“Wait! Come back! I forgot to say goodbye!” I screamed, as my Subaru sped down the street. Feeling the painful emotions from the last glimmer of my silver Subaru vanishing forever, I cried relentlessly, attempting to relieve the grief I felt for its loss. Wondering if I forgot anything inside it, how I would ever retrieve it if I remembered? What little memory did I leave for someone else to discover? Did I really want to send it away? Had I regretted the decision to depart from the Forester as it began to move out of my driveway? Did I need to check the seat cushions again, glove compartments and nooks and crannies to ensure something of mine was not forgotten? Although I had checked it twice, why a feeling that something was missing, and somehow I was unable to find it in the confines of the vehicle?
I awoke suddenly, feeling the sadness for a vehicle I had not owned in a decade. Yet the sadness was familiar, like a great ache of nostalgia, wanting back a mechanism that brought joy to my life. As I lay in bed thinking of the “Silver Rocket,” the name I penned my car back in the day, visions of missed items formed in my memory, a book I wrote and illustrated in elementary school my mom had thrown away. Having worked incredibly hard writing and coloring it, my devastation of that loss was great. A pink, musical, stuffed bunny that was swept away in the sheets at Disney World was lost forever with the cleaning service. Yet it marked the final birthday present my Uncle Louie had given me before he passed away causing tears to drown me in sorrow for years. As these memories dissipated, a conversation chimed in my head from a few weeks prior.
“Do you miss the food, the ones you gave up?” A friend had inquired, wondering how the elimination of gluten, simple sugars, and most dairy was possible for any extended period of time. I recall thinking it was not much of a sacrifice when the rewards were extraordinary: weight loss, energy, joy for life, feeling comfortable in my skin and worthy of respecting my body while having a new love of life that had greater value than any food. Yet now as I awaken, I feel an intense sadness, as if forgetting to say goodbye to something I valued with great affection and incredibly grief stricken about its departure and loss.
Freshman year college in Washington, DC, feeling alone in need of comfort, I walked to Georgetown to a little popcorn store that sold caramel covered popcorn in a variety of flavors. Grabbing a gigantic bag, I pranced to the Circle Theater, an old cinema that repeatedly cycled through a double feature of classic, foreign, and old films all day long. Tickets were two dollars per double feature. Memories of Jules and Jim, 8 1/2, Casablanca, La Vida Loca, and La Belle est Beast reel through my mind now. With sweet and salty popcorn, comforted by the escape into the world of film and numbed by the food, loneliness scattered as the reel spun and circumvented my pain, sadness leapfrogged into pure contentment from the big screen of black and white. This was my heaven, living on a the edge of reality, jumping into escapism regularly.
Meringue has also served a similar purpose. Eating tubs of these sweet delights until exhaustion set in, or my tongue grew sore from excessive straight shots of sugar, the crash of my blood sugar level drove me into a deep sleep, preventing any feelings from reaching the surface. Thoughts of insecurity and a depressed state of being vanished with each bite of meringue goodness. My apartment in Boston sat across from a CVS Pharmacy where a sixteen-ounce Hershey Bar and a large bag of Lays potato chips had my name on them often. Like the meringues, these items served the same purpose as several trips to the bakery for elephant-ear cookies. To denounce the feelings was one avenue like fighting a tide, but hiding purely behind the food, weight, and numbness were supreme allies in direct combat of feeling emotions, especially the painful ones.
Although lack of self worth was the underlying predicament resulting in bingeing behavior, sadness, loneliness, and depression solidified not surrendering unhealthy foods. As numbing agents of painful emotions of my past, feeling unloved, unaccomplished, un of any sort, brought more misery as the weight piled on, and my self image deteriorated. Guilt and shame were also connected to food as early as age eleven. Hearing my mother say, “Who’s in the cookie jar,” as the lid crept onto its closure, making an inkling of a noise that she could hear no matter how small or far she sat away from the container. The hidden empty wrappers, she found in my bedroom as if hoarding food in shame were a better avenue.
These foods for numbing emotional pain had acted as allies and pillars in earlier days. They served as foot soldiers against what I deemed unsurvivable emotions that needed a ‘catcher in the rye’, my inability to function without their defense. My anger, disappointment, and sadness as a child needed respite from their existence; food worked overtime. Yet as the years progressed, food’s due diligence caused more injury than relief. The weight crept up, my energy waned, and self esteem plummeted from an additional stabbing with each blown diet. I wanted relief, yet my methods became fatal and destructive; deeper into depression I fell.
When my recent journey began, a commitment to feeling emotions fully, and respecting my body with food as fuel, the old foods that served me well in earlier years had lost their value. They served a purpose at a time when I needed them. There is a nostalgia and gratitude for these edible goodies that helped me hide from the grave pain that felt unsurvivable. Had I ever given them merit, spoken my peace about how much they helped in moments too painful to feel, too hurtful to embrace, that I now may look upon their former value as a gift given out of love rather than destruction? Today food serves a different function, yet acknowledging my past and the foods that sweetened and spiced up my life feels necessary for closure and releasing their foothold and connection.
“It is time to let you go, my sweets. But wait! I forgot to say goodbye and thank you for being a friend when I needed you most.”