Today's been a bit of a fragile-feeling day, and asking around online it appears I'm far from alone in this. Everyone seems to be blaming it on the almost-full moon, and my GI tract is certainly having a king-tide sort of day. Really, after many months of trying to figure it out, the penny finally dropped on that score, over a year ago: my digestive system is indeed affected by the moon. I mean, if it can affect massive bodies of water like lakes and oceans, how much more of an effect will it have on my 70% aqueous being? Anyway, a good day to be nurturing of oneself, I feel.
To this end, I return to the irony of me becoming so very interested in things foody now I can no longer eat. I am certain there is some compensatory urge going on here, but I'm far more interested in other aspects of what's going on here.
Life is certainly going on. A couple of years ago at a difficult stage in my apparently faster-than-usual journey towards The End I saw a psychologist a couple of times; Gillian works under the auspices of the Cancer Council through our local hospice and hospital. She works entirely by not giving advice, instead just facilitating you talking about.....whatever. I guess that's what Freud meant by the term 'the Talking Cure'. As is often the case in these things I suspect, there was one salutary moment that came out of it that I remember vividly and made a great impression. Gillian rephrased something I'd been struggling with words around a bit as a question -
"So is it that you're afraid of starting something because you're afraid you might not get to finish it?"
Um, yeah. That was for sure going on. In that moment, I had a crystal-clear picture in my mind of the absurdity that my fear was actually based on a normal contingency of life, and really had about as much to do with my illness as my ass does to my elbow. In other words, I remembered in that deep and profound way that we can never know what happens next anyway, and having some even less-than-arbitrary shortened end-date really makes not a scrap of difference to this fact.
Shortly after this the fear began to very quickly change, transmute, lose its role in me. And I started starting things.
So it's not like I'll ever eat again, (insert disclaimer for miracles here if you like) and it's not like I'm going to suddenly get better or stop this par-plus earthward progression either. But it's not like I've just stopped and started waiting after all, and learning goes on, and positive changes do occur.
Yep, in some ways I have experienced improvements lately, and much of that I can directly attribute to nutrition - food. Leaving aside whatever improvements have come about through different medical and herbal supplementation, it's become clear as I more and more rely on real food (as opposed to the canned formula, which I still do use, as I can) and pay increasing conscious attention to my way of preparing it, that I simply feel better. True, my hands, speech, eyes, background ('natural', or unaltered) levels of pain and discomfort and many other definable symptoms are all undeniably worse. It isn't that I care less about them or are simply 'better medicated' to cope though. It's a deeper, more holistic sense I have, a gut feeling that permeates my body and soul (for want of a less loaded term) and unites the two more closely somehow, through the agency of food. And I realise I've started a journey with food, whose destination will perforce remain both obvious - unavoidable - and entirely unclear.
Let me back up and clarify. Half or more of my whole health problem is digestive-system related. I don't digest well, and require numerous medications, herbs, spices and supplements to keep things moving along. This balancing act is a perpetual work in progress, with stability and predictability (order) the direction to aim for. I am constantly self-aware of my digestion and body sensations generally. Half of the other half of my whole health problem is that of a loss of sensitivity and physical ability. In some ways my apprehension of the world is restricted, with the feeling in my fingers diminished, for example. So this inner self-perception comes more to the fore. What' ha increasingly happened is that as I'm paying more attention to the food I'm making and ingesting I'm feeling its effects on me in a far more deep and powerful way than I ever did when I could eat it. Maybe there is something overcompensatory in this, the way that people who lose their sight get a whole lot better at listening.
One of those things I started again was this book project that has a lot to do with real food for us tubies. Many of you know about that. And in the course of research, and keeping in close connection with other tubies and tubie support groups, the subject of food proves always to be endlessly varying and inspiring. I really do learn new things every day. That's another thing I re-started that I hadn't, back then, even really noticed I'd lost - learning. Terrible, to lose the love of learning new things, of discovery. Now that's death. No wonder I needed to see a shrink.
