A Day of Grace (Part II)

July 1, 2010|Posted in: food, Food Stamps, frugal, garden, green, sustainable living, tea

I’ll be as nice as I can here, but the fact is I’m in such a foul mood. Really super-cranky. Not eating, or eating very little, all day will do that. I’ve also had a day of ups and downs emotionally. I find that by now, 6 p.m., almost dinner time, I am at the end of my rope, with no tolerance for nonsense; I am not concentrating well (I can’t think of the right word here, for example, so I’m just rewriting the sentence, and that keeps happening, and is frustrating as hell).

Reader’s Digest version: hunger not good. Everything that Tony the Tiger told you about eating a healthy breakfast is true. Concentration? Whack. Temper? Bad. Ability to feel hopeful? Limited. Self-esteem? Toilet-bowl. Kindness and compassion? $%&&**(*!!##!!  you.

I was cranky that the cats didn’t like their breakfast. I was annoyed that the bread was stale enough to feed the chickens. I had to pick up dirty dishes that my daughter left out and I wanted to kill her. The sound of my Boy whistling and prattling made me homicidal. And the disappointment when I discovered that he had drunk the last wee drops of milk, after I’d been planning to have milk in my tea (waiting hours, actually), almost brought me to tears. A letter in the mail about a large expense pushed me to a state of despair. And the devils in my head were relentless — one jabbing me and saying you’re cheating, you’re doing it wrong, everyone will know, and the other tempting me: you could just go eat  a sandwich, a bowl of ice cream, a frozen pizza, and no one would even suspect. You can write your way around it.

It seemed like a cruel joke that the only free coupons I could find were for hot sauce, toilet paper and a free movie. A friend with whom I barter left two bottles of homemade wine on my porch and I thought, “Well, G*d clearly wants me to drink these right now.” The free Taco Bell coupons I had in the house must have vanished up a teenager’s sleeve, and the ones in Patrick’s possession were tortuously out of reach — locked in his car in front of the house, with the keys in his pocket 25 miles away. Would it be worth it to jimmy the car door for a free Fruitista Freeze, margarita flavor? No. It would not.

I went out to feed my chickens about two hours late — concentration was already wonky by 10 a.m. That’s when I found out my garden had flourished overnight. A sunflower is in bloom, the tomatoes are suddenly hanging in heavy clusters like red-orange grapes, the green bean bushes have exploded, and zucchini plants are sporting phallic fruit. If I wanted to, I could have a vegetarian feast — which threw me into a tizz because that’s not how it was supposed to work, how could I experience being hungry if I wasn’t actually hungry, and the cycle of negative inner voices just chewed me down for a couple more hours. I ended up steaming a handful of beans, half a zucchini and some baby beets, totalling about 2 cups of steamed veggies. It was both satisfying and anxiety-producing, as the raw emotions ran loose, and the hunger pain went away for — I kid you not — about 15 minutes.

Did I mention that I have a project due tomorrow? That I still have a buttload of reading to do today to finish this on time? That I’ve already been paid for that job and this damned thing needs a lot of TLC? My ability to focus on the editing was pathetic, and finally I was so cranky that I took a swig of the homemade apple wine as a soporific and took a 3-hour nap. I awoke with a nap-hangover, a bad attitude and a pain in my stomach that is unpleasant, to say the least. Let me tell you, just now, it’s about time to make that pot of Top Ramen that Mr. Husband and I are going to share, and I don’t know whether to run off and eat the whole thing alone in the closet, give it to him and drink more wine instead, or throw myself in front of a train.

By the way, he had a lunch meeting at work, so had one good meal today. Since free food at public events was on the OK list today, I was going to go to this library ribbon-cutting and raid the cookie table. I found myself unwilling and unable to go, beset by feelings of exposure, greed vs. shame, disgust, annoyance and, frankly, a lassitude about getting dressed and leaving the house, when I could stay home and nurse my cup of milkless-tea and be a cranky bitch without talking to anyone.

