She was having a bad game in goal. I was having a bad day in general. I sat huddled in the stands with my friend in her giant bedspread, a worthy opponent to the Oklahoma winter wind. My daughter had been asked to fill in for a goal keeper, and getting her there required a missed appointment, approximately seventeen trips across town, chasing the dogs in heels down the street and getting stuck, of course, in traffic.
We shivered as we watched another goal rattle the net behind my kid.
“It’s okay. I’ll stop for ice cream,” I told my friend.
We sat for seconds in the silence before we laughed.
“I’m going to teach her to eat her feelings, like a good American woman!” I said as my friend echoed my thoughts exactly. Obviously, I was kidding
“I’m so bad,” we say. “I ate a brownie at lunch.”
“This is guilt-free.”
“I feel guilty about eating that (whatever it is that we think we’re not supposed to eat.).
There is no such thing as a food that turns a person bad. Eating a brownie or a carton of ice cream or a bag of chips, (or all three) does not make a person evil.
I used to carry around a lot of these ideas. My days were ordered by what I could and what I could not eat, decided by whatever crazy algorithm I had decided would solve all my problems.
And honestly, that’s just not very fun. It’s boring. And tedious. And unsustainable. Some people can do it. I could, if I wanted to. I don’t want to. I don’t want to feel bad about my food choices. I don’t want to spend more time making decisions about salad dressing than time with my family.
I don’t feel shame anymore when I eat, and enjoy, a sweet treat. I don’t doubt my value as a person if I like chips with my sandwich or refuse to purchase whole fat creamer for my coffee.
I only feel shame now when I eat to silence the pain.
I know when I’m doing it. I know why. And I wantonly throw piles of crappy food choices, sometimes even healthy food choices down my gullet so fast the flavor doesn’t have time to register. I know my triggers, too. Long days full of bad news, certain times of the month, even certain people flick up the flare of food lust in me.
I open the pantry and stand in awe, looking for that thing that will be my answered prayer, that will cure my loneliness, that will make me perfect, or grant me that job, or clean my kitchen.
Turns out, that food doesn’t exist. And I know that, too, hence the shame.
I know where to go, rather than the pantry when I am lonely. I know how to breathe deep into the empty space inside me, that space that does not want calories but words and time and touch. I know how to bend my knee when I think that salt and sugar would surely suffice.
So I remind myself, and I cast down my idols, and I sit down to a meal on a real plate, at a real table, and I chew, and taste and enjoy. And I bend my knee, and bow my head and murmur the prayers, the chains of whispered beggings I have learned and carried, my own mana.
How do you step away from false shame?