Friday, December 2, 2011

My deadly portkey

If you've read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, you're familiar with portkeys.  For the uninitiated, a portkey is an ordinary object, like a boot, which transports anyone touching it to a specific place.

My portkey is food.

Take chocolate or Christmas cookies for example.  All it takes is one bite and suddenly I'm no longer alone and insecure.  For as long as it takes to chew and swallow, I'm surrounded by acquaintances who accept me.  Who wouldn't like that feeling? 

Lately when I've reached for my portkey, zombie-like, a voice in my head has sung to me a line from A Chorus Line's "At the Ballet".
Up a steep and very narrow stairway,
to the voice like a metronome.
In mid-dose I asked myself why I was doing this to myself when I knew it wasn't fixing anything.  And then I'd take the dose anyway.

Yesterday I reached out to my counselor, who offered that perhaps a need was not being met.

And that's all it took.  Suddenly, literally like the illumination from a bolt of lightning or a camera's flash, I saw in my mind's eye that every time I put a treat in my mouth, I was experiencing the sensation of being in a Christmas party.

I realized how lonely I am, and I realized that goodies are my portkey.

I need to find a way to be comfortable in my loneliness.  The few friends I have are busy with their families' lives.  My own family members are busy being who they need to be.  The one who was always there for me, who had no obligations such as employment or school or errands, who spoke no judgment, and who offered unconditional there-ness, died on the beach just over two weeks ago.  He took with him a place I hid from my loneliness.

I'm reminded of a song which struck a cord with me as a child, and has stuck with me ever since.  It's "Just When I Really Needed You" from Fame.  I remember singing it over and over, preparing myself in case a loved one would die.

Now I'm lonely 'cause I could only count on you
When my troubles got the best of me,
You found something in the rest of me.
You pushed me just as far as I could go.

I'm alone now
On my own
It's like standing in the shadows
Watching as the play goes on

And from the musical Chess:  "No one in your life is with you constantly, no one is completely on your side, and though I moved my world to be with [them], still the gap between us is too wide."

Loneliness, for me, is death.  Like a dog, I need my pack.  Loneliness reminds me that each of us is born and dies alone.  Religion teaches a host of thoughts to comfort away the awfulness of one's lifeless body decaying and rotting.  Pictures I've seen of ghosts offer me hope that my sprit will not die with my body, but will my spirit find its way to those of my most dearly beloved?

There's no one in the world who can guarantee that mine will not be a lonely eternity. 

It's up to me though, as it is up to all the living, to not let fear of death, of loneliness, blot out the joy of life.  It's up to me to stop killing myself with my portkey.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Just when I think I've got myself all figured out -- labeled, packaged, and ready to go -- my counselor comes along and peels off the label, causing me to reexamine the package of me.  Ever since the day I was blaming myself for something and she observed that blame is an avoidance tool, I've been thinking about that along with other avoidance tools.  Like labels.

Labels help us to understand things which cannot speak for themselves, like a jar of pasta sauce or a running shoe.  When applied to people, labels replace relationships with prejudice.  And when I apply a label to myself, I turn myself into a finished product with no opportunity for growth or change. 

I ate a cookie because it was the last one in the package and I told myself  that I was Obsessive.  No doctor ever diagnosed me, but I found those labels which would give me an excuse for everything I didn't like about myself.  I hid behind them, falsely safe.

I labeled myself as fat, so I wouldn't go to the gym.  I labeled myself as unloveable, so I wouldn't reach out to others.  I labeled myself as awkward, so I wouldn't dance at weddings.  I labeled myself as ugly, so I wouldn't smile.

But labels have an achilles heel: the adhesive.  Sometimes the adhesive wears off and the label starts to peel away.  Sometimes, like a bandage, it starts to itch and I just want to rip it off. 

It's a little scary to not have myself all wrapped and labeled like a gift under the tree, but there is joy in discovering the gift within.