my choice cold

Do you remember the last time you had a cold?  Were you just a bit miserable? Today I have a cold, or rather I have the symptoms that most people associate with having a cold: I have very little energy, I’m a bit achy, my nose is running and it feels like my head is full of snot.  I can’t taste much and can’t breathe through my nose without a whole lot of effort.  I don’t feel well.  And yet, this may be the “best” cold I’ve ever had.  I’m not suffering.  Even though I have some discomfort, I am, in fact, grateful.

For the last couple of weeks, I have had an insatiable evening appetite.  The kind of “hunger” I have when I am feeling a whole lot of emotional emptiness and not a whole lot of passion about anything. This state is something I am really uncomfortable with.  Along with it goes the feelings of being unsure, and maybe even a little vulnerable.  The evenings found me in my kitchen, creating all sorts of interesting (and sometimes not so interesting) culinary concoctions.  Sometimes I was eating because I was hungry.  Mostly I was eating because I couldn’t bear to sit with this feeling of emptiness and not-knowing.  It’s a feeling I’m pretty familiar with, actually.  One I have been alternately doing battle with, or attempting to make friends with, for as long as I can remember.  This month the empty, uncertain feeling has been particularly present for me.

I had gotten to the point last week where I was pretty much resigned to eating anything in my kitchen that was remotely comforting…until it was all gone…and then I just wouldn’t restock it.  Chocolate, nuts, nut butters, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, dried fruit, jam, oatmeal, popcorn, etc.  At the time I didn’t really see any other choice.  I have thought about joining a group like Overeater’s Anonymous but what I know about myself is that I detest being told what to do, and although I am sure that I would probably be introduced to many useful tools, not to mention the support provided in a group like that, I also have the sense that I would rebel.  So, I tried a different tactic. I did an experiment where I simply did my best to love myself…to be with my evening-eating-adventuring self with as much ruthless compassion as I could muster.  I celebrated the interesting eats I created (like Lily’s “3AM North Star” popcorn), and I did NOT beat myself up for this behavior.  I knew that there was a reason it was supposed to be happening…because it was.  Here I was, eating myself full, if not fully sick.  Going to bed with an extended belly, waking up feeling groggy and without an appetite for hours.  And how did I know it was what was supposed to be happening?  Because it was.  How did I know it was OK to simply love myself? Because any other option felt even worse.

In the last few years, I have been playing around with Byron Katie’s simple process inquiry of questioning stressful thoughts.  One of her books is called Loving What Is, and the questions and ideas that she presents have given me a whole different way of looking at and relating to my life.  I was already in doubt of the utility of value judgements such as “right or wrong”, and “good or bad”.  So I was open to the idea that there wasn’t anything “wrong” with what was happening…not matter what it was.  I was willing to consider the possibility that everything that was happening was supposed to be happening.  I began to explore the possibility that I wasn’t necessarily the best judge of what should or shouldn’t be happening to me.  In fact, I also began to question the idea that anything was happening to me at all.  What if, in fact, it was all happening for me?

As a teenager I was introduced to the idea of “pronoia” by a friend of my dad’s.  Pronoia, opposite of paranoia, is the belief that everything in the world is conspiring for your benefit.  Not necessarily that I will always “get what I want”, but that there is a way that everything that happens in my life can be seen as a blessing or a necessary element in the journey of my right life, my destined life.  Sometimes this takes my awhile; sometimes I have a hard time seeing how it could possibly be part of my right life to find myself doing something like stuffing myself sick, night after night.  Sometimes the reason is simply so that I can help other people learn to also love themselves.

I feel pretty clear that life itself has no inherent meaning.  I believe that life has whatever meaning we give it.  While there are many ways to interpret what is happening at any given moment in my life, I like to choose, as often as I can, to apply a meaning that makes me feel…well, good.  There a few different reasons for this, the simplest being the fact that I like to feel this way.  It’s nicer than feeling not-good.  It’s expansive and light and free feeling.  As opposed to heavy and tight and trapped feeling.  So when I remember that I have a choice, I take it.

A few days ago I noticed that I had a bit of a scratchy throat.  There was a time when this would have sent me into a downward spiral, knowing that a cold was coming on.  I would have made myself feel guilty, saying things to myself like, “really, you are getting ANOTHER cold?” “Gosh Lily, why did you eat so much sugar?” “Why have you been pushing yourself so hard?” “You should have taken better care of yourself, then you wouldn’t be sick!” “Will you ever learn? Don’t you know that you will get a cold if you eat sugar and don’t get enough rest?!” “Oh, this is such a bad time for a cold.” “Oh no, I don’t have TIME for a cold right now!”.  Instead, I thought, “THANK THE LORD!”.

Thank you God, for giving me the support I need to shift the habit I had created of stuffing myself full of food late at night.  I had really been feeling like I NEEDED HELP.  And I had been asking for it.  And I had been seriously loving myself at the same time.

The great thing, for me, about having a cold, is that I have a(nother) habit of taking care of myself when I feel this way.  Over the last 20 or so years, with the support of family and friends and information that suggests this course of action, I have developed an attitude about colds that is a little different from many that I observe around me.  Colds are a message from my body.  They are information. They are my body’s way of re-balancing and reminding me to take good care of myself.  When I get these symptoms, I instantly know that I need rest and a really simple, healing diet.  I know that I am a little bit out of wack.  And finally, I have also learned that being “a little bit out of wack” is truly O.K.!  There is nothing wrong with me.  I don’t need to be punished for not being able to live “perfectly” and stay in balance all of the time.  I shouldn’t have “known better”.  I can be responsible for my cold, and at the same time not make myself wrong for its existence.  With this epiphany, this willingness to be kind and love myself even though maybe I “should have known better”, there is also room for seeing the gift in it.  Taking on the pronoia interpretation of having a cold.

When I am willing to love what is, I think just maybe there is the possibility for gratitude and joy and presence in each and every moment of my life.  My choice.

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