“Making Peace with the Universe one book, one recipe, one story at a time”
How an adoptee learned to quit thinking, stand up and finally embrace life!
Hi, welcome, come in, pull up a chair, let’s talk. How are you? Where do I begin?
I was born into a hospital filing cabinet on 16th March 1965.
Aged six weeks, I was passed to the Bradford Moral Welfare Council by my mother, Jennifer Anne , in search of a new home.
This is a picture of my mother, Jennifer Anne.
And here is a picture of her as I imagined her in all the years in between. It’s not her of course (in fact it’s Pema Chodrun!) but this is what I felt, in my heart, every day as I waited by the window for her to come home and love me.
And this is me, on my journey, finding my own way home.
I think it begins – – I begin – with food: the fantastic royal road running right through my life.
I love food and I love eating but in the past this got me into trouble.
In the past, when I started to eat, anything not nailed to the table would start to disappear and I grew fat 😦
Now, I spend every day trying to make peace with my body.
Learning to surrender, learning to accept myself.
And it plays out in my relationship with food.
And sometimes I am ahead and sometimes I am not.
And sometimes I remember that there is no one keeping score
And sometimes I forget.
In the past I used my addiction to food to hide from life.
Eating after all is private, full time work.
I’ve only recently realised that an addiction to eating and an addiction to dealing with the consequences of over eating are the perfect excuse not to interact with life but then I had never quite figured out how to interact on any level which I now suspect to be related to my disjointed, adopted beginnings.
I have needed to track back to find out who I am and behind that, what I am.
And here’s what I know:
Ego and mind and all creations arise out of Self as Self
Even the ugliest of doubts and the most separate of differences rise from the beautiful source of Isness
In Self there are no dos and don’ts
If there is unhappiness you are not unhappy
You are the Untouched Awareness of this unhappiness
As waves are not separate from ocean nor rays from the sun
You are not separate from Existence you are the moment in which all is…
Consciousness is the original Mother..If you know this She will take care of you”
Extract from “The Truth is” by H W L Poonja
“Behind the retina and before the breath” writes Papaji.
Adoption affects everything.
And so I try to make peace with the Universe every day.
Every day I acknowledge the uncertainty and fragility of life and everyday life brings me new adventures, opportunities to surrender, opportunities to embrace and connect with a Higher Power of Lucky!
Books are at the centre of my life and have carried me and taught me about life when I was too afraid to play.
These then are the cards I was dealt and like Cheryl Strayed once wrote:
“You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the Hell out of the ones you are holding. And, dear One, you and I were both granted a mighty generous hand.”
And my adopted father loved to read too.
My Journey and Caitlin Moran
As I grew older, I married a man I had met years before.
I made a family and began working full-time to make ends meet.
Oftentimes, I would struggle to sleep
But I needed that sleep to work the next day often waking up on my own with all four kids in bed next to me.
Somewhere around that time, overeating seemed the only option: the reward instant, the effort minimal, the unconditional “love” seductively supplied by my friend cake with buttercream and jam – complete with no answering back and as Caitlin Moran writes so eloquently:
“..by choosing food as your drug, sugar highs or the deep soporiphic calm of carbs, the Valium of the working classes, you can still make the packed lunches, do the school run, look after the baby, pop in on your mum and then stay up all night with an ill five year old something that is not an option if you’re caning off a gigantic bag of skunk or regularly climbing onto the cupboard under the stairs and knocking back a quart of scotch…overeating is the voice of carers…..and fat people are slowly self destructing in a way that doesn’t inconvenience anyone…..”
And that pretty much sums up years 27 to 45 for me.
And let’s face it, the food industry makes it easy for us to become addicted.
Wanting a Bigger Slice
But I ALWAYS wanted a bigger slice.
Only I never realised I was talking about life.
I had missed out on the class on life and how to live it and headed straight for cookery instead!
And I was in trouble.
As the weight crept up my fragile sense of self disintegrated along with my first marriage.
Weight Loss Classes and a Ferocious Appetite
I went to weight loss classes and scheduled punishing gym sessions with a personal trainer where I succeeded only in working up a ferocious appetite and wondered all the time why I was getting fatter.
I joined counselling groups and listened to other women and their stories of weight gain and weight loss.
I shared my own stories too.
From Hunger to Roar
Then, one day I heard a woman say she ate to quieten the voice inside her because she was afraid of the noise that would come out if she opened her mouth.
