Food, Health, and Other Things I’m Careless About

I intend this entry to be practical, so it might be more blunt than usual. I will be getting the sharp point of the spear here and you will be getting the blunt end.

I don’t eat enough. I’ve mentioned this before in an entry from last June, but there I mainly focused on my feelings, sweetly made other people responsible for them, and then turned the whole situation into a metaphor for parts of my life I’m more comfortable talking about. I don’t plan to do that today.

It’s true that I simply don’t have as big of an appetite as other people. It’s true that I’ve been thin since elementary school. It’s true that I find it uncomfortable and perhaps a little unfair that others (almost exclusively other women) feel so publicly free to comment on my size or my eating habits. It’s true that when someone tells me I need to eat more, instead of feeling cared-for I simply feel watched.

But it’s also true that they’re probably right. For years, I’ve told myself that they just don’t know, that I eat as much as I’m hungry for, that I’m fine, my body is fine, my health is fine. Over the last year or so, though, something has shifted. I’ve noticed things. My clothes don’t fit like I want them to anymore, and I can’t keep telling myself they’ve just all gone stretchy in the wash. I find myself serving very reasonable portions then struggling to finish them, spending twice as long over my plate as everyone else, always needing a to-go box at restaurants. And, perhaps most telling, I’ve started actually paying attention to how many meals I skip. I skip meals more often than I brush my hair.

I skip meals for reasons which have nothing to do with positive spiritual disciplines, or with the food itself or any effect it has on my body. I skip meals out of laziness, out of stinginess, or out of shyness. I train my body not to push itself, not to expend energy, but to conserve, go dormant, run on nearly-empty. I find nothing so much easier than something. There are metaphors to be drawn out here but, like I said, I’m not in the metaphor business today. Suffice to say, I have lived for going on twenty-seven years as if my activity or lack-thereof has no impact on my physical health, which is idiotic.

But at the end of December, while home in Greensboro, I blacked out and took a trip to the ER. My tendency is to joke about this, and in fact one of the first things I did when I got home from the hospital was write a poem making fun of my body, lodging a complaint with it for its inability to get me through the day. However, this is the fourth or fifth incident of this kind in the last few years, so perhaps at this point concern would be a better response than mockery.

And now I am writing this to you on a public blog which most of the people who care about me read on a sort-of regular basis. Like I said, I am almost inevitably defensive whenever anyone criticizes my eating habits or the way I take care of myself and posting these paragraphs to the internet will not magically change that gut response within me, but if I invite others in and ask for their help, I will know that I’m no longer allowed to complain if they give it.

So, sweet folks, here is what I plan to do. First, I’m going to make a doctor’s appointment and ask about my fainting spells: Am I anemic? Can we do lab-work again? Is there anything else we can check? Can I stop this from happening again? Second, I’m going to take every opportunity to eat with others rather than alone. And last, perhaps most shamefully difficult: I’m going to eat three meals a day. If this requires spending more money on take-out, or putting more time and effort into planning, shopping, and cooking, I will do it. I am going to prioritize this because it’s foolish to deprive my body. It’s been given to me as a good gift and I should treat it with more responsibility and gentleness.

I’m not looking to be bossed or managed, but I am asking to be reminded, encouraged, and occasionally nudged. Sometimes watching is care. So thanks to those of you who already have been. You officially have my permission now.

Things I Hope I’ve Learned by Now

Always say what you mean and not what you don’t.

If the lives of your friends seem always to be moving faster and more smoothly than yours, remember that the cure for this misconception (as with most misconceptions) is simply to listen more.

Buy yourself flowers whenever you please.

Plan a way to balance work and relationships and sleep and books and church and time to clean the bathroom. When you fail at balancing and fall on your face in the mud, which I promise you will, calmly get up and try again. It’s worth it.

Gas and plane tickets are expensive, but they’re also worth it.

Notice when the sun comes out.

Stock up on spices.

Take it as a compliment when people think you’re older than you are and take it as a compliment when people think you’re younger than you are. This way you will get lots of compliments.

Thank your parents often.

Find at least two convenient, reasonably-priced restaurants you really like. This will come in handy when people want to “Get lunch and catch up.”

If you make a habit of accepting responsibility, others will trust you.

Indulge your eight-year-old self by unclogging blocked drains with baking soda and vinegar.

Guard good friendships with your life. They get more precious every year.

Be decisive. It will make you feel good.

Change your oil regularly.

Accept that some adults never outgrow their childhood meanness. Be kind, but wear armor.

If you ever begin to feel played-out, as if every thought you think is something you have thought before, just read something new. The world is a big place and you can never truly run out of fresh spaces to live in and dream in, even if that living is vicarious.

There is a good chance that most of your greatest fears about yourself are quite true. But be certain that they are entirely insignificant in the face of God’s vast, unending grace.

Things I’ve Learned in College

Do not listen to anybody who tries to tell you which are the best years of your life. Just go ahead and live.

People have layers. And they’re really funny and often wonderful. Be patient and you’ll see.

Take people up on their hospitality.

Sometimes there are good reasons to change your mind about other people and about yourself. This phenomena is more commonly known as admitting you were wrong.

Eat chocolate with your Earl Grey.

Spend a long time over meals, especially with friends.

Do not automatically believe what people say about you just because they know you well, or even because they love you well. Listen to them, but remember that they might be wrong. The only ultimate authority for your identity is Christ.

Smile at people on the sidewalk.

You are not owed forgiveness. It is a gift.

Tell good stories.

Don’t overcook your broccoli.

Make friends in class.

Listen with your mouth shut.

Do not compare or quantify pain. That’s the coward’s way. Find a hand to hold, look it in the eye, and walk through it. It may be long, but keep going.

Don’t be afraid to go ahead and grow up. Grown-ups can be happy too.

Try not to ask for extensions on papers.

Say hard things in person, but speak slowly when you do.

Sometimes everything will feel distant and unreal. Do not live by that feeling, but instead remember that home is not here and that there are other pilgrims alongside you on the way.

Write thank you notes.

When somebody wants to be your friend, take them up on it.

Make soup. You can freeze it forever.

When a friend confides in you, treasure that, especially when it is something hard.

Sometimes you will still be shy. And, so long as you are not rude, that’s just fine.

You will fail. You will not be the person you know you ought to be. And that’s okay, not because everybody fails, but because there is One who didn’t.

Be kind. THIS IS SOMETHING YOU CAN DO. NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE OR WHERE YOU ARE. YOU CAN DO THIS AND IT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

And most importantly, perhaps, the things I’ve been taught by others:

“Do the next thing.”

“Say what you mean.”

“Determine to love people.”

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

“Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”