Tuesday, March 8, 2011

About God

This is the unpretentious title of Chapter One in Women Food and God.  And it's a doozy.  In it Geneen Roth describes how she gave up on God the same year she turned to Hostess Sno Balls.  How she links these two items is a mesmerizing tale.  And one all too familiar to me. Pg 22:

Praying felt like begging for love that I already knew I couldn't have.  When my prayers weren't answered, I felt ashamed for believing I could be saved; I decided that God saw something in my cells that was unredeemable--and that I was on my own.

In my experience, I played a game of asking God to fix me, then beating myself up for failing once again as I gorged on a contraband chocolate chip cookie.  I couldn't possibly be mad at God, 'cause God's all perfect and loving and all that.  If I screwed up, it was on my head.  Eventually that led to feeling like I was a mistake.  'Course that was incongruous with the belief I supposedly held that God created everything perfectly.  It just became easier to tune out the dissonance with some sah-weet transfat.  Pg 22 again:

I turned to food for the same reasons that people turned to God:  It was my sigh of ecstasy, my transport to heaven, my concrete proof that relief from the pain of everyday life was possible.

But then...

...it would be gone.

Pg. 23:

...I'd convince myself that the reason I didn't have parents who held hands at parades was because I was fat.  And so I started dieting the same year I started bingeing.  Dieting gave me a purpose.  Bingeing gave me relief from the relentless attempt to be someone else. (emphasis mine)

Looking back, she can see that any bad circumstance was expressed in her relationship to food.  Pg. 23:

Overeating was my way to punish and shame myself; each time I gained weight, each time I failed at a diet, I proved to myself that my deepest fear was true:  I was pathetic and doomed and I didn't deserve to live.

She mentions that dieting was like praying in that it was a way to express to the 'out there' that she knew she was fat and ugly and undeserving, but her severe attempts to deprive herself should count for something.  When she finally gave up the dieting rollercoaster, it was akin to saying "God (and everyone else), you were wrong about me." Pg. 24:

And somehow, by deciding that I was no longer going to collude with the belief in my own degradation, something I would never have called me showed up:  the presence of loveliness, the awareness of kindness, and the unmistakable knowledge that I belonged here.

This describes so well what I've felt in my spiritual journey aside from my weight and food schtick.  I decided I just couldn't go on believing that my humanity was evil and needed a total makeover.  I stopped hating myself.  That was a few years ago, and just now I'm beginning to direct that knowledge as it's finally sinking from head to heart to my beliefs about myself as it applies to my relationship with food.

Geneen explains her belief in God is different that the standard fare, but that when she began to be kind to herself, she connected very deeply with a "nameless something" bigger than her mind.  She came to a place where the only two choices left were to kill herself or a "completely different way of living was going to be revealed."  After years of "questioning my old beliefs, years of spiritual and scientific exploration to make my way to a broader understanding of the presence that most people call God..."  she realized that her painful relationship with food was the doorway to understanding that presence.  Pg. 25:

...I do know that the only definition of God that makes any sense is one that uses this human life and its suffering--the very things we believe we need to hide or fix--as a path to the heart of love itself.


...I use the word [God] in this book because it evokes a vast expanse that we cannot penetrate with our minds, although we can know it through silence or poetry or simply sensing what is always here.

Pg 26:

...understanding the relationship with food is a direct path to coming home after a lifetime of being exiled. Perhaps that home is what God was always meant to be.

I'm just beginning to grasp some of this.  It's as though I read the words and something deep down begins nodding in desparate agreement, but articulating how this is happening is lost to me still.  I do know that when I'm able to engage with why I'm eating when not hungry, there is an unspeakable peace and safety that envelops me just before I get frustrated trying to get in touch with the actual 'why'.  I need to go a bit deeper as many times it's simply boredom or habit.  I need to go all the way thru the doorway and discover what's on the other side.

I know that there is painful stuff to deal with in there.....and sometimes it's easier to just give up in frustration trying to decipher those less-than-tidy emotions, throw up my hands and either go ahead and indulge or zone out some other way.  But I'm so ready to get beyond the doorway!

This past weekend was my 'off' days for exercise, and I gave myself lots of grace.  Because it was also the weekend Aunt Martha decided to show up, it ended up a very emotional weekend for me as well.  Lots of stuff popped up, seemingly unrelated to my own 'pockets of undigested pain', yet there was a constant desparation to get food into my mouth.  All in all, I think I did ok.  I got thru it, got a good start to my week, and was able to brush myself off and move on.  But I'm still haunted by the issues that arose.

Sexual abuse and dysfunction.  
Disappointment and fear of disappointment.  
Giving up.  

I'm choosing to walk thru the doorway, using Geneen's writings to ask hard questions, learn about self-love and God, and digest and eliminate those pockets of pain that stand in the way of peace in my life.  Thanks for reading and for the support :)

1 comment:

  1. ((Cindy)) Good on you for being brave enough to tackle all of this!! Kudos!

    Your writing here is beautiful and a lot of it resonates with me. You may just get me reading that book yet!

    I relate to her statement that she believes in God but not in the traditional way and that our path is meant to lead to the heart of love. I agree. Me, too!

    And also, that food became a comfort when I became convinced that I was on my own.

    Thanks for sharing this journey with us!



I'm all ears! Er, eyes.