Monday, February 20, 2012

Hunger: A Short Story

Fort Cemetery at Watson Mill Bridge State Park in GA.
Copyright Jamie Holdorf,
I’m standing on the side of the road under a flickering streetlamp (the only streetlamp on this drag) after an excruciating night at the bar. 4am. My feet hurt. My lower back clenches. And the cut on my neck hums dully throughout my body. The faint smell of blood and beer still hangs on me.  I think back on the past few hours…

Gary usually stops by every Saturday for his fix. Loud. Crude. Angry. Your typical drunkard. He prefers cheap beer straight from the bottle. I knew he had reached his limit three drinks before the incident, but my greed overrode my better judgment. Plus he’d never gotten violent before. Maybe a belligerent rant or two, but nothing like tonight. Apparently his wife is cheating on him…or so he believes. I can’t remember all he was saying—I was only half listening. He never really talked much about her, except to complain every once in a while about how she rarely put out and when she did it was like fucking a cold fish. Honestly, I thought to myself, I couldn’t really blame her. I imagined having sex with him would be like having a reckless jackhammer slamming into me. I would have to shut down every bit of feeling just to survive the experience.

But when he started accusing everyone at the bar of sleeping with his wife, I had to step in.

Gary,” I tell him, “It’s time for you to get a cab.”

“I don’t take orders from you, bitch,” he slurs.

I’ve been working here for so long (what's it...ten years now, right after high school?) that I’ve learned not to take it personally.

Gary, c’mon man. You’re drunk. I’m going to call you cab and you’re going to go home and sleep it off.”

“Home?!” he cries. “Home…there is no home. There is no bed. There is no sleeping next to that…that…” His voice strangles a bit as he collapses onto the bar. Jim, another regular who spends his money slowly nursing Rusty Nails, catches Gary and tries to help him stand back up. Gary’s wounded pride must have hit its limit in that moment, because he suddenly roars back to life, grabs Jim’s glass and hurls it across the room, screaming, “I don’t need your help, motherfucker!”

Gary!” I cry. Without thinking, I reach out to restrain his monstrous limbs. His angry fingers wrap around the empty longneck he just finished. A scream like nothing I’d heard before emanates from within him as he swings the bottle at my head. I duck just in time, but in his drunkenness, he doesn’t have a very solid grip on the bottle, so it slips from his hand and smashes into the glowing display of alcohol behind me. Glass shatters everywhere. Liquid rushes down the damp, dusty wood. I cover my head and squeeze my eyes shut, but not before a slice of broken bottle ricochets off the back wall and hits me in the neck.

“FUCK!” The stabbing pain buckles my knees and I have to lumber down to the end of the bar to avoid collapsing into a pile of shredded glass. My hand instinctively finds its way to the side of my neck. Blood, more than one typically wants to see coming from one’s own body, streams between the webbing of my fingers. At least I don’t feel any glass. Must’ve bounced off me.

In the chaos, five or six men manage to hold Gary down long enough for him to surrender the fight. He now lies on the ground, weeping, with his demons exposed. Were it not for the throbbing pain in my neck and the blood matting up my hair, I might feel sorry for him.

“Out! Everyone out now,” the manager, barks. He simply goes by JB. No last name. He’s on the shorter side, but built like a brick. Thick and wide. Late 60’s. Worked here for as long as I can remember. He doesn’t say much, but when he does speak, you listen.

It’s close to 2am. Most of the people have already paid their bills and those that don’t throw some wadded-up cash onto the bar as they rush out into the cool night. No doubt a relief compared to the thick, acrid stench inside. Gary half mumbles apologies as Jim carries him towards the door.

“I’ll take him home with me,” Jim says. Once the place is clear, I start to regain some awareness of my body. I’m a little frozen. Shocked. Except for the gash on my throat, I have lost sensation in other parts of my body. As I stand in the heavy silence, I exhale and feel my limbs melt a little. Warmth comes back to my feet and hips, as an exhaustion like I have never known sweeps over my eyes. I swoon a bit.

