Note: this is a long, long, post. I felt like I needed to dig into my heart and lay it on the page today. The pictures really don’t have anything to do with the text, but I couldn’t post this much text without some visual break up. If you make it to the end, thank you.
Some days I get Hungry. Not hungry, but Hungry with a capital ‘H’. These are the days when I stand in the kitchen and I can’t consume enough. I snack on all sorts of little things that hide in the corners of kitchen cupboards: the last few crumbs of a batch of cookies, carrot sticks dipped in cottage cheese/peanut butter/dijon mustard, the dregs of the tinned corn from last night’s dinner, a piece of soft Danish feta squished between two rice crackers. The list goes on. If it’s not tied down, I will pick at it in the hope of shutting down the Hungry.
Usually though, this Hunger isn’t the type that can be cured by food; it’s the type that is only cured by nourishment of other kinds: books, music, conversation, deep-soul mining.
I eat because when I am chewing, focusing on each delicious morsel that goes into my mouth, I can ignore the thoughts and decisions banging on the door that separates my subconscious mind from my conscious mind. Problems, decisions, choices, and confusion are lost in the salty-sweet pairing of roasted almonds stuffed inside plump dates, or the umami notes of Danish feta and green olives that leave my fingers deliciously oily and lick-able.
I eat to avoid the fact that I am scared. Scared that I love being back at university again, and at the end of the year I will graduate again and face the prospect of having to hunt for a full-time job. Scared that I am losing myself in love again and I don’t know where the future may take us. Scared to just enjoy the ride and see what happens. Scared that I am becoming different, growing older, facing the big decisions that come about when you are on the bridge between twenty and thirty.
I spoon out portions of chocolate ice cream in the abandoned kitchen while I wait for the tea to draw to keep down the worry that thrums in my veins some nights like a hummingbird on the wing. The worry that I will never find a job. The worry that I am a burden on those around me, that I am a negative force in their lives, a dark spot over their sun. I worry that I am Peter Pan in Wendy’s body and fated to eternal immaturity while others grow-up, move on, make life their own.
I count pistachio shells as I pop the pockets of salty green flesh into my mouth just to avoid acknowledging decisions that I have already made. The decision to stay, to face life, to put away my running-away shoes (not my running shoes though). The decision to leave, to take Plan B. The decision to see where this hometown life can take me. The decision to put myself out there, make myself available, vulnerable, to the universe.
This is where Hungry grows. Hungry is denial of my true feelings. Hungry is the craven way out of facing my fears. Hungry is refusal to speak my worries and see them disbanded by wiser minds. Hungry is the distracting temptation of safe ground when leaping off the edge may be the best thing to do.
I have battled Hungry my whole life. She is a not-so-welcome friend, the visitor in the dead of night who refuses to leave, the envoy of depression and regression. I know her well now. I know her knock at the door. I know the steps in her dance. Some days I let her in. She’s not so bad after all. Denial can be a happy place.
Then, I remember. Hungry never helps when things get tough. Hungry just keeps on asking more. Hungry never answers my deepest questions, she skims on the surface and laughs at a tortured soul. Hungry mocks a life that is trying to be thoroughly nourished.
When I sense Hungry is around, grasping at me, winding her fingers through mine and tugging me towards the cookie jar again, I know the way to battle against her and return to my thoroughly nourished path.
Write: a journal, a laptop, a scrap of paper – whatever it is, just write until my true feelings show up and I can confront them on and off the page.
Talk: to wiser minds, to the dog, to my own reflection. Make audible to the air the voices that are chanting in my mind.
Cry: when all else fails, when the emotions are too big to name, sometimes salt water is the only cure.
Sleep: rest your body, rest your mind. Often when you awaken the biggest worry-elephants have shrunken to the size of a flea.
Walk: or run, or swim, or skip rope. Use the frustration as fuel. Let the worries flow through your mind while your heartbeat races through your body. Sometimes there are answers on the road. Sometimes there is just peace in the pace of your footfall.
And so there it is: when I am hungry, I will eat; when I am Hungry, I will seek comfort and nourishment without abusing my body with food.
I take Hungry’s appearance as a call to care for myself, to step back for a moment, realign with my true self, and just breathe. To find out what she is really trying to tell me, where I am missing something, and commit to living my nourished life.
Tell me, dear Reader, does Hungry show up for you? Does your Hungry have a different name, another way of tempting you away from a thoroughly nourished life?