"What's up with you only going to the grocery store once a week?" My son D asked me recently. Home from college for the summer, he was in the kitchen whipping up some delicious concoction, and apparently, I had the wrong kind of salt in the spice drawer.
"I don't like grocery shopping…." I started to explain before he cut me off.
"Well, I hate parts of my job too," D said, growing increasingly agitated, "but I can't just NOT do them."
"I do it, "I said, starting to get defensive, my body tensing for a fight, "but only once a week."
"Come on, mom, I don't want to be a dick, but what else do you……." I didn't need to hear the rest. D wasn't asking me a question. Instead, as the tension began to leave my body, I realized that he was trying to pick a fight.
When the boys were little, there were times I couldn't even find a moment to pee. I was the keeper of an essential job, raising humans and holding down the fort so my husband could build the business. But as they got older, busier with their friends and activities, I found myself with more time on my hands. Time, increasingly, I spent at the gym and in the kitchen making my meticulously measured and portioned meals. On several occasions during those years, exciting job opportunities came my way, opening the door to the possibility I could get back into the workforce and be more than just a shuttle driver/lunch maker/ laundry do-er. And although we didn't need the money, the thought of contributing financially to the household, I felt was a sure-fire way to quell the guilt that, like an idling engine, constantly hummed inside my body. But in reality, by that time, my anorexia had such a hold on my life, taking a job was impossible. Required work hours would interfere with my morning workouts and rigid meal schedule, not to mention all the sitting.
My mind and body trapped me. I didn't feel good about my role in my family, more importantly, in my life. So to make up for it, I would try and justify my position. I was bustling around running mindless errands, trying to feel useful—; Grocery runs, forgotten lunch drop-offs, last-minute school pick-ups, and pantry cleanouts. I was advertising the hours I spent doing things for my family while hiding the hours spent taking care of my illness.
It didn't make me feel important or valuable. On the contrary, it made me feel like a fraud, and my ever-perceptive son could see right through it. During his angsty teen years, D and I would argue, especially when he was struggling with his stuff. But after a round or two of verbal attack-counter attack, he would go in for the kill, "What do you do all day, Mom?"
An essential part of my treatment for anorexia, was experimenting. My team encouraged me to take risks and find the things that filled my emotional tank while slowly unwinding the narrative that so deeply became ingrained in my brain over the years. The one that said to be worthy, I had to do more and try harder because I was not enough.
D's recent little grocery jab, I quickly identified, had nothing to do with me (or the salt). I guess something was bothering him, and like old times, he was trying to distract himself by baiting me. But I didn't bite. I didn't feel the need because I am more than enough.
OMG son, obviously I am waaaay to busy to go the the grocery store.(2021)