Gratitude is a hot topic these days. A buzz word if you will. The intention for thankfulness deeply resonates across the country, across physical and spiritual borders even. So, imagine my hesitation when my idea fairies began whispering I should whip up a little piece about it. Talking about gratitude feels cliché and overdone, yet upon further inspection, I found I needed a little tune up in expressing it myself.
In the winter of 2019, my nervous system hit the emergency break and decided we were not going to tolerate a wide range of foods suddenly. I wound up in the Railyard Urgent Care one morning, with a shot of cortisol to stop the throat closing reaction my body had created to communicate to me she was pretty much done with the shit storm of life. After my deconstruction from Evangelical Christianity, leaving the church, leaving my marriage, and coming out publicly to a very conservative community, I’d moved halfway across the States from New York to Mars (Santa Fe, New Mexico). I arrived there in July 2018 and took a few months off from working to relocate and settle the three children I had sole care of. Around about Thanksgiving, I took a what I thought would be an easy job in a photography gallery, and began to tell my body to go, go, go again. Please people again, perform again, smile and talk nice again, look pretty again—all the things. How long does it take to recover from leaving a life of religious dogma, a divorce, a sexual identity awakening, and the awareness of the matrix? (Also moving!) Three months right? That should be plenty, of course.
Well, it wasn’t; not at all. Thankfully, my parents had the resources to help me, and advised me to quit my job and take their help. So, I did, and went back to breathing and resting for a few more months. And then, by the end of the summer of 2019, I needed to work again. Having three teenagers all on my own without any physical support, and living outside the bus routes for the schools I chose to enroll them in, I did roughly two to three hours of driving a day, while working three different part time jobs to keep the flexibility of getting them to and fro. All the while, surviving on a diet of rice, apples, chicken, oatmeal, and sometimes a carrot. It was insane, and I kept going.
Enter March 2020: World Wide Pandemic
Nervous system check=failed. I was now afraid of everything I was putting in or near my body because my skin would literally yell in panic, “don’t touch me with that!” and burst out in some sort of rash if I didn’t listen. Once again, my parents stepped in and offered a steady hand. I had to rally all my remaining willpower last summer to move me and the kids to Florida to accept their help. It’s taken the better part of a year for me to peel off the layers of trauma and pain I’ve been holding, and there’s more to come. The anger, resentment and scarcity have left deep scars all over me, and have required a full commitment to heal.
Even though this pandemic has been terrifying and confusing, isolating and quieting, I’ve decided to be grateful for what I can from it. With the shut-down, I was laid off from all three of my jobs, and was told by my employers to apply for unemployment, like so many Americans. After exhausting all options for remote work during the pandemic, I decided to accept the government relief, and committed to using the time wisely to learn everything I could about all the things I want to know about. I started writing a novel, I took a social media training, I read handfuls of books teaching myself about energy and healing, and I got really intentional about my interactions with my community and who I was in community with. I taught myself to meditate, do intuitive readings, re-launched my reiki practice, became a meditation teacher on Insight Timer, and even recently got inducted into the sound healing world of tuning forks! I feel like I’ve come through a furnace of purification in the last year. I’m standing on the other side of it with a lot of clarity and confidence in what I’m capable of.
When I deconstructed Evangelical Christianity out of my life, I purposely removed all elements of rhetoric as well. Prayer, especially compulsory prayers like thanking God for the food which I am about to eat, triggered post-traumatic stress. See where I’m going with this? I’d removed gratitude from my practice of eating, and consequently my body felt force fed. Not only was I not thankful but stressed while eating. Scared while eating. Numbing out while eating, watching TV and cramming food down without respect for where it’d come from, who’d handled it, whether it was treated kindly ever—with disregard even for my own time and love in preparing it.
My partner has a habit of sitting quietly, bowing her head slightly, closing her eyes, centering her breath, and then smiling and saying, “Buen Provecho,” which is Venezuelan for, “enjoy your meal.” The act of becoming quiet, even for a moment, pausing before a meal, or a sip of wine, or as you step out into the sunshine on your way out the front door, is so good for us. So, so good. She’s reminded me to bring awareness back into these small moments and acts of self-care and love.
And guess what? My skin is happier already. My body is slowly gaining weight back, and I’m eating three times the amount of foods I was a year ago. It took me settling down, calming down, getting quiet with myself—really listening, committing to doing what it asked, and following through. It’s been a brutal journey at times, and I’m thankful I’m still here.
Thank you for hearing me reflect my gratitude. If you find yourself in a similar place, I’ve created a short, seven-minute meditation for mindfulness while eating. You can find it here on the free meditation app Insight Timer.
Peace and Love,