Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation? Maybe Not.

T-minus 1 day left of vacation and then we make the twelve hour return drive back to Pennsylvania. I have a sneaking suspicion IT is hitching a ride up in the car topper, squashed somewhere between the suitcases, dog food, and sand pails. I wish it could be as easy as burying IT in the sand out at Point Beach on Lake Michigan, preferably under a pile of dog poop which is then under a mountain of sand.

But IT is persistent and resourceful—à la purging in the blueberry patch. On a whim, my husband and I went into Old Navy (50% off sign luring us) and I swiped up a few pairs of shorts and jeans to try on in front of, what felt like, Titanic sized full-length mirrors. Blech. Having to look at my almost naked body frontways and sideways and crossways? IT snickered, “You don’t really think you look passable in that, do you? Look at your fat butt and your flabby stomach. Look at how godawful BIG you are!” Or the past few nights having dinner parties with friends—friends I see once a year. You’d think I’d be engaged by their company, that I’d be able to relax and let down my guard. Instead, I was skittish, tense, felt far away, unable to be present. I felt like Helga in the Wyeth painting, “Farm Road”: she’s standing with her back turned resolutely away from the viewer, looking off into the distance at what? Not at the lone, dark tree on the horizon, but at the damning wall of earth in front of her. She is at a remove from the rest of the world, inaccessible, lost, like me, in her head.

That’s been the difficulty with this vacation. I’ve been too much with myself—IT has pulled me in, has gotten me tangled up with the bleak, awful thoughts. Thoughts of suicide worming their way in even on the best of days. And there have been lovely, heartbreaking days. My in-laws have an in-ground pool, so we’ve spent afternoon after afternoon sprawled on lounge chairs, both the stationary and floating kind. I’ve been reading well-written but brainless books under sunshine—the Stieg Larssen, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I watched my daughter perfect what she calls, “The Sea Dragon” dive: arms tucked at her sides for descent, body rippling up and down through the water on ascent. Similarly, I watched my son brave his fear of water and plunge, willy-nilly in all manner of spastic forms, off the diving board. And my husband? I’ve watched a lot of the stress of the past year slide away as he hangs with his old college friends, drinks good wine, and makes brilliant food.

Why is this heartbreaking? Because IT slithers in and tells me I’d better store up these beautiful memories because this is my swansong. That I should squirrel them away because I won’t live to see them repeat next summer. I feel like the terminal invalid sitting lakeside in an Adirondack chair, camp blanket tucked around my legs, knowing full well these are the last days.

I know logically there is no reason for me to feel this way. In a conversation with Dr. B. (yes, a vacation phone session) he reminded me that he knows and believes that I can recover from IT. That I am not some passive slug; that I am, in fact, a fighter. Yes, fierce and brave. And that I need to bring all forces of will to bear on fighting off IT. No, defeating IT. Rising, like a phoenix, from this ash.

I don’t know that I believe this yet, but for now, I suppose it is enough that Dr. B. does. He holds onto hope for me. As he reminded me, when my kids were swimming in the frigid waters of Lake Superior last week, I didn’t take my eyes off them for an instant. Intense, ever-present vigilance. This is what I need to combat IT. So I am vigilant these days, taking note of what I feel might be the beginning of a manic uptick:

I’ve been waking up a lot the past few nights which is always cause for preliminary alarm—four a.m., eyes wide open, feeling wired.

Consumed with restless energy that even a 6am run can’t counter—and running even when I feel exhausted—unable to give myself a pass, to say NO to IT’s demands.

Can I say irritable for absolutely no reason?

I’ve been ruminating nonstop the past few days, unable to shut off the cascade of negative thoughts—many urges to self-harm.

The world—and my family—feel like they are at great remove from me.

Those bothersome thoughts of suicide.

And a nightmare last night: that I had a manic meltdown of the most spectacular kind and was in the car with my husband being driven to the State Hospital (all the while fretting over the class I was supposed to be teaching at that very moment). The effects of this dream are lingering, have me in a funk because it feels like confirmation of what I’ve been feeling all along: I am not headed in the right direction and am, once again, walking on that terrifying edge.