And somehow, I woke up.
It seemed clear I was not alone in my hunger.
I began to think about this and I began to read.
I found the piece by Caitlin Moran above and I read Geneen Roth and Gillian Riley.
Two sides of the same coin.
Geneen would say it’s not about the weight and it’s not not about the weight and Gillian would say the addiction is because of the choices we make influenced by the brain’s genetic pre disposition to sweet things.
It’s a quirk of evolution Gillian explains, exploited to the max by the unconscionable food industry and if we let it, it can destroy our lives.
It makes us meek. It undermines us.
Geneen explained the gnawing voice (or ego) inside and why as adults, we no longer need it. It relates to child hood and it relates to keeping us safe as babies, toddlers, children, teenagers but in adulthood, its work is done.
My gnawing voice told me: adoption affects everything
For many , the ego persists dominating and controlling every move: harsh, critical, divided.
This can make us meek and submissive.
We stay scared and listening to the voice, we play small.
You are adopted and alone. No one wants you. Not good enough. she whispers..
When the truth is so much bigger than that.
So, I began to figure out how to create distance.
This idea was tracked by Geneen Roth in her book Women, Food and God:
“Zen master Shunryu Suzuki Roshi said that enlightenment was following one thing all the way to the end, and I soon suspected that if I tracked the impulse to eat when I wasn’t hungry to its core, I’d find every single thing I believed about loving, living and dying right there in that moment”
And an idea was born.
But to follow it all the way to the end, I needed to create space.
I spent time in retreat, in self inquiry and learned techniques to recognise and separate the self-limiting voice from reality – when I remembered
Often I forgot.
This could last for months.
Overtime I began to connect with the present, trying to connect with something more than the small defeated self that told me
Adoption effects everything
Until it became apparent that the power and connection comes from checking in – moment to moment – being present with what is and not checking out with food.
And sometimes I forget.
“Many people refuse to surrender as they just don’t want to let go – this leads to inner restlessness”
writes Ruhi Seth this morning in the Asian Age.
How true. How frightening to close my eyes and dream of letting go. Dropping into the void. Endless.
And so it seems after all that it’s the feelings that are the issue not the food.
And sometimes the only way out is through.
I become more self-aware.
I begin to explore the nature of addiction, in my case to food.
And the more I read, the more I understand the more I could let go.
Moving full circle
I found that the most likely cause of addiction has already been discovered, and it is not what you think.
“Human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe [or the love of a slab of cake – me-].. we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else………..So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.”
Professor Peter Cohen, reported in the Huffington Post
Let me read that again, the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
And the nourishment I sought all my life had nothing whatsoever to do with food. That was an illusion.
And I circle back to the beginning, my beginning and the class I missed out on life and how to form human connections.
I don’t think food is my issue – I think it is my adoption.
But then is that an illusion too?
The whole world unravels before me when I follow this thought because in my life, all my life , I have held onto and known only one true thing that
Adoption affects everything.
It interrupted a fundamental, natural need to connect deeply with the woman who birthed me and the father who gave me life.
It caused a deep and excruciating wound which took time to feel round the extent and boundary, to figure it out and try to overcome through food.
And I find that our relationship has grown up now to the extent that I am aware of it and alongside that I am more often than not in a place of loving and creating.
And I try to show that in my reading, writing and creating food for my family.
I am so pleased to be able to write that.
Like Chiron, so boldly played out in the movie Moonlight, healing comes from the depth of knowledge and familiarity with the wound – the hand we are dealt in life.
I married again and took on a new family.
There was some collateral damage along the way.
We love each other. He carries the same wound.
There is no more room for excuses.
When I feel old food habits return, I reach out to my husband and find ways to connect that are real and grounding often just sharing the moment lets it pass. I create. I ache. I long for reunion. But with what?
Connect, only connect, only connect wrote E M Forster
“Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.”
Live in fragments no longer. This feeling is not new.
I understand that food is fuel – nothing more and of course sometimes I still forget.
Life is fluid, ebbing and flowing like the tides – sometimes we are ahead and sometimes we catch ourselves up running, but the point is to stay in the game, living our lives knowing that nothing is certain and learning to surrender with grace to the inevitable.
Laying my table with flowers, serving meals up to my family with love, colour, depth and flavour brings its own kind of reward. The act of creation.
Each of us will find our own way in.
But find it we must.
Begin, explore, embrace, love – God knows it’s time..