The twinned experiences of me preparing food and writing this book are bleeding into each other, as you might expect. I'm having to do things like actually measure and calculate nutritional values for the blends I prepare (the head part) and also get to experience how they make me feel (the feeling and soul part). The balance of those two perspectives is key to my sense of renewed insights, I'm sure. I used to have a pretty sound basic understanding of nutrition anyway, and have been a pretty handy cook since more or less forever. My various studies in natural medicine fields over my adult lifetime have played no small part in whatever knowledge I gleaned along the way too, but I just never was one of those who totally got into food. At all. It was fuel; necessary. How much I missed I realise - what a laugh!
Now, stripped of sensations like taste and texture (I cannot even taste and spit out), pared right back to the very core experience of having food inside of me, of being entered by it, I feel I can actually better bring to bear a more calibrated or finely-tuned sense of the energies of the food. More than just how well it digests and whether it sits lightly or heavily, makes gas or doesn't, and so on. What I'm witnessing is in some way the process of the food becoming me. The food which I prepare, from as close to nature's original state as I easily can, turning into myself. Consider that in the act of choosing, preparing or gathering food and ingesting it, you are very much co-creating yourself three or more times a day. (I'm assuming that since you're reading this you're amongst we privileged few who have adequate shelter, water and more than one meal a day). What I'm receiving more and more fully these days is a literal visceral sense of my food, unsullied by the delights and peculiarities of that wonderful mixture of sensations that course throughout us when we eat the usual way; the tastes and aromas and textures, the mouthfeel, the foodiness that suffuses our beings and can transport even the most jaded food-as-fuel numbnuts such as once I was to places of transcendence every now and again, if not regularly. Think of your favourite food of all time right now, or if there's too much choice then the nicest thing you ate today. Good isn't it?
Now imagine it just magically infused into your stomach as a thick liquid. That's me, that is. Now, feel deeply, bodily, in your stomach and intestines, what it feels like when you eat that favourite food of yours, as it sits there after just being eaten. I wonder, does it feel even better? Not-so-good-now maybe? Anything? This is pretty much the only way I experience food sensually, and yet I feel I experience it more completely than I ever have before. Odd, huh? It's become more than OK, it's become a really fascinating and rewarding experience.
The Hare Krisna movement/religion has, like quite a few spiritual disciplines, food at a very central place in its scheme of things. They treat food as sacred, and aim to cook with love for Krishna at all times, and offer always the first bite to Godhead. I really like that. Food is a spiritual link directly with wider nature too, that 'other' manifestation of Life that God made sometime in his Very Busy Week: Or if you prefer, it's a satisfyingly symbolic link with the natural environment we have co-evolved with over countless millenia only to suddenly find ourselves living lifestyles almost completely estranged from in our everyday experience. You get my drift.
So now, when something like what happened today occurs, I act with a sort of reclaimed grace, that I had, sadly, either lost or maybe never even had. It was a little thing today. Someone on the tubie Facebook page asked a question about fermented foods, and someone else was inspired to share, and my interest was piqued as I'm more and more loving the feel of genuinely 'live' foods, and then there was the name of a book.........which looked great on Amazon, which led me to another great book.........and I ordered them. These days it's not uncommon for Meeta to hear me say in response to her comment about some future happening something like "Yep, I really hope I get to see the London Olympics" and we'll share a soft wry moment; but not all that long ago my feelings around that stuff would probably have made me think twice about buying foodie cookbook-type things online. I mean, as mentioned, it's not like I can eat, and I might never get to read them anyway.
Still, that's life, innit? And I'm still me, so notions of time pressure notwithstanding, ideas of throwing away all natural sensibilities and living exactly as if tomorrow most likely will not come (as so many who get The Diagnosis do, in a great sweeping pendulous arc of almost retaliatory passion) and paying Stupid Money for Priority Expedited International Shipping To Your Door will just always jag against my basic nature. I am neither confident in the future, nor lacking in confidence. I do not trust that my idea of a fund to pay for my Natural Burial will necessarily of itself bear perfect fruit, but I trust that my funeral arrangements will work out just fine. I live life still according to the Greatest Wonder. What a fucking relief, really.
Yaksha: ".....What is inevitable for all of us?"
Yaksha: "And what is the Greatest Wonder?"
Yudhishthira: "That each day death strikes yet we continue to behave as though we were immortal. This is the Greatest Wonder.
~ Yahnya Prashna/ Questions Of The Virtuous Crane, Mahabharata.
(You can still donate to my burial fund here, if you wish.
And thank you, it's actually building up OK. Really, thanks.)