So, enough evidence to suggest I need to be Superhero vigilant, armed with the anti-IT ray gun. Even on vacation.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Missive from Middleton

I’m still feeling the effects of an icky hangover from a most humiliating cocktail: I was caught purging by my husband. This happened days ago and should have, by now, receded into the land of repressed memories. And really, it’s happened so often it shouldn’t really be a big deal. But it was.

The scene: I was still at my friend’s house in Upper Peninsula, Michigan and spent the afternoon walking the beach, collecting driftwood for my daughter’s lizard cage, and watching over the kids as they heroically swam in the very cold waters of Lake Superior. We wandered back up to the house and had an afternoon snack of chips and homemade salsa—fiery hot habanero peppers, freshly picked tomatoes. It was good, and for once, I was actually hungry.

So I ate a few chips. Ate them fast, tried to pretend that eating them was okay, that my hunger was okay but IT kept nudging me in the ribs: Fatso. You aren’t allowed to be hungry. You don’t get to eat between meals. YOU ARE BINGING and that is DISGUSTING. You are disgusting.

Panic.

Christopher went back down to the beach to gather up swimsuits; I strolled out into the woods to collect wild blueberries for my next day’s breakfast. No concrete thought of purging. Truly. I was simply going to spend fifteen minutes collecting blueberries, like some bucolic woods version of Laura Ingalls Wilder (who was my hero for much of my childhood.) I bent down to the bushes and the mere act of bending over immediately triggered that big bad urge to purge. Like a muscle memory. All I had to do was open my mouth, tighten my stomach muscles, and Bam!(as Emeril might say).

And then I raised my head and saw Christopher striding purposefully towards me.
What do I do? I didn’t want to get caught so I took a step to the side and stood on top of my vomit. Let me repeat: I stand in my vomit. IT said: You are a cesspool. You are truly disgusting. This is how low you have sunk—standing in your own slop.

But I also thought: It could work. I might be able to keep Christopher from seeing what I’ve done. And what have I done? Contaminated the woods, ruined the blueberry patch. At the very least, have reduced myself to exactly what I hate—this furtive, sneaking, deceitful animal.

So Christopher kindly made small talk for a few moments—about going to the bear sanctuary the next day, about a bonfire later on the beach, about how wonderful this trip has been for the kids—their freedom, their ability to explore the woods and beach, to be kids. (And I’m thinking: You will never be that innocent again. IT will never let you go.)

Finally, he sighed. “You purged,” he said, matter-of-factly.

I nodded.

“Why,” he asked.

“Because I ate some chips.”

“Then you shouldn’t have eaten them if you were going to purge” he said.

“But I was hungry” I said.

“Of course, you’re hungry. All you eat is yogurt for breakfast and lunch. I’m surprised you’re not ravenous.”

“I don’t get to be hungry,” I said.

More of the same back and forth, no resolution except for the agreement that I would try to turn my back on IT, redouble my efforts, salvage what was left of the vacation.

Which is what I am trying to do as I sit here in my in-laws living room in Middleton, Wisconsin, on my husband’s birthday. A day where I have played golf badly, but had fun, a day where I managed to eat Mexican food for the first time in years and didn’t purged afterwards, a day where I put on my bikini and hung out with the kids at the pool, a day where I was able to give my husband the best birthday gift possible—IT tried to make inroads, but I have not let it. Instead, I have managed to bask in the sunshine of my family’s love and support and understanding. A vacation, if only for a day, indeed.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Missive from the UP

It has been a perfect day, thus far. I don’t get many of those. Most of the time, I’m twist-tied by anxiety, by urges to not eat or purge or cut. But today, nada.

I should add that I am on VACATION. That’s right. Time off from IT, Time in for pleasure, leisure, friends.

