Let it be said: I am not going to go all Julia Roberts on you and enumerate the joys of eating pasta with pepper and tell you that you need to go to another country to “be true to who you are.” That’s simple-minded, elitist, and frankly, it makes me feel a little embarrassed to think that this post could, in any way, be misconstrued as that. But I am going to write about stress, hunger, and nourishment because that’s where my brain is, and it feels honest and relevant. Plus, I think a little honest soul-baring from time to time keeps this place real. Despite what my posts suggest, I do not think about giant cookies and cast iron skillets all day. (It must be said, however, that I do love both.)
We are now 95% moved in to our lovely new home. While all of this change (new job, new home, new profession) are profound and utterly exciting (and I feel truly grateful for all of them), I find myself feeling… detached. Self-care practices fall to the wayside when we, in a moment of snap judgement, decide that our new found responsibilities take precedent over our momentary well-being. This is, of course, a mistake.
Last week, I spoke to a substitute teacher who emigrated from Haiti several years ago and moved here to complete a Masters in teaching math. We shared a room during a prep period, and rather than lesson-planning or grading, we talked about what it means to be hungry.
Just as that pang in our stomachs indicates physical need, stress indicates our souls are hungry, he told me. He looked at me and said, “You are tired and hungry.” Usually, when people mention that I look tired (this has happened too frequently as of late), I feel as though they’ve noticed the hole in my sweater, the ever-growing circles under my eyes, my clothing choices that reveal that I did, in fact, get dressed in the dark. It makes me feel vulnerable and messy.
This was different. His words felt comforting; they were not rooted in pity or judgement.
He had seen my exhaustion as a need, not a deficit.
Stress is a sign of hunger. We need to feed our souls something warm and nourishing, he implored. That can be peace and quiet; it can be talking with a loved one; religion may satiate that hunger for some. For me, I think that stress is a sign that I’m not living in the present– my mind is too focused on the future, on the unknown, on things over which I am desperately grasping for control and never gaining any ground.
We all know the feeling of overwhelming stress, and yet we may consistently avoid its meaning– that our souls need to be nourished. Stress is not always an indicator that our external circumstances need to be changed but rather that we need to change how we treat ourselves. This was a profound realization for yours truly.
To feed my hunger, I’m going to cook a fantastic dinner, devour a short story, fill an evening with the laughter of an old friend.
And maybe even bake a cookie the size of my largest skillet.