Monday, March 1, 2010

ABSOLUTION

: 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.

3 comments:

Natalie said...

Your next post needs to be the definition of Brave. It's so brave of you to share what you shared. I don't know if I could. I don't have any words of wisdom. Just that I'm so sorry that you were mocked as a child and that you still bear the scars. It's hard to believe because you are so admired and loved by so many including me.

rufusjt said...

Wow honey that is really powerful. Great post. I love you so much!

J

Variations On A Theme said...

Isn't this so crazy that we do this to ourselves? I used to joke that if different cults were trying to recruit me, I'd probably go with the one whose members constantly flog themselves with braided whips.