“Wait! Come back! I forgot to say goodbye!” I scream, as my old Subaru speeds down the street. Feeling the painful emotions from the last glimmer of my silver Subaru vanishing forever, I cry relentlessly, grieving for its loss with deepening sadness. Wondering if forgotten items lay inside it, how would I ever retrieve them if I remember? What little memory did I leave for someone else to discover? Did I really want to send my superhero vehicle away? Was I regretting the decision to depart from it as it began to move out of the driveway? Did I need to check the seat cushions again, glove compartments, and nooks and crannies to ensure nothing forgotten erroneously awaited my finding it? Although I had checked twice, why am I 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 and lost childhood 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 hotel’s 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 contained 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 of college in Washington, DC, feeling alone in need of comfort, I walked to Georgetown to a little 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 reel-to-reels all day long. Tickets were two dollars for the day. Memories of Jules and Jim, 8 1/2, Casablanca, La Dolche Vida, and La Belle est Beast spin 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 where escapism existed, living below the edge of reality, removed from painful loneliness and discomfort.
Meringue also starred in a similar scenario. Eating tubs of these sweet cookies 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. Insecurity and a depressed state of being vanished within each meringue bite. My apartment sat across from a pharmacy where a sixteen-ounce Hershey Bar and a large bag of Lays potato chips also had my name on them. Like the meringues, these items served the same purpose as did several trips to the bakery for elephant-ear pastries. To denounce feelings was an avenue like fighting a tide, yet hiding behind the food, weight, and numbing were supreme allies in direct combat of feeling and expressing painful emotions.
Although lack of self-worth was the underlying predicament resulting in bingeing behavior, sadness, loneliness, and depression solidified consuming unhealthy foods. As numbing agents of painful emotions of my past, feeling unloved, unaccomplished, “un” of many sorts, brought more misery as the weight piled on, and my self-image deteriorated. Guilt and shame associated with food as early as age eleven. Hearing my mother say, “Who’s in the cookie jar,” as the lid crept onto its enclosure, making an inkling of a noise she heard no matter how small a sound or far she sat from the container. The hidden empty wrappers found in my bedroom, as if hoarding food in shame, represented additional emotional pain lurking within.
Foods for numbing acted as allies and pillars in earlier days. They served as foot soldiers against what I deemed non-survivable emotions that needed a ‘Catcher in the Rye’, my inability to function without their defense. My anger, disappointment, and sadness as a child needed a 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, energy waned, and self-esteem plummeted from an additional stabbing with each blown diet. Wanting relief, my methods became ruinous and destructive, and deeper into depression I fell.
When my recent healing journey began, a commitment to feel emotions fully, and respect my body with food as fuel, the old foods that served me well in earlier years lost their value. They served a purpose when I needed them. Nostalgia and gratitude I have for these edible goodies that helped me hide from the grave pain that felt insurmountable and inconsolable. Had I given them merit, praised how they comforted in moments too painful to feel, too hurtful to embrace, that I now 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! Did I forget something? I forgot to say goodbye and thank you for being a friend when I needed you most.”