For the next two weeks I am choosing to explain my re-enactment in prose form. These are my last two opportunities to re-experience the ending chapters of my memoir, “Food Memories,” and I’d like to say more than a poem can about them and my process :}
This week, I chose to re-enact the memory of me going to Rite-Aid to challenge myself with an ice cream cone for afternoon snack. This wasn’t a long-ago memory, it was just a few years ago in 2016 that I decided to put myself through day treatment to help me with eating issues after a long time struggling alone.
In the memory, the dietician suggested I choose something that brought back good memories, to go purchase and allow myself to enjoy that. If you’ve been on this journey with me from the beginning, or have read my book, you’ll remember that Vanilla Ice Cream was my first food memory, and was one particularly filled with joy. So it was this food that I wanted to challenge myself that day.
What ended up happening in the original memory is a full-body freezing response to some sort of unknown sexual trauma. It surfaced as I stood outside of the Rite Aid, licking the dripping white liquid, feeling it run down my hands, feeling people in cars passing by, watching. And what snapped me out of it was a crow, hopping on the telephone line above me, catching my attention.
Fast forward to this weekend, when I chose to go to the neighborhood Rite Aid to re-enact the memory.
As I was planning to head out, a friend asked if I wanted to connect, and I said I was doing a few things if she’d like to join me. I chose to let her into this experience, trusting what it would bring.
I met her in the parking lot, as as we walked towards each other I saw she had something in her hand. When she came closer, I recognized she was carrying a picture of a crow. “My friend said she wanted you to have it.” She smiled.
I didn’t think much of it at the moment, except that it was a sweet gesture from someone I didn’t really know.
We walked over to the Rite Aid and entered the whoosh of the automatic doors, the coolness meeting our skin. My friend excused herself to look for another item while I went to order my ice cream. I saw the “Chocolate Malted Crunch” flavor I also loved as a kid and for a moment wondered if I should get this flavor. I decided to stick with Vanilla for the memory’s sake.
I stepped up to the counter and there was a family of four treating themselves to various cones and scoops. They were all “overweight” body types in the societal judgement of things, except for the little girl that was with them. The clerk serving them was also of this type. I noted this as a possible synchronicity to explore.
But what was also occurring while standing there waiting was this weird hidden shame feeling. The family was acting jovial and cheery, but as I do not fall into that body type I was feeling all of these kinds of comparison, self-judgments, etc, in the field. I am not sure if it was mine or theirs or what. I just felt it.
Another thing to note.
As I approached the counter, I noticed that the clerk wouldn’t look me in the eye, and was fidgeting a lot to avoid direct contact. Again, not ever sure what is mine and what is another’s, I approached him with gentleness and tried to make the interaction as clean as possible. I tried to engage him about what its like working during the summer at the ice cream counter, the rushes, etc (I did this too at that age). He didn’t seem to understand me, and was fumbling. Again, I tried to send good energy to the whole situation, to not create as little embarrassment/weirdness as possible.
That interaction complete, I met back up with my friend and we went for a walk in the gardens outside while I ate. I was a bit nervous of what might happen outside, if I would face a synchronistic sexist comment or situation that would remind me of that day in 2016. But I did not. I was simply surrounded by plant and human friend, strolling in the sunshine, eating an ice cream cone like a “normal person.”
I did struggle with whether or not to eat the cone at the end, and deciding that the ice cream was a big enough challenge, chose not to. (Later I thought about it and realized that this used to be my favorite part, eating the dribbly creaminess and crunching cone all together…I had a full on craving and visual experience of how good that was…and wondered why I didn’t remember this in the moment.)
My friend and I sat in a park afterwards and talked about spirit encounters, Brazilian psychics and agnostic ideas for balance lol. It was a good day.
In reflecting about the experience, I thought about how it both related to the original memory…as well as how it helped me heal/deepen into it. While it wasn’t crystal clear as in some memory re-enactments I’ve had, I do feel there were interesting bits.
Crow, once again, being with me, seemingly helping me to stay present.
The viewing (and possible empathic feeling) of people’s self-judgments about their bodies, about enjoying their senses, as if I was getting an opportunity to see what my own shadow energies around my body and sensuality shame were…from a distance. Without it totally taking me over, immobilizing me.
And then the fact that I was not alone, that my friend met me and was with me. She did not eat with me, but she was with me…which is a rare thing: me eating with others around. Letting her see me want/desire something, letting her see me purchase it and eat it with joy…this was healing. The fact that there wasn’t a gnarly sexual issue that came up was refreshing too. The fact that I could enjoy this, simply eating an ice cream cone without drama, was refreshing.
Thanks, nervous server guy.
And thanks, Rite Aid Vanilla Ice Cream.
Ps. Next time I’ll eat the cone.
*Thanks for reading! Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “Egg Salad Sandwich.”I’ve been re-enacting these memories chronologically from my memoir, and this will be the very last one!
