A week ago I got back from a trip to the Pacific Northwest to help my closest friend move into a new apartment. It is, for the record, wonderful. Near the water, the view – especially at night – is enchanting, overlooking a large twinkling metropolis of glass and steel. Her bedroom and the book-filled guest room are separated by a sun-drenched living room. The cheery kitchen, dining and storage area holds more spectacular wine than I’ll likely drink in a lifetime. It was hard to leave the sunny patio during the perfect spring days we had.
The night before I came home though, something odd happened. I still don’t know how to make sense of it except to know that my mind was trying very hard to tell me something and it was determined to be listened to. As I was falling asleep, the word Nourishment kept bubbling up into my thoughts for no reason that I could put my thumb on.
Like the good counselors we were trained to be, relationships fascinate my friend and me. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. So we often talked during that week about relationships, taking care of ourselves, when (and when not) and how (and how not) to care for others, protecting our emotional and mental selves from situations outside of our control, what we needed and what we needed to avoid, how and when to step back, and seeing situations for what they are as opposed to how we wanted them to be or how they had once been. I loved having so much time to talk uninterrupted with her. It felt like our grad school days again when everything was new and terrifying and wondrous and bursting with potential.
On the seven hours of plane rides home, Nourishment kept popping up unbidden as I looked out the window, reclined with an audiobook, rested. Anytime my conscious mind began to wander, Nourishment, and sometimes its partners in confusion Nourish or Malnourished, would pop up like a reminder – only, like Neville in the first Harry Potter book, I had no idea what it was I was forgetting. This was my auditory Rememberall.
Once I landed and had roughly unpacked my backpack into piles on the floor, and I lay down exhausted in bed, it began whispering again: nourish, nourishment, malnourished. Knowing I wanted to make sense of it but also that I was too tired to think clearly, I wrote up a quick tweet to the effect of – weird, but so this is happening – and slipped into oblivion knowing I could think better on it in the morning. It garnered no attention, because let’s be honest Why would it?, and I forgot about it too as the to-do’s and tasks of being home after a week away kicked into high gear. By Thursday though, I was thinking about it on and off, playing with it, watching for the things that popped into my head alone and when interacting with others.
So as I got started on what turned out to be a truly amazing dinner of pan-fried pork chops with brandied cherry sauce and oven-roasted cauliflower, I let myself mull things over. And things began to fall into place.
I thought about the frequent knot in my stomach after reading things on or after posting to social media, which has long been a source of stress but also sometimes of connection and keeping up with ideas and people far away. It was too easy to ignore though that often, social media with its daily outrage and sarcasm, its frequent disingenuousness and circle-jerk tendencies, its flavor of the day and pile-on justice, its preference for witticisms over wisdom and clamor over kindness, leave me feeling emptied and wary, in a word malnourished.
I again felt the force of a No unexpectedly snapped at me, instead of the Thanks, but no thanks, that I would have expected. My desire to offer (or in this case, re-re-offer) was not perceived/received as the affectionate gift of my skills and time that I had intended, but as a re-gifted and inedible fruitcake to be avoided. I admit that it feels good at this point in my life to be able to physically, financially, and logistically offer to help out when people I care about express stress over a situation. I can see the selfish side of that. But I guess it can feel – well, I don’t know exactly how it felt because it wasn’t said – cloying, mothering, suffocating, pompous, or maybe just fucking annoying sometimes. Instead of nourishing a friendship, my ill-conceived offer left me with stomach pain, a deep sense of shame at offering, and probably some resentment on their side.
I recognized the dangers of falling too far off my training schedule in the last couple months. The lack of regular and sustained movement, the not uncommon reduction from three times a week to two in the gym due to ‘circumstances’, some forced rest from shoulder, elbow and knee pain caught up with me. Yet it’s these very physical activities that not only keep my body strong, my immune system high, and my energy levels soaring, they are also part of the nourishment I need to sustain the emotional resiliency and mental clarity that I’ve grown used to. It’s time I got back to working out consistently again.
Many simple and some difficult things flooded my thoughts afterwards. Things that I saw I needed more (or less) of in life. Behaviors that could be eliminated or changed for the better. Things to nourish myself with as I pick my way along personally, relationally and career-wise. Beliefs that need to be re-evaluated. Things to fill-in my areas of self-neglect. Habits that should be supported or dropped. Things to push back the likelihood that simply hearing a song, let alone an entire album, by Julian Baker will cause tears to begin streaming unchecked down my face.