“Earth knows no desolation. She smells regeneration in the moist breath of decay.”
– George Meredith, 1828-1909, English novelist and poet
Is there any better metaphor for faith than spring? Whether your faith rests in God, Nature, Love or Self. The proof that life emerges after strife — indeed, because of it — is ever present in the warmth of spring.
Once I gave up dieting, sold all my diet books to the half-price bookstore, and unfollowed all my diet social media, I began the process of learning how to decide what to eat on my own. That sounds so silly, doesn’t it? I’m a grown woman who raised four human beings into adulthood. I’ve been buying groceries and cooking for forty years. And I woke up that first morning like . . . now what?
One might think I dove headfirst into a tall stack of buttermilk pancakes with real butter, pools of syrup dripping over the edge of the plate. But I didn’t. I reached for a banana, because it was familiar and safe. I grabbed a knife, and in my mind I was deciding whether I should eat a half or a third. Numbers danced in my head. Calories.
And then I did the unthinkable. I ate the whole damn banana.
It wasn’t that I’d never eaten a whole banana before. Usually I ate it in segments; a half banana for breakfast, calories logged, with a serving of oatmeal and skim milk. Midmorning I might browse through the kitchen and snip off another quarter, justifying that it was a harmless fruit. After lunch the last quarter would go into a scoop of ice cream with chocolate syrup and whipped cream, if we had it. I might even have added nuts.
And there it was. I’d blown it.
By 4 PM I was crabby, defeated, and angry. Fight or flight. Except I’d used up all my fight trying not to eat that sundae, and consequently wishing I hadn’t. So I’d fly into the kitchen and look for that One Thing that was going to make me feel better. I’d eat toast. Nope, that wasn’t it. I’d try fruit. Not quite. Maybe something salty? Gooey? Protein?
Eventually, I’d sit on the couch, stuffed to the gills. I no longer felt angry or crabby. The demons had been sufficiently numbed. Sometimes I’d sleep, waking groggy, guilty and full. But there was one more phase — keeping the secret.
Because . . . This was embarrassing, this weird afternoon rage through the kitchen. So I would fix a perfectly normal dinner for Bubba and I, with meat and vegetables, maybe a salad or potatoes. And I would eat that too. Because otherwise I’d have to admit I had already eaten toast and fruit and chips and candy and cheese and god knows what else. And having him forage through the fridge looking for something to eat on his own would have deepened my guilt. Then the meat and vegetables I had planned to cook would rot in the fridge, and I’d have to throw them out. More guilt. Better to keep the secret, eat like a bird, and end the night in gluttonous discomfort.
So, yes. That first day I ditched dieting I ate the whole. goddamn. banana.
I ate it with whatever else I had for breakfast. But I remember that full banana because it was the first full banana I’d eaten in years without bargaining a smaller bowl of oatmeal, or promising myself I’d leave the rest until the next morning, knowing full well that fucking thing was going to land in an afternoon sundae.
And I was full until lunch, when, making my salad, I picked up a ripe avocado. I pulled out a sharp knife, and sliding it through the rough skin to the inner buttery flesh, numbers began to dance through my head. Calories. Should I slice up a third or a fourth?
Then I sliced half of the avocado and laid it gingerly on my salad . . .
I’m a firm believer that walking can be a metaphor for anything in life. A journey of a thousand miles . . . the path less traveled . . . it’s not the destination, it’s the journey . . . the straight and narrow path . . . two steps forward, one back . . . am I right, or am I right?
I’ve been on a bit of a journey lately, and frankly, I was afraid to take you along. I thought you might jinx it. I felt fragile. Like writing about it might break it and I’d have to go back to the start. Besides, the introvert in me likes to travel alone, and you might talk too much. You might disturb my inner thoughts or suggest a different trail.
Well, I decided it might be good for me, and maybe even you, if I tell you where I’m at, what the terrain looks like, how far I’ve come, and maybe where I think I’m headed.
The trail is called Intuitive Eating, and there’s a book by the same name. There are many books by other names, and social media pages you can find by Googling Body Acceptance, Self Compassion, Body Love, BoPo, and Anti-Diet. It’s a movement that encompasses bodies of every size, age, color and ability. It’s about inner peace and love, and you know I’m all over that.
