Okay, here we are, the final installment of guest blogger, Argent. What a fabulous trip this has been! And I know you’ll agree, what a talented writer is she.
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Just a reminder that Parts II and III were posted last week in two separate posts; so if you only read one post, you missed part III; make sure to read it!
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Okay, and now, the Finale …
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Part IV
If the gremlins of restlessness reliably went silent on vacation, they just as reliably started chattering when I got home.
Most of the time, these noisemakers were no more than a buzzy background, like static. The least diversion — ordinary workaday busyness — drowned them out, and I went along most of the time in my even-keeled way: I was an unflappable worker, a calm acquaintance, a friend who was hard to offend. But at home at the end of the day, the world stilled around me, and I began to notice the old buzz of discontent. Often I would respond. My dear husband was the recipient of several bristly tempests. But most of my punishment fell on an innocent even nearer to me: my body. If there was psychic discomfort — a bit of anxiety, say, spinning itself into self-recrimination (Why are you feeling this way? What’s wrong?) — I hurried to silence it with food. Eating brought relief: the feelings evaporated, the uncomfortable self-talk stopped. Any complaint I could still hear came from my body, repeating in her polite way: “. . . Not now, thanks . . . More than enough, thank you.” Oh, but she was easy to ignore.
When I quit my 9-to-5 desk job and went back to school, life became stiller, and the background buzz became both easier to notice and easier to quiet with food. I was an intense student, but a little restlessness could drive me right out of my library seat, delivering me to the Lebanese place for moussaka, or to the student center for a flat of macrobiotic sushi. Knowing I was straying from ETL foods, my emotions became spikier than ever, and my habit of silencing them with food grew stronger. Not surprisingly, I gained.
After a year, I quit school to work again, this time freelance. My husband and I spent a footloose summer in San Francisco, in the Sierras, and in Montana, and, ah! what a break from the buzz of discontent that was. This past August in Missoula, Montana, I subsisted almost entirely on the weekly farmer’s market. I marveled to find my “appestat” in fine working order, its precision apparently proportional to my activity, so that running, yoga, pilates, and dance balanced my appetite for Montana-grown melons and huckleberries, bitter cooking greens and seven types of winter squash.
But when we returned to New York in September — Goodbye, balance, and Hello, buzziness! — I found that, six years and 2,000 miles from my ETL beginnings, I was still doing violence to my body. Yes, swiss chard can be a weapon.
I just want to pause here, because I’m not sure this lesson has entirely sunk in for me yet. Repeat: Swiss chard can be a weapon!
I know and I feel that vegetables are good for me. But the truth is subtler than that. The truth is, vegetables are good for me when my body wants them. My mind often pretends to know something about when I should eat, but this is simply not her sphere of expertise. Vegetables can actually be bad for me — gulp! — if I eat them when my body’s not hungry. That’s lesson #1.
Lesson #2 — also still in the assimilation phase — is about those gremlins of thought and feeling. If I want to cultivate a kind of perpetual vacationese, a life free of gremlins, I think I have to let them goad me without needing to silence them.
And so I’ve begun a practice of ignoring the gremlins. It looks something like this: When, for example, in the middle of writing this blog post, I get restless and frustrated because I’m not communicating as clearly as I’d like to, instead of hopping up and unhousing some vegetables from the fridge, I sit still, letting the energy rattle inside. I can hear my body, too, saying gently: “I’m not hungry, but thank you.” So I stay. In this way, I have begun to notice and interrupt the habit of leaping for food whenever a cloud scuds across my emotional sky.
When I first began this practice of staying, my body wasted no time in teaching my mind some important, practical facts. For example, my body pointed out, to my mind’s amazement: “I hardly ever need breakfast on waking. In fact, two sizable meals per day, mostly greens, are plenty. 10 and 5 are good mealtimes, generally, but I vary. Don’t get married to a schedule.”
These new expectations around eating soothe my mind, giving it reason to ignore the gremlins. Unhunger, my general state, used to be a major cause for gremlin concern: Why aren’t you hungry? Something wrong? they would prod. Now I know better than to believe their rabble-rousing. Body’s not hungry at noon, or three? Great! I can work, or walk, or write.
It’s almost as if I’m on permanent vacation. Except for the white sand, and fjords, and redwoods, and trout-filled rivers gurgling under the sun, and Yellowstone wolves trotting across the cool morning landscape. I guess I’ll still want to travel.
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I know, I know! I’m sorry it’s over, too. That was beautiful, Argent! Just beautiful writing too. Thank you so much for making the first installment of “ETL Fridays!” so wonderfilled and inspiring!
Folks, send in those writings, thoughts, recipes, tips, preparedness strategies, etc! Remember, it can be about anything ETL; if not sure about your content, just email me and I will let you know!
Thanks All. Let’s keep ETL-Friday’s! alive 😀