I’m reading a beautiful book right now called Writing Down the Bones, which weaves together Zen philosophy and writing. As I was reading (and nodding off in the bathtub), I was struck by this passage:
When I teach a beginning class, it is good. I have to come back to beginner’s mind, the first way I thought and felt about writing. In a sense, that beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a new journey with no maps.
and I thought, “That’s EXACTLY how I feel about food.”
I rarely feel that way about writing, to be honest. When people give “helpful tips” on how to figure out what you should do with your life, the only thing I’ve ever consistently loved to do is write. I’ll continue writing no matter what.
Food drives me crazy.
Some weeks I’m ravenous, I want to eat everything in sight. Sometimes I fixate on one food and want to eat it at every meal and fill the in-between meals with it as well. Some weeks I’d honestly not rather eat at all. Some weeks I’d seriously consider taking nutrients in pill-format only.
There are weeks when I wonder how I’ve ever even thought I liked to eat. I wonder how I ever ate before.
And yet, I keep coming back.
I come back to food every day. Not only that, but usually several times a day. (My unfiltered mind would like to add, “Every g*dd*** day.”)
And the fact that I liked food over the weekend has absolutely no bearing on how the meal right in front of me will go. The fantasy of a decadent meal with friends is no guarantee that what I’ve made for dinner will even remotely satisfy me. This is not how I felt about food a year ago, or five years ago, and I presume it’s not going to be how I feel about it in another year.
But I guess that’s why they call it a practice, right? You still show up. Like writing, running, reading, school, job, bathing, sleeping.
There’s something about it that’s an investment, and not just an expense.
So if food is an investment, what am I investing in?
I’m investing in the nourishment of my physical body. Each meal is an opportunity for me to re-commit to Being Here, on Planet Earth. It’s a microcosm for how I want to live my life. If I want to live a life that’s mindful, nourishing, healthy, fulfilled, exciting, present, experimental, full of wonder and delight, sitting down to a meal is a way for me to reaffirm that intention.
And how lucky am I to have this be my practice! I get to practice this at least 3 times per day! Who needs daily meditation when I get to re-try this every 5 hours.
If I screw up one meal, I know I’ve got another opportunity coming. (Now all I’ve got to worry about is whether or not my brain will be able to let go of the “missed” meal.) As inevitably as day turning to night and night yielding again to day, I will have another opportunity to practice this kind of mindfulness at my meal.
A writer must say yes to life, to all of life: the water glasses, the Kemp’s half-and-half, the ketchup on the counter. It’s not a writer’s task to say, “It is dumb to live in a small town or to eat in a café when you can eat macrobiotic at home.” Our task is to a say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist – the real truth of who we are: several pounds overweight, the gray, cold street outside, the Christmas tinsel in the showcase, the Jewish writer in the orange booth across from her blond friend who has black children. We must become writers who accept things as they are, come to love the details, and step forward with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.
It’s worth considering the next time you eat, or show up for something you prefer to resist. Why do you continue to show up? What does this thing give you? Why do you resist it? What’s your purpose? Are you validating life or stopping the real, true details?