So, last night I go to my first face to face OA meeting. This was a much more daunting task than I thought it would be. Online, unless you share your struggles, nobody knows who you are, or what your struggle is. You're a faceless handle on the screen. If you want, you can be "Guest" and sit idly in the chat room soaking it all in. Nobody sees the size of your stomach. But face to face, it's all out there: the body I've felt so ashamed of, with the protruding tummy and wide rear end, and the hair that I never know what to do with. And of course, I bring with me my competitiveness and criticism, and Lord knows I did not want to go in there playing who's fatter or thinner than me, but the possibility that I would loomed over my head. Not all, but many compulsive eaters wear their struggle on their bodies. You may not know the person sitting beside you in your office is an alcoholic, or cocaine addict, but overeaters often look like overeaters. Their waist lines are ruthlessly honest. I didn't want to feel good about myself at the expense of a person who appears to be heavier, nor was I willing to berate myself because there were people in the room much smaller than me. And there were!
Most of us gathered in the basement of the church were women last night. A few of us shared about avoiding shopping, or hiding inside layers of clothes, or just not feeling beautiful. Me, I avoid taking pictures. I used to like pictures of my face, but I've gained so much weight that I don't even like those now. After we gals had shared, a dear man told us how he loves his wife, who is much heavier than when they got married, more than he ever has, and with tears in his eyes he told us all, every woman in the room, how beautiful we were. He said it with such conviction and sincerity, that his words slipped through the cracks of my self-loathing, and tears filled my own eyes. I believed him, and that lovies, is a triumph.
Before I left, a dear man pressed a pamphlet in my hand about acceptance. It was printed by Abbey Press, a publishing house I eagerly seek out at the International Christian Retail Show every year. They are one of the few Catholic presences, and I can scarcely resist hugging monks when I see them. So this was like a little gift of comfort God gave me. Tucked inside the pamphlet was the Thomas Merton Prayer. The man said, "I thought you'd like Thomas Merton." Ha! I think he's right!
I've posted the prayer a few times here, but what's one more time? Right?
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my perils alone. -- From Thoughts in Solitude
You know what else is funny? The woman I sat next to had a booklet in her journal with a huge picture of Thomas Merton on it. Father Louis (Thomas Merton) must be trying to tell me something! Like, I'm totally at the right meeting. Among friends. Maybe even family. Or perhaps he's saying relax. Let go and let God. This pilgrimage of learning to take and eat is all for Jesus. All of it. No, I don't want diabetes, and I do want to lost weight, but I'm mostly in OA, and on this journey, because Jesus whispered in my ear and asked me to try it. And truly, he knows all the ways he's going to heal me. What's best was that he was at the meeting too, shining his love on all of us. It was pretty evident.
A few days ago, I began to think about this person God has created--me. I really am fearfully and wonderfully made. I think it's time for me to begin to look at myself--maybe for the first time--and see a hint of what God sees: his creation, loved, and dare I say beautiful. Even, as he said of most of what he created. Good.
Each time I post about this particular pilgrimage, I'm going to do something that makes my stomach churn, but I feel I must. I'm going to post a picture of myself.
OY! I don't wanna! I'm having a fibromyalgia flare, have no make up on, my hair is not combed, and mercy! I'm languishing in bed in my long johns, but I do want to begin to love the me I see, and not be ashamed. So there!
Here is my face. I wish I could see yours. I am grateful for your love, and that you are still reading.