Friday, February 18, 2011

lessons from a sick little boy.

i hope that no one minds if i take a little break from the body image posts and talk about something that's pressing on me today...

...the little boy i babysit is one of the most intelligent 10-year-olds i've ever met. he taught me to play chess, he wrote a poem the other day about poverty in Africa, he even invented his own continent with it's own animals and language.

that being said, he is still 10 years old, and in spite of his superior intelligence, his age shows.

the other day when i knocked on the door, he dragged his feet through entry way, pausing to wipe his nose from his forearm, all the way down to the tips of his fingers.

he opened the door and drooped his eyes as he said, "i'm sick. i stayed home from school."

"ahh," i said, "i'm so sorry. so no soccer today?"

"no soccer."

to his grave disappointment, i suggested that he start some of his make-up work. when he was finished, we started a game of chess.

a few moves in, he pulled the blanket that was over his legs up and around his neck. struggling to balance, he stood up and tottered his way into the kitchen. i heard a few drawers open and shut before he returned with a thermometer in his mouth.

he took it out, glanced it over, and wordlessly held it straight out, just level with my eyes. it read 100.1.

"is that a fever?" he asked excitedly.

"it is," i said.

he drooped his eyelids a little more and tightened the blanket around his shoulders. he looked like a child eskimo.

the game of chess continued in similar succession. we'd play a few moves, he'd recheck his temperature, place the thermometer's evidence of his rising fever in my face and shutter and tighten his blanket when i nodded that 100.1 was still a fever.

it made me think about being a kid and loving being sick. there was something about missing school and having even more of my mom's attention than usual (not that she didn't pay me enough attention when i wasn't sick. she most assuredly did) and getting the couch and the remote and soup with crackers and a real coke with a neon straw in it that made fever and chills somewhat bearable.

it was like an excuse, a break from life, a free pass to exist with no responsibility.

i can also remember that first day back at school. my mom prying me off the couch and into the shower and into my school uniform and into the carpool. after only a couple of days gone, it was utterly terrifying to throw myself back into the rhythm of school. the gym seemed bigger, the mean kids seemed louder, and my teacher seemed a little less friendly.

something i've noticed (in myself as much as anyone else) is that so often, we find our identities in the things that are wrong with us, because these things are just comfortable.

it's a growing trend among so many girls and women to openly admit their struggles with working themselves too hard, finding their security in productivity, not sitting down, not stopping and yet never doing anything about it.

i think that so often, we admit our issues because we find our identity in them, not because we're seeking accountability or to get them out in the open so we can work them out.

it's the same as being sick as a kid. there is something about knowing that we need to fix something, that we deserve to be taken care of in order to "get better" that makes us want to stay in whatever is wrong so that that feeling doesn't go away.

even though i finally (after 5 years) decided it was time to stop living this way in regards to my disorder itself, there are underlying behaviors and mindsets of which i'm afraid to let go, because i just don't know who i would be if those things weren't wrong.

i am not saying that we need to try to be perfect. in fact, what i'm saying is that we need to try not to be perfect, by letting go of those flaws that we think make us better.

the weather yesterday was just too beautiful to stay inside. i decided to go for a nice, easy run on the trail across from campus to enjoy some endorphins and fresh air. i'm not going to compete with anyone, i told myself. nope, i'm just out here to enjoy God's creation.

i started at an easy pace, and found myself grinning a little at just how much i love to run on the trail. all was well until a decently athletic looking man ran past me.

my head split.

it would be really good for you to let him go on ahead of you. just stay at the pace you planned on and try to let go of it.

really? you're going to let him beat you? of course it would be good for your recovery to work on not comparing and competing, but do you really want to let go of that? it's who you are.

i ended up passing the man and having the same experience with three or four more individuals throughout the course of my run. and running is only an example. in my head, i turn everything into a competition. my eating disorder was my own game, and i was beating everyone i knew.

i'm not saying that competition and drive are not important and often times necessary. this part of my nature is what's allowed me to push myself into recovery, and will likely allow me to push myself into successful endeavors in the future. but it's something i have to reign in, to stop putting on each morning as the pair of glasses with which i view the world, and to allow God to make me who i'm supposed be when i use it for His glory and not for my own.

what i'm saying is that it's so important to go beyond recognition of our struggles. just knowing that we need to work on something can be even worse than not knowing. just like the boy i babysit basking in the glow of 100.1, it's when we sit in our own recognition of our struggles, talking about them, thinking about them, but not doing anything about them, that we allow them to become a part of who we are, rather than a pathway to who we'll become.




  1. This is so good EA, and it can apply to so many ares of life.

    I read your blog all the time, and I love seeing how God is teaching you through your struggles and helping you overcome them.

    keep writing! you are making a difference in more than your own life. :)

  2. Wow. That is so true. What a great comparison. You are completely right.

    I am the same way. My whole life is a competition. Grades, cooking, clothes, hair, weight, working out, etc....its all a competition. I have to beat everyone but most importantly I have to beat myself. Weird I know. I hope I can get out of this habit soon. Its terrible to be constantly comparing and competing. We should be proud of who we are and our accomplishments.

    Good for you for recognizing this in yourself and wanting to make a change.

  3. As always, I'm thankful, amazed and incredibly proud of my sweet daughter.