On the drive from PA to NY Saturday morning I posted to Facebook and Twitter that "grace" was my word for the day, and that my intention was to "call on grace in challenging moments." I was surprised by how many people liked or commented on this post. After all, it was so simple. No images. Nothing thought provoking or profound. Perhaps the mix of anxiety and determination I was feeling vibrated through this little post, as I wrote it in a moment of urgency, of needing to be held accountable for my thoughts and actions for the weekend ahead.
Once the car stopped in NY, our Greek Easter celebration would begin. For my husband's family (and most Greek people), Easter is the ultimate holiday. Each year I watch in awe as my mother-in-law shapes each keftedes (meatball) and chicken and cheese croquette with attention, as she shreds 8 pounds of veal for the fast-breaking soup magiritsa with care, and rolls out at least 20 homemade sheets of filo for spanikopita with reverence. She chops, dices, and stirs with conviction in and connection to the traditions of the holiday from her childhood in Greece to the present, with her own children and grandchildren. No amount of weary or work stops this strong woman from fulfilling her part in this holiday celebration.
Over the years I watched the holiday preparations and celebration with admiration but felt paralyzed inside, overrun by anxiety and fear. Greek Easter pushed so many of my eating disorder buttons. From the smell of food cooking all day Saturday, to eating a meal at 1 AM after midnight Church, to another big meal Easter Sunday. Then, layer on top of those challenges the cultural expectation that eating is a form of gratitude and to not partake in satisfactory amounts is disrespectful. Total eating disorder hell! Especially in those years when my recovery was not strong. The backlash would last for days, even weeks. I would feel shook to my core, unable to get a handle on how much I ate or if I gained weight. I felt trapped in a moral dilemma, too: Was I perceived as ungrateful? Disrespectful? Or a "bad" family member?
As I have grown stronger, Greek Easter has become more joyful and less anxiety producing. Still, habitual feelings around the festivities crop up, like they did when I turned to social media to declare my call for grace. Afterward, I made a pact with myself, that when I wanted to check out, complain, whine, or felt anxious, I would say to myself the word "GRACE" instead of getting caught up in my own story and reverting to old, worn out, useless thoughts and behaviors.
When I felt tired and grumpy-GRACE.
When my children were on my nerves-GRACE.
When we went to the diner for lunch and the portions were huge-GRACE.
When I ate a meal at 1AM-GRACE.
When I was washed dishes at 2AM-GRACE.
When I was exhausted the next day and just wanted to go home-GRACE.
GRACE. GRACE. GRACE. GRACE.
And, low and behold, Grace came. She came in laughter, calm, joy, fun, connection, and gratitude. She opened up space within me for happiness and contentment. Grace paved the way for presence. I embraced Grace, and she embraced me with an abundance of heart and soul nourishment.
This was truly the best Greek Easter ever. When I got out of my own way and invited Grace to lead the way, only goodness resulted. The food represented celebration and tradition and connection. I had nothing to fear. Nothing to prove. Nothing to lose.
I only had to call on Grace, and Grace came. Amen.