I have never starved myself. I’ve been unable to eat. I’ve had restricted diets. But I’ve never intentionally purged or denied my body. My control came out in other ways. The Starbursts had to be eaten in a particular order. When the pattern was disrupted by an extra orange, I mashed it with another to keep to my scheme. I counted steps. I never read books for pleasure before I’d finished my homework. (Ever. Not even in graduate school.) I developed superstitions about paths I walked. Rounding this tree in this manner would keep me from getting cancer. Starting in sixth grade, I woke, religiously, at 5:45 a.m.
I memorized poems, and repeated them to myself like incantations. I pressed my bruises. Scheduled my life to the half minute. I’d run until I tasted blood. Before I opened a book, I smoothed my hand over its cover. I’d hum to hold my temper.
Control is another name for punishment. In my middle thirties, I’ve found it a little more difficult to keep fit. A wild race to the sign on the corner isn’t as effortless as it used to be. My back aches sometimes for no good reason. And it’s marvelous. I’m so much calmer than I used to be. Prone to joy. “Would you want to live in a world without pie, Jill Malone?” No. No, I wouldn’t. Our lives — our pleasure — it’s all tenuous. The great sweeping delight of love. The arc of laughter. It’s crest and trough. The climax in every line. We are made to sense the world. Taste and texture. Scent and splash. It’s our delight that should be cultivated. Our amiability. The unexpected fires of children playing with pots and pans. Of a dog kicking against sleep. Of the wind pitching the recycling bin into the leaves.