Normal Change and an Ice Cream Celebration!

29 Jun

I met my little sister for the first time yesterday. She’s seven.

No, my father didn’t cheat on my mom and it wasn’t a huge family secret that I have a little sister. It’s not what you think. I promise; there were no paternity tests and Maury Povich was NOT involved. On the contrary, Alyssa* is the “Little” to our match with the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters. And it’s the only time my eating disorder has no problem with me being the “Big” one.

Our first outing was short, but Alyssa* was all smiles, all the time. Within the first five minutes of meeting her, she said I was “her friend” and she couldn’t wait to do fun activities with me. We decided to go to a drive-in close to her house, to grab some cool drinks and chat about what exciting things we could do on future outings. What struck me while we were ordering was the immediacy of her order; jumping up and down, she exclaimed, “Can I please have a that one?” [pointing to a picture of vanilla ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce]. “Sure!” I responded, but I agonized over the menu for at least two minutes after she had decided, mentally weighing the calories in everything, eventually settling on an unsweetened iced tea. It wasn’t until later that I called myself on it. That was my ED stepping in to decide for me. And I hate that it’s what I consider “normal” now.

When we were kids, we thought about what looked good, would taste good, what we wanted. With an eating disorder, I’ve got so good at memorizing numbers- fat grams, energy contents, carbs, protein, exchanges- and I can add them up in my head quicker than you can spell c-a-l-o-r-i-e-s. It’s all part of the obsession, the control.

In some ways, I wish I was more like Alyssa* again. That “normal” was picking the best-tasting thing on the menu, not deciding based on what would keep my daily count in check. 

After the roller girl wheeled up with our order, I began brainstorming ideas and getting a thumbs up or down for other outings. I thought Alyssa would have tons of requests, but I was wrong. I took for granted as a child how involved my mom kept us kids in the community. During the summers it was normal for us to go somewhere everyday- to the library, the bookstore, the park, storytime, the children’s museum, the free movie screenings, the summer festivals and more. I grew up relatively cultured without even knowing it. I never considered that most children don’t get the “privilege” of interesting and engaging activities, time for learning and interacting outside of their neighborhood. Even though she lives less than fifteen minutes from the heart of Austin, Alyssa* has never:

  • been to a public library
  • seen the inside of the state capitol
  • learned what a “museum” is
  • seen a farmer’s market
  • explored Zilker park(Austin’s biggest park)
  • watched a movie in an actual movie theatre
  • flown a kite
  • swam in Barton Springs
  • kayaked on Town Lake
 That is her “normal.” But I hope to change it. This afternoon, I have spent hours on the internet googling free and fun Austin kids events. Some of them sound so fun, but I would be embarrassed to go to without a little sibling. I might get to take a duck tour, play princesses for a day and have tea at the very classy, historic Driskill hotel, ride the train at the Austin Zoo, craft mini-doorhangers at Michael’s, watch the Austin bats fly out from under the Congress Ave. Bridge, play on the Zilker playground, or blow giant soap bubbles. How fun would that be?
I got the sense yesterday that both of us are going to grow immensely as “sisters.”

I hope that I can challenge my “normal” to include enjoying ice cream after an afternoon in the park or savoring some popcorn during “Cars 2.”

I hope that I will learn to let go of the calories, grams, percents, ingredients, good, bad, safe, NOT SAFE!, carbs, too fat, too fried, saturated fat, not good enough…

I hope that I will have as much fun as Alyssa* and see the world through a child’s eyes again

I hope that Alyssa’s* normal changes and she sees that there is so much more to discover and learn about. She deserves that.

I hope that I make a positive impact on her life and share all the cultural knowledge that my mom gave to me as a child.

I hope I become someone Alyssa* looks up to.

I hope more than anything that Alyssa* never stops smiling when she’s with me and has more fun this summer than any other.

I hope that I don’t let my eating disorder get in the way of having fun this summer.

I won’t let my eating disorder get in the way of having fun this summer.

*name changed for confidentiality

(And just to begin my new resolution of not letting my ED get in the way… here’s a cool ice cream celebration for today:)


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