12 Steps, pandemic, Spiritual

Confessions of a Food Hoarder in Pandemic Pandamonium

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

By: Jana Greene

Greetings from The House of Greene, where we now eat unsalted peanut butter, because on our last visit to the grocery store, that’s all that was available.

Now that I write that, how FIRST WORLD does THAT problem seem? And it’s because they ARE first world problems. But I have a funny little quirk about food. Well, MANY quirks. But this one is especially relevant.

It started in my single mother days. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for years when my daughters were little. I was room mother in their classes. I made wholesome dinners every night. Even in the hardest times, when I’d have to get food from the church pantry, we were well-fed.

And then my divorce happened. All of the sudden, it was all on ME. Two children, no child support, no help from family, NOTHING. It was all me and I had to work four part-time jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. The girls that I had ‘helicopter parented’ became ‘latch-key’ kids, which made me feel horribly guilty. We ate a lot of hamburger helper, minus hamburger. Instant mashed potatoes. Boxed mac and cheese shaped like Spongebob characters.

I will never forget the evening I put the girls to bed and took a bleak inventory of our week’s food supply. There was NO WAY we were going to make it. You know that feeling you get when anxiety comes on real sudden-like, and your blood turns to ice water? Your heart starts racing? This was a normal anxiety attack times 100. Something went awry in my brain that day.

Now, we all made it through and somehow, Jesus pulled a ‘loaves and fishes’ on me. He did THAT by some of my wonderful friends, who (much to the dismay of my pride) showed up with a meal or a $20 bill or something. Let the record show that we were NOT fed by the scriptures that other friends threw at me. Nor the lofty platitudes about if I only had more faith, “claimed” a scripture, or “believed” that our needs are already met.

(If you don’t meet a person’s basic fundamental rights, do me a favor, and DON’T preach at them. A Bic Mac and a couple of kids meals were a whole lot more effective than an “I’m praying for you.” But I digress.)

At some point in my single motherhood, I became a bit of a food hoarder. If I had some around, I felt great. So if I had MORE around, well…you know. I also recalled my old trick of soothing myself with food. I was only a handful of years sober back then, so it was all I could do not to pick up a drink. I picked up ice cream instead. Fast food is hella cheap and filling.

It became a way to reward and punish myself. Then I discovered that I could experience the comfort of stuffing my face, and then throw up to get rid of the calories. This is a HORRIBLE practice and I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT. But I hooked up with bulimia for a bit and thought I’d found the best of both worlds. Eat yummy food. Barf. Repeat. I lost 80 pounds during my divorce. The whole bulimia issue is a blog for another time (and I’ve touched on it before) but I’m telling you the whole story so that you can fully appreciate how f-cked up my relationship with food truly is. It’s WHACK, I tell you.

So fast forward to when I met my now (and forever) husband in 2006. He was so kind and loving. We didn’t have to worry about running out of food after we married, but old habits die hard. For years and years (and up until TODAY, ACTUALLY) it’s kind of a family joke that we always have stuff falling out of the freezer because it’s too full, and we can’t find anything thing in the pantry because I have this sick thing about having it COMPLETELY FULL to feel secure, and in order to fit anything in our fridge, I have to play “fridge Tetris” to make things fit.

It’s super annoying to my family, and honestly – to myself,  but I can’t seem to stop it because WHAT IF we run out. It’s not just about the food. It’s some primal holdover from when I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids or something. It’s like a COMPULSION. It IS a compulsion, actually.

But today I opened the fridge and there is an empty shelf. AN. EMPTY. SHELF. I can actually see the back wall of the fridge (hey, it’s WHITE!) which never happens.

Over a week ago, I’d taken a fall due to my POTs and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome symptoms, and it was a bad one. Nearly broke both my arms and was bruised from fingertips to elbows. People thoughtfully brought meals over, since my arms were useless for a while. We had a REALLY full fridge (there are between 3-5 of us living in this house at one time, so it’s not just my belly I’m worried about) and it was glorious.

My first thought was: “I’ll run to the store.” Except I WILL NOT run to the store, because I have virtually no immune function and there is an actual PANDEMIC (another fear formerly referred to as “irrational,” but pretty damn rational now) and I am staying home to avoid germs.

It’s not that we are anywhere NEAR running out of food. It’s that if we were, there is nothing we could do about it. I’m thinking that this whole pandemic is going to be a HUGE re-boot for all of us. I can’t let an empty refrigerator shelf throw me into an emotional tailspin, although that is my habit. Habits are gonna have to be tweaked, as are knee-jerk emotional responses, which are kind of my forte.

I cannot afford to be ruled by my many, many compulsions. But I CAN come here and drone on about how different things are now, and be honest about how I’m freaking out on the regular in spite of my best effort to use my “tools.” Applying my emotional coping tools feels like using a regular screwdriver on a screw that requires a “Phillip’s head” screwdriver (I’m using this analogy because those are the only two tools I can differentiate…) It kind of works, but not really.

