Day 8 - Cheesecake, Chainsaws, Paul Grilley, and Asking 500 Times
I just went hiking in the Land of Medicine Buddha alone. I’ve been there once, but it was with someone else so I added the “alone” part which makes this event qualify in my commitment to do one new thing a day.
There are signs at this retreat center asking hikers to leave five dollars in available boxes or at the gift shop, and since I didn’t see any boxes, I headed for the little store. A bald man was eating his lunch under an umbrella, and he saw me see the “closed” sign. I told him I wanted to leave five dollars, and he told me I could leave it in the mailbox by the store’s door.
I knew this guy. He had a distinct mouth, a distinct way of speaking. I knew he was connected to yoga, but I could not remember his name. I thought he was Max Stromm, a yoga teacher who has a book out about breath, and so I tried to look like I was breathing deeply as this man and I talked about the five dollars and my reluctance to put it in a mailbox.
“I do your videos,” I said. “You are wonderful.” He thanked me. I ended up giving him the five dollars so he could give it to the woman who ran the store when she came back from lunch. I thought it would be so cool to interview him and ask him questions about how adopted people could help ground themselves with breath, but I was afraid to ask. He was eating lunch, and two friends were walking up to join him at the table. I introduced myself, stuck out my hand and met all three people who were now at the table. It was not Max Stromm. It was Paul Grilley. I’d been to a workshop he’d led on yin yoga and anatomy years and years ago. I loved his work and had learned a great deal about the body and movement from the workshop and his book and videos.
I asked if I could interview him for this blog. He said it better not be any time soon. I shrugged and told him it would be in the next three months or so. He said I could write to him through his website, and so, as soon as I write this, I will. The other day I was talking with Oleg Lougheed and he was telling me about his willingness to ask for what he wants 500 times.
Generally, I think asking once is a Herculean effort, but when I got over how proud I was for having asked Paul Grilley once if I could interview him, instead of thinking, Oh, fuck it. He’s too busy. I’m thinking, I’m going to ask him 500 times because I want him to give me an hour of his time that could benefit both him and other people—I would use that time to gather information so I could write about it and spread the gospel of yin yoga and the relief it can bring the body and mind. Part of being adopted for me has been to not feel confident enough to really pursue things I want. Rejection is a sore spot for people who felt rejected at birth, but it can be confronted and reframed into opportunity.
So, dear sweet Paul Grilley, I hope you say yes. I’ll keep asking until you say yes or ask me not to stop bothering you.
But here is where I get to the point of this post which has nothing to do with what I wrote above. (This is why I could never teach essay writing again at the college level. I’d be like, Just say what you want. Make yourself happy. Life is so short.)
Dr. Mark sent me a text as I was starting to hike. He wrote, “How are you holding up? The next couple of weeks might be tough as you might want to default to old habits.” Boy, was he spot on. I wanted to take a chainsaw to a piece of cheesecake and then eat the mess I’d made. Why? I don’t know. I have a little anger boiling under the surface. Chicken and lettuce and kale and broccoli and smoothies and where the hell are my morning glory muffins? Last week was like the first week in a new house: exciting, everything felt new. This week it’s more like Is this it? Where’s the party? Where’s the buzz?
I want to feel good and I feel…I feel…I feel…you know that moment before you step into the shower? That moment before you feel refreshed, clean, relieved? I feel like that.
I’m pissed at something, but at the same time I’m happy. This is either the human condition, the adoptee condition, my condition, or something I haven’t named. I think I have been using food and drink to drug myself my entire life. Since I must have been fed formula when I was taken from my birth mother, I started out ingesting who-knows-what ingredients. Not anything real, I bet. A bunch of scary in a bottle or can.
When my parents got me at 10 weeks old, I was fat. My mother used to joke about how quickly I could drain a bottle. She loved to talk about how people on the streets of New York would stop to tell her I should be in baby food commercials. These days, if someone offered me a fork or a shovel to eat my meals, I would pick a shovel. I eat to fill and ground myself more than anything.
It is possible I don’t know what it feels like to be in a body not jolted into some sort of high or agitation by food. So, as I eat clean and settle into “normal” blood sugar levels, it makes sense I’ll feel weird. I won’t even know what I’m feeling. What the hell does normal even feel like?
Stephanie Mays Staats wrote a post linking our eating to our relationship with our mothers. I’ve been thinking about that ever since. I know how to starve myself and I know how to stuff myself, but I have so little skill or interest in moderation. I want more and more and more and more. I like to know I can have as much as I want and that as soon as I finish eating, I can go to the store or cupboard and get more food if I crave it. Why I don’t weigh six thousand pounds is beyond me. The universe did me a solid and made me tall.
If someone put four ounces of protein in front of me and a little bit of salad and piece of fruit and said, This is the rest of your life, I would panic. Where is the excess? Where is the entire chocolate cake?
Where is my mother?
Where am I?
Dr. Mark had told me being hungry is a good thing. It’s a reminder I’m alive. He’s not talking about anorexia, about feeling hungry all the time; he’s talking about letting your body feel what it feels, do what it does. You feed your body; you move your body and it uses the food as fuel. You get to feel alive. You get to feel your body in space. It’s not about keeping your guts busy so your brain focuses always on digestion and elimination. It’s about experiencing yourself in the world. And hunger reminds us we are alive. It reminds us that we are lucky, that we are the blessed, because for us, for me, and, I hope, for you, we have food at home. We have money to buy food in the stores, and so hunger is the inhale and feeding ourselves is the exhale. Move and rest, move and rest.
I am talking to myself here. I am trying to convince myself that hunger is a good thing. That if I let myself get hungry, I won’t starve myself and I also won’t eat six cheeseburgers.
Part of being adopted for me is starting over in my fifties and retraining myself from day one. Hello, World. Here I am.I am learning what it is like to be myself. I know what it is like to be born and to be relinquished and to go to new parents and conform to their world.
And now I am learning what it is like not to conform.
And to feel.
See you tomorrow.