I’m not a stranger to beginning a journey. I began anew every morning and by nightfall felt lost. I cried alone in the dark. At daybreak I’d set out again. It’s a cruel circle. I’m talking about dieting. I was a self-proclaimed, out-of-the-closet diet junkie. I’ve described it as trying to stand still in the surf. It’s impossible.
Wading into the water, there will come tides and surges. There is no controlling it, only adjusting to it. And sometimes you need to let the waves carry you in or out a little bit before you find footing again.
Dieting isn’t that. Dieting is willing yourself to stand still. Most of us just end up face-planted in the sand wondering what happened. Then we wake up and try the same thing the next morning, maybe from a different spot on the beach, exclaiming over the roar of the surf that, “Today we will stand!” And expect a different result.
I’m afraid I’m mixing up my metaphors, but let’s just imagine this trail meandered somewhere along the ocean and opened up on a beach. And that’s just it! I’m not sure exactly where this trail is going to go next. But I do know it’s already taken me to some awesome overlooks and some really rough terrain.
So if you can stand the poetic metaphors, I invite you to lace up your walking shoes and join me. If you just want to sit at home and read my posts from the couch, that’s okay too. I’m not a trail expert by any means, but I am an expert on the steps I’ve taken. There are historical centers and information booths I’ll point out along the way, but if you ask me, all I can tell you about is my own experience and send pictures of the view from here.
At 16 we get our drivers license, at 18 we receive the right to vote. At 21 they allow us to legally drink. After that it goes downhill. At 26 you’re kicked off your parents insurance and at 50, well, they prod you to get prodded. I’m talking colonoscopy, here. Yes, I did turn fifty some time ago, and my doctor’s been lecturing me ever since. She gave me a pamphlet and presumably sold my number to the gastroenterologist. After they realized I wasn’t picking up, they stopped calling. I held out for five years.
It’s not that I’m afraid of the doctor or the embarrassment or even pain. I delivered four babies vaginally without meds for Christ’s sake. It’s the principle. They aren’t looking for polyps. They’re mining my intestines for gold.
The colonoscopy is the poster child for American healthcare run amok. It’s the most expensive test most of us are prescribed. Like other hospital procedures, a colonoscopy in other developed countries is a fraction of the cost we pay in the US. Here, the procedure accounts for the lion’s share of most gastrointestinal physicians’ income. Using less invasive, less painful, safer procedures would also be less expensive, but who wants that?
Sure other tests may have to be done more often, but at the cost of my prep kit (or less), some of them can be done at home and with no disruption to work or life for those of us who are at low risk.
I was told it was no big deal. Well, it was a big deal, albeit temporary. And the argument is that cancer is a bigger, potentially more permanent deal, right? And because we all know someone who has suffered and lost to cancer, we let them win that argument.
Here’s the thing. You knew I was going to tell you the thing, right? I have health insurance. It makes it easy to go to the clinic every year whether I need it or not, and order up smears and cultures, and scans and scopes whenever my doctor deems it necessary. I have a primary physician and even a phone app that will tell me the results of every test I’ve had in the last ten years. And while they go to the effort to make it all seem free it indeed is not. Healthcare is costly, and is not getting any cheaper or accessible for millions of good, hard-working Americans. If, by some miracle, they can afford the colonoscopy, it won’t matter because they can’t afford cancer treatment.
Once I booked my appointment, I had to put in for my day off of work. Not only do I have the luxury of taking a day off of work, I know someone else who is also able and willing to take a day off of work to drive me to and from the surgery center.
Four days prior to the procedure I went on a low-fiber diet. Not everyone can indulge in changing their diet for four days on a whim. They access their food from a food shelf once a month, or clean out their cupboards at the close of every week. Heck, I’ve been there — and not so many years ago. They can’t afford the $18 for the prep kit, or the two quarts of electrolyte beverage.
No one told me I should have considered taking the day before the appointment off of work, too. I was disoriented from fasting, couldn’t think or make decisions. I was ill from overdosing on mega-laxatives. When Bubba apologized for eating dinner in front of me, I told him I couldn’t eat if I tried.
However, by the time we arrived at the medical center, the illness of the power-lax had worn off and I was starving. A woman in scrubs took me to a tiny room and instructed me to change into a gown. When she came back she slapped a pressure cuff on me, inserted an IV needle in the back of my hand, and said goodbye before closing the door. That was the last person I saw for an hour and a half.