**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here:
This week, my self-assigned re-enactment was of a memory of eating oatmeal.
But not just any oatmeal–this oatmeal was what I deemed at the time as “Recovery” oatmeal. Far from the low-calorie, Quaker Oats package with only water to swim in. This oatmeal was laced with silky almond butter, coconut oil and a hefty serving of chewy flattened groats.
The recipe for this oatmeal was provided to me decades ago whilst under the care and guidance of an eating disorder nutritionist. I’d hired her to get me out of the underworld once again. But she was no ordinary nutritionist…she was a witch.
She called herself a Kitchen Witch. She encouraged me to sit with the pain of eating more, kneeling at a Dark Goddess altar she’d had me create to give the lessons of Anorexia a home. She encouraged me to track the moon, to honor the time when I would be menstruating but wasn’t, to create a ritual to hold space for it to come.
She grew and crafted Vitex and Skullcap tincture to help my hormones, to soothe my anxiety. She encouraged me to honor the pain.
It was this deep experience I was attempting to re-create, eating this recipe and sitting with the pain once more, honoring it, listening to it.
Yet as I was preparing the meal, I was amazed at the amounts she’d listed in her original recipe. Today, these seemed like measly amounts. I remembered writhing in pain after eating said recipe…how could this be true?
I recalled how I teetered on the brink in those days, and how lucky I felt to have met this witchy woman at a women’s herbal conference, she coming upon my sobbing mess while ladies of all shapes and sizes frolicked merrily around me. I remembered the depth in which she looked at me, I remember feeling held.
I remembered feeling courage to do anything to face this seeming demon inside of me once again. I remember her holding me–and it–with such fierce care it astounded and changed my perspective forever.
And so it was with that heart that I made this meal that day so many years ago, and braced myself for the pain. And pain there was–for hours and hours. I was somehow able to hear her voice, this nutritionist witch, and maybe the Dark Goddess too.
I was able to hear them guiding me to sit with the pain, to honor it, rather than the usual running, starving, anything I had done to make it go away. I remember being with that pain so deeply, deeper than I’d ever been. Understanding it as not just “too much food” but as an intense, unconscious trauma reaction.
For some reason, fullness was avoided at all costs, and I had not at this point taken a conscious look at the this reason. I just remained confused at why if I wasn’t worried about my weight, why the fullness terrified me so much. Why I needed a treatment center, or hospital, to help me face it and not run. This woman, and perhaps the Wise Darkness, spoke to me that day, through my sitting with the gurgling mass of oats in my abdomen. That day I learned something profound and new, even though I could not put it into words.
This time, while preparing the recipe that triggered such intensity, I was nervous. I was perplexed. What would this meal bring, even though it didn’t seem to be such a challenge volume wise anymore? I found myself wondering if I might constellate discomfort regardless because I was expecting it, exploring it in this exercise.
Yet slurping and chewing the oilier, thickened mass, I found myself listening to my body, listening for it to tell me to stop, listening for the pain. But it didn’t, and the pain wasn’t there. My body was…still hungry.
And I knew what the lesson was. The lesson from the re-enactment was to show me how far I’ve come, even though I still measure my food. The lesson was to help me remember the deep teachers that have met me along the way and what insanity my body has gone through with me.
I spent the time after the meal thinking about all of this, grateful, yet still perplexed at not really knowing how to describe just what has happened between then and now (aside from some obvious metabolic rehab), but that a lot has. “Recovery” isn’t quite the term I’d use, but something momentous has alchemized within me.
So there I sat in the early morning hours, darkness still hanging heavy in the sky, and thought of Her. In all Her forms, that has come to guide me through this storm. At one moment, posing as the enemy, and at another a helping hand. How She has always been with me, teaching.
And then, I got up to eat some more.
*Thanks for reading. Please join me next week as I re-create the food memory, “Tuna Wrap.”
**If you’d like to learn more about the Food Memories book I am referencing for these posts, you can support a small bookstore by purchasing it here:
I have a squiggly, wet fish in my hands. I am crying. Uncontrollably.
Its slick skin slides out from my grasp, and it somehow manages to jump away and onto the ground. As I am set up so far away from the pond, its panicking thrusts don’t manage it back to the water. It flops, to and fro, and there is so much grief in me I feel I will explode and crumble beside it as it dies.
I decide I cannot let it suffer anymore and search frantically for a way to end its pain. I pull out the fish knife in my belt and hold the blade edge carefully, thankfully it is still sheathed so as not to slice me open. The hilt protruding from my trembling fist, I walk up to the squirming fish and thwack its head, aiming hard so I won’t have to try again. I squeeze my eyes shut reflexively as I make this jarring motion. I wait for a moment, listening, my arm reverberating. My eyelids peel back open, afraid to see what I’ve done, but apparently I have succeeded. The body of a lifeless fish rests before me.
