Food and a Fashion Crisis

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Tomorrow I leave for Spain. I get to visit my brother and sister in law in Barcelona where they have lived for the past three years. The trip came on suddenly, last Tuesday to be exact, when I found myself in conversation with my husband. We both realized, he just said it first, that I need to get away, gain perspective, eat and drink well, visit family, take some time to gain perspective and love. Thankfully, my present life has room for this spur-of-the-moment decision.

While preparing to pack, I found myself backwards, stuck, reverted. I had a fashion crisis. I needed new pants. I know it sounds small and minor, but old patterns die hard. Trying to anticipate the style of Europeans, while managing comfort for the eternal flight, while keeping the suitcase small.

Every spring I find myself at odds with my body. Shopping for pants sent me spiraling downward. All the progress and growth made over the decade came to a roaring halt. My train reversed direction and I returned to the old ways…the ways of self-hatred, condemnation, name-calling, control.

What is it about the stupid number on a scale, the number on the tag?

When did an industry get to define my value?

And what’s so wrong with a fluctuating waistline? What’s so wrong with eating and enjoying?

It breaks my heart when I hear people discuss what they should or shouldn’t eat. When food itself has become moral, guilt producing, shameful. How can eating be enjoyable when it lugs such baggage?  Food, morally, an innocuous substance, has become this avenue for demonstration of our strength, our superiority. And it has the power to determine my worth or value?

Over the last few years I’ve given myself the opportunity to eat what I love, to drink, to have butter and whole milk and white bread and dessert and heavy cream in my coffee. Nothing else will do. I cannot live any longer in denial of my culinary longings. I work hard in my days. I exercise regularly and determinedly, I love my family and provide for them in all the ways that are meaningful, I love my friends, my home, my community. The end of the day may deserve a beer, a bowl of ice cream, a TV show (or many, if it’s House of Cards). There is inherent balance when we really pay attention to the why. Why do I feel the need to escape? Am I numbing something that demands to be felt? Does the third bowl of ice cream really taste as good as I think it does…or am I avoiding something essential?

As a teenager, food was an important ally…providing release, an opportunity to numb, without turning to harder substances. An eating disorder followed me closely through my teens and twenties. I had no power…other than oddly defined spurts of willpower…that sputtered out easily. I started distance running as the answer, but injury soon set in. When the kids were small I desperately turned to the food for comfort, release, hope. The long hours at home sent me running for the refrigerator. I remember entire days of standing, door open wide, cold air on my face, knowing this could not be the answer. One more spoonful was not my lifeline. Tears rolled because I had to face these beautiful little people and their needs, while not always being able to take care of my own. Food was, I believed, a deep comfort, my solace, if even for thirty seconds.

This is not a healthy place for food to occupy. Food can’t hold this place of power. Every day, every hour, every minute was either spent planning or loathing, hungry or full beyond reason.

So now, over 10 years later, food brings appropriate comfort and joy, fuel in the right amounts. Some seasons involve more indulging than others. What I did to myself yesterday was not fair. The extra five pounds I have are a result of delicious dinners with my family and friends, warming my body with the process of digestion through cold winter months, gathering around the table to a little bit more wine because it’s a Friday night and I’m with safe people. Each and every calorie has been beautiful, has been part of building my community, has been gained through God-given freedom.

If I have to buy larger pants because of joy? Well, I think it’s worth the cost. It will take care of itself as I trust my body, my heart, my motivations.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/99105016@N00/5068837″>Refrigerator in a parking lot.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>

The Fear of Regret

photo credit: Danger...Danger via photopin (license)
photo credit: Danger…Danger via photopin (license)

Do any of us have the luxury (curse?) of never being required to change? Is it possible to choose static? To never expand, bend, elongate? What does this rigidity look like, this staying small within ourselves?

Regret. Probably in the top five on my greatest fears chart. The fear of regret, the unknown consequence of choosing wrong. Who can win when this is life’s motivation?

