When Family and the Dinner Table Don’t Mix

We all have to eat, but who we dine with is a choice.

Colorful vegetable sauteed in butter, parsley and sea salt inspire me. Not only are they a source of Vitamin A and fiber, they are one of those inanimate objects that exist without objection. As long as there are farmers, harvesters and hungry families these colorful vegetable medleys will continue to appear on our dinner tables. But, what if one sunrise the carrots crept up from the dirt, grew some lips and vocal chords and said, “I don’t want to be apart of this vegetable medley any longer” and rolled right off the plate. It would throw off the color scheme a bit wouldn’t it? I imagine too that there would be quite a bit of emotion from the peas, the cauliflower, the parsley, the salt and the butter. They might feel betrayed and raise questions, “Was I sitting too close?” “Was I too salty?”

This visual might seem reaching to you or for you cartoon aficionados, it may seem like a dramatic season finale of Veggie Tales. For me, this scene is quite familiar. Not that vegetables play out theatrics in my head (not on Wednesdays anyways), but I have experienced the profound guilt and confusion that goes with putting some distance between oneself and their family during eating disorder recovery.

On the scoreboard of appearances my family is definitely a high profile competitor. My dad is a fascinating, brainiac, hysterical, witty and accomplished. My mom is the charitable Mother Teresa of the OC and in her off time, she acts as the best host on the coast. My 4 sisters range from classy suburban house wives from the wine country to a cultured, Grad School attending, San Francisco hipster. Our differences make for some pretty loud and memorable gatherings; full of opinions, humor and affection. On the flip side, these creatures I love dearly are human beings, meaning that just like me, they are imperfect, still learning and growing.

I have learned a ton in recovery and a great deal of that learning has been discovering myself. What my likes and dislikes are, my personality and preferences. Early in my recovery I slowly and hesitantly discovered that I am more different from my family than I originally thought. I found that the activities they enjoyed and the topics that they chose to discuss were not of interest to me and likewise. I found that in some relationships I didn’t feel there was a great deal of respect for me as an individual. I felt put down, small and uncomfortable in their presence. As I instigated distance from them I was confronted with quite a bit of questions and guilt. It was an incredibly uncomfortable process, but I survived. I survived to realize that though I was born into a family, I am an individual separate from them, free to choose where I spend my time and my energy. For me it was liberating to venture off on my own and meet people I could connect with, who did respect my boundaries and understood me. I found myself welcomed into other families and chose to spend some holidays away from my family. Years later I have a nucleus of people that love me, protect me and nurture me. People who know me and have my back come rain or shine. In essence, I have “another” family. Each year that I gather more recovery I am able to spend more time with my original family, not as much time as I did before recovery, but definitely more. I am still learning.

I find it quite fascinating that as human beings we never stop growing. For someone like myself who struggles with an eating disorder, my focus is geared towards accomplishing, conquering and winning. To know that as a human my growth will never be completed until the day of my death is quite humbling. It reminds me that there is no race, no contest, that we are all simply students trying to do our best with what we know so far. There are some things we must learn, such as talking, reading, writing, friendships and relationships. I think relationships are the trickiest thing to learn. Relationships are a balancing act, you have to give a little and take a little and strike a good balance or you’ll fall. It’s kind of like cooking for yourself. For instance I think  Martha Stewart’s recipes are too complicated and Rachel Ray may be cute and funny but her recipes are unhealthy. I have opted for looking online for good recipes I like. What I learned from my family is that there isn’t just one way to do something. There are many routes to creating a family and I have created and accepted my own as fitting for me. But, I know what I want. The question of the hour is what do YOU want for dinner?