“You ok?” JB inquires. He’s less concerned with my health and more interested in making sure that he doesn’t have to take care of me. He’s always been uncomfortable when dealing with delicate matters. He’s a practical man. Intimacy is not something he does well.

“I’ll be ok,” I say.

“Well, take a few moments and then we’ll clean up.” He hands me a glass of water and I soothe my scorched throat. As I slide onto a stool, he heads to the back. I stare absently at the wreckage littering the spot where I stood just 10 minutes ago. JB returns with a broom, a dustpan and a metal garbage can. He starts sweeping up and throwing away mounds of glass in crashing chunks.

“I’ll be right back,” I say and head off to the bathroom to survey the damage. Despite the circles under my eyes and the glassy stare, everything looks alright. The cut is already starting to clot. It felt a lot worse in the moment than it actually was. The wound itself is relatively superficial. Just glad it didn’t hit any major blood vessels. I run some water over a wad of disposable brown paper towels and gently dab my neck. It feels cool and sharp. After a few rounds of this, I head back out to help JB.

Two hours later and we are finally locking up.

“We’ll take care of inventory tomorrow—er, um, later today,” JB tells me. “Just get some sleep and be back here at 4:30. If you need the day off, I understand, but I could really use your help here if you can make it.”

“I’ll be here,” I say. I don’t even pause to think about whether or not I want to. I just say yes. Like always.

“Good. Well then…see you later.” He makes his way to his truck. “Hey…uh…you want a ride?” he asks, as he turns to look at me.

“No thanks,” I answer back, a little shocked at this gesture of goodwill. “I’m fine.” Without a word, he heads towards his red Chevrolet, gets in and drives off.  I’m surprised I declined his offer. I mean, after all the drama of the evening, a ride home would be nice. But something in me needs the clean air, the solitude, the quiet. Besides, I feel too buzzed to go home now, especially after drinking all that coffee while cleaning the bar. A walk will do me good, I think to myself. I jog across the road, but instead of heading straight home, I lean against the pole with the flickering light.

My mind drifts to Gary. How long has he been married? 15? 20 years? How could his wife have stood it for so long? I mean, I don’t know the whole story, but if his behavior is any indication of their home life, my guess is that she’s probably not a very happy woman. He’s clearly a sad, wretched man. My heart drops a little at this discovery.

At least I’ve got James, I think. He’s a decent guy. Nice enough. Hardworking. Wants the best for everyone. True, our sex life has dwindled over the 6 years we’ve been living together, but that happens to all couples, right? I mean, he works during the day and I work nights, so finding the time and energy to get all hyped-up and hot and horny isn’t high on either of our priority lists.

I feel a sort of heaviness wash over me. A thick ball presses into my throat as I think back to the first sweet months of our relationship. How we couldn’t get enough of each other. How our sex was like this fantastic erotic playground. The light tickle on the back of my fingers while barely touching the hairs on his cheek. His front teeth slowly biting down on my nipple until a sharp, painful rush of heat rolled over my breasts. The electric current pulsing through the tips of our tongues when we lingered in a kiss.

The heaviness gives way to a sort of hollowness. A black void opens in my chest that travels down to my belly—and then shifts to my genitals. When was the last time I had my pussy touched? Or even looked at, for that matter…

The thick ball in my throat rises. My face flushes. My forehead feels tight. An internal pressure builds to where I can no longer control the tears swelling in my eyes.

“It’s just been a long night,” I lie to myself. The tears back down for a moment, though my fingers start to tremble. For in that black void sits a burning, unavoidable truth.

I’ve had enough. And not just tonight. With everything. My life feels somehow…empty. My days consist of cleaning the house and catching up on sleep. My nights consist of emotionally managing men with a painfully unquenchable thirst.

And me? What about my thirst? What about my…what? What is this…hunger? I feel like one of those people who hasn’t eaten in so long that she has forgotten what hunger feels like.