Where am I? I’m not exactly sure of the GPS coordinates, but it took us almost 12 hours of driving to get here. HERE = Grand Marais, Upper Peninsula, Michigan at our friends house which is located on Lake Superior. Believe me, I never expected to be the kind of North Woods loving gal. I grew up on Long Island. Directly in Fitzgerald’s East Egg: superfluous money, country clubs, and sail boats on the Long Island Sound. But here I am, thank god, in what I, even the very lapsed Catholic might call God’s Own Country. Our friends' house is located down a long paved road away from the small town, then still much further down an unpaved road, then a left turn into the woods.

I should mention that I am not roughing it. We have a beautiful house, on a spectacular beach. Last night, after all the kiddos went to sleep, we sat around the fire, watching the stars, chatting about where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Where am I going? That is the question everyone seems to be asking. Because the assumption is: I’m doing well, these days. Even mood, eating according to meal plan, purging on hold. How do I tell the truth? I tell it to Dr. B. but not anyone else. I’m not doing all that well. Even mood? Attributable to the fact that I don’t want 6 months in the State hospital so I am doing my damndest to float, to not talk about the dark urges. The mealplan? Oh, I am still dishonest, scrimping and skipping when I can. Purging? At least five times a week. Whenever, whatever. A handful of dried fruit? A teaspoon of ice cream? Everything is puking possible.

But I digress. Because today has thus far been a perfect day and what I’m doing is counting it all off, day by perfect, by honest, by real, by healthy day.

After the epic car drive, the lovely campfire, the happily Trazadoned sleep, I woke up, thankfully, early to the a brilliant sunrise—exact slices of yellow and orange rising over the horizon and then, just as quickly, rolled over and went back to sleep for an hour. Next? A perfect morning run down a forested road, hopping over bear scat and fox poop. Breathing in and out, happy to be alive. Then a morning on the beach—watching my lovely, insane dogs paddle back and forth on the lake, Daphne even threatening to swim for Canada; Athena tentatively jumping in and out of the water.

But my kids! Climbing and jumping off from driftwood pile-ups, cramming fistfuls of wild blueberries into their mouths, swimming and splashing in the VERY COLD lake. Free and running and pell-mell tumbling and rock scavenging and happy, happy, happy.
Which is exactly how I feel. Wandering the beach with my long time friends, Amy and Corey. Talking about how I’m succeeding, being honest about where I’m failing. Feet in the sand, trotting after my son who is now an explorer, dragon-hunter, and excavator. Or watching my daughter in her bathing suit, how gracefully and efficiently and purposefully she moves.

But I must say it is also a bittersweet trip. The last time I was here was 5 years ago, before all the absolute, shitty mess of the Eating Disorder started, before the Bipolar Mania kicked in for psychotic real, before suicide attempts became the answerable norm. I was, in fact, pregnant with my son—expectant and joyous. Though I also need to remember the other reality, the one Christopher can recall: I was volatile, irritable, manic, obsessed with keeping my weight down, down, down.

But here I am. A daughter who is now 8, a son (who wasn’t here) now 4 1/2. I’m sitting here in a lovely room, with the backdrop of rain, and my friend Amy sitting across from me, and my husband and Corey down on the beach, under the shelter of a wood fort they constructed, drinking beer and being friends and being the best dads in the world. And all of our kids are sitting in front of me, watching a movie, kids under rain at camp.

And I am here, writing this missive to you, with Fierce and Loved written on my arms, remembering that I am someone of consequence, someone who is loved. And now my husband and Corey return to assemble an elaborate dinner: risotto, lamb, green beans, and I will make something glorious for dessert and I WILL EAT and love and be loved and exult in this most perfect day.

What I have decided: double-layer dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate icing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Belly and Butt

At the vehement recommendation of my nutritionist, this week I am seeing a Body Dysmorphic Disorder specialist. My nutritionist believes that my insistence that I am fat, huge, and enormous (because this is how I feel) indicates there is more than just distorted thinking involved. Maybe she’s right, but I can’t help but point out that this is how I’ve always felt--I have never been at home in my body, whether it was too skinny or too fat—so I’m not sure how my thinking, my perceived comfort level with arms and legs and belly and butt will change.

