Today is one of those days where it’s all you can do not to set a match to a pile of envelopes and sprint out of the office. This job is soulless, it’s meaningless, it’s boring, it’s mundane, it’s trivial, it’s a waste of my brain. My precious attention span is being used up, I can feel it draining away, bleeding into the greedy pockets of these real estate brokers… if I stay here any longer I WILL do something crazy.
Like forget to track the mail one day.
Or eat chicken wings at reception. And answer the phone without wiping off the sauce.
I can’t focus on a thing. I have my list of to-dos, I have my priorities, my tasks, my chores… but I don’t want to do any of them. Nothing. Because I hate it here. But I have to stay… at least for four more months. Four. More. Months.
But I guess that’s a different issue. The present issue, the problem staring at me in the face right now is how to get through this day, this hour… without consuming everything remotely edible within a 27-floor radius.
Food is everywhere… not only in the gift shop downstairs, but in the Starbucks across the lobby, the Tully’s near the elevators, the vending machine by the mail room. Food promises distraction, sweetness when things get sterile, warmth when things get cold, crunch when I’m feeling hopeless and low and bored.
I’ll eat till I’m too full, then spend the rest of the day marinating in the tragedy of my discomfort. Then I’ll go home, eat “dinner,” look at myself in the mirror, bury myself in my comforters and wait till it’s time to do it all over again.
I’ve come to realize that, for the past six years or more, when it has come to coping with my emotions, the blanket-soother known as food has covered pretty much all my bases. Loneliness, despair, frustration, sadness, boredom, anger, confusion, even joy… all of these things have been kind of balled up into one big mass of “feeling” and remedied – numbed – with food. It’s no surprise, then, that I now find myself poorly equipped (understatement) to cope with my emotions, especially today, in the oh-so-public workplace, where sinking beneath a hot bath is neither an acceptable nor an accessible option. And anyway, hot baths are effectively soothing only when I’m at least somewhat chilly to begin with.
So what about summertime?
No one has ever taught me coping skills, and they are so important. I don’t even know how to identify my emotions with any semblance of accuracy, let alone feel them, deal with them. Why haven’t I learned these things?
In a lot of the books I have read about disordered eating and the path to recovery, the path to discovering your physical hunger and disentangling it from your emotional hunger, the most crucial step is always, essentially, to figure out what it is you’re feeling when you find yourself bingeing (restricting, depriving, throwing up, whatever the case may be), and then, once you have identified that feeling, to find a different way to cope.
I get it. I understand it. It makes perfect sense to me.
And yet, I don’t seem to be able to put those pieces together.
Yes, here I am at work. I am lonely amongst all these people. They are people who don’t know me, people who have different values and who work there for far different reasons. They don’t care to know me, and I don’t particularly care to know them.
I am also frustrated. I am frustrated that the first thing this crabby old woman named Pat says to me on a Monday morning, before I’m even technically on the clock, before I’ve even changed out of my boots, is: “Good morning, I just wanted to let you know that there’s a jam in the color printer.”
I am also scared. I am scared that I won’t find it within myself to do what I truly want to do, to follow through with the arduous and expensive path to grad school and beyond, and that I will just stay here. Settle. I’ll stay behind this desk, stuffing envelopes, processing multi-million-dollar closings on commercial real estate properties (not my money), feeling simultaneously indignant and embarrassed that I, an Ivy League graduate, am where I am. And then proceeding to feel disgusted for feeling so entitled and self-righteous.
Okay, there, I’ve done some of the investigative work, some of the naming and classifying. Now what?
I’m not physically hungry. In fact, I ate lunch only a little over an hour ago. But I still want to go downstairs and order a large, extra-dark, with-whip hot chocolate and an old-fashioned doughnut on the side. I still want to go ramble around in the gift shop and allow the kind yet mildly intrusive Asian man watch me deliberate over king-sized chocolate bars. It still feels like there cannot possibly be enough food in this building to sate me; surely I would need something more like a Costco-scaled pull-cart stacked with muffins, cinnamon rolls and coffee cakes, at least to start, not this measly bag of Famous Amos cookies.
So I guess my question is, how do I cope?