"You should get a burger," my husband Marc said to me last weekend. We were in the Moda Center for a Portland Trailblazers playoff game with my son and my dad, and we were all dispersing to find our food of choice to take to our seats.
“Nope," I replied, giving him my signature eye roll, "I'm going to get my favorite," referring to the sweet beet bowl at Plum Tasty that I had come to love when at Blazer games.
"Oh, come on,”Marc said, teasing me,"we are at a ball game."
"And?" I said, curious as to where he was going to go with this little game of his.
"And burgers are what you are supposed to eat at a hoops game," he said as I turned and walked away from him.
Supposed to eat.
Six years ago, when I had entered into treatment for anorexia, Marc's comment, teasing or not, would have sent me, heart pounding and hands sweating to the nearest burger line. I was so desperate to be "normal" to escape the feeling of being the weird one that I would have tried to choke down a burger like I thought everyone else did. After all, I was in a crowd of 20,000 sports fans whom I was sure had it all figured out. Burgers. Pizza and beer, a lot of beer, were what I convinced myself normal people consumed at a sporting event.
For years part of my recovery process was watching people. I studied my dinner club, some eating raw oysters while others daring no seafood at all. I pretended not to watch my tennis teammates at our match luncheons, a few of the women munching gooey chocolate chip cookies before their match, others not eating a bite until after. I noted my yoga buddies roll up their mats after class, some making a beeline for the treadmill, while others headed out for coffee. I watched strangers in sidewalk cafe's while on my after-dinner walks eating a late-night meal and noticed my girlfriends on our getaway trips, some up early and ready to hike with me while others sleeping in and spending the day by the pool. And then there is my husband, preferring to snack his way through the day, not needing to eat a meal at all.
Like a dog chasing its tail, I spent hours upon days trying to catch onto normal. Finally, I thought when I figured it out, I was confident I would fit in, find happiness, and be cured.
But I didn't find normal. Shocker, I know. It has sucked in a way because it has made my recovery much harder. No normal means there is no formula I can follow and no rules I can play by. There is no secret club in which if I just find the code, the doors will dramatically swing open, and I will be IN.
I've had to learn to sit still, focus and pay attention to myself. Then, relearning what I want to eat rather than what I should(or shouldn't) eat, exercise in a rewarding and not punishing way, and recognize that it is okay to have preferences that differ from others. I have had to stop looking outward for what feels good for me and trust I have the answer within myself. Then, one day at a time, having the courage to do what I want rather than what I think I should. That continues to be the hardest part.
But, I have learned I can eat a warm bowl of lentils, beets, and sweet potatoes in the middle of a sporting event without my face up on the big screen with the word "outcast" imposed over my head.
And that is a huge step indeed.