It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives. We, in today’s society, are trained to seek what’s wrong, what needs fixing, and where imperfection lies. It is how we have progressed. If we never saw what could be better, we would stay stagnant as a race. It is what saves us. Yet, it is also what has led us to self-destruction.
This very uncanny ability for human beings to highlight downfalls is the same set of skills sometimes referred to as “lazy-brain”, or more kindly dubbed the “efficient brain”: the wiring that allows for desired pathways to form and patterns to mold. In the discovery that a radar for detecting flaws is often useful, a mind fashions these tracks to let a person work less each time to remember to seek out said flaws, and, thus, the person is left having the handy knack that sometimes causes the very downfalls for which he/she is searching. The lazy brain is the same tool used to group people and things into categories, in order to make sense of the world, and has simultaneously led to judgments and stereotypes. It is the chance we get to go on autopilot when our head has other things to sort out. Again, useful and, at times, detrimental.
Though I’ve spent many days wondering why I still struggle, focusing on where I need to make amends, and what is in my way, in the past couple of weeks, for one reason or another, I’ve had space for what is right. What I’ve discovered: there’s a lot. Some of that was apparent going home. Yes, it’s true I’ve had an eating disorder for over half my life, I’ve suffered immensely and almost died, and when I look at the relapse rate, there’s a chance I could spend a lot more time in pain. That will always be true, and, when in blissful ignorance, I have needed a reminder of the very serious repercussions of my illness. At the same time, being home, in the midst of the remnants of my past and my future life rather than as an inquisitive onlooker, I saw another set of truths. It is also true that I am eating well for the first time in my life and have been for a significant time now, I have a support system that is now all over the country and as strong as I could ask for, I have confidence in myself and can keep myself safe, I am financially, physically, and mentally sound, and I am only nineteen with a whole list of unbelievable things left to do and an intention to do them.
This set of truths gave me more motivation. Looking at what is wrong can help to inspire an aspiration for change, but consistently reaming oneself no longer proves to be effective. When I sat down with the basic intentions, it no longer made sense to point out the negatives as frequently as I had been. The initial reason my brain had sought a short-cut was not being achieved; instead of making me progress, I was falling farther apart. With that, I started to rewire, and something happened: more good kept showing up.
I must precede the following story with a side note: I have the best dietitian on the planet.
On Thursday, she took my friend and I paddle boarding after sessions and breakfast. Though I wasn’t thrilled by all of the information I received in our conversation and I felt particularly challenged at breakfast, I couldn’t help but focus on the fact that I live in paradise. Taking our boards out on the literally crystal-clear water, I remembered how incredibly lucky I am to experience every day (even if I may have shrunk two inches by balancing the boards on my head…[see below for a visual]). Watching each school of fish, every sting ray, and all of the other sea spectacles pass below my paddle, I let the food of my past just be the food of my past, and the infinite possibilities of my future wash over me with every wave. As I lay on my board alongside two incredible people in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I didn’t want to think of what was wrong. Everything felt right. I was thankful I had survived and I was grateful for every difficult meal or choice that got me there.
Not every person or even most people who read this will have the same list of “goods” to recall. You may not be nineteen, nor financially, mentally, or physically secure. You may be in the depths of your eating disorder or another life crisis and feel as though the world is as dark as it could be and will always be that way. And you may not believe or be able to believe what I say next, but I will say it anyways for those that might hear. If only it be hope for something more, I dare every individual who reads this to stop asking what’s wrong or seeing what he/she lacks for just a day and start asking what’s right and what good is there? Maybe it’s one person who will fight for you if you can’t. Maybe it’s that you’re alive. Maybe, if you wish you weren’t, it’s that you can recognize that and look for something more or ask someone to help you find it. I know for a fact, if I hadn’t blindly hoped that something else was possible, even for just a moment, I wouldn’t have a list of things that are right today. It starts somewhere.