I glance up and catch a masculine-looking shadow not twenty feet away from me. My defenses instantly snap into place, like a puffer fish flaring her blades. Who is he? How long has he been there? Has he been watching me this whole time?

I check my watch. 4:30. I’ve been here for half an hour already. Was he waiting for me to exit the bar? It’s not like someone to be hanging around alone this time of the night. There’s nothing else in this area but a bridal shop and a cemetery down the road.

I start walking. Quickly. My body is buzzing and I am holding my breath as I rush down the street. My feet scrape carelessly along the sidewalk, leaving a jagged, scratching sound in their wake. Behind me beats the brisk, steady rhythm of heel to cement. I fly past the bridal shop to my right (how many times had I gazed longingly at its offerings of layered, white organza) and head towards the cemetery. Normally I hate walking through here, but the groundskeeper lives on the other side and if I can make it to his place in time, hopefully it will deter my shadow.

I race to the iron gate, affixed between two, six-foot high, rectangular columns of cement. I curse under my breath to find it closed. I locate the latch and use all my strength (what little is left) to lift it up. It’s not locked, thank God. But I have lost precious seconds and I nearly freeze in horror to see my pursuer only three long strides away from me. I slip inside the gate, but as I try to close the door, he catches it in time and swings it open, sending me nearly flat on my back. I regain my footing and turn to run, but I don’t make it more than four steps before one arm grips around my waist and another wraps around my shoulder to cover my mouth. We stand there suspended in the moment for what could have been between thirty seconds and three hours. I feel my pelvis press firmly into the hard angles of his hips. His belly is methodically breathing into my spine, while I struggle to manage the chaotic symphony of my rasping chest. My mouth is slightly agape. I can taste the salty, acidic wetness of his palm. The hot moisture of his breath tickles my left ear and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Eventually, my rigidity gives way. I melt into the warmth of his body in surrender. I know I am outmatched. He feels this shift in me.

“Good girl,” he whispers.

He guides us towards a mausoleum about forty feet ahead of us. We turn into the tomb and he presses me face-first into the corner made by the entrance and the left wall. The heady scent of wet limestone and stale mushrooms nearly asphyxiates me. He spins me around and we are, for the first time, face to face. Though it’s dark outside, the glow from the streetlamp creates enough light for me to make out his features.

I instantly recognize him. He started coming around the bar a few months ago. Early 40’s. Dark hair. Fairly good-looking, if it weren’t for the fact that the right side of his mouth was totally paralyzed—though that never really bothered me. He always sat at the left edge of the bar, where the wood started to curve away from the main stretch. He never talked to anyone. Never drew attention to himself. I didn’t ask for his name and never thought much about him, except for the curious fact that the only thing he drank was soda water with lime—an odd choice for a hardcore dive bar.

“I know you know me,” he says, as if he can read my thoughts through the changing expressions of my face. “And I know how miserable you are. I know you want more, so much more.”

I stand there, fascinated, vacillating between repulsion and unspeakable attraction. Who is this guy to chase me down in a fucking graveyard just to tell me about my life? What had I ever done to him? What did he want from me? And why was I all of a sudden hungering for him to pull me deeper inside him? A magnetic current swirls up from my feet, my legs, between my thighs, to my chest and washes over my face. Despite the darkness, I was positive he could see the reddening in my cheeks. Something in me hated him for that, for feeling me so deeply without asking my permission. And yet…another part of me, some part that had been dry and hidden for so long, wanted him to feel me even more.

He looks at my face for quite some time. I’m not sure if he’s contemplating what to do with me or if he is just curious. His gaze is intense, but I stay with him. I’m still a little on high alert, but I also don’t want to miss a drop of his exquisite attention. He traces his finger over the arch of my brow, down my cheek and along the edge of my jaw. I gasp a little when he strokes the gash on my throat, but it’s more in anticipation than in pain. He furrows his brow a little and peers into my eyes, as if asking for permission. I nod my head once and he brings his mouth down to my neck. He draws the tip of his tongue along the wound. A prickly, stinging sensation stretches over me, but I surrender to his touch.

