This morning I dropped my daughter Maya off at day care, walked back to my car, glanced at my smartphone, and saw something that sucked me right in.
I sat there, in my car, staring at the screen, for over an hour.
Then I stared out the window for another thirty minutes, processing.
When I finally got to my office, I spent another two hours carefully constructing a response.
Now, looking back many hours later, I can see that I got a bit carried away by drama, and today I try not to be about drama.
I try to be about principles.
Principles, connections, and feelings.
And I think they all deserve to be voiced.
Let’s take the feelings first, because that’s where my heart is.
For much of the day today, I’ve felt sad.
Sad the way a mom feels sad after her innocent little kid witnesses something that will make her grow up abruptly.
The sad fact is that the world is what it is, and there’s value in developing calluses on your feet if you like to run around in the summertime without shoes.
Wisdom has its bit of hardness to it.
It just does.
I’m feeling the emotional aftershocks: heavy and achy.
And that’s okay.
Feelings aren’t facts, and they always pass.
The brilliant thing is that I don’t eat over them anymore.
Mostly, I don’t even THINK about eating over them anymore.
But I have to admit that right here, smack in the middle of the afternoon, the thought did occur to me that I could sneak off and eat a crazy-early dinner.
But I won’t.
I don’t eat over feelings today, so when those thoughts come, I pat them on the head and send them to their room with no further discussion.
However, when the need for connection rises up, I really try to honor that.
Sometimes I just need to be real with the people in my inner circle and let them know what’s going on with me.
I did that today.
And I’m good now.
So, on to principles.
The principles involved all pertain to the title of this blog: Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Plate.
First of all, I want to thank my dear friend Julia who suggested this blog topic. I had something else I had planned to write about today, but after getting sidetracked this morning, my heart wasn’t in it. I always find it easier to write about what’s REAL for me, right at that very moment, than to try to opine about something theoretical and remote. You’re so right, Julia. Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Plate is what it’s all about. One of my favorite sayings ever. Love it.
I was first told to keep my eyes on my own plate when I was in a 12-step program for food addiction, and my sponsor was counseling me about how to approach gatherings where I’d be eating with other people.
Funny enough, it applied more to gatherings with other 12-step food addicts in recovery than gatherings with family or friends.
You see, in that program, there were differences in how people ate. (Aren’t there always?) Some sponsors said that all fruits and vegetables were okay. Some said all fruits except mangos, grapes, and cherries. Some said corn was a vegetable, some said it was a grain, some said it was not allowed at all.
You get the idea.
So the only way to stay sane and unruffled in the midst of it all was to keep your eyes on your own plate, and pretty much ignore what other people were or weren’t doing with their food.
I quickly learned to apply the principle to what my friends and family were eating, too.
Ironically, I find it relatively easy when other people are eating sugar and flour, or other things that I simply don’t eat. I’m like the non-smoker who accepts that there are smokers in the world. It’s not my issue. So long as no one else is forcing food into my mouth (which, in all my life, has never happened once), other people’s junk-food eating doesn’t bother me.
What can sometimes bother me, though, is when other people decide to do Bright Line Eating™ and then don’t do it the way I do.
Ain’t that the thing?
I’ve been doing Bright Line Eating™, or some form of 12-step food program, for twenty years. During that time, most of the people I know have tried to apply Bright Lines to their eating at one point or another.
Hardly any of them have done it the way I do it, which is full-on, with no exceptions.
Ironically, one or two have decided to do it MORE full-on than me, and I find that equally challenging.
The fact of the matter remains that keeping my eyes on my own plate is the only way for me to stay sane and happy.
What other people do is none of my business.
And as I show up in community with other people, the saying applies equally well. If I post something in a discussion forum and people comment on it, do their comments reflect on me or them?
How I answer that question will largely determine my inner peace, and my ability to stay connected to others in a rich and diverse community.
Today, I choose to recognize that what other people say and do is, always and fundamentally, about THEM.
It’s not about me.
Sometimes people tell me I’m too thin.
Is that a statement about their reality or mine?
If I want to, I can check some external metrics. I’m healthy, happy, and I feel great in my body. I’m smack-dab in the “normal” range of the BMI chart and my doctor has no concerns.
So I just smile, thank them for their concern, and move on.
When someone says, “You’re not going to eat my XYZ? I baked it especially for you!” Is that about me or about them?
What if I were deathly allergic to XYZ? Can I go through life harming myself in order to avoid hurting everyone else’s feelings?
So what do I do?
I just gush about how terribly sorry I am and how it smells wonderful and I’m sure it’s delicious and I so totally regret that I can’t partake.
But inside I am calm and safe. Their disappointment is theirs. My integrity is mine. I can detach with love.
And similarly, when someone expresses support for me in overtly religious language that is different, maybe even counter to my preferences, background, or worldview, is that about me or about them?
It’s about them, so I take it as support and move on.
I’m not distracted by the lamp. I’m focusing on the light.
I am responsible for how others’ words affect me.
I am responsible for my interpretation and the narrative I spin about what’s going on.
No one can make me think or feel anything.
People will show up in the world as themselves, and that’s okay. I want that. There’s variety in the world, and it’s gorgeous. I don’t need to censor what they say or do, I just need to tend to my own reactions and perceptions.
Here’s what I’ve learned. If I find myself getting thrown off center by something someone else has said or done, I must take that as a cue to dive deep inside myself and find out what’s going on. The opportunity is mine. There’s a lesson there. It has nothing to do with the other person; it has to do with me.
So, I keep my eyes on my own plate. What other people say and do is about them and their journey, not about the state of my being.
Luckily, there’s plenty on my plate to hold my attention. I have enough to work on for one lifetime. Maybe several. I can’t do anyone else’s work for them, and resenting them is like drinking the proverbial rat poison, and waiting for the rat to die.
So, for today, I will keep my eyes on my own plate. What someone else eats, says, does, believes, or values, is not mine to change or regulate.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.