I go to my bag and pull out the ceremonial cloth I’ve chosen to wrap the body in, to honor its life and the part it is playing in my rite of passage. I feel the scratchy linen cloth, and through it a wet seeping onto my hands. I stop for a moment and feel this body, this cycle I have chosen to put myself in, remembering the struggle and the blood of just moments ago. All is peaceful now, and I feel as if I hold a precious sacrament in my palms. I do. I am.
I place the carefully wrapped body in the cooler I have prepared. I close the lid down and take a breath. It is done.
I gather my rod and equipment and head back to the car. Things seem very slowed down as I walk back along the path that before held my trembling steps. I hear birdsong echoing in the forest around me, and although the ripples of sadness are still flowing through me, there is a peace that has taken over my body. It is a pulsing feeling, deep in my bones.
I do not play music on the long, dusty road back to my home in the city. I listen to the silence; I feel the buzzing, how it etches out the lines of my body. It is as if I am humming, alive, and I want to really be in this feeling. I hear the rod jangling in the back of the car as I make my way over the bumpy roads, and finally I reach the highway and head home.
I pull up to the side of the house, cars rushing by on the busy intersection. I choose to leave my rod in the car for now, and only lift out the cooler with the fish body inside. I make my way up the stairs and into the house—no one seems to be home, which I am glad to see. My next task is to cook this offering, and to consume it. Decades have passed since I have eaten flesh, and my mind is nervous of how my body will react. I am grateful that I will be able to experience this transition alone, and I make my way to the kitchen.
I open the cooler and a wave of slightly fishy aroma rushes at my nostrils. I take another breath, and remember the Fish message I’d received:
We are here to nourish you, if you call upon us and treat this exchange with gratitude. We are happy to offer our lives so that you may thrive.
I have to put this message on repeat in my head. I have spent so many years protesting and activist-ing that this message is still such a paradox to me.
I walk over to the stove and place a frying pan on it, turning on the gas clicker and lighting a flame beneath. I splash a little oil onto its surface and hear it sizzle. I breathe.
I bring the fish body over to the side of the stove and unwrap it, placing its cool carcass onto a plate. I look at it, looking back at me, through the eye of its half-squished face. These eyes are glazed over and cloudy, and my crying heart doesn’t seem to react this time. I have become a little more comfortable with the fact that I am a killer.
I hover my hands over the dead fish and start to say my prayers. Prayers of gratitude for its sacrifice, for the worms and waters that formed it, to its fish mother, to the silky mosses it brushed up against and hid in. To the rains and the sun and whatever it is that made it possible for me to have this privileged experience, here, now. I wedge my fingers under the scaly underside and lift it up into the air, a gesture moving through me with no words. I bring it back down and into the pan, the sizzling intensifies, and I prepare myself to deal with the aroma of flesh cooking.
Surprisingly, as the fish body quivers and crackles, the scent is pleasurable. Savory, briny, smoky. My stomach begins to rumble. My stomach begins to rumble! My stomach hasn’t rumbled in what seems like…decades.
I am curious, and my mouth starts to water.
I grasp the spatula from its peg near the chopping block, and pry up the crisped skin of the fish body from the hot pan. I maneuver it somehow so that, in one fell swoop, I manage to flip it over onto its other side without a mess. It plops back and resumes its sizzle.
I am calm, reminding myself of the message. Guilt and fear try to creep into the edges of this experience, but the unbelievable fullness of the sacred overwhelms their tries. I look at the fish eyes again, and it seems the mouth is now smiling. The metalhead inside me chuckles at the grimness of a slightly smashed fish head smiling.
The aromas have taken over the air in the kitchen. I’m not sure whether or not the fish is ready, but it is now beginning to burn, so I remove it from the flame. I pull open the drawer next to the stove and pull out a fork, curious to see what it will look like, surprised again at the ease with which I’ve transitioned into this meat-eater persona.
I pierce the crispy flesh and pry into the muscle. I see it has hardened and its texture reminds me of fish-and-chips of so long ago. I decide it is ready, and remove the fork.
I slide the fish onto a plate and brace myself for the big moment. I breathe, body quaking again. The tremble has returned for some reason, and it makes my fork wiggle. I am called back to the wriggling of the fish, in my hands, on that mossy earth, dying, and how it’s now here, cooked, and on my plate. I feel tears well up, but they do not escape the rims of my eyelids, they just pool there. I lower my shaking fork down into the flesh of this dear creature, and lift a chunk of its cooked body up to my eye level. I look at it, fearing, but also in utter awe.
I place the fish in my mouth and close my lips around it. I slide the fork tines out and feel the saliva pooling around this new foodstuff placed there. All sorts of salty notes trickle around the sides of my cheeks as I begin to chew this strange, flaky texture. I close my eyes and breathe in, noting this ending of the rite it has taken so long to complete.
The tastes swirl in my head, and my stomach—and soul—is sated. I have received.