“Mmm,” he murmurs, as if he has just eaten something delicious. “I want to taste all of you.” He bends his misshapen mouth to mine and the cool, freshness of his kiss is irresistible. Like cold lemon-water in the middle of a desert. I reach my tongue deeper into his mouth. I want all of me inside of him. I want him to consume me…and at the same time, I want to consume him. To suck him deep into me. To envelope his flesh with mine.

He pulls away a bit and the hand near my face glides down my chest, over my abdomen and to the top of my pants. He unbuttons my black jeans and slips his hand down the front. His first two fingers curl in and slowly slide into me. Once he’s inside, I become keenly aware of the thick, heavy wetness dripping from between my legs. My walls ache and pulse around his fingers. He pushes them in a little deeper. A low groan escapes my throat. He holds me here, suspended in the chasm between my wanting and my satisfaction. In this space I would normally rush to have him fuck me hard, but this time, there is something so different, so expansive happening within me that I don’t dare move a muscle.

Unhurried, he pulls out of me and I can feel almost every ridge and crease of his dry, cracked fingers. He brings his forefinger towards his face. He brushes it against his mouth and then in one single move, he places it on his tongue, wraps his lips around it and pulls it out, sucking up all the juice. He then takes his middle finger and brings it near my mouth. I lick my lips and open them wider. He slides his finger in my mouth and a rush of sweet, salty warmth cascades over my tongue. He draws his finger out and I linger in the moment with my eyes shut.

I open my eyes to find his devilish, lopsided smile reflecting back at me.

“So?” he asks.

“Yes,” I whisper.




I blink in confusion. No? He’s telling me no? No what? Why is he here if not to fuck me? I want him. He clearly wants me. What’s wrong? Did I do something wrong?

Again, reading the emotional storm through my silent expressions, he softly laughs and says, “This is how I always want to remember you. Hungry. Open. Vulnerable. Consumed by desire. I want every moment of your life to be this electric. This…alive.”

And as quickly as he came upon me, he makes his escape into the breaking dawn. I remain glued to the mausoleum wall. The coldness of the stone is no match for the heat coursing through my body. My brain can’t make sense of what just happened. I begin shaking. What…was…that? Should I go after him? Should I go home? How can I go back home? Is it possible to go back? Do I want to go back?

My thoughts collide until I can think no more. I stand stunned. Frozen. Then, in my mental blankness, I suddenly recall a line from years ago (tenth grade English?) that brings everything into perfect focus:

What’s done cannot be undone.

The truth of who I am is so undeniable that I have no choice but to follow the path that has opened before me. No, I will not be meeting JB at the bar at 4:30. No, I will not be returning home to James. No, I will not be confined by the walls of this town. And no, I will not be running away from my hunger anymore.

My body starts to float back down to the earth. A few more minutes pass. My cells settle into my skin. My feet feel firm and connected to the ground beneath me. I peel myself away from the wall, head out of the tomb and walk towards the cemetery gates. I exit the iron door, still standing agape from the struggle earlier (a moment that seems like a lifetime ago), and I stand silently on the street. I inhale deeply, as if I can finally breathe for the first time in my life. I feel awake. The virgin morning is crisp and clear. And even though I don’t know exactly what the future looks like, I do know that everything feels exactly right.

As I turn towards the open road, I catch a final glimpse of my little bar on the edge of town—the only town I have ever known. And the last thing I recall is the single streetlamp, now no longer flickering, but burning brightly against the white hot glow of the rising sun.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Happy OM-iversary: The Terrible Twos

La Vague Violette, Georges Lacombe, MuseĆ© d'Orsay
I feel like I am going out of my mind right now. Truly bonkers. Climbing out of my skin, bloodying my nails, ready to scream and looking for anything, anything, to deaden the intensity of this sensation: food, cock, wine, Facebook, TV, picking a fight, obsessive cyber-stalking, inert-your-checkout-vice-here.

