This afternoon, after a long but fascinating day of reading and researching into the relationship that humans have with their food, I was suddenly reminded of how fragile the equilibrium we have created in our lives actually is.
Sat at my computer I was quietly congratulating myself upon the progress I have made in the relationship I have with food over the past 15 years. Without warning I suddenly had a relapse, and was given a crystal clear example of how old patterns can resurface and catch you by complete surprise.
What was this catastrophic event, the catalyst for this emotional catapult back to the fears and patterns of my youth?
A malt loaf!
Yes, you read that correctly, a malt loaf.
How I hear you ask?
A malt loaf, a simple, fairly healthy malt loaf, not yet even coated with lashings of butter. How on earth could that innocent object be the cause of my distress?
Well, as many of you know I live in Spain. Since moving here my palette has changed considerably. Healthy food is a way of life now. Sweets and chocolate have taken a back seat to the delights of fresh avocados and juicy home grown strawberries.
So what happened? Well, here goes, here’s how.
Very recently my partner and I made the decision to move in together, after two years of virtually living together we decided to take the plunge and give it a go. My man is the most loving, gently understanding guy you could ever meet. The type of man we all read about but don’t believe really exists. Well let me tell you he does. He’s great.
Over the past two years I have shared some of my life experiences, both good and not so. He knows a little about the issues I have had in the past around food and what it has meant to me. How I used it to comfort me, protect me, punish me and hurt me. Not all of it, but some. He’s a sensitive guy, I don’t feel the need to go into too much detail with him, he gets the gist of it.
Neither of us were ready for what happened when, on his return from a strenuous cycle ride, he asked whether he could open the malt loaf I have had in the bread bin for the past month.
For you expats out there, you know how hard it is to get a decent loaf of malt bread here in the depths of the Andalusian countryside. This loaf was one I had brought back from my last trip to the UK, a treat. My treat. To be savoured by me, when ready.
So, when asked to share my precious malt loaf, I flipped. The most enormous wave of resentment surged up in me, how dare he, how dare he ask for my, yes my, malt loaf? He’d already demolished the communal liquorish sweets I’d brought back, a fact I discovered the previous night when I decided to have just one after supper. So no, the malt loaf was mine, mine to have when I wanted it. Be that this week, next week or next year.
At this point I completely forgot my inner princess, and the promise I had made to her many years ago to be honest around my needs, especially my needs around food. My response reflected this, a long pause followed by a sulkily muttered ”I suppose so, if you must, if you really must”.
Not surprisingly he was slightly taken aback by my less than clear response, “oh sorry he said”, to which I equally huffily replied, “oh just eat it, have it, it doesn’t matter”.
It obviously did matter, so he did what any sensible self respecting man would in his position, and took cover in his study, leaving the still unopened loaf well alone.
Now you might ask, why didn’t I just tell the man, tell him that I was keeping it as as a treat for myself, that the malt loaf was out of bounds. Mine, to be eaten slowly, savoured, whenever the feeling struck. Eaten little by little, BY ME!
My only defence is that a gremlin from my past, a gremlin that I thought had been well and truly dealt with, wasn’t. Something triggered the feelings inside me. Feelings associated with fear, insecurity, the need to keep something special just for me.
Thinking about what had just happened, still sat at my computer, I felt wretched. I knew my inappropriate response to my partners very reasonable question would have left him confused, slightly irritated and wondering what an earth he had done wrong.
I decided to stay with the feelings that had been triggered, ask inside myself what was going on, accept that this was something important or I wouldn’t feel so bad.
The answer came.
I was angry with myself, angry for not being able to say out loud what I wanted. I also felt ashamed of wanting something for myself, it seemed greedy. Greedy and selfish, things I had been told I was in the past, many times, things I have gone to great lengths to ensure I cannot possibly be called now.
As a child and teenager nothing was just for me, not even my most sacred possession; my body. To say what I wanted, then would have been impossible. I just kept my mouth shut and did as I was told.
Years of therapy and self development had, I thought, righted those wrongs. I now know my inner princess self, I have made peace with the past. I am an empowered, strong, compassionate woman.
Sometimes however, I forget that, and my hurt inner child bursts forth, reminding me that the scars of the past are still there under the surface. I have been here before and I am sure I will be here again. I also know now that the only way to heal these painful memories of the past is to lovingly and gently listen to them. Hear what they have to teach you and let them go.
Having seen the outburst for what it was, an expression of frustration and anger at my self for slipping into victim mode and giving away my power, I realised I had to explain.
Sheepishly I knocked on the study door. I felt ashamed for treating the man who loves me so much so shoddily, whatever the reason. I apologised awkwardly for my outburst and did my best to explain. He listened, I cried, he held me.
Sometimes we slip back, back into old patterns of behaviour. This is a perfectly natural part of life. When it happens it serves us best if we can allow the feelings to come forth. These feelings are shining a light on something we need to see. From our position as creator of our own destiny, in our position of empowerment, our work is to acknowledge them, hear what they have to tell us and let them pass through us fully.
We both know each other a little better as a result of today. I know I can express my needs to my man and he will respect them. I have vowed to stay true to myself, even if it carries the risk of upsetting another. I have come a long way on my personal journey to understanding who I truly am, and yet there is still further to go.
Life is a journey, I’m choosing to experience all it has to offer, surrendering to it and enjoying the ride. I invite you to join me.
Oh, and yes, I think I’m ready to share that malt loaf………maybe!