11.23.2008

home come coming home homing come home

This week has been a coming-home of sorts, in ways both literal and figurative.

As I write this, I am at my laptop in my parents' home in suburban Minnesota, back visiting for the Thanksgiving week. As always, coming back home (is this my home still? or in my home in New York, with my husband? ah such questions) is a strange combination of familiar and foreign. My bedroom, while not quite a shrine to my adolescence, is filled with shelves upon shelves of the books that I read in college: Borges, Neruda, Fuentes, Mistral, Arenas -- books that I read when I thought that I would become a professor of Latin American literature, and planned my career accordingly. What got in the way was an eating disorder that made me reflect on what I really wanted out of life. Would I live my life surrounded by books that no one else had ever read, attending literary conferences to debate over obscure topics, and spend my weekends memorizing poetry? Or would I -- as I considered later -- dedicate my life to understanding, to the best of my abilities, the origins of distress, of disease?

I know that I am not alone in saying that my eating disorder changed my life. The obvious ways: I chose psychology instead of literature, empirical study instead of postmodern critical theory. My Ph.D. is a means to an end: I want to do research that matters. I want to bring all that I have witnessed and experienced to bear on my work as a therapist. I want to have an impact that goes beyond my tiny circle. These are the goals that changed after having an eating disorder. And I know that I am not alone in rearranging my priorities, because on Friday night I met up with three other women who have struggled with eating disorders, and all of us are caught up in larger plans that have to do with healing. Twisted Barbie is studying to be a social worker; Stephanie produces films and plays about eating disorders; and the third woman in our group is studying to be a physician's assistant. Wounded healers, all of us.

That encounter was another sort of home-coming, because I haven't spent so much time, in person, with ED folks since leaving college. My ED changed my life, and even though I am not ashamed of it, there are few new people in my life with whom I would feel comfortable talking about what I went through. There are always "easier" explanations to give for why I study clinical psychology, and along the way I certainly have found other reasons to continue in the field. ED was my entry point to so much more, and most of the time I am content to talk about that so much more and take pleasure in the fact that there is so much more to my life right now than the fact that I had an eating disorder. Still, I had it. It marked me. I changed because of it. My eating disorder set off a transformation in me, or metamorphosis if you will, that has yet to end. There is no end to healing and learning from this thing, no limits to what we can do with our experiences. And this week I am coming back to that, reminding myself of where I have been and where I am going.

4 comments:

Emily Jolie said...

I love this post, Ai Lu! How wonderful that you got to meet up with other 'wounded healers' - all of you strong, beautiful, vibrant women, catalyzing your experience with ED into healing for both yourselves and the world around you!

Revisiting your past, as I have experienced it, can be so helpful and cathartic. It can also bring a lot of things up to the surface that have been dormant deep within. Amongst other things, maybe a bit of melancholy, which is what I am feeling when I look at the pictures you posted with this entry. It may not necessarily be your melancholy I am feeling here. It could just be that these pictures are stirring on melancholy of my own. Especially the bottom picture, the clouds, the way the plants are leaning in one direction... this brings up a feeling of longing, of expansion in my chest... in a good way. :)

In a week, dear Ai Lu, I will be the one who gets to sit face to face with you and talk about our paths as 'wounded healers.' As well as many things outside of the ED realm, because I know that both our lives are so full with other things! I look forward to that, my dear. Very much!

Amongst other things, we could have a long conversation on where 'home' really is! ;)

Enjoy the time at your parents!

with care,

~ej

Emily Jolie said...

stirring up^^... not on ;)

Sarah said...

I love reading your blog-I find that your philosophy about learning to appreciate making, enjoying, and tasting food is similar to the one I have and strive to have. I am curious where your suburban Minnesota home is (if you are comfortable sharing)-my parents live in Rochester and I went to high school there.

Ai Lu said...

Sarah:

Thanks for stopping by.

I grew up just outside of Minneapolis, in a first-ring suburb. It sounds like you have also moved out of Minnesota -- where do you live now? I love coming back here but New York is my home for now.

Take ca