In Which I Eat Very Slowly, and then Write a Very Long Essay About It

Dinner got delayed tonight.

I had to take Zoe to the vet for the first time ever, for a shot nonetheless, and I made three wrong turns on the way there, because everything out here is at the corner of bumblefrick and godforsaken nowhere (as I mumbled into my steering wheel after the third wrong turn), and her carrier almost slid off the seat when I made a sudden stop, and she meowed piteously the entire way.  So we were fifteen minutes late to her appointment, which was the office’s last appointment of the day.  Additionally, I hate needles.  And watching them go into people.  Or cats.

We finally made it home, meowing all the way, sometime after 6:00.  I was dying for a run.  But Zoe was tired out from the vaccine and all the stress and she wanted to cuddle.  She promptly curled up in my lap, tucked her paws under her chin, gave me a melting look, and fell asleep.  Well, I hadn’t seen her all weekend.  And I had just terrorized her all afternoon.  So I let her sleep for a while.  It started to get dark out.  I started to get antsy.  When it was close to 7:00, I finally scooped her off my lap, tied on my sneakers, and escaped outside for a run.

I ran fast, and it felt good.  But when I got home, I was starving.  It was trash night.  I tied up the trash and went to take it outside.  The trash can stank.  I got fed up because the trash can always stinks, so I dragged it over to the sink and squirted some dish detergent in it and washed it out with hot water.  Then I took it to the bathroom and poured the soapy water into the toilet.  I hadn’t flipped up the seat on the toilet since I had a stomach virus last month.  The inside of the toilet bowl was filthy.  I washed out the trash can a few more times, set it outside on the porch to air out, and tackled the toilet…

By the time I was finally ready to make dinner, I was too hungry to think straight.  So I polished off some leftovers as a snack, and noticed that some other leftovers had gone bad.  Tromped outside, untied the trash bag at the curb, stuffed the rotten food in, retied the trash bag.  Tromped back inside.  Stared glumly at the stove and made an enormous mug of jasmine tea instead.

At last, I forced myself to scramble up an egg with some black beans, spinach, and broccoli.  I sat down at the table and began, with my eyelids drooping, to scarf it down.  I thought about picking up a magazine to read while I ate and was dimly aware that my stomach hurt.

Suddenly, I stopped eating.  I stared at my plate.  Then I put my fork down and pulled my legs up onto the chair.  I sat there, cross-legged, with my hands folded in my lap and just looked at the food on my plate.  There were a lot of colors: yellow egg, green vegetables, dark brown beans, red salsa.  I picked up my fork and ate one piece of broccoli.  I put my fork back down and chewed.  I chewed some more.  I swallowed.  I noticed what my mouth tasted like after swallowing the broccoli.  I picked up my fork and ate a black bean.  I chewed.  I made myself put my fork down.  It was hard.  I had to fight the urge to get the next bite ready while I was chewing.  It was absurdly hard to resist.  Some part of my mind wanted me to hurry.  Why?  What was I in a hurry to do next?  I hadn’t eaten like this, one slow bite at a time, since the yoga teacher training, and I hadn’t realized how much easier it was to do with a whole group of people.

I swallowed the black bean.  A smoky flavor filled my mouth.  Without that pause after swallowing, I wouldn’t have noticed that smokiness.  I tried it with another black bean.  I smiled.  I thought I could almost taste the can the beans had been in.  I ate another piece of broccoli and all of a sudden, after I swallowed, a childhood memory welled up, of eating broccoli at our old favorite Chinese food restaurant.  It was a comforting memory.  I stopped eating altogether and just sat there, hands in my lap, and breathed.  I breathed in and felt gratitude for the broccoli.  I breathed out and felt gratitude for the good the broccoli was going to do for my body.  I inhaled and exhaled and meditated on the broccoli.  Then I opened my eyes and ate another black bean.  I inhaled and exhaled and meditated on the black bean.  I was having fun.  But it was still ridiculously hard to quench the urge to grab the fork, shovel up a pile of food, and chow down.  I wasn’t even very hungry.  My mind was just telling me to hurry, hurry, finish already.  My body, though, was relaxing.  My stomach had stopped hurting.  The corners of my mouth were turning up and my gaze was soft, but not sleepy.

I almost couldn’t finish my meal.  There was so much food on the plate (even though it was a small plate, and I had only scrambled one egg).  I couldn’t really believe that I needed it all.  After I ate the last bite, I sat longer and meditated.  Inhale, grateful for the food.  Exhale, grateful for the nourishment it gives my body.  And then for some reason I switched, and inhaled love for the food—exhaled love for my body.  I tensed up.  Love for the food?  Wasn’t that gluttonous?  I felt uncomfortable all of a sudden.  I wanted to deny that I loved food, that I was concentrating on loving every bite.  I felt guilty about it.  But I kept breathing.  Love for the food.  Love for my body.  I started to relax again.  And then something clicked, and I let go of the discomfort and the shame and the guilt.  (I thought I loved my body?  I thought I loved nourishing myself with good food?  What was this guilt?)  Suddenly, I was wholeheartedly loving the food—its bright colors, its complicated flavors, the work that had been done to grow it and harvest it and package it and ship it and cook it and land it on my plate.  I loved my body—the run I had gone for, the work I had done around my house, the meditative position I was now sