Thanks to gluten and sugar sensitivity, I would end up in the worst kind of food coma if I were to stuff my face with sheet cake per Tina Fey‘s Saturday Night Live skit. Still, I completely understand the impulse to use a grilled cheese sandwich to shovel cake and frosting into one’s mouth, an impulse she exaggerated to great comic effect. Since the inauguration, and even though I supposedly know better, I’ve been periodically soothing myself with sushi. That grey January morning I scheduled a dental appointment, hoping it would be a distraction from, and likely far more pleasant than, the cringeworthy event. After my cleaning, I used a Groupon to get lunch at an Asian restaurant. It hadn’t occurred to me that the venue would have a large screen television. When I looked up at a certain angle, I could see the inauguration unfolding, forcing me to bear witness even though I had hoped to ignore it. Still, sitting in the large eatery surrounded by chatting professionals and mothers and children, whose lives seemed to be proceeding as if the country were not teetering over the edge of a cliff, eased some of my nausea. The cheerful servers and beautifully prepared and delicious fresh fish kept me from breaking into a panic. To choose to enjoy a civilized meal while a very uncivil person became president felt like a way of taking some control.
That first meal became my gateway drug. Being budget conscious about my pricey addiction, I scoured the Internet for Groupons, deals and specials at Japanese restaurants. I rediscovered the pleasure of the bento box lunch. Gazing at the lacquered rectangle with its colorful contents, a universe of its own, filled me with happiness. That each lovingly prepared tidbit nestled in its own compartment signaled care and order in a world that suddenly seemed devoid of both. To do justice to the food and to the people who prepared it, I had to slow down and become present. To be able to appreciate beauty, the effort of others and to savor food, rather than scarf it down, are positive qualities. But to seek true comfort or solace in the ephemeral is a fool’s game, one that’s easy to continue to play. Although I sensed that my compulsions had taken over, I nevertheless persisted in eating sushi. Certainly not every day, and not every week, but more often than I care to admit. My mind used lame reasoning (I don’t drink, smoke or eat Ben & Jerry’s…can’t I have this one vice?! Besides, it’s healthy!) to justify the indulgence.
Even my car, whose state of being has often uncannily echoed my own, seemed to know I had veered into excess. It kept trying to tell me to STOP. On the way to one eatery it blared that I needed to add oil, lest I ruin the engine, successfully aborting that outing. After eating lunch at a favorably reviewed restaurant a bit further afield, the car wouldn’t start. Waiting for AAA to arrive and then having it towed gobbled the rest of the afternoon. You’d think I would have internalized the message except I had some unused coupons from Restaurant.com, purchased ages ago. I could have left them alone but felt compelled to use them. I found a sushi spot I hadn’t yet tried not far from the local Apple store, where I had an evening appointment to revive my frozen laptop. Despite the positive reviews, the food tasted a bit strange. I couldn’t pinpoint what was off and, out of habit, and knowing I have a strong stomach, finished the meal. Later that night, my body expelled the food, as if to say: Since you’re not listening to your higher self, I had to intervene. That’s it! You’re done.
As much as I wish I could still enjoy sheet cake and other desserts without feeling like I’ve been knocked out, binging on goodies, whether sugary or sushi-y, isn’t the answer, even if every cell screams for them like a hungry, crying infant. While a truly wonderful meal can often replenish and satisfy us, spiritual sustenance to face the changing world can’t always come from food. My Aikido practice offers clean, invigorating fuel. What about you?