According to information I’ve pinched from the Mayo Clinic site, this disorder is “a type of chronic mental illness in which you can't stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw either that is minor or that you imagine. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful and distressing that you don't want to be seen by anyone. Body dysmorphic disorder has sometimes been called ‘imagined ugliness.’”

Okay. Perhaps I meet some of the criteria: I do obsess over my body’s size. But this stems from a vow that I made to myself that I would never be a body that anyone could call fat. Why? Up until college, I’d always had crazy high metabolism. When I was much younger, I remember my best friend Erin and I would have Binge Wednesdays. This was the day of the week when our Catholic School let out early—before lunch—in order that the CCD students from the public schools could come in for religious education classes. So Erin and I would head to the local deli and order sandwiches (mine was always a salami and provolone stacked high), buy a bag of Doritos, a tube of Pringles, a can of Spaghetti O’s, and a bag of Starburst. We’d go to her house, sit at the kitchen table, and chow down for the next two hours straight. Happy, gluttonous eating.

Fast forward to college and all that free beer and the dining hall with its bagels and hash browns and then midnight pizzas. When I came home at Thanksgiving, I’d gained precisely fifteen pounds. My dad, not knowing what to say to this puffy faced, chubby daughter, said without thinking, “Well, you’ve certainly put on the pounds.”

I wanted to die of shame.

Instead, I spent the next several months exercising like a maniac and subsisting on frozen yogurt. I lost the fifteen and then some.

That vow also has its roots in an incident with my mom. I was watching her play mixed-doubles tennis one afternoon, impressed, as always, by her ferocious serve, her quick, slicing backhand, her willingness to dive for balls. My mother has always been an athlete and it is from her that I learned to enjoy sports and competitive play (starting at age five, she’d haul me out on the tennis court and we’d practice forehands and backhands and lobs and serves for hours!). But as she came off the court that day, her partner, not my father but some macho country club jerk, tapped her butt with his racquet and said, “You’d move faster if you lost some of that ass.” My mother is not someone who loses her composure, and so she laughed him off and poured herself a glass of water. But she had to have been hurt, had to have felt ashamed. Or maybe not. Maybe she did really just laugh him off. Maybe she could give a fuck what he said. Maybe she thought, “Screw you, asshole.” Or maybe not. I don’t know because she never mentioned it.

But as I watched the exchange, I was embarrassed and ashamed for her, for me, for the me that might one day have some guy comment on the size of my ass. No way, I remember saying to myself, no way will anyone ever say something like that about me.

Now? Even though I know, objectively speaking, that I am not Jabba the Hut, I look in the mirror and that’s all I can see. Someone who is too big; someone who takes up too much space. I want a body that is whisper thin, a body that is beyond notice. That’s why it is so difficult for me to look in the mirror, a chore made doubly hard by our mirror which is only ¾ length, so my head and feet are chopped off. Which makes it possible, I suppose, for me to look at that headless body as a thing, like some discombobulated mannequin chucked in the back of a storeroom. Arms, legs, breasts, belly, butt. Not me, but an assembly of parts. Shin bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone….Which makes it easy for me to zero in on the parts of my body (all of them except my shoulders) that are shameful. As I regard those limbs, that torso, I can feel myself detaching: What I see before me, what I hate, is not a ME but an IT, and an IT that is NOT MINE.

I learned to do this a long time ago when I was in an abusive relationship. During sex, I would will myself not to feel, will myself to detach from (my) that body that was under assault—I can’t feel you, I would think over and over. You can touch that body, but you can’t touch me.

So it is nearly impossible for me to regard (my) that body as part of me. It’s what makes it easy for me to starve that body, to purge that body, and to cut that body. Not me, not mine. I can’t feel the pain. I can’t feel love for it.

So THAT BODY must somehow become mine, a body that I can love and respect, a body that can feel good as well as bad, a body that occupies space, a body that says I am Here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Question of Scars

Last night, my daughter and I were lolling on the bed, giggling about dragons, and Athena, our insane dog, and the invasion of the ants (a million degrees outside and all at once, an army of giant fat, black ants marched into my kitchen in search of—water? air conditioning? A cold Corona? I screeched; the kids dissolved into hysterics).

