Yesterday I made it a point to watch Oprah and the special about her weight and her plan to get back on track. I still have 20+ post-partum pounds to lose, and am feeling unmotivated, frustrated, and generally annoyed with the whole idea that I'm supposed to kill myself re-shaping a body that is never going to look anything like it did two kids ago. I was looking for an ah-ha moment.
Oprah has always claimed to have a food addiction, but she added to that yesterday, saying that she wrongly filled her life with food, instead of joy. That happiness was lacking from her life. And there it was.
When I was two, my father left my mom and I. I remember it vividly. I also remember all the times leading up to it, when my parents were fighting. I lived through my mom's subsequent divorce, bankruptcy, and the stigma of having divorced parents. I coped with being an only child, an only grandchild, an only niece--being the lone child in any gathering of adults. I dealt with my mother's long series of boyfriends. The ones who touched me inappropriately. The ones who paraded naked in front of me. The ones who flattered me and fawned on me. The ones who called me stupid and said "Get the kid out of here." I spent Kindergarten reading books to my classmates, bored out of my mind. And elementary school in a private school where I was economically and socially disadvantaged. I always felt awkward and overly formal around my peers. Always had trouble making friends. Never truly felt like I belonged with anyone.
I strongly feel that children carry love and joy in their hearts, and can eek it out to last a lifetime. But deprive a child of love and joy when they are very small, and they will have to subsist on strength and will alone.
I was not a happy child. And my mother was not a happy mother and had nothing to give me. I did not grow up happy and joyful. I grew up strong, determined, and emotionally ambivalent. Few friends. Solitary pastimes. A closeknit family where I always felt out of place. An outsider to my own life. Christmases were horrible. Six adult family members sucking from me any pleasure I might have experienced. They were like vultures feeding off my happiness, expecting an enraptured display of joy after each present was opened. Only if I poured my happiness out of me and into them were they satisfied. I was allowed to keep none of it for myself.
And so I turned to food. Food was my joyful mother, pouring thick gravies down my throat and filling my belly with warm bread smiles. Name a date. I will tell you about the food. My mind records the happy flavors of every event. Not the people. Not the conversations. Only the food.
And I also turned to writing. The act of writing was a way to harness all that negativity and get it out of my system. I learned how to write humor, and often reflected on the absurdities and tragi-comedies of life. You will notice though, that my characters are never happy. There are no happy endings. Things just go on. I don't understand happily-ever-after.
Partly that is because I do not experience passion. Emotional ambivalence again. I don't think I know how to feel strongly about anything. I feel like I am powerless to hold on to my own emotions. Whenever I feel something, I never feel entitled to it, as if it is someone else's.
I am passionate about nothing. And this bothers me. I have friends who are passionate about everything and I just marvel at them. How do they do it? I could very easily walk away from my life and start over a thousand times, always in search of more happy.
I had thought that being married would do the trick. But I haven't become a happier person. I thought having children would bring me joy. Not really. I love Tom. I love Sam and John. I fiercely protect them and want to share my life with them, which is about as passionate as I get about anything. But they do not make me deleriously happy, and from my experiences as a child, I know it's dangerous to ask them to try. You would think that writing would make me happy, and finishing a novel wouldfill me with pure unadulterated joy, but it felt more like a compulsion to be perfectly honest.
Obviously, things need to change. I can't keep depending on food to feel happy. And I also can't remain in this extended state of ambivalence, either. It effects every aspect of my life, and especially my writing. My writing will be better if I tell stories for the joy of it. And give my characters the happy endings they deserve.
I need to get out there and find the things that bring me joy. I need to know what "happy" feels like.
Tom and I have been discussing all of this lately. None of us is doing well with the "happy" concept right now, and have discussed making a lifestyle change or two. More on that later. In the meantime, I am going to take a break from writing until February, and spend the next month in search of some joy.