It’s like there is a Woody Allen (sans perversion, of course) Me, and a Brene Brown Me. Woody Allen Me’s hair is all askew, he is neurotically pacing, displaying nervous tics, and generally running in circles exclaiming “THE SKY IS FALLING!” while my inner Brene Brown interjects with Ghandi-esque, rational quotes about walking inside your story and owning it, and not standing outside your story and hustling for worthiness, and what not (which, frankly, isn’t even helpful at a time like this.) She is calm. She is at one with the Universe.

Why am I both these people at once. (I’m thinking maybe we are all a little of both right now?)

So for the foreseeable future, I’m planning on coming here to blog about empty refrigerator shelves, and one-ply toilet paper. But also about the very real crossroads of anxiety and faith in an unprecedented time. It’s an opportunity for me to dust off the ol’ 12 steps and revisit “surrender” mode, lest I revisit self-destructive behaviors (which will only make things worse.)

One of the scary things about all of this, if we are honest, is that it’s a leveler. We all feel far less “first world.” But that’s not a bad thing, spiritually. Spiritually, we are all One – all the same. We bear one another’s problems, even when they are more severe than unsalted peanut butter. Seriously, though. Not one of us is less precious than another, and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our privilege, we forget that this is the NORM for so many people across the globe – doing without. I know I forget.

I don’t know what else to do but write about it. Eating my feelings isn’t suitable, since food is more or less rationed, but my feelings are not following suit. All I know for sure is that we will all get through this together. Woody, Brene, me, and you. ❤

Spiritual

ThisClose to a Nervy-B, but all around, His Grace fills Me.

Fences Watermarked

By: Jana Greene

I haven’t written a blog post for over a week, because it has such an odd, difficult, wonderful, sad, exciting time in my life – just over the last week. Today is Saturday and it is 7:00, and I am still in my pajamas. I guess I should mention that it is 7:00 P.M. and I am still in my pajamas. I had scheduled a minor nervous breakdown for today and was hoping it would have resulted in enough crying to snot through at least two boxes of Puffs Plus (the lotion in the tissue makes them extra soft, and if you are having a half-way decent nervous breakdown, you’ll need at least one box). But no. Now that I’m home and have the time to grieve, all I can manage is not getting out of my pajamas. I don’t have the energy to cry.

I was thinking about what a weird week it’s been, and figured that if I can’t muster a nervy-b (as my daughter calls it) maybe I can write about it. Oh yeah. I have a blog….such a distant memory, my blog. But it’s only been a week – an eternity – since I’ve written in it. I thought maybe opening the door to my thoughts might lubricate the gates of my release, so I can get these pent-up feelings out.

As a matter of fact, if I had to choose a word to describe the past week, it would be “gates”.

In the span on one week, the gates of opportunity swung open in a most unexpected manner, so that I could start work in my (WARNING: cliché use ahead) “Dream Job”. Starting any job is stressful and at least a little difficult, what with learning new things and faces and protocol in the office. I worked hard and long and with great enthusiasm because I want this to work so very much.

A few days after I started work, a terrible thing happened. Our sweet, sassy, bossy dictator of a 20 pound cat, Hunter, had to be “put down” because his cancer tumor was pressing on his windpipe and he was beginning to suffer. My Beloved and his daughter took him there and held him, loved him as he passed into the pearly Gates and out of his family’s arms. He had been healthy only a month before! His tumor grew so fast, there wasn’t a lot of time to say goodbye. And now we miss him like crazy – his incessant hissing at the dog, crying for food, but also his ability to scrootch up against you while you are trying to type on the computer and put his little paws on the mouse…..you know, as if he was saying, “Hi, Mom. I’m just gonna walk across the keyboard and rewrite your document with utter nonsense, then I’m going to lay on it, because you’ve obviously been warming it up for me. And then I’ll just erase your work with a few kitty keystrokes. And you are going to think I’m adorable.”

I miss that stinkin’ cat like crazy. He died on a Tuesday, but I had no time to grieve.

Our church is kicking off a brand-spankin’-new Celebrate Recovery program at Lifepoint, which is REALLY exciting, and for which we leaders have worked and trained and sacrificed and poured ourselves into. That meeting opens up Monday nights and we are all standing right at the gates waiting for the moment to launch, waiting for the time we can finally serve others who need Christ.

But then yesterday, I got a call that a good friend of mine had passed away from cancer…after a valiant seven-year battle with it. We were such good friends that she helped me plan my wedding in 2007 and I sat though her chemo treatments many times. But suddenly, she and her family moved three states away and I never heard from her again. So its kind of a double whammy – I am grieving for her, and grieving that there is no closure between she and I. All the things that needed to be said were left unsaid, and will always be unsaid now. She got to walk through the gates of Heaven, and I was too busy learning a new job to even break down like I wanted to. I wanted to so badly. When the tears sprung up in my eyes, I chastised them, telling them they would have to wait. When I got the call about Jen’s passising, I was at work. I held it together, making a promise to myself that I would have this Nervy B today, here in my pajamas..

So much sad news.

