife. We laughed and joked in anticipation as she carefully sliced the candy bar into 4 equal parts. Then, we sat together at the table in silence, each of us enjoying the chocolatey bliss – trying to make it last as long as possible.
I think that, sometimes, for those of us who have had to come to terms with seemingly unreasonable limitations, we set the bar low. Say, the height of a Snickers bar? Sure, I had some big dreams, but for the most part, I settled with the idea of maybe getting a Coke or a candy bar here and there. It was much easier to imagine coming up with .50 cents than say, $50. It was easy to bury my sorrows in a Hershey Bar and a Grape Nehi. It was easy to spend $1 and escape the realities of life, if only for a little while. Besides, I was never really going to explore the mysteries of The Sphinx or breathe in fresh heather on the moors, right? Surviving was hard, but it was enough. At least, that’s what I told myself.
Now, as an adult, I realize that not everyone has an emotional relationship with their food. For instance, I have a lovely friend who has never struggled with her weight. She is active and does not overeat, although she enjoys baking and eating out. I asked her what her secret is – how on earth does she not gain weight?? She said she simply stops eating when she’s full. If she’s full, it’s no problem for her to pass up seconds or dessert. If she makes a batch of cookies, she can enjoy one and be done. Simple as that. To me, that sounds like a foreign concept. How on earth can food not be tied in with your happiness? With your dreams, and your self worth?
My sweet friend doesn’t know what it is to be an emotional eater, and I’m happy for her that she doesn’t. Perhaps she has other vices, but emotional eating is not one of them. She can say no to seconds because she trusts there will be a next time, and, from what I can tell, she has bigger things to look forward to than the next trip to the grocery store.
I’m learning to expect more from life than a candy bar split 4 ways. As beautiful as that moment of sharing was and is, I am learning that my dreams can and should be bigger. I am learning that, when I’ve had a rough day and feel sad or alone, the vending machine isn’t a time machine. Carbohydrates aren’t going to magically transport me back to my little circle of familial love and security, no matter how much I wish they could.
Fortunately, life is bigger than chocolate. I know, I know – I can hear your denials even now 🙂 But, seriously. As lovely as chocolate is, (and yes, it is quite lovely, indeed) I hope to establish greater expectations for myself 🙂 Say, a bouquet of purple/pink heather and a walk on the moors on a not too windy day? Yes. Yes, I think that is a lovely start…