“I love you, Momma,” my daughter suddenly said, and then she began playing with the silver bracelet on my wrist, counting the beads, pushing it up and down, and then her fingers wandered up my arm, tracing the edges of the scars.

I froze. Please don’t consciously notice them, please don’t ask where they came from, please, please don’t touch them. The scars are all about damage and pain, and you, dear daughter, are about light and love. Please don’t let me contaminate you.

“How do you think you got these?” she asked. Of course. My daughter, always curious, studies the world around her with focused intensity. Earlier, she spent an hour watching the slow progress of her lizard molting its skin. Could I really assume that she wouldn’t see the dozens of white scars that etch my arm in their sad pattern?

I panicked. How could I answer that question? I don’t want her to imagine that I, her mother, might want to inflict pain, inflict such violence on myself. I am supposed to be the safe harbor against a painful, violent world. What would it mean for me to then be the source of all that is frightening?

A few days ago, she’d thrown a royal tantrum, as only an almost-eight-year old can. We were outside having a picnic lunch and she and her brother were fighting; so my daughter storms into the house, slamming the door behind her—and on her brother’s finger. I was furious, enraged at her thoughtlessness. After checking to make sure my son’s finger was okay (it was), I raced into the house after her.

“Into the time –out chair,” I said.

“No,” she said. “You can’t make me.”

So then I started yelling, and grabbed her by the arm and dragged her to the chair. She pulled back, started crying. “Momma,” she wept, “you’re scaring me.”
I let go and forgot to breathe. I do not want to be that kind of Momma who scares her kids. I don’t want to be the source of fear, of instability, of, god help me, pain.

Which is why, lying with her on the bed last night, listening to her question about the scars I couldn’t answer her with anything more than, “I can’t remember.”

“Maybe it was Athena,” she said, “when Athena was a puppy.”

“Maybe,” I said. I couldn’t lie but I couldn’t tell the truth.

“No,” she decided. “There’s too many scars for it to be Athena. Maybe you got hurt when you were a kid.”

Ahh! There is certainly a connection between cutting and my childhood, so… “That’s probably it,” I agreed. After all, my adolescence was marked by cuts on my wrists, and bracelets over the cuts, and long sleeves over the bracelets, and my inability to ask for help, to even imagine there was any help for me. And before that? There were the bruises that lined my shins from where I’d whack my legs with a tennis racquet. And before that? The bottle of Flintstone vitamins I swallowed in hopes that I, at age nine, would end. So yes, I suppose I got hurt when I was a kid.

Which is what makes me so desperately protective of my kids. I know there are the usual slights and insults of childhood that can build resilience and character. But I don’t want to be a thoughtless, careless, damaging momma. I’ve already done that.

Last year, on my birthday, my daughter once again in my bed, but I was out of my mind manic and filled with aggressive self-loathing. What did I do? I carried a pair of scissors with me into bed, and when she had rolled over, I furtively cut into my arm. Of course my husband caught me and the fallout was horrible. For weeks I wasn’t allowed to be alone with my children—not in fear that I would hurt them directly, but in fear that I’d hurt myself and they would be subject to that terror. Momma IS Mad.

So that’s what’s been holding me back from cutting again these past eight months. I don’t yet know how to answer the questions that come from my kids about what we cheerfully refer to as, “my brain sickness.” And it’s not just a matter of how, but rather, I don’t want to have to answer the question of why. Why, Momma, do you cut yourself? Why, Momma, aren’t we and our love, enough to stop you? Why, Momma, do you still want to die?

I want to live, so no new scars. And there is my promise to Dr. B. : I will live. I will live in love and light, my children’s’ and my own.

A Blog With Substance

I have been given the honor of a Blog with Substance Award.



As part of this award I have a couple of things to do:

The guidelines for accepting this award are:

•thank the person who gave you the award.
•sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience in/with five words.
•choose ten other blogs you consider to have substance.

I'd like to thank Magimom for this award and for her very kind and thoughtful comments she leaves for me; they inspire me to keep writing, to keep being honest, to keep being brave. Thanks for being a reader!

