Holidays celebrating family can be challenging for those of us who grew up with trauma. On a day when I’m supposed to celebrate my father, do I honor him for the love he had for me and the ways he provided for our family? In doing so, do I still hold him accountable for all the horror he inflicted on us? He has passed, so there is less conflict for me on Father’s Day, and I feel freer to do something in his honor.
My choice in honoring him this year is doing something that helps to clean up an unwanted pattern he lived with and left to me: I’m cleaning out my kitchen. Sounds unrelated, right? It’s not, I promise, and I’ll get there – but to understand, you need a little piece of background.
Fish, Fruits & Vegetables
My dad ate only fish, fruits, and vegetables. Or, at least, he claimed to only eat fish, fruits, and vegetables, and – like so many other things in his life – claimed it with such earnestness that it was easy to believe him. He said this while eating his daily plate of vegetables. He said this while the house took on the reek of mackerel from the tins he cracked open. He said this to servers in restaurants when he ordered the salad bar. The man only ate fish, fruits and vegetables.
Except when he mainlined triple scoop hot fudge sundaes, or scarfed down multiple orders of McDonald’s French fries, or ate whole pizzas by himself. He said he ate “only fish, fruits, and vegetables” on days when he polished off pounds of fudge at amusement parks, devoured foot-long hotdogs, and popped nonpareils into his mouth at a steady pace.
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I recognized that there was a serious dichotomy between what he said and what he did. Like all snarky teens, I started making fun of him for it. To his credit, he laughed harder than anyone else when I asked him how the fruit was as he peeled open his fiftieth Hershey’s Kiss.
Fish, Fruits & Disordered Eating
It wasn’t until much later that I finally recognized that he had a disordered relationship with eating and body image. The signs were there – an intense focus on his body and weight, an obsession with being as thin as he possibly could, fear and hatred of fat, weight charts and graphs littering the house, and binge eating while claiming to eat only fish, fruit and vegetables.
I couldn’t see the signs in him until I recognized warped shadows of them in myself during my recovery process. The shadows for me borrowed from both my mom and dad’s food issues, so they looked very different, but the fundamental conclusions were the same: my body is something to be controlled, and eating is charged with meaning.
Looking back now, I feel huge compassion and sorrow for my dad – he suffered a great deal, and struggled throughout much of his life with his own internal demons. It’s not shocking that he tried to control his food and his weight as some kind of anchor – some way to pretend to have control, a way to focus on something that had less consequence than what he truly struggled with.
While understandable, it also adds on a layer of sadness for me – that on top of all of the crap, he had to deal with disordered body image and eating too.
Cleaning Up Old Patterns
Which brings me back to scrubbing the kitchen in my dad’s honor. I believe that anything we can heal in ourselves, we also heal in our families. (and in our world!) I’ve had a dream of getting beyond “okay” with food for some time – dreaming of a relationship based on delight, joy, pleasure – in how food tastes, how it makes me feel, and in the creative process of cooking. It’s been a backburner dream, but it has come to the forefront lately.
If you have followed me for a while, you know I’m a bit obsessed with changing something externally in order to process something internally. I’ve structured my programs around this (and have had multiple clients end up moving during our work together!), I obsess over different decluttering methods, and have written on how to use redecorating as a form of soul growth.
So, naturally, when I want to change my relationship with food – I change my kitchen. Previously, my fridge and cabinets were crammed with things I didn’t need, the drawers were poorly organized, and everything felt just a little bit chaotic. I’ve taken the time to clear everything out and decide what to keep – and then scrub up all of my cabinets and clean them with fragrant and lovely wood soap, reorganizing everything. It is still a work in progress, but it feels really good in there.
Fish, Fruits & Freedom
Am I whipping up a gourmet meal tonight? No (I’m eating leftover pizza), but I am still toasting to my dad’s memory, confident that I’ve set the energy in motion, and knowing his spirit would be happy to see me fighting free.
Now it’s your turn – what can you do today that honors both you and your dad? I hope that you are happily with your dad or a father figure, celebrating how amazing he is. If not, it might be healing to celebrate by releasing some of that crappy stored energy. (A junk drawer waiting to be decluttered of old, inherited patterns that never served either of you! A painting to install along with permission to enjoy beauty!)
Are you ready for changes? Visit https://www.readysetmaids.com/cleaning-service-areas/houston/ and find out how they can help you with house cleaning. Rest will come in process.!