Burnside Bridge Redemption
You might mistake him for Ziggy Marley
Jesus that is
At least I did
When I saw him walking up the sidewalk in Low top Cons
Soles the color of erasers
He stopped when he got to us
Backs to the wall
Inhaling clove cigarettes
He asks how we are
We say fine
Which is a lie
But he doesn’t mind
He sits down on the sidewalk
Because we are
But it doesn’t feel bad
At the tattoos and belly rings our too small shirts show
I offer him a smoke
He shakes his head no
Coffee, he suggests
And nods in the direction of the convenience store
Across the street with windows painted black
On the door
There was a rainbow painted there
Before the black and the bars before
And the store changed hands
It isn’t his fault
I hope he knows that
But the thing is
I’m hung over
And my head
It hurts when I talk
So I’ll just have to hope
I close my eyes to the too bright sun
To a man in loose
Loose coveralls and a tie
He switches the black plastic trash bag holding
From one shoulder to the other
Pancakes? he asks
An invitation to breakfast at Sisters of the Road Café
And then socks…
Socks because it’s Saturday and the church ladies give them away in the park
In front of the fountain
Still-in-the-package-new socks on Saturdays
I notice Jesus doesn’t have any socks when he stands up
And takes the trash bag from the man to carry like it’s his own
Come too, Jesus says
But we can’t
Which is fine
Because it is enough just to know that five minutes from now
They’ll be eating
Jesus and his friend
Eating pancakes with sweet cream butter and drinking coffee from thick white mugs
It’s enough that I know that after the pancakes
There will be socks
On the feet
In the shoes
With eraser colored soles.
My Other Birthday
Today is my birthday. It’s not the kind of birthday that comes with gifts and a cake ablaze with candles, it’s the bittersweet kind. It’s a day that catalyzes a deep sense of gratitude for all the people who took risks on my behalf when I was sick. It’s a day when I look back on the years I lost to anorexia and allow myself to grieve. It’s a day when I take an inventory of my life and am overwhelmed with awe at all it has become. Today is my recovery birthday.
Recovery birthdays are tricky things for people with eating disorders. Unlike individuals struggling to overcome substance abuse, there is no single moment when we decide to put down our drug of choice. Instead, our recovery is a journey comprised of steps that bring us closer and closer to doing something that most people do every day without a second thought. Eating. Rather than abstaining, our recovery involves partaking.
It is for this reason that the act of choosing the date for a recovery birthday for someone with an eating disorder is personal. I chose the day I left treatment for the third and final time. Since then I have discovered a great many truths and, each year, on this day, I reflect on them.
- I still spend a lot of time at the doctor’s office.
I really thought this part would end after I left treatment, but my struggle with anorexia had medical consequences that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. For example, every year I have a DEXA scan done. This entails sitting in a waiting room populated by individuals much older than I am. It means that a technician will look at me, and then at my file, trying to make sense of the number that is my age in relation to my last T-score. These appointments serve as reminders as to why I need to remain vigilant in my recovery.
- Life is triggering.
I can attempt to insulate myself from triggers, but they are everywhere. They come in the form of comments, photos, films and even songs. Rather than avoiding them, I now gather whatever support I can find and confront that trigger head on. If I don’t, it will surface again and again.
- Self-care can be wonky.
The things I do to protect myself don’t make sense to everyone. For example, for a long time, I did not have any mirrors in my house. I did not even have one in the bathroom. This is something people commented on when they came over. Sometimes I explained my lack of a mirror, other times I didn’t. Recovery is worth it and I must be willing to do whatever it takes to maintain it, no matter what anyone else thinks.
- Think outside the box.
Nearly two years passed after I left treatment before I wore a swimming suit in public for the first time. When I did, it was at a pool during a lap swimming session. Everyone, with the exception of me, was 55 years of age or older. No one in the pool cared what I looked like in my suit. This was liberating. I have had the most success overcoming challenges in unlikely places. Consequently, I now push myself to be creative as I think of ways to move forward in my recovery.
- Do not rule anything out.
Recovery has been nothing like I thought it would be. It has been more challenging and more fulfilling than I ever thought possible. I hope to celebrate many more recovery birthdays and will embrace the truths that each one brings. After having been sick for as long as I was, I didn’t think I would ever have a child. My daughter turned four last spring. She is the love of my life. Last February she sat in the audience as I celebrated the launch of my first book. She has since traveled with me as I have given recovery talks, led workshops and done readings. I am now a writer, a mother and a teacher, three things I would never have become had I remained sick.Recovery has been nothing like I thought it would be. It has been more challenging and more fulfilling than I ever thought possible. I hope to celebrate many more recovery birthdays and will embrace the truths that each one brings.