I sat in that room after not eating any solid food for 36 hours, while the staff talked audibly outside my door about who was going to lunch, and where. When finally someone came to get me, I was just about at the end of my rope. I made her wait while I slooooowly coiled my phone cord and placed it in my bag. I sauntered down the hall at my own pace, watching her surprise at how far behind her I’d fallen. You’re on MY clock now, bitch.
Apparently I get mean when I’m hungry.
No less than four people made conversation out of how to pronounce my last name. Yeah, that never gets old. The nurses complained about how cold it was and that the music had frozen. What kind of music is appropriate for a colonoscopy anyway? Dirty Deeds? Send the Pain Below?
When the doctor asked me where I’d been hiding for five years, I was thinking, “You know what? The faster we do this, the faster I can eat.” But you don’t argue with a guy who’s about to put a 6-foot tube up your backside. Mama did teach me not to say anything if I can’t say something nice, so after an awkward moment of silence he replied, “Okay . . . !”
Thanks to plenty of sedation and pain meds, the memory of the next twenty minutes is dim. I do remember the doctor asking for more Versed and the anesthesiologist telling me if I let go of her she can get me more pain medication. I remember them showing me the monitor, as if it could distract me like an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Okay, okay . . I’m done going over the details of my colonoscopy like Gramma at the Thanksgiving table. In the end (pun intended), I got a clean bill of health, a free ticket to come back in 10 years, pictures — yes, pictures! — and a blue tote bag out of the deal.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying that colon screening is unnecessary. I’m saying our health system needs a good thorough check-up. If they really wanted more people to get screened so that less people would die, they would offer more convenient and less disruptive and less expensive options more readily. Healthcare would be for everyone. But then they wouldn’t have all that fun money, would they?
We are aphids blindly sucking nectar off the tender plant while they farm our backsides for the sweet honeydew.
I imagined starting off this post with all the reasons excuses I haven’t been writing. My computer broke. I’ve been crocheting. I have more. If you’re interested, just let me know. But I highly suspect you aren’t.
The truth is, I’m speechless. At a time when I feel like I should most find my voice, I’m embarrassingly mute. It’s not that I’m disconnected; quite the opposite. I’ve become a news junkie. I go to bed at night wearing wireless earbuds and wake up in the morning wondering what I missed after I fell asleep with them in. It’s that bad.
I’ve always maintained that I can’t change what goes on in the vast world, and so I’m just going to pay attention to those things that I can change. Someone’s day. My outlook. A corner of the garden. That worked for me because I believed, and still do, that the majority of people in the world are good. I believed things would all work out in the end because good conquers evil most of the time.
So now I’m a news junkie and I can’t claim blissful ignorance anymore. I understand that the good majority is poor, and that money buys the world. And what does one do when her voice is small and peaceful in a world that is screaming injustice at the top of its lungs?
I became speechless.
It’s not that I have nothing to say. It’s just that there are others saying it so well and so loud with all the best words. (That’s funny, right?) I can’t compete. Nor should I. Just because I have opinions on the news doesn’t mean I ought to write about it. That’s like somebody who admires and critiques art feeling guilty for not painting.
In the words of one of my favorite millenials, I need to do me. And if my voice is small and peaceful and speaks of wholeness, balance and love, there’s room for it. And maybe someone will hear it and smile. Because if all I do today is make someone smile, that’s enough.
I’ll never rid the world of injustice, prevail over all evil, or move millions to march. But I am enough. For that one person who just needed a hug or a smile or to be seen, I am enough.
So maybe you’ll be hearing more of me again. But you may need to take out your earbuds and listen closely over the roar of the protesters.
So proud of the women my daughters have become. They love deeply. They think critically. And on this day we became not just mother and daughters, but women standing as one with millions across the globe against injustice, fear, hatred, and bullshit.
Everything and everyone are temporary. Some things are temporary longer, but never permanent. The oldest thing you can think of will someday be as gone and forgotten as tomorrow’s Top 40. Is this too deep for a Sunday morning? I apologize. I’m in a melancholy mood.
How, you ask, is this woebegone thinking going to dig me out of the doldrums? When I mention my thoughts on this out loud, at least one person will eventually tell me I’m depressing. I understand. Life is art. Your perspective depends on where you are standing. Lack of permanence is comforting or unnerving depending on your perspective.
