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For months, every day walking in and out of the front door, I pass by a small plant in my vestibule. I don’t recall its name, but each time I see it, I pinch off the sprouting buds, the new green growth, because, I’m told, that will make the plant fill out more near the bottom and ensure that it doesn’t grow leggy. And nearly every day, somewhere on the plant, I spot new buds emerging. Sometimes they’re so tiny that I need to wait until the next day to pinch them off, but there they are like clockwork, taking care of business.
Their persistence reminds me of the way people overcome obstacles. They keep doing what they know is best for themselves because, well, why wouldn’t they? Of course, my plant doesn’t know that I’ll be pinch-pruning it whenever I pass by it. We can’t say that it possesses courage in the face of adversity or even that it’s persevering to reach its goals. Fact is, its DNA is programmed for it to grow and keep growing. This is biology at work. It just keeps on keeping on because that is what it’s programmed to do.
This “keeping on” programming is what I wish for all who suffer from troubled eating: to automatically, without thought or effort, do what is right for you because this is how you now live. When you do what’s best for yourself, not for approval, not because you feel you should do it, but because it makes you feel gloriously proud of yourself, it becomes part of the fabric of who you are. It informs your character and prevents the day-to-day—for some, moment-to-moment—struggles of pushing yourself to grow. You do it because you have no thoughts of not doing it. It is your only option.
Some of you are in early stages of recovery, experimenting with new, enlightening ideas about how to eat, value your body, and think about food. At this stage of recovery, every tentative step takes total focus and arduous effort. Others have been at transformation for a while, but, haphazardly, at times engaging in self-care and at times not. Whichever the case, recovery is on your mind nearly 24/7 as you assess whether you’re proud or ashamed of your choices. Still others of you are tending well to yourselves much of the time, luxuriating in the pure pleasure of ongoing self-nurturing, yet still keenly aware of these new behaviors. You may even feel a giddy high from doing them. “Look at me,” they proclaim, “See how well I take care of myself.”
What I wish for you all is the gift of what my plant does every moment of every day: reaching for the sun, growing, changing, striving, thriving, and living in spite of whatever is working against it. Never giving up because it is all you know how to do.
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