There’s this trope: the hero has agonized over their journey, kept going by the knowledge that someday, they’ll go home to their friends, the simple life, their family, their time. But each decision has pulled and pushed and torn them away from the happy ending. A moment of truth, a decision that forces their hand, and they know they can’t have it. Even if you can go home, you’ll be bringing those memories, the hair-trigger emotions and learned sensitivities.
Continuum. The Pendragon books.
Doctor Who takes this as the underlying design: one man so wracked by the choices he made that he’ll run across time and space and forms.
And it’s a story we tell and have in recovery too. I spent–spend–so much time trying to find resemblance to what ‘used to be’. And slowly, I’ve realized there isn’t a used to be for this. I’ve never been a non-eating-disordered adult. I’m slowly learning that I can’t time travel my way back out of patterns of thinking and depriving and flinching at scales and calorie counts.
When I was younger, I loved to bake. I remember the adventurers of trying complicated recipes. Croissants, the perfect buttermilk biscuits (it took five different recipes, each claiming to have solved solved what the others got wrong), trifle, with the ladyfingers base made from scratch. Gingerbread sweet enough to eat, sturdy enough build houses.
In college, the game was trying to make versions of the foods my friends could eat: vegan peanut butter cookies, playing with different bread flours, finding finding an acceptable Nutella substitute.
I don’t know how to do this anymore.
I don’t know how to enjoy it, how to look, at recipes without floods of stress. Don’t know how to avoid spiraling for weeks if I push myself to make a batch for cookies. I can do it with help; having another person there means the panic is background noise. But…I don’t want to need that. I can bake!
It isn’t just reaching for a tool that’s no longer there. It’s rummaging about on the shelf because you’re sure it can’t have gone anywhere. It’s returning again and again because it’s just like learning to ride a bicycle, isn’t it?
And I’ll work my way back to baking someday, I’m sure. Reclaiming floury hands and hot-off-the-pan crumbly cookies. But it will be a newly acquired ability. I’ll read recipes a little differently, looking for the first edges of panic. I’ll check in, make sure I’m in a good place before I start.
And then I’ll learn the next skill.