This cusp of change I’m perched upon feels precarious. I have had this particular life path for enough years that it is a comfort to me, the determination of my days as wife and mom. However, I am sensing a call to take steps in a new direction. Probably to the outside observer, one would not notice much, but the internal environment is like shifting sand. I have been awakened by a tinge of general resentment trying to rise, not toward anyone in particular…yet.

I recognize how tempting it is to choose predictable, familiar, safe. The voices speak regret. Or, rather, fear of regret. The what-if of regret.

The life I lead is a good one. I have decided well, I have birthed beauty, I have partnered with remarkable, I have learned wisdom and discernment in many ways. Life is full, but many days are too quiet, too restful, too predictable. The babies need a mother where it’s not just about them. The babies are too reliant on this bored mom, who has few excuses why she can’t do it all. The babies need to learn to fly, too. Are they pushing? Yes, they are pushing. They need to have enough independence to make their own mistakes, to grow, adapt, and change in their appropriate ways.

I have to risk not being needed. I have to risk that maybe they will survive and thrive without me here all the time, as a regular back-up. I have to risk that someone might screw up while I’m doing other things. I have to risk that my marriage may become one of equals, one of partnership, not indebtedness. I have to risk bringing my desires, my dreams, my hopes to the table…not just buying into everyone else’s. I have to examine my own calling, responding to the inklings before they reach fever pitch and I’m reacting poorly. I have to risk being tired, cranky and possibly difficult. This people pleaser has strived for years to be amenable, adaptable, low maintenance. It is time to let her go, as the primary method of gaining approval.

I do not want to choose busy as my purpose, but I do want to recognize that some seasons are naturally out of balance. To seek constant balance is short-sighted and additionally stressful.

What is the price of silence? Good question, unknown answer. I know the price I will pay, too scared to live, too scared to chance, too scared to change, resentment toward those I treasure. The price will be me uniquely showing up, owning my story, my journey, missing out on the collective sharing of beauty made possible through uncertainty.

The excuses are too easy and they are running out. The excuses are growing up, gaining independence and driver’s licenses. The excuses, my deepest loves, should not be excuses, but joys. I want my family to launch, even if it means I work myself out of a job.

Regret. Who the hell knows if we will feel regret or not. It seems like a silly motivator, but can be a powerful dictator.

Memorial to a Good Hen

How does one memorialize the life of a chicken? Our Truffle Hen, a source of great joy, laughs, and surprise went to live in Chicken Heaven on Easter Sunday. Of all days, the target of a determined canine.

Truffle was faithful to our yard and disliked deeply by the three sister-hens. Aside from nights in the coop, she preferred to wander the yard alone, living truly off the land, free to pick and peck through each day, of her own accord. Since escaping the fox and sacrificing her toe, she had been venturing bit by bit away from home base. More dog than chicken, when she had a request, she made her pleas known through getting underfoot  and chirping until we received her messages. Often, we talked back, engaging in a discussion that seemed to mean something. She routinely cocked her head in understanding, peering out of the corner of her eye as if to say I get it, I totally understand. Now, would you please provide me with some scratch? I could really use a treat.

The other three hens do not challenge our yard system. They go about their days eating, drinking, laying, pecking, in the fenced yard safe from predators. Truffle was not to be contained. She, if she remained in the fence, was targeted, chased and under-appreciated by her own kind. Her puppy-like skills were not treasured. She was required, for her own survival in the system, to leave. The three sister-hens were not going to be reasoned with, especially the broody one. She was determined to let Truffle know her place in the pecking order.

The benefits of our chicken’s freedom will be remembered. The nutritional impact of her eggs – priceless, small but perfect, the yolks a deep, almost fluorescent orange from foraging through fresh grass, fertilizing in the process.

Could we have forced her to stay in the fence? Sure, we could have reinforced and fashioned a ceiling of sorts, but at what price? Truffle’s only chance for a happy, healthy life was to leave the comfort of the coop and the fence. She had no other choice.

