Slow quick quick slow

Several years ago, when I was riding strong in my recovery from an eating disorder, changes seemed to happen so quickly in my life. I felt myself opening up in new and wonderful ways: my relationships with my parents improved; I met the man who is now my husband; I stopped following goals that were set by others; I found a new spiritual path; and I no longer turned to food and exercise as the exclusive sources of comfort in my life.

Around that time, in December of 2004, I got my first tattoo, of a blue heron. There are many herons on the lakes of Minnesota, where I grew up, and I at once associated the bird with my faraway home and with the changes that I had recently undergone. In some cultures, the heron, like the phoenix, is a symbol of resurrection and transformation. In Egypt, for example, the heron-like Bennu bird called the world into creation at the beginning of time. For these reasons, the heron seemed like an appropriate animal to carry with me always, to mark on my body as a reminder of what I had gone through, and of the new life that I was embarking on after my eating disorder.

Sometimes, I look back on those early days of recovery with a feeling of nostalgia. Sure, I was still binging, still exercising off the calories in ridiculously long runs -- but change was brewing. I could feel it. Later, even my body changed, losing the ability to digest the foods that I had once craved and consumed in abundance. There were clear markers to let me know that things were different, and I felt, in many ways, reborn.

The struggle of recovery now, four years down the line, is that it doesn't always feel so extraordinary. In fact, I rarely have the blissful, life-rocking moments of insight that seemed so frequent as I learned new ways to pattern my relationships and new ways of being with my body. Now, those skills are a part of me, no longer new and shiny and revelatory. Life doesn't seem nearly as overwhelming and tragic as it did during my eating disorder, but nor does it often reach the heights of emotion that I felt during my recovery. I know that I haven't stopped growing, haven't stopped learning from my day-to-day life, but the changes are more subtle, less frequently noticed by others or myself.
This is what life after an eating disorder and after recovery from an eating disorder feels like to me: pretty ordinary. While I still have problems (who doesn't?), more and more they resemble the normal concerns that everyone has, like how to get along with others and find my own path in life. My sorrows don't feel like tragedies anymore, my joys are deeper, and the emotional fireworks are fewer. These days, it is just me and my ordinary mind.


bodyblogger said...

How crazy! Two years ago, in my darkest hour, I went to see a card reader. I normally don't believe in this stuff at all, but I was pretty desperate for some clarity. The animal card I drew, that was supposed to represent me, was a blue heron. The psychic told me that these animals are very solitary, and that when I had "work to do" I should do it alone, reminded of this every time I see a blue heron. Living in an area where I don't see many blue herons, I kinda chalked it all up to fluff. BUT, that same week, I wound up taking a walk by a bird sanctuary. And what did I see but, a heron - not sure if it was blue, but I was pretty freaked. Anyway, it was the beginning of a very big personal growth stage in my life, and right now I'm at a crossroads again, coming to terms with my eating disorder YET AGAIN. Your entry reminds me to keep on searching. Thanks.

Tiptoe said...

I love blue herons. There are several I see while out running. I think it was so fitting for you to get the tattoo of the blue heron as it does seem like your totem at that time.

As for recovery, you've come a long way. It took a lot of rope learning, but it sounds like you are more at a place of ease. Sometimes, just understanding the subtle changes is harder than the earth shattering ones.

Ai Lu said...

Hey, BodyBlogger:
What a coincidence about herons being YOUR animal, too! I think that they are such graceful and mysterious birds -- how lucky we are to have them as "ours".

Tiptoe: Thanks for stopping by and saying hello. I'm going to head over to your space to see what's going on there.

Ai Lu

Emily Jolie said...

It's so good to be back to your blog and read your words, Ai Lu!

I feel deeply moved, as I always do, though I am lacking the clarity of mind to leave the insightful comment I would like to leave right now. My bed is calling.

So, for the time being, I will just leave a foot print to let you know I've been here and plan to be back soon!

with love,


P.s.: There is something really exciting about change, isn't there? Of course you know that I am going through some pretty MAJOR change right now. And it does feel exhilarating in some ways. At this point, there are infinite possibilities, and that's what is so cool about my situation, regardless of the difficulty of it!