5 words? Writing this blog keeps me: brave, fierce, honest, hopeful, empowered.

10 other blogs?

http://thedifficultthings.blogspot.com/
http://untenured.blogspot.com/
http://www.pampersandpinot.com/
http://magimomsblog.wordpress.com/
http://greatfun4kids.blogspot.com/
http://semicrazed.blogspot.com/
http://www.thebipolardiva.com/
http://youthinkyoucanblog.wordpress.com/
http://thingsicantsay-shell.blogspot.com/
http://funwithbella.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kick ITs Ass

I am trying to kick ITs ass these days.

Yesterday, Dr. B. had me write my new words on my arms: Fierce and Brave.

“Do you know why I like these words so much?” he asked. “Because they require courage. I know you have that courage even if you don’t believe you do. It’s easy to capitulate to IT; it takes courage to turn away from IT towards love and family and connection.”

I sighed. “But what if I can’t? What happens when IT demands pain, demands punishment, demands that I die?”

“Look at me," he said. “I can see your future even if you can’t. Can you trust me to see it for you? To believe in the future where you die an old, wise woman surrounded by your family who loves you? It’s that or ITs path: revolving door institutionalization, confined to hospitals, creating chaos in your wake. You need to choose which life you want.”

“Obviously I want the life where I die old and loved, but I don’t know how to promise that I can carry it through,” I said.

“When you got married, did you know everything you were getting into when you made your promise of commitment? No, you were flying by the seat of your pants. Well, this is exactly like that. I need you to promise me that you will live. Can you give me that gift?” he asked.

Of course. My new mantra: Yield and say Yes. So I said, “I promise I will live.”

That promise has been dogging me all day. IT has been circling me—today was the day I saw my nutritionist, the day I found out what had happened with my weight. I am supposed to be gaining back weight I lost a few weeks ago, am supposed to be aiming for my agreed upon maintenance weight. But all I can think is that I don’t want to find out that I’ve gained weight. I don’t want to see the numbers on the scale increase, only decrease. So my intention, today, was to go for a long run, then restrict, wherever possible, what I had to eat, so that damned scale would show a decrease.

But that promise echoed inside me, filling me up with a desire to keep my promise to Dr. B. because he has been holding onto hope for me all these years. So instead of restricting, or sticking to safe food (i.e., yogurt and granola), I actually ate a hot dog for lunch. Today was a zillion degrees, so Christopher decided to start up the grill for lunch: hot dogs and hamburgers. I was already reaching for the yogurt container, already thinking about my appointment with the nutritionist in an hour, but there was Dr. B’s face, imploring me to take a chance and not listen to IT. So I put the container back. “I’ll have a hot dog,” I said, and ate it outside in the backyard with my family, sharing the same meal with them instead of isolating. Now, don’t jump to conclusions: IT was not banished completely. After I finished the hot dog, I immediately regretted eating it. On the drive to the nutritionist, I thought about pulling over in a parking lot, parking beside some dumpster, and purging lunch. But I kept on going. That was not who I wanted to be today.

Later, we all spent the afternoon at a friend’s pool. The kids swam nonstop for two hours, and I had a lovely time standing in the shallow end with my friend Alice chatting about summer travels, the difficulties of raising kids, my tattoo (a blue jay on a cherry blossom branch), my daughter’s inexhaustible supply of energy, my son’s newfound confidence in the water. Around five o’clock, her husband walked into the backyard bearing a stack of pizzas.

Fuck shit fuck shit, I thought. I can’t eat pizza. IT won’t let me eat pizza.

And at that thought, my promise echoed again. I will live, I will live. I eat to live, I eat to live. And there were my friends reaching for a slice of pepperoni and bacon and pineapple, and there were my kids, their faces already glistening with oil and smeared with sauce, and there was my husband asking me if I wanted a piece.

Did I want a piece? IT said, “No. Refuse. Restrict.”

Did I want a piece? Dr. B. said, “Be fierce. Be brave. You’ve promised to live.”

