Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Red-Leather Boots Syndrome

Fellow blogger, B., over at the Blog of 30-day trials, was kind enough to respond at length to my moaning over my paltry results with the Paul McKenna method and my overwhelming feelings of anger, frustration and dissastisfaction.

I think that B. put his finger on the bobo when he asked me to expand upon these feelings. The strange thing is that I am still struggling to flesh out for myself this feeling of being psychologically dissatisfied. Somehow I feel hard done by--that others are getting what I should be able to have too, but am denied.

This is scary: I can feel the can of worms opening as I write...

I was brought up by a single mother who was also handicapped and for the most part housebound. Her financial resources were extremely limited. This did not mean that I was deprived of food or shelter. In fact, she deprived herself to give me those little extras in life like a pair of beautiful red-leather boots that I still remember to this day, over forty years later. It was not a terrible childhood by any stretch of the imagination. My mother was extremely loving and caring and thought the world of me. She was always there with praise and support. We lived in a middle-class neighbourhood, with excellent public schools and at a time when social services were there to help those in need.

Considering the "bum rap" my mother had had (a cold, unloving husband who treated her with disdain and wasn't even there by her side when I was born; arthritis, which robbed her of her physical and financial autonomy; and an undeserved inferiority complex, which I have inherited, though thankfully to a lesser extent), she still succeeded in making me feel loved and cherished as I was growing up.

But at the same time, there was always the possibility of deprivation lurking around the corner. Although it never actually materialized, there was always the fear that we would "go without". Accompanying this fear was the feeling that we were the "undeserving poor". My mother often told me not to flaunt what I had. People would wonder how a poor woman such as she could afford to buy her daughter red leather boots. Yes, she really did warn me to not show them off, especially to her sister, a nice middle-class lady who was married to a man who worked and supported his family "properly".

Growing up, I got the message that I did not deserve to have nice things since my mother had not worked to be able to buy them herself. People like us were supposed to be satisfied with the minimum.

On the food front, my mother was always concerned about healthy eating. Sweets were seen as evil--something we should keep away from. They were the food equivalent of "pretty" things. Mom did buy me an orange Crush and a chocolate bar from time to time, but mostly I was instilled with a fear of sweets.

Even as a child, I knew that I had a "weight problem". I don't think I can ever consciously remember not worrying about what I was eating and how I was getting fat. My mother certainly worried about her weight. Another thing I remember was her weight when she got pregnant with me (119--remember, she was about 4'8" in her prime) and how it went up into the 150s as she got older. She struggled and I went along for the ride.

So what does all this mean? First, I think the "weight problem", although a physical truth, is rooted in a dysfunctional relationship with food. "Well, duh!", you say. OK. Duh. But it's up to each one of us to understand what this means for us on a deep, individual level. For me, this means seeing sweets (and food in general) as my red-leather boots. I have a perfect right to eat sweets, just as I had a right to wear my boots. But while I gave up those boots willingly when they were too small for me to wear anymore, I'm still wearing my addiction to sweets as if nothing has changed. Today, I can buy red leather boots or their current equivalent if I want to. I have enough money to splurge from time to time, but mostly, I choose not to. I'm comfortable with spending money and comfortable with saving too. Now, I have to apply this to food: it's almost like those sweets, or that extra few bites of whatever are how I say that I deserve "it". I deserve to want what I want and no one can say that I'm not deserving, that I should be quiet and meek because I'm part of the undeserving poor.

I am struck by how melodramatic the above paragraph sounds, especially in light of my post on the horrific plight of many women in the world today. However, I stick by my words. Once we get past fighting for our very survival--as is certainly the case for most people in the developed world--we can become very introspective creatures. Certainly, introspection is often the hallmark of the blogging world. And I hope that my introspection will lead me to a more peaceful relationship with myself, and by extension, others.

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