Yesterday was Valentine’s Day – a day that can be filled with many emotional triggers and food cues, and perhaps some challenge!
This was true for me. Holidays and celebrations used to fill me with such dread.
I worried the days before the holiday, I tried to control myself on the holiday itself, and I felt guilty and ashamed afterwards when the control didn’t work.
This Valentine’s Day was different for me.
It began the night before, with an errand to Walgreens to buy napkins for my son’s school party.
For those of you who don’t live in the U.S., Walgreens is a popular drug store chain. It may sound a bit odd, but Walgreens brings up strong attachment emotions in me. Because it was where I bought most of my candy as a kid, entering Walgreens – the smells, the sights, the candy – is like coming “home.” It soothes me deeply!
Just going into Walgreens can bring me face to face with powerful longings for that “home” and for a soothing, nurturing, warm presence.
This is especially true when I’m worn out and hungry, as I was the other night.
That night, rather than fighting my ache for a Walgreens hug or trying to make these sensations go away, I allowed myself to feel their tenderness, and to feel the longing.
I felt them move through me, and then pass. In their wake, I felt very alive, very connected, and satiated – for I’d connected to my experience rather than try to control or ignore it. My feelings had room to be felt, and then to move.
In this movement, my longing for connection turned into something different: a spacious awareness of the vulnerability of being human. I felt connected to every other person who’s wanted a warm hug from something – Walgreens, sugar, food, a new dress, a new body, a work promotion – all the ways we pursue love, safety, security, and rest.
Then I reminded myself that I hadn’t eaten dinner (I had just finished a yoga class) and that I was hungry. I didn’t really need nor want candy from the Walgreens candy aisle – I needed filling, nurturing food! And so I went home and fed myself dinner.
Later that night, while setting out little Valentine gifts for our children, my husband and I split a chocolate truffle. I actually didn’t like it that much. We finished setting the table for the next day and went to bed.
The following morning I woke up and ate my normal foods – some turkey sausage, sauteed vegetables, and a homemade almond butter/walnut ball for breakfast; some leftover broiled chicken thighs, salad, carrots and hummus for lunch.
The pile of candy that my son brought home from school this afternoon didn’t tempt me. The taste of chocolate the preceding night didn’t lead to a free for all the next day. In fact, I didn’t have any candy on Valentine’s Day, although I did enjoy cuddling up with my family to watch a rerun of Downton Abbey.
It was just a normal day.
I never thought I’d be able to feel relaxed around food, or to make wise food choices. I never thought I’d be able to say both yes and no to a treat food like chocolate in the same day. For decades, I only knew overcontrol and out of control.
Attachment, connection, grieving, befriending emotions, and relationship – things that are explored in When Food is Your Mother – made the difference. Through connection, and through relationship, we heal, and grow.