Abraham Lincoln, in an address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, once said,
“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”
Sometimes we control how long something will be temporary. We can take action; re-cut a bad haircut, remove a tattoo. We can take a break or even quit a job or relationship. I prefer not to stay in an unacceptable situation if it shows no sign of change. I left an employer over a decade ago, because I needed different hours. I asked if there was any way to change my shift, and they said no. It was a fine place to work, but it just didn’t fit my family needs. Several people mentioned how they should leave too, for various reasons, but mostly because they hated it there.
Upon handing in my two-week notice, a couple of managers approached me. They wanted me to stay. They would have offered me different hours. They would have trained me in different areas. They really had high hopes for me. Would I consider staying? “Sorry,” I said. “I already have another job.” Perhaps if they had known I was so very temporary, they have valued me more from the onset.
When I go back to that place, I still see a couple of those people who said they wanted to leave. If you wait for change to fall in your lap, you might have to wait a long time. After a while you forget you have a choice. Time flies when you’re having fun, but disappears forever when you’re not.
When things are really bad, I mean really bad, caring friends will ask, “Are you okay?” To which I reply, “I’m fine.” When they ask if I’m sure, I say, “What else am I going to be?” I suppose the obvious answer to that is “not fine.” But as long as I’m conscious and breathing, I make the choice to be fine. The rest is temporary.
In my car this morning, Alanis Morissette was singing through the stereo.
I’m broke but I’m happy
I’m poor but I’m kind
I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah
I’m high but I’m grounded
I’m sane but I’m overwhelmed
I’m lost but I’m hopeful baby
What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine fine fine
She sings of the yin and yang of life. The fact that I gravitate toward the yang when the yin of life weighs me down is a healthy thing. I write. I walk. I get out of the house. I look for beauty in the world. I find beauty within myself. I know both light and dark are temporary, and find delight and grief in their brevity.
So, yeah. I’m a little introspective and quiet this morning. And a little melancholy.
First and foremost, I blog for therapy. Unlike a diary, it forces me to choose my words wisely. Where a diary will take any abuse you want to give, my public blog requires I treat my thoughts with respect. And in doing so, I find an appreciation for “life and all things peaceful, balanced, whole and precious.”
I blog for posterity. It’s something to leave behind. I don’t believe in a supernatural afterlife. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to hang around watching over my loved ones eternally. In a recent mishap, I accidentally and unavoidably caught a glimpse of all the pictures on the Rebel’s phone. Trust me when I say I don’t want to watch over them from above.
I blog to pass along a wisdom. Ancient cultures sat around the fire listening to lore from their elders. While I do have plenty of advice to share around the fire, most of it involves the perfect toasted marshmallow or the dangers of wielding hot pokers. Besides, who has time to sit around a fire listening to their elders anymore? Anything like that gets shared here as “Lore” for those who find it valuable enough to read.
I’m not sure at what age one becomes an elder, but I think I’m growing into it as gracefully as possible. That is, kicking and screaming, my brittle nails shredding on the door frame of old age. My daughter, the Romantic, reminded me that I once announced I was going to age naturally and embrace it — gray hair, wrinkles, and all. Yeah . . . I was thirty-something and knew nothing of disappearing collagen or finding coarse, white eyebrows reaching out like odd antennae over the tops of my bifocals. And so this thing of wisdom that comes with age is less of a gift than a purchase, dearly paid for with my declining condition.
Perhaps there is a responsibility to share what has been so expensive to attain. Maybe I want to spare my children and readers the pain I’ve born. After all, the suffering of my children is two-fold; once for their pain and another for the remembrance of my own mistakes. Or maybe I just want to give you a shortcut, a life hack, so you can surpass where I have been and finish farther ahead. Whatever the reason, sharing lore is clearly a primal need, present since men acquired the ability to speak.
The elders of my youth have all passed away. They, too, shared the experience of their years. Some of it I remember, most of it has probably been forgotten. The truth is, I gained less of my wisdom in listening than I found in living. The toddler learns more from touching a hot oven than from being told it is hot. Riding a bicycle can only be mastered after falling. We learn to guard our heart once we know how deeply it can hurt.
I’m told there is occasionally wisdom in my words. If you find it here, it is yours. If you want to keep it, however, it’s going to cost you a couple of wrinkles and maybe a white antenna eyebrow. But I guarantee it will be worth it.