Did I take a piece, despite IT, to spite IT? Yes. Gloppy cheese and bacon. It was, unbelievably, good.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Birthday Blog

I am officially 38 and have managed to spend my birthday (and the day before and the day after) at home with my husband and kids and close friends. Bliss! I feel like the speaker in “Song of Myself”: I want to shout my barbaric YAWP from the rooftops! A shout that means I AM. And I, most indeed, am.

I am sitting on the couch on my front porch, watching the evening pull to a close, basking in its gentle sunshine, laptop on, well, my lap, writing this missive to me, but also to you.

I am feeling sunburned after spending the afternoon with the kids and Christopher at the community pool where I not only wore my bikini (hence telling IT to shut the Fuck Up), but I also shared an order of Garbage Fries with Christopher, while the kids devoured corn dogs and pizza and Slushees, and the only noise in my head was the buzz of happiness. I even bumped into a friend who asked me how it felt to “be home” for my birthday. She knows my history and asked in all serious kindness. “Fabulous,” I said. Really, I was grinning. Me. Ear to ear.

I am looking forward to leftovers from last night’s Birthday Dinner Party. I helped design the menu:

Antipasto:
Assorted Cheeses (Brie, Manchego, Conte, Gorgonzola); Prosciutto and Melon; Olives from the island of Thassos, Greece (the island that is my fantasy home)

Salad:
Honeymoon Salad (the salad Christopher and I stumbled to on a long walk down a dirt road on the first night of our honeymoon in Tuscany): Chopped Romaine and Fennel, Artichoke hearts, Pine Nuts, Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, and Parsley

Main Course:
Anti-Bucharest Seafood Stop in Italy ( a long story: we’d been living in Bucharest, land of most wretched cuisine and took a weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast where we found the most beautiful Seafood Ristorante on the outskirts of Positano): Spaghetti con Frutti di Mare—Spaghetti with Clams, Mussels, Octopus, Squid, Shrimp, and Scallops in a tomato/fennel broth.

All of the above was lovingly cooked by Christopher.

I made:

The Dessert:
A Provencal Almond-Raspberry-Blueberry Tart (for which most everyone came back for seconds)

I am sitting here, reciting the menu, and what I can say is that IT did not make an appearance AT ALL during the entire night. No guilty eating. No recriminations for eating. No furtive trips to the bathroom. In fact, I even asked Christopher to accompany me to the bathroom as a safeguard. Unheard of!

I am also remembering the absolute wonderfulness (my word), and perfect splendiferousness (Christopher’s word) of my intimate cadre of friends who came to the dinner last night. Complete kindness. Sheer magnanimous goodwill. And just because: my friend Barbara who came all decked out in her gorgeous party dress, a billowy green number that lifted the party to elegant heights. And she wore it because I said, “Let’s do summer frocks.” And she wore it, as she explained, ears twinkling quarter sized crystals, “because I want to celebrate you.” Me. I matter. I am a cause for celebration.

I am also remembering my friend Dan, who arrived late, without his beautiful sidekick Roberta, and sat down at my dining room table and looked at me down the length of said table and said, “You look great. Really. You do. You look great.” And I know he didn’t just mean my shimmery tank top and carefully ironed-flat hair. He meant ME—happy, effervescent, alive.

I am also remembering my friend Jen who lovingly walked with me through this party, keeping me company so I wouldn’t purge, wouldn’t isolate, wouldn’t listen to IT. She helped me take care of myself. Something I never would have imagined allowing a friend to do. “Remember,” she writes in my birthday card, “you walk in light and love.”

I am home, home, home and not at the Millcreek Hospital Pysch Unit or at some Eating Disorders Hospital. I am here, here, here ready to watch fireworks (not mine!) tomorrow with my family.

I am newly decorated. My left wrist now wears a new birthday watch, courtesy of Christopher. Isn’t this how things happen? Not out of coincidence but with purpose? Didn’t I just write a blog talking about my need and desire for Time? And now I have it. Time on my wrist. Time over scars. Time to live and fight and be brave and fierce.