The following excerpt is taken from an email I wrote to Ryan on January 9th, 2008:
I’m so unbelievably out of my comfort zone.
A while ago I wrote a tune called “Seasons” that discussed the cyclical nature of my eating disorder (and my life), and my dependence on that cycle. Even though I had an innate desire to break free of the destructive pattern that governed my life, I was incapable of doing so because I had become so reliant on the ebb and flow of these “seasons.”
On the other hand, I’ve kicked a lot of habits in my life. I’ve given up addictions, I’ve broken off dangerous relationships, I’ve up and quit a flourishing career because it was sucking the life from me. I know how to overcome. I have known when to say “enough is enough,” and move on. So this should be second nature by now. And in a sense, I guess, it is. I mean, I know exactly what I need to do and how to do it. That, however, doesn’t seem make it any easier in this case.
I realized today that I have actually given my eating disorder a personality. Sometimes I talk about it as though it is its own entity—separate from me. But it’s not. It is me. I am it. I created it. I allowed it to consume me. I believed in it enough to keep it alive for seven years. How exceedingly Jekyll and Hyde of me—while I hate the evil nature of my eating disorder, I am fond of it because it has become a part of my identity. It is both an escape from reality and a hiding place from trepidation. It was the only support system I knew. It hurt me, but it comforted me. Though it sounds paradoxical, it is quite possible that, in some ways, it saved me from greater destruction. Giving this up—letting this go—is horribly bittersweet. It is like witnessing the death of both my worst enemy and my best friend at the same time.
One week ago, I completely massacred the only physical symbol that I had of my eating disorder. It was a pair of jeans that I acquired some time ago, and it was only at my lowest of weights that I could perfectly fit into these pants. When I would go through “healthy periods” and naturally put on some weight, I would just put them on the shelf, because in the back of my mind I had every intention of fitting into them again one day. They were, in essence, my eating disorder in physical form—the perfect representation. And I was attached to them for this reason. To me, letting go of these jeans, meant letting go of the notion that I might ever fit into them again… which meant letting go of weight loss in general… which meant letting go of my other half—the Hyde to my Jekyll—my eating disorder. But I did it. I sliced and diced, I ripped and tore, I 100% destroyed those ill-fated skinny jeans.
But here’s what it means: not only am I outside of my comfort zone… but I have massacred my comfort zone. My comfort zone no longer exists. It has been obliterated. And quite frankly, this scares me beyond reason.
I have been so positive. And I still am. I do recognize that the obliteration of my comfort zone is a good thing (necessary, in fact). A meaningful life comes from stepping outside the box, not from hiding inside it. But at the same time, I feel this need to mourn for what I am giving up. Is this wrong? Is it weird and abnormal? I mean, its not like I’m fighting it. I’m just… grieving a little bit. I don’t know, I guess maybe I feel like it’s a part of acceptance and… liberation. Freedom.
Nearly 10 years later, I’ve been starting to notice an invasion of my comfort zones once again. While I am no longer in recovery from an eating disorder, so much of my experience is the same. Over time, I have simply developed a new “basic understanding” of what life should look like on a day to day basis. And when things don’t line up with my expectations, I start to feel anxious and displaced.
But I’m scared to surrender my fears and my anxiety. While they are so stressful and agonizing to live with, they somehow make me feel safe. They are a part of me. And dealing with them has been pushing me well beyond my comfort zone lately. It’s scary, and I don’t want to let go. But it’s time. I have to let go. I have to move on. I have to say goodbye.
Revisiting this old email this morning proved to be an important reminder to me that there’s more to life than surviving within the “safe existence” I have created for myself. My eating disorder, though my “safe place” at the time, was actually killing me. I see that now. It’s important for me to realize that the comfort zones I set up for myself might not always be a good thing… and maybe I need to start embracing the experiences that are pushing me to step outside the box a little bit more. It might be scary. It might mean that I need to take some time to grieve. But sometimes we need to grieve for the things we are letting go of in order to embrace the things we are letting in. It’s time I let go of fear to make some room for freedom!
Do you ever take steps to push yourself outside of your comfort zone? What are the things you need to let go of right now in order to move forward in your life? I would love to hear about it!