So there, in a nutshell, is what hunger and food insecurity can do. It messes with your head, foils your ability to concentrate or make logical decisions, stamps out hope and pleasure, fans the flames of self-doubt and replaces it with apathy, which goes hand-in-hand with exhaustion, since you don’t have the fuel to get out the door. Tempers rise, alcohol and cigarettes beckon, and the call to fatty, sugary foods seduces you from the television, radio and every other media source. You stop caring about what other people want or need, while simultaneously absorbing shame and self-doubt since you can’t measure up to the rest of the world. Something to chew on tonight.

I’m done for the day — thanks for reading, but I’m off to slurp down my Top Ramen and a glass of wine.

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Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of "Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop" and "Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News" (rep'd by Booktrope). She is the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. Her articles have appeared in Thrillist, Quill, Paste, San Francisco Chronicle, and in many magazines; her latest poetry appears in The East Bay Literary review.

7 Comments

  1. noreply@blogger.com'

    Jani
    July 1, 2010

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    Girlfriend, I get you. I get the cranky when your day goes AWOL, believe you me! But I don’t understand why eating veggies from your garden would be “cheating”. I thought the point was to see how/if you could feed your family on a Food Stamp Budget, and that’s one of the ways it can be done.

    To me, one of the most amazing things about reading your blogs this past month is how truly resourceful you are. I am amazed at the skills you have, and my thought was that if only more people knew how to stretch resources the way that you do, they could maybe get by with less discomfort. Not that they “should” or whatever. I’m not trying to point a finger or assign blame.

    There’s some thoughts I’ve been thinkin’, and I’ll post more later too. At any rate, I hope you have a restful evening, and a wonderful July 1st!

  2. noreply@blogger.com'

    mamagotcha
    July 1, 2010

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    Oh, Julia. I’m so proud of you for sticking through this to the bitter end. And I’m glad your garden was trying to hard to take care of you.

  3. noreply@blogger.com'

    Deanna
    July 1, 2010

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    This ending mission to your 30 day challenge was such a bold stroke. Like everything about what you’ve written here this month, it is rich food for thought.

    You brought back memories of the 30+ years I fasted annually (for religion, and a total no water no food fast for 24 hours), and the handful of other times I’ve been lack-fully hungry. I’ve never experienced chronic hunger, and realized that I’m fortunate. But those experiences with true, deep hunger, the kind that makes you viscerally aware that we are flesh and so fragile, and also aware, in the body, that we are countable hours from death in the absence of food–those are eye-opening experiences you can’t get any other way. A blessing in a curse, perhaps.

    I know and empathize with some of your misery of yesterday. I remember the battle with self-messages, the shame, desperation, constant mental scheming around obtaining nourishment.

    The chemical inability to get right in your head, right with yourself and the world and any of your intentions. Our wet sponge bodies that are eternally hungry for their wash of nourishing chemistry kick us in the tail when that feed-wash is withdrawn. Our bodies feel death approaching, and don’t have time for the niceties of socialized life or anything above Maslow’s first rung.

    I hope you’re able to spend this month is a balancing feasting mode (on all levels), after this month of fasting on a variety of levels, leading up to your (ingenious and courageous) full out fast yesterday.

    Your writing is so compelling. I open my blog reader and the first place I want to go is to Modern Muse to get the next installment. But while you’re obviously an accomplished writer, it’s the living you do that makes your story so powerful.

    I raise my tea mug to you, and am envisioning you now free to enjoy your garden and all the other bounty of your life.

  4. noreply@blogger.com'

    Cathy
    July 1, 2010

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    Thank you for an excellent, eye-opening June series. I’m new to your blog (by way of the non-consumer advocate), and I’m in the process of reading through your archives. I enjoy your spunky, feisty approach to what life throws at you.

  5. noreply@blogger.com'

    Ann
    July 1, 2010

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    Very thoughtful and compelling series. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings and hunger. What’s next?

  6. noreply@blogger.com'

    En.Jay.Aitch
    July 1, 2010

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    Your incredibly powerful blog postings this month should be required reading for anyone who still doesn’t understand why some people who live in poverty can become violent.

  7. noreply@blogger.com'

    Ginny Buccelli
    July 5, 2010

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    Julia,

    I have read a lot of your work over the years (not everything, but a decent quantity) and this series is by the far the best you have written. You took everything up several notches. There is a depth and passion that doesn’t simply peek through, it bursts out and dances about on page/screen and in my brain afterward.

    Bravo! Thank you for sharing.

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