I’m not sure how much I believe in past lives or reincarnation, but if I could, I will go so far as to say, she was sent here to be my example. Not only to show me that chickens have personalities too, but to reveal the beauty and risk in living as an outlier. All of us are outliers. To assume there is a “normal” does us all a disservice. How many layers of masks do we have to wear to appear normal?

Most of us prefer the comfort of our fences, our friends, families. Some of us are thrust out into the world whether we want to be or not…but we are given a choice, to continue our safe, comfortable lives, or to seek out our calling. There is no wrong or right answer. The lives of the other three hens are deeply appreciated, also. Their eggs better than anything out of the grocery, their unique personalities also known to us. The comic relief not present, but their faithfulness to the needs of our home and life? Absolutely noted.

It seems, in our culture of extremes, that a life lived “extraordinary” is better than that which is loyal or simple. Not true! There is no formula for a life lived well. All of us are called to different things, based upon our unique abilities, our life experiences, suffering, joy. I want to live into my calling. Do I wish I was okay with choosing a safe life, sequestered and cloistered in the predictability of my days, the comfortable tasks, the ease of regular roles? Of course, sometimes, but when I see the fruit of lives lived challenging assumed norms, the deep grooves in the lines around eyes, the tears that have run the lengths of those furrows, this is what I want…a life lived by feeling, through knowing, scared to death, believing, daring.

Our Truffle. We kept a regular eye on her. We were surprised by her and clearly she brought many stories and laughs to our lives. The Easter Sunday morning we were gone, she died.

Will she resurrect? Probably not again as a chicken…but maybe, just a little bit…in me.

Middle Saturdays

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I am stuck, stuck in the middle, stuck in Saturday. Today, the day between Good Friday and Easter. The day between two pivotal, remarkable bookends. The day between death, defeat, unimaginable cruelty and life, glory, light. What are we supposed to do with these middle Saturdays?

After a teary Good Friday, being reminded of the greatest love we can ever know. The greatest example of a Man, killed by his own, loving to the very end, surrendered. I’m not ready for Sunday yet. I’m not ready for new life, for light, for glory. I’m still heartbroken. I’m still in my questions, asking ones that quite possibly have no reasonable answers. I’m still in my human mess, unsure what is me, unsure what is someone else.

Have I learned to circumvent pain? Have I tried to weasel my way out of the middle Saturdays and slingshot from the Friday straight to the Sunday? The middle Saturdays are the work, the grief, the feeling. They are the wrestling, the learning to rest, the longing for new joy, hope. It is easier to dream about the Sundays or stay stuck in the Fridays, than truly, honestly living in the Saturdays.

I will courageously choose to witness how the sun’s rays hit the frosted grass, the lone chair left out  from a lunch eaten in the yard, the leaves starting their unfurling process on the cottonwoods, leaving a greenish tinge when viewed from the perfect angle. I will choose to be present with my family, to crack jokes, to laugh, to run or swim or bike or not, to clean the muddy footprints from the sloppy week. I will choose to feel today, to cry when needed without fear, to eat good food while sitting down. I will hopefully find others who, on this middle Saturday according to Anne Lamott, could use a cold glass of water on this journey of ours. Weary travelers on the road with whom I may share the load.

I don’t want to spend so much time dreaming about Sunday, fantasizing, that I fail to do the work on Saturday. It is very easy to live for the next thing, rather than be in the present. The sweetness of Sunday may pass by if I too easily race through Saturday, or remain stuck in Friday. I pray for the fulfillment of which I am longing, but it is a risk, for it may not happen how I think I want. Maybe the dream of Sunday is less about getting though Friday and Saturday, and trusting the work, the process, the teacher, the journey, to be able to see Sunday.

Sunday is about resurrection, renewed life. The only way to get there is walking through the valley of death. Letting go, saying good-bye, walking forward while looking back grieving the loss. This Saturday is my necessary work, holding loosely to the promise of fulfillment, looking back at the heartbreak of confusion and pain. Trusting in hope, reminding myself to see the beauty in the simple, staying small for today.

Today is about good work, holy work.

Messy, middle Saturday work.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/75774657@N08/8978458139″>Sunrise over water</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>