This week I found myself driving to the store at 8:45 at night, desperate for glue. I was in the middle of an art project and I’d run out of Mod Podge. I’d been thinking about art and creativity and joy for many months now, as my friend Jen Louden sparked a fire – a big one – when I read her ebook on Creative Joy this spring. (Grab your free copy of Jen’s beautiful book here.)
So on this particular Thursday night, I was so full of creativity and desire that I couldn’t wait to get the glue in the morning. It was like having an art turn on: the art had to be made. Now.
My late night glue hunt reminded me of many, many other late night hunts I’ve taken in my life – but these late night drives were in search of ice cream sandwiches, Snickers bars, and 1 pound bags of Twizzlers.
And unlike my car dancing, music turned loud, gleeful drive to Michael’s, my late night drives for Twizzlers were done in silence, shame, and fear.
I went on these drives for over 15 years. Crouched, hunched over, shame filled, heavy- leaden-belly drives.
No amount of sugar could sate me. For underneath my desire for sugar was desire itself. On a symbolic level, my love-hate relationship with sugar represented all the things I truly desired – to be, to do, to have, to express, to allow – but that I didn’t give myself permission to be, do, have, express or allow.
I told myself those longings were unimportant, that they were unspiritual, that in the grand scheme of things – I mean, I wasn’t starving in a 3rd world country – they didn’t matter. Worse, they brought up shame. My shame over my unquenchable hunger for sugar was my shame of my deeper hungers – my passion, my desire, my emotions, my intensity, my sensitivity, my very femininity.
And so I stuffed it down. All that emotional energy went underground. But like a volcano, it would come erupting out of the earth, and it would come erupting in the form of food binges, in an insatiable desire for sugar, for food, for sweetness.
For years – decades – I worked and worked and worked on myself – until I was so tired of working on myself – so I could turn off my desire for sugar. So I could shut off the volcano. It worked. But even though I used gentle tools – like compassion and empathy and deep listening – and even though I had a lot of success in saying no to sugar, my desire didn’t entirely go away.
It merely shifted a bit, like any shapeshifter – morphing into wonky hormones, chronic anxiety, and crippling depression.
Until that desire came roaring out and would not be silenced.
This past year, that desire spoke to and through me. All those forbidden passions and fire and sensitivity came out. So I became curious and I listened, really listened – for what if my longings, the depression, the anxiety, the sugar cravings had something wise to say?
My passion, I found, will not be silenced. It asks – demands – to be honored. To be seen. To be allowed. To be expressed – any way it can.
Because it is how my essence – the essence that is me, Karly – walks through this wonky, wonderful world. And trying to stuff it down – or trying to turn it off – is like trying to stop a river from flowing.
Interestingly enough, listening to that desire – and honoring my passionate, sensitive nature – hasn’t led me to 3 day sugar binges. Rather it’s been leading me to a more authentic, honest way of living that serves me – and a way of living that more honestly serves those around me.
I am not Atlas, after all. Dimming my light – my essence, my fire – so that others can thrive doesn’t serve either of us. In the animal world, this is called a parasite-host relationship. In the human world, it feels really, really crappy.
For the first time in my nearly 40 years on this planet, I care more about what I think about myself than what others think. I’ve claimed my space as a highly feminine, passionate, sensitive, intense being. As a consequence, the depression and anxiety has softened. I’m stunned.
The irony is that my appetite for food has softened so much that I’m stunned again – this from a woman who spent nearly her entire life as a compulsive overeater. And I could care less about sugar. I can take it or leave it. I can do what I never was able to do before – which is to eat a tiny bit and say, nah, I’m good.
Now this brings me to you, my friend.
You may have spent years as I did trying to cut out your desire for sugar, trying to heal your sugar addiction. If you’re struggling, I’ve written three lovely courses – Overcoming Sugar Addiction, Overcoming Sugar Addiction for Life, and The 30 Day Lift – that can help you do just that. They’re powerful and inspiring and can help you change your relationship to sugar and can even help you stop eating it – if that’s what your heart is calling you to do.
But if you feel that your desire for sugar is really a symbol of a deeper desire – a desire to let your deepest essence unfold in the world – don’t cut out the sugar. Instead, listen to your desire. Befriend, allow and listen to your longings for sugar. Sit with them. Let your tears fall and ask yourself: How is my longing for sugar my voice, and what is it trying to say?.