The Secret To Cheese

It’s not a big secret, but if you didn’t already know I love cheese. Any cheese to be exact, it can be soft, hard, runny, blue, stinky or salty, I love cheese in any version really. Along with this, I have to confess, that my most guilty pleasure, is eating that flat “Plastic” Cheese, straight out of the fridge all floppy and cold. 

Now, I only eat this pretend cheese in a certain way. I tend to stand with the fridge door open, peeling and listening to the plastic crinkle as I unwrap the cellophane from each slice, then I rip the corners of the cheese at each end and quickly gobble up the centre before it gets all warm and horrible. I do it this way because I am afraid of getting caught. I am not sure who is going to catch me or what type of trouble I will be in, but I feel it anyway. I think the reason for this sensation is that I know it is bad for me, but I do it anyway. I stand there reaching for the packet quietly telling myself how much I deserve this “treat”, I say, “you will only have one, just one, that’s all, no more.” And well, we all know how that ends don’t we. 

Another one of my most luxurious treats is a baked potato loaded with butter, cream cheese, tasty cheese and loads of salt and bacon, this is my version of heaven. I love this particularly when the potato is hot and steaming, with the skin all crunchy and burnt on the outside, and the flesh inside is fluffy and creamy. The best part about eating this delicacy, is not the actual potato itself but the feeling it gives me.

That’s the way food is isn’t it? There are so many emotions and memories attached to food, for example, my baked potato moment comes from me as a teenager/adult at my first music festival by the ocean. Two full days of folk music, pubs, hippies and craft markets. It was a wonderful time of freedom and acceptance, the likes I had never known before. 

This moment, this potato, that I consumed a million years ago, holds a memory marker for me, that even now whenever I try and make a baked potato at home or order one, even if it tastes nice, I feel vaguely disappointed that it is not the potato I remember. You see, I know that even if I went back to the same town and festival, and even if it was from the same stall holder, the potato wouldn’t be the same as the one that is in my mind, however this does not stop me eating it.

Now, my wonderful reader, please walk with me gently here, as I know there are people in the world that will not understand what I am about to say, and even hold little patients for this reasoning, but it is a truth for me, and I ask you to give me space for this. 

My relationship to food is a complex one, in a nut shell, when I am under any heighten emotional state, I tend to turn to food to give me comfort or security. Basically, I eat to recapture, or chase away emotions, but it really doesn’t work. Thinking about my “plastic” cheese habit, I can stand inside the fridge door, halfway close to tears shoving one slice at a time into my face, but the guilt and sadness only increases with every wrapper that falls to the floor. You see just like the feeling of freedom from the potato, the comfort I am seeking from the cheese never comes. 

Basically, I love the feeling of eating the cheese, but hate myself for doing it. It is such as strange feeling full of confusion and duality that my brain does not know how to manage it, so I just end up going with the compulsion. I have tired many times to stop this habit, I try not to buy the cheese, but it some how it works its way into my shopping trolly. Once it is in the house I try to pretend its not there by using lots of techniques such as stickers with motivational quotes all over the fridge – one of my favourite stickers is, “You can’t eat your way through lock down.” 

When people find out about my little cheese habit, advice that has been offered is the usual, “You don’t need it”, “Just don’t do it”, “Just sit with it”, “Just lean into it”. Usually this advice is delivered with an “it’s easy” tone of voice, that leaves me feeling slightly annoyed, as I know they have even less of an idea of what I am talking about than I do. I mean, I know I am leaning onto the fridge door, but I only realise I have been feeling sad halfway through my 5th slice of cheese, so how the hell can I lean into “it”, when “it” is sitting on top me? 

Cheese Slice Blanket – Felt pen on paper

But it is not all hopeless, I have figured out what is holding me into the fridge. It is my fear of these emotions that is making me do this, I am scared to feel sadness, I am scared to feel anger, I am scared to feel overwhelmed. To be completely honest, I have actually no idea how to process these emotions at all. I feel I have always been a senstive individual, but I have been taught that these feelings are wrong and bad and should be wary of them and in some situations warned not be even expressed. 

In the past when I have used these emotions, they have been excused, belittled and brushed off, I have heard “Stop being so emotional”, “stop being dramatic”, “For goodness sake calm down”, “Stop it, you’re embarrassing me”, or my personal favourite “Its just hormones”. Once as a child, when I was in an overwhelmed state, I was literally slapped in the face. It did stopped me flipping out, but the shock is something I will never forget. 

So now, I am asking myself, maybe instead of dismissing or hitting these feelings away, why didn’t someone teach me what to do with them, and where to put all that energy. Why couldnt someone “just sit with me” and show me how to “Lean into it”, to show me my emotions are valid. I was left to self manage and I became the unpredictable one, the “scary” person, the crazy girl, someone to tip toe around or be wary of. But really I should have been shown how to manage my feelings, taught how to express them gently, and I wonder why no one ever thought to do this. 

My overwhelm, was never acknowledged, and instead I squashed the “horrible” part of me, pushing it down ever since. I have avoided my emotions, I have seen them as troublesome and the reason why I lived boundarieless and unlikeable. In short the years of me attempting to contain these “bad” emotions have turned into the weight that is pushing me into the fridge. 

You see, the denial of these big emotions is like the cellophane wrapper containing me and preventing my way forward. Instead of leaning into it, what I need to do is unwrap it. I need to stop blocking these feelings, I need to explore why I am having them and that they are normal and needed. You see, the more I hold onto them the tighter the wrapper gets, and the bigger my emotions become. What I need to do is learn that negative feelings and bad days are a part of life, and I don’t need to like everything or everyone that comes along with it. And regardless of my overwhelm and how much I speed talk like a crazy person, eat, drink, laugh hysterically, cry or scream, the people who truly love me will still be there. But most of all, I have to figure out a way to regulate and unwrap these emotions before I get to the fridge, and forgive when I find myself there. 

Hope everyone has a great weekend xo.

Published by allihoward123

Allison Howard main passion has always been story telling works predominantly with illustration and completed her MFA at Monash University, Melbourne 2012. Graduating with the Chancellors award for best Thesis. Allison Has worked and collaborated with many artists and exhibitions, in both Australia and New Zealand. To be kept up to date with Allison's latest activity and to view her current and archived works please visit Instagram @alli.howard123 and hit the follow button.

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