On the verge of tears. Can’t make a decision. My feelings get hurt at every turn (even though I try to play it off like I am so caring and understanding). And here comes the entitlement. The anger. The bitchiness. And a splashy cameo by the Princess (or is she really front and center?).

Two years to the day. Two goddammed years doing this crazy stroking practice and I feel like it's only just now that I have begun to lean against the membrane that surrounds my hunger…and everything catches my attention and whets my appetite like the smell of freshly baking bread (or is that sizzling raw meat?).

What. The Fuck. Is Going On?

I ask for what I want. I get it. I get angry. I deserved more, asshole—didn’t you know?

I ask for what I want. I don’t get it. I get angry. Fuck you.

I feel your resentment (or is it mine?). I get angry. Go away from me.

I want. A lot. And I want that to be ok. Why is it not ok? Don’t warn me against greed or consumption or that I am setting myself up for samsaric suffering (please, spare me the self-righteous bullshit, thank you very much. Your greed to collect income in the spiritual bank is just as comparable to my carnal hunger).

Who is this person I am fighting with? Of course, the obvious answer is myself. Yes, yes, yes…like a good little coach I “inquire” and “take responsibility.” I see all the faults and fears and scarcity in others and project all my shit all over that. Where am I saying YES when I mean NO? Where I am giving in to unspoken requests, when deep in my heart they are not in alignment with my integrity? Where I am acquiescing as opposed to surrendering?

But as a real live human woman, I just want. So very much. And the most pressing question in my mind is “What do I want?”

I was originally thinking of calling this post “The Sex I Want,” because I was feeling confused and hurt and angry about my sexual hunger. Was I craving sex to fill a void, which will ultimately leave me undernourished and depleted? Or was there really a desire to intimately connect and express. I think it’s a little of both. And there was this overwhelming shame that came with wanting more. More than 2 OMs a day. More than sex twice a week. And once that faucet started to turn on, a whole flood of other desires started to flow. Beyond the sex (which was just the catalyst). Into the shoes I want. The clothes I want. The acting roles I want. The money I want. The job I want. The car I want. The travel I want. The writing I want. The awards I want. The glamour I want. The beauty I want. The people I want. The freedom I want. The life I want.

So…this is the process of “turning on.” I get flooded with energy (orgasm). My system comes alive. And what no longer serves me comes to the surface like salt in a wound. All the ways I played small so as not to acknowledge that very dangerous appetite. And then comes all the anger I feel for playing that game. Oh God…I don’t want to see that. And then, my poor little body (which isn’t used to this much activation) tries to do anything to expel this energy.

Growing pains. It hurts to expand out. To break through the old armor and feel the raw, exposed nerves and tender flesh of something so well-hidden that I feel too humiliated to share it. Not knowing anything anymore. Not knowing what’s right. Having really no clue what the future holds for me. Just sitting here with an unbearable ache and no way to find relief.

Just sit. Just sit. Just. Sit.

I could search around for the some lame piece of self-help advice. Some momentary aphorism that may inspire me for the moment. Post it on Facebook. Secretly hope all my friends like it and think what a cool person I am.

Or I can just be here and listen to the quiet little voice in me that has one simple message: Live your life.

Huh? That’s not very comforting. But on some level, it’s the only true thing that exists right now. There is nothing to figure out or fix. No map or plan or prediction that is going to make it easier. It’s only through simply living my life and cultivating a relationship with all that arises—the fear, the confusion, the pain, the joy, the love, the heartbreak, the rejection, the surprise, the anger, the hunger, the magic—that I will come any closer to knowing what I want. If that even matters anymore. What if trying to “know” anything is in and of itself an attempt at triggering the pressure release valve?

Just live my life. It feels so simple. A moment-by-moment fumbling in the hot, blind, wet cave of my wanting. And in that one stroke, I suddenly feel just how very sexy this place is. This void. This empty hole. This cavern wanting very, very skilled penetration—to cut through the briars of my NO into the aching warmth of my YES.

