: the act of absolving (setting free from an obligation or the consequences of sin); specifically : a remission of sins pronounced by a priest (as in the sacrament of reconciliation)
Last night, my children ate cereal and canned ravioli for dinner. Not together, mind you. K had ravioli while A and B had cereal (again). J was at a company meeting, so he actually ate a balanced meal. When he returned home shortly after the girls' bedtime, I was telling him what I fed them for dinner. Yesterday was a rough day in the pain department, so I'm sure I was less than upbeat as I shared our evening's menu. He opened his arms to hug me and I said, "It's times like these that I wish I was a Catholic. I need absolution."
J, being the guy that he is, offered to absolve me on the spot. He even reverted to his long-ago faith and thought up a penance for me - I seem to recall it including a few Hail Marys, which I don't know. But even as I was joking about this with J, I knew in my heart that what needs absolution is not feeding my children less-than-healthy meals, but what I do to myself for this lapse. It's not really a sin to feed my children cereal or canned pasta. But it is a sin to castigate myself so thoroughly for it, especially because I do so out of pride.
It's been made crystal clear to me over the last two weeks how I have taken something good (a joy in cooking) and turned it into something... something I don't even have words for. I've turned it into an idol, I suppose. Instead of the meals I serve my family being part of what I do to care for them, they've become part of the definition of who I am. So when I can't stand, don't have the energy to shop or cook and can't meet my own standards, where does that leave me? Miserable, apparently.
Even though I know I am being too hard on myself, even though I know my kids don't care, even though I know this is not the end of the world, it matters to me and I continue to berate myself for not feeding my family well. A lot of my feelings about this are painfully tied up in my own self-image from when I was the ages of my daughters. I've always believed if I feed them well-balanced meals, offer them healthy snacks, serve them fruits and veggies at every turn, that they won't be mocked by their classmates for looking like jello when they run, as I so vividly recall. So what I have to come to terms with is whether I can cut myself the slightest bit of slack and believe that they won't turn in to me as a result of a few poorly planned dinners.
Because that is really the bottom line: I want to save them from being me. I want so desperately to let them make their own mistakes and earn their own scars and not mirror my own. I want them to make better choices than I did at the dinner table and in life. But I need to set myself free from my self-imposed obligation to cook something new, creative and healthy every night. And I need to remember that I don't really require absolution... that is, after all, what Jesus died to give us.
Maybe if I can learn this lesson, this additional lesson amongst the many I have already had to learn during this season of recovery, maybe then I will finally be on the road to mental and physical health.