—and all the things, people, life circumstances I wanted because (I believed) they would make me happy. This morning I remembered the antique garnet bracelet I saw in a window of an old shop in Greenwich Village when I was fourteen. It was so beautiful, so magical that I was convinced that having it would change my life. I suppose I thought that wearing it would, like fairy dust, sprinkle beauty on everything about me that wasn’t beautiful. Or maybe I thought that other people would look at it on my wrist and think, “Anyone who wears this is special. Is someone I want to know.” I wanted that bracelet to fill in the holes of anxiety and worthlessness. To give me value. To make me whole. A tall order for a few stones strung together…
After putting it on layaway for a year — it took three dollars a week of babysitting money and a teeny bit of help from my father — it was finally mine. And it was indeed beautiful and I did indeed enjoy wearing it for a little while, but it didn’t right what was wrong. And now it sits in an old jewelry box, where it has been keeping company with the many other It things I thought were going to change my life.
In addition to actual physical things — earrings or sweaters or boots — there were people I met who seemed as if life had touched them with radiance and to whom I was drawn, convinced that I too could have radiance - by association. There were of course, a string of men who didn’t want me, places I wanted to live, the thigh-size I wanted to have, the weight at which I was convinced I’d be happy.
Two things have been occurring to me recently about wanting: the first is that it isn’t and it’s never been the actual getting of the thing/accomplishment that relieves the pressure inside. It’s that in the moment I buy or get or have it, that wild restlessness, that anxiety for the next thing and the next, is stilled. The waiting to finally hit the mark is over. The belief that I am not enough or that I need what I don’t have is at peace. And for one moment or five minutes or two weeks, before it starts focusing its yearning on something else, there is a sense of calmness. Of rest.
All those years of bingeing and the drama around food were exactly the same: the craving, the getting/eating, and the fallout afterwards. Food was my universe. And after spending so much time judging and blaming myself and still wanting the cupcake and then fighting with myself about yes, no, should, shouldn’t, bad, good, shame, shame — the moment of finally deciding to eat and taking that first bite was like being set free. But it wasn’t exactly the taste of the cupcake (although it was that too), it was in that first bite, all that internal gnashing came to an end. It was quiet inside. (Until of course the shame kicked up and then I was back in the battle). So, although it seemed that the war was about wanting food, it was also and perhaps mostly about wanting to be free from the internal war. From self-hatred. From believing at my core that I was worthless.
The second thing I’ve been thinking about is that it’s me who grants the power to these things. It’s me who invests magic onto the garnet bracelet. Onto men or women or life situations. It’s my power — and my projection of that power onto what’s out there.
Here’s what I know: there has never been a thing out there — a piece of jewelry, a sweater, a man, an accomplishment — that can give me back the light I so willingly disown. If that garnet bracelet was really magic, it would still be magic. If any one of those things—and we’ve all had hundreds of them and once we get that one, well, then we can stop—had the power, it would have stopped me in my tracks. We keep getting caught by the wanting and the belief that this one, this person, this weight will do it, be it.
And what I know to do is to tell the truth. To ask myself what I actually wanted when I wanted that garnet necklace or thinner thighs or the love of the man who wasn’t attracted to me. And to ask myself what I discovered on the other side of having them.
Telling the truth means turning around. In my own life, it’s meant first being tender towards whatever felt so unmagical in me, so powerless that I kept thinking that having that accomplishment or her friendship or his love would fill the hole. And then, as I once did with food and my weight, to be aware of the power that is already mine. To sense my body, its life force, what has never been affected by any thought or feeling or garnet bracelet. To be (as we all are) the source of the light instead of believing that what that light falls on is the answer.