My heart is racing. My genitals pulse. My belly is swollen. My breath is slow and deep. I feel the cool wood of the floor against my tingling feet. I feel…alive.

OK, Orgasm. You win. Gratitude washes over me and I suddenly know that I am capable—more than capable—of holding this and so much more.

This is the process. The alchemy. Orgasm in. The fire burns. The pain. The fighting. The acceptance. The surrender. The insight. The gratitude. The expansion. The love. The pouring out. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Two years—a lesson in unbearable patience. I’ve been hungry for so long that the moment I see something that remotely resembles nourishment, I clamp down on it and I want it all for me right now. A vicious cycle of feast or famine. Now the work for me is to simply sit. Sit in the hunger, trust that she is loved and will be fed and that with the passing storms, the next right thing will appear in time.

And breathe. Always remember to breathe.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Starving for Approval: Anorexia and the Mother Shadow

Mother and Child, Mary Cassatt, 1897
    Sweet flowers I bring:
Mother, accept, I pray
    My offering.

And may you happy live,
    And long us bless;
Receiving as you give
    Great happiness.

--To My Mother, 
Christina Rossetti

Ask any anorexic who has a shred of consciousness around his/her behavior and 99% of them will say “It’s not about the food.” And as much as it’s “not about the food,” it’s also not about the models in the magazines, the actresses on the TV or the media. Sorry to blow your cover, finger-pointers, but I am done using the media as my scapegoat.

Yes, I agree that a lot of the images shown are heavily photoshopped and are idealized versions of beauty that no one could possibly attain. I also agree that many of the images (especially of women) are dismissive at best (like when she plays the one-dimensional “love object” to a male protagonist) or deeply damaging at worst (like when she is a glorified corpse for abuse and rape).

But as difficult as it is to admit, they are giving us exactly that for which we are asking.

Honestly, how many times have you and I looked at the TV and said (or at least thought):

“How old is she?!”

“Check out that plastic surgery!”

“He has gained some weight!”

“Ugh! What a slut!”

We, inside our own personal psyches, have an internal war of judgment and hatred that is then reflected in the cultural ideals with which we are surrounded. And then that judgment is projected when we see something as “ugly” (that fat whore really needs to just give it up) OR when we see someone “beautiful” (she only got that role because she was fucking the director. Give that skinny bitch a hamburger!).

How can anyone possibly win when everything around us is a mirror of our own self-doubt and fear?

We as a society are all walking around starving for approval and are too full of pride to admit just how much we want it. This approval somehow validates our right to exist in the world, but it is a temporary salve—a fast-food, quick fix so that we don’t have to face the deeper hunger within.

For me, anorexia is the quick fix. For example:

1. It keeps my body small and childlike, so I get to have the concerned attention of those around me, rather than overtly admitting my desire and risking rejection.

2. It keeps my ovaries and pelvis frozen, so as not to run the risk of pregnancy (because that would require a level of responsibility that I could never handle).

3. It dulls out the hunger within. This way, I don’t have to face how greedy I am and thus won’t feel the shame that comes with admitting that I haven’t done the work to know what I want. Or oftentimes I know exactly what I want, but expressing that comes with a high price, usually in the form of people’s judgments (which is humiliating and hits my vanity in a deep way): “Are you sure that’s what you want?” “That sounds way out there.” “You just like the attention.” “LA is just not your kind of town.” “Is that really for the greater good?” “Be reasonable.” “Save some for the rest of us.” “You’re not ready for that yet.”

4. It keeps my world organized and sane—all I have to do is be the good girl and get the good grades and be president of all the clubs and eat the good foods and avoid the bad ones and then I will be liked and will have earned some sort of credit in your world and you will allow me to stay with you for another day (yeah, that one’s really warped, ain’t it?).

In my case, this hunger for approval shows up strongly in what I call my “Mother Shadow.” Caroline Myss talks about different variations of the Mother archetype, but the overarching one that every woman has inside of her is the nurturing, loving caretaker. Yes, every woman has this archetype in her. We are biologically wired to house and nourish life: breasts, hips, vagina, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, estrogen—the whole lot. Now of course, not every woman expresses this energy through giving birth to physical children. Some women are doctors, some found charities, some are community leaders, some save orphaned kittens. It doesn’t matter how this energy is expressed, but that it is acknowledged, integrated and given an outlet.  

