I have a complicated relationship with food.
I’m thin; maybe even skinny if you only stare at the portion of my arm between my elbow and the open palm of my hand, but then again, maybe a little bit more average if you stare at the portion of my torso between my heart and my hips. Part of this has to do with the fact that I come from a long line of food lovers. We’re Italian. The kitchen is our home base and food is our comfort. Italians love to eat, and, despite my small size, I can eat a lot. I’m sure there are quite a few reasons for this, most of which could be solved with many hours of therapy, but I’m 26 and can’t afford therapy, so I’m going to write about it instead.
On a particularly long car ride back to my hometown last Friday, my brother and I got to giggling about how fascinating the people in our lives find it that we can just eat with reckless abandon. I mean, in fairness, we’re both average to smallish sized people (I’m 5’4”, my brother is 5’8”, or, if you find him on Match.com, 5’10”). We don’t need a whole lot of calories to sustain our day-to-day lives. But we grew up in a household where there were multiple courses every night. We grew up at a table where there were always vegetables, but there was also always bread, pasta, meat, and then, just in case you weren’t quite full yet, dessert. My brother commented that some families were alcoholics, some families were smokers, but in our family there was food. And, as if it’s any surprise, my family is fat.
And now I am frightened of becoming unhealthy as well. If I let myself, I can eat an entire box of cupcakes. I can eat a whole family sized bag of M&Ms. Because I’ve always been active and an athlete, it wasn’t a problem when I was growing up. But now I know that I have the inability to stop eating unless I tell myself that I am full. And while this piece could delve further into my own curious eating habits, I am struck to pause at the simple ritual that I have of consciously telling my body that I am full. That I could eat more, and it would taste good, and good lord, this penne a la vodka is incredible. But I am full. And I am going to stop wanting more. That I am perfectly happy, content, full with what I have eaten right now.
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I feel like my relationship with food in this way is inadvertently starting to leak into the rest of my life. I have learned to tell myself when I have had enough with food, when I am absolutely full-up to the brim, but I haven’t learned to tell myself when I am full in other areas of my life. I always find myself wanting more. I want a better job that challenges me and makes me really think. I want a loving and committed relationship that does the same. I simply want more than what I already have.
How much happier will we be? Will we be fuller? Or are we already full, but we just haven’t stopped to think about it?
When I stop to think about it, my life is very full, but usually, I don’t remember what the feeling of fullness is like on a daily basis. Usually, I’m angry that I can’t seem to get any freelance work, or that I didn’t finish a workout strong, or that I can’t seem to find a partner who will love me for all of my terrible qualities and hopefully for my good ones, too. I feel void of challenging work at my job. I don’t feel like I have a direction. It’s in these moments that I have to consciously remind myself that I am not empty or lacking or lost. I am just temporarily distracted by all of the opportunities life can present. It’s at this moment that I have to take a step back, inhale deeply through my side-body, and remind myself that I am indeed very full. I have a really awesome and supportive family that always reminds me how much I am loved. I have a fantastic boss who is open and honest and patient. I have good mentors and hilarious friends. I have nieces who think I’m super cool, a brother who calls me “the fashionable one” (which really just means not wearing sweatpants everyday) and a sister who asked my advice for the first time ever today (she’s 16 years older; what the heck kind of advice can I give her?). I have a fantastic community of readers who challenge me, tell me I’m awesome, tell me that I make absolutely no sense, but keep making me want to write more, to write better, to write honest for them. I am full. Life is hard, and overwhelming and it makes me frustrated and sometimes I cry. But I know I’m not alone, and it is in those moments, during the deepest pits of despair and anguish and tears that I most need to push myself away from my table of life, interlace my fingers and cradle the crown of my head in the space they form and say that it is enough. I am full.
What are you full of in your life? Do you have a hard time remembering to remind yourself how full your life really is?