I got good grades in school, but I sure am a slow learner when it comes to real life, particularly eating. I don't know why at age 62 I haven't been able to get my act together and become a "normal" eater, but I'm not sure if it does any good to probe deeply for reasons, so I won't do that today. Asking at this point would be like a situation where I've been stabbed, and I'm looking down helplessly at the knife lodged in my body, and I start questioning my attacker, "Why did you do this? Have I offended you in some way?" There's no time for that. I have to get the knife out before I can ask questions. I'm impatient and in a hurry because I might have only another twenty years or so on this Earth (which will go by in an instant at the rate time goes by at my age). I do not want to lose the chance to find out what it's like not to be ruled by compulsive overeating and the self-consciousness that results from the excess weight caused by this baffling behavior.
Can you think of any words in the English language more devastating than "It's too late"? I need to prove to myself that it's not too late. Of course, my motivation to alter my eating habits has changed drastically from when I went on my first starvation diet at age 11 (more than fifty years ago!), when all I wanted was to be skinny after being called fat by my father, brother, and classmates for most of my childhood. And my motivation is different now, too, from when I was anorexic my freshman year in college, when I fell in love and thought that being thinner would make him love me even more. And different from all the other times after that, when it was all just a vicious cycle of ups and downs and periods of confidence followed by periods of insecurity and fear--all food- and weight-related. Looking back, it all seems like a giant waste of time.
But I guess I needed to procrastinate for some reason, and I forgive myself. I still have twenty years left, and I will learn how to put food and weight in their proper places, so that I can shift my mental focus toward more important things. Eating and weight should be the background--and I can make it a very pleasant background if we somehow avoid war and famine--for life's more important work.
So last Friday I started teaching a new English class consisting of successful young men. (I teach English at Japanese companies like Kawasaki and Mitsubishi, etc.). I was wrestling with self-consciousness before the class, because I had become rather out of control these past few months, clearly depressed, always wanting to sleep and then eat, or eat and then sleep. I had really let myself go. So my weight was up to 174, which is not so terribly unusual or shocking in the US, but VERY overweight in Japan (I'm 5'2"), where obesity is rare. I recently bought some attractive bigger clothes to accommodate the weight gain, something I had always resisted in the past, thinking I would soon lose the weight, unwilling to face present reality. But this time, I knew I could not stand in front of the students with my buttons about to pop. I would have had to safety-pin my blouses shut!. So that's why I got some clothes that fit and said to myself, "This is the best I can look right now as I am. And how I look is not the most important thing in the classroom, or in the world."
And when I saw the six young guys come in the classroom door, all my self-consciousness dissolved. They were excited to be there. I love teaching--it's part of my mission--and the thought of popping buttons was far from my mind. There was no hint that anyone was thinking, "Oh my God, she's way too fat." They were thinking they wanted to learn English.
On a practical note, however, though I felt comfortable and fit standing in the classroom for two hours (adrenaline is an effective painkiller), on the train ride home, my legs were killing me, in fact trembling--which is another important reason, besides the spiritual benefits of living life fully and being no longer a prisoner to addictions or compulsions, that I need to get a hold on my eating problem. Bodies don't last forever, and pain is like a warning light on a dashboard. You can drive along for a little while with an alarm light showing, thinking that it doesn't mean much and that you'll reach the gas station in time to get it fixed, but then all of a sudden your car breaks down in traffic (as happened once to me), and you find that you should have heeded warning signs. So I really need to tune up this vehicle. I won't be doing any more fancy maneuvers or driving very fast, but I'm not at all ready to be hauled off to the junk yard. As Robert Frost put it so beautifully, I have "miles to go before I sleep."