What makes this energy a “shadow” for me is that somewhere down the line I have chosen to reject it. For quite some time I have had an intense phobia of getting pregnant—like, my life was going to end if that ever happened to me. I have also focused very heavily on being a “career” woman—someone so driven by her oh-so-important life purpose, that I didn’t have time for that weak stuff. And I will also admit that there is a residual shame leftover from the feminist movement that if I showed any signs of domesticity, I was not in favor of women’s rights.

Now, I may get in a lot of trouble for saying this, but well…it’s my blog, so fuck it. While I am extremely grateful for the women’s movement and for what it did to bring to light the gender inequalities within society, I think it did a disservice to the deeper feminine energies within us. It taught us how to act like men—or rather, provide us with the false sense of masculinity that parades this planet as being “in one’s power.” Goal-driven, unwavering, never showing emotion, working non-stop, constantly producing, going up, up, up.

This particular flavor of nurturing Mother energy needs the soft, quiet receptivity of moment to moment connection and intimacy. This is at the heart of what we are missing within our culture and the very thing for which we are starving.

I was all good at being seen as Kali. Or the Bitch, the Whore, the Sex Queen or any other kind of wild and destructive feminine archetypes. But since I had rejected the Mother within me, I had to find secret ways to “sneak” her into my life (for that is how a shadow works—if you deny it in the conscious mind or body, the unconscious will find ways to get a hit through the back door, whether you like it or not). So, like a drug addict or an anorexic who has her once-a-week-secret-cookie fix, I would seek out the constant approval of women I considered to be authorities to me. Teachers, leaders, mentors, family members, even my own mother. I was morphing myself, moment by moment, into this person that would be likeable and loveable enough to receive the momentary nourishment of a Mother’s love.

Of course the problem with that is, somewhere down the line, I forgot who I was. My validation became a search of some feminine external, rather than the integrated feminine within myself. And so when I would slip up and my cover was blown, I revealed myself to be someone altogether different that who I pretended to be. It almost felt like an act of betrayal to those I loved, and most importantly, to myself.

I thank the Universe for my anorexia. Some may say “Oh my God! If only we had known then we could have prevented this from happening to her.” But what you are missing that anorexia is not the cause of my pain, but a warning signal that some other thing in my life is out of alignment—that I am not living authentically in my skin. To use the analogy of putting your hand on a hot stove, the anorexia is not the hot stove itself, causing the burn. The anorexia is the bundle of pain receptors sending messages to my brain saying, “Take your hand off this stove before you kill yourself!”

And so, here I am. In San Fran-Fucking-Cisco (of all the most random of places), facing the fertile Mother within me and learning to love her deeply. To expose my hunger and embrace the possibility of getting full and fat and pregnant with energy and giving birth to something. Receiving love, in all its forms, and knowing that I don’t have to produce anything in return or have all the answers. Redefining what success is for me and cultivating an unbearable amount of gentle patience with myself as I learn to take responsibility for my life. And to answer the most dangerous question of all—the one that may have me spinning in circles for lifetimes to unveil.

It’s a question we all have, really. We spend millions of dollars every year on gym memberships, guru books, self-help workshops, therapy sessions and calls to the psychic friends network in the hopes that someone will give us the quick answer. OR we spend billions on porn, alcohol, television, cigarettes, shopping, sugar and empty-calorie sex so that we can numb or distract ourselves to point where we don’t hear this question lurking in our basement anymore.

It’s time to turn on the lights. My shadows are quickly exposing themselves. And when the anorexia comes around again, I will get down on my knees and give thanks—for then I will know another rejected piece of me is waiting just behind that veil of fear. And in meeting her, I will have come one layer closer towards answering that ultimate question: Who am I?