"Where things are not equal, balanced, or healthy, they need to be let go of or re-negotiated."--Harmony
The first time I remember consciously abstaining from anything was during my junior year of high school. I am sure I had "given up" things earlier than that, certainly I tried to give something up for Lent each year as a young Methodist, but this was the first time I made the decision of my own free will to forego something I loved.
I was sixteen and I was having some very intense periods. Every few months on the first day of my period, I would feel sweaty and light-headed, and sometimes my vision would tunnel and I would feel like I was going to pass out. On one particularly intense day, I went to the nurse's office and my mom was called to come and take me home. As we walked down the hill from my high school I had to sit down two or three times before we made it to the car. It was in that moment I decided: NO MORE FRENCH FRIES.
In addition to a cafeteria, my high school also had a snack bar that sold hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and French fries, and it was where many kids - if not most - got their lunch every day. My standard lunch that year was a packet of French fries and an apple. Sometimes a chocolate chip cookie for dessert. In spite of the apple, I knew this didn't really qualify as a "healthy lunch" and I felt this was being made abundantly clear on this particular day.
So I quit, cold turkey, and began bringing my lunch every day. A peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread and an apple. Sometimes I would buy a cookie, but I tried not to do it everyday.
I still had intense cramps, but that was the last time I can recall having a sweaty, tunnel-vision period. I'm not sure quitting fries made the difference, but I definitely felt better when I ate a better lunch.
It didn't last, of course, and by the time I graduated from high school I was eating fries again as often as I could. And I wasn't just eating them, I was consuming them. Eating fries for me was like eating a first meal after being stranded on a desert island. I ate them like I hadn't eaten in months - fast and furious. I loved the crunch, the grease, and the ketchup, laced with mounds of black pepper.
I continued my unhealthy obsession with French fries until I was in my late twenties. One Easter season I gave them up for Lent, just to see if I could, and I during that forty days I realized that my relationship with French fries was not a healthy one. That something needed to be re-negotiated.
After the forty days was over I decided to give them up for good and I threw in soda for good measure. I didn't eat French fries or drink soda for at least two or three years after that. After awhile I completely forgot what had been so seductive about them. I didn't miss them and I didn't crave them. They were just something I used to love.
Over the past few years French fries have eased their way back into my life, but in a way that is more healthy and balanced. I will sometimes bum a few fries from my kids or split an order with my husband and I still enjoy them - the crunch, the grease and the pepper-laced ketchup are as good as I remember - but they no longer hold the same power over me.
And now I stand at a similar crossroads with wheat. I know it is not good for me in the amount I consume, and I am not entirely in control of my relationship with the wheaty treats in my life. I have tried to let go of it a couple of times, but it keeps coming back and I keep letting it back in. So once more into the breech my old foe. Let's see if we can find balance this time.
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Here are a couple of questions to consider today: In what ways is your relationship with the thing you are letting go of this month unhealthy or unbalanced? In what ways does this relationship need to be re-negotiated?