There’s a scene from The West Wing that’s been on my mind this week. The President, whose multiple sclerosis has begun to progress in serious ways, mentions to a member of Congress that he can’t seem to find his balance. It will return, he knows, or he says he knows. It’s as though he’s misplaced it, and he just has to trust that, like the name of that movie you can’t remember but is right there on the tip of your tongue, he’ll eventually locate it again. Just has to trust.
Three years ago I lost my appetite. It’s not as serious as balance, or it wasn’t, but it bothered me and others. I understand how it slipped away, how I got depressed and tried to change my mood by eating a healthier diet and exercising more, something that sounds so reasonable now I’m a little startled when I realize how badly it all turned out.
It bothered me, but it wasn’t MS. I just got skinny. I worked on it, paid attention, gained a few pounds, lost them again, pretty much stayed the same, really. I wasn’t hungry, not much and not often. I just couldn’t locate my appetite. I managed, because people need to eat or else they eventually fall over and then die. I just wasn’t all that interested in food.
And now, in a burst of irony, as the traditional season of fasting (and prayer, and almsgiving) arrives in the Christian church, as Lent begins, I get hungry. Really hungry.
I need to stay literal here; hunger is a tricky word, since it becomes metaphorical without trying. What do you hunger for? And so on.
I relocated my appetite, that’s all. I don’t understand. The past two weeks have been crazy busy, with stress and some fear over my friend’s health. I guess this could be stress eating, or comfort eating, or whatever cute adjectives we can dig up to describe something pretty basic. And it has nothing to do with comfort or stress, at least in my case.
I don’t understand it, though. I had a cold; I feel better. I had a friend with a medical emergency; I still have him, it’s still serious, I’m still actively engaged in dealing with it, on a daily basis. If anything, this is a set-up for starvation, for me. Eating would be one less thing to have to deal with.
Instead, I keep my eyes peeled for Girl Scouts (I’ve had more Samoas in the past week than in my entire life, seriously) and I scavenge constantly, and see? The metaphors write themselves.
We eat to stay alive. We eat for other reasons, social reasons, psychological reasons, but that’s the gist. We consume energy because we expend energy. We have to keep the tank filled.
I think it’s that simple, and if the Lenten season for me is about discovery—and it tends to be—then I’ll check this one off as discovered.
I’ve been busy. I’m often busy, actually. I wish I were busier, with things to do that ended with a paycheck, but I’m as busy as I want to be. These past two weeks have been pretty busy, but talk to me in a few weeks as Easter approaches and we can discuss busyness.
So I don’t think it’s about being busy. I think it’s about being needed.
That’s all I got. This may not be an autopilot situation for me. I might need a reason to stay alive, sometimes. I’ve got plenty of reasons, of course. I’m not interested in not being alive.
But my friend needed me, and I figured out how to eat again, and I imagine they’re connected. Whatever I’ve been hungry for, it woke up my appetite. I don’t think this is a miracle. It just sort of feels like one, around the edges, and that, my friends, is how I do Lent. I locate my appetite, and it turned out to be just where I left it.