But so much happy news, too! Like starting my job, and starting the Celebrate Recovery at church. OH – and my dear friend, Beth, who is due to give birth any minute now and has asked me to be her birth coach.

Isnt’ that just like life? Losing friends and kitties that we love, while new babies drop in to position for birth – seven and a half pounds of screaming, puking, erethral, soft and lovely evidence that God wants life to carry on. Even with all the stress, and loss and work that we must endure.  I’m glad he gives us such a heaping measure of grace with which to get through all of these things.

I think I might be too exhausted to really lose it, Nervy B style. Maybe I’ll just cope with this week by eating mass quantities of chocolate  and staying in my pajamas for another day or so….you know, until the gates of work open Monday Morning.

And Monday night, when our Celebrate Recovery small group shares around the circle, I will share that I ate mass quantities of chocolate, and no one will tsk tsk at me, judgementally, because they understand the particulars of a really healthy Nervy B. And then, just maybe, we will pass the Puffs Plus  around and remind each other of how blessed we are. And about how grateful we are that the ministry is not a gated community and they let the likes of us in.

Inspirational

Kinked Links and God’s Messy, Knotted up Favorites

By: Jana Greene

Having just finished a fantastic book that talked about – among many other things – whether Christians should “keep it real” with the world, I felt as though I should blog about my entanglement. Not because it’s so interesting that a middle-aged woman would get so worked up about what amounts to normal, first-world problems, but because I wanted to share a vision that God is giving me to deal with feeling this way. (Spoiler: it isn’t His magically making things perfect….that miracle is for the next world, not this one).

When I went to bed last night, my More Spiritual Self was kinked up.

After instigating a mild argument with my husband, I had tried to sleep. When that failed, I tried to pray. Fitfully, I asked God would He please give me a break here?  I know we are not supposed to let the sun go down on our anger, but I am clearly in the right!

That small, still voice didn’t chastise me anymore. Still, I quit trying to pray because I was so out-of-sorts and jumbled up, I couldn’t tell where one request started and another whiny demand ended.  Frustrated, I tossed and turned all night. Tomorrow will be better, I told myself.

But this morning, nothing in my closet fit me – The Fat Fairy neglected to visit me during the night to relieve the body-issue angst that is the hallmark of my Selfish Self. (If she would only come and take my fat away while I was sleeping and leave money in it’s place, it would solve TWO problems simultaneously!) All day, worry entangled me. Issues big and small (and all out of my control) tormented me and I walked around in a cloud of menopausal grump.

By noon, I had myself so knotted up with stress that I broke out in tears at Costco while waiting to purchase toilet paper and cat food. The check-out girl was very friendly, in a “I’ve no idea what to do about this” way, which made me cry harder because I felt sorry for her. She didn’t tell me to have a nice day.

But on the way home from Costco, I had a random memory about a short exchange between my daughter and I earlier.  When I had taken her to school that morning, I complimented her on her outfit (which really was lovely) and she held out her necklace for me to see and said, “It’s my favorite.”

I also remembered that it was the same gold-toned necklace with beads and feathers on it  that sat on our kitchen table for a week, knotted up in a ball. My daughter had gotten it tangled up at the bottom of a bag and asked me to unravel it, which I’d tried to do several times.

“You should really take better care of your stuff,” I had told her, when she’d given it to me and asked me to fix it.

And each time I would try to untangle it, the frustration mounted. Within minutes of not being able to tell where one link started and another began, I’d leave the project out of sorts, the necklace jumbled up worse than before. She’s just going to have to throw it out…it’s unsalvageable.

As a last resort,  I enlisted the help of my husband, who patiently untangled the entire chain and left it for my daughter to find on the kitchen table. He didn’t fuss at her for letting it get that way, he just solved the problem behind the scenes.  Which brings me back to today, when she wore her favorite piece of jewelry restored to it’s former glory.

I’m trying to untangle my chain, I realized. I’m knotted in a ball and don’t even know what to pray for.

“Perhaps,” said my More Spiritual Self. “You should give the big ball of it to God and let him untangle it.” And my Selfish Self, after reeling from the sting that my husband would be God in this analogy, had to concur that I have to bring my anxiety, pain and restlessness while I am still frustrated. Nothing is unsalvageable to God, but when I try to untangle myself, I make the knot bigger. He will be untangling  my messes  all the days of my life, but I have to leave it on the kitchen table, so to speak – and not as a last resort.

Sometimes I fail to take my issues to Him because I know He has every right to say, “You should take better care of your stuff” and I’m afraid He will.

But He never does, He just loves.

I’d like to say that VOILA! I am in a fantastic mood now that I had an epiphany, but I’m trying to “keep it real” here.  I can tell you that this afternoon, I’m not crying anymore and that when I got home from Costco, I broke down and changed into sweatpants with an elastic waistband. I texted my awesome husband that I love him twice today and I am still sober, which doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal after eleven and a half years of not drinking, but trust me – sometimes it still is. All of these things (yes, even elastic waistbands!) are blessings.

And God is still on the throne and loves us even though we are messy, knotted-up things.

We’re His favorites.