Boarding my plane in JFK last night, I realized I couldn’t have had a better trip. From old friends to new friends to being new with the old, I not only felt different there, but I also felt changed by my experiences in the four days.
Often people express their personality and values in recovery as being “just like old times”, or referencing similarities at points where they were healthy and towards the individual they once were. I have not felt this. Because my eating disorder began as far back as I can really remember, I don’t have a self I miss, just one from which I’m evolving. Consequently, engaging with my past as the person I am today felt like meeting myself for the first time.
The time I spent with my family gave me a chance to know who I am and how I am with the people I come from. Feeling loved from the moment I drove up to the driveway until the second I stepped through customs gave me the opportunity to be valued and gain the reciprocating characteristics. Picking my fights and knowing the space I needed to breathe and envision what I know to be true and how I wanted my visit to go, allowed me to change from reactive to compassionate. Recognizing desires to spend individual time with each of my family members and opening myself up to feeding each and every want without judgment, welcomed new perspectives, memories, and emotions. I saw myself grow from an insecure, rageful, apathetic, sick child into a respectful, considerate, empathetic, grown woman. I greeted Alexandra.
With this I was able to stand proud as my sister’s Confirmation sponsor, and put the emphasis on her for the day, knowing I had nothing to prove. I had done my job by showing up as the human I hoped to become and I had no other need to fill. I found myself both seeking with a genuine interest and relishing conversations with various family members I might once have tried to avoid. I gave myself the gift of joy in my moments. I gave myself permission to a beautiful breakfast with my sister, learning how to cook genuine Egyptian food with my father, and walks and talks with my mother. I didn’t push love away. I could sit at the table.
The fruition also infiltrated into my other relationships. Being congruent offered me room to appreciate others and I discovered nourishing interactions. Since I removed myself from courteous obligations, I stopped asking questions I thought I “should” ask or making small talk because it felt “polite”. Instead, I found myself noticing far more and speaking with intention, just as I’ve agreed to live. People have told me that recovery allows everything to fall into place, and I really saw this happen in this area, to my amazement. From uncovering my hairdresser’s gorgeous singing voice to learning what my friends’ freshmen years had entailed, relationships that once felt like burdens to keep up with, flourished effortlessly, even if in simple ways.
I was able to take the plans I’d check-listed and paint memories. I took my California adventures all over the upper west side as I explored my old neighborhood with an old friend with an implausible excitement and energy once lost. Into candy shops filled with my childhood sweets and restaurants we hadn’t tried, I was met with life’s pleasures I had often mistaken as fears. I carried my newfound principal of honesty into connections previously eroded with lies and took each opportunity to patch the holes. I practically burst with bliss at the chance to see my previous therapist and the staff that had worked with me in the city and present to them the transformation. Talking to friends, whether from treatment or high school, I removed the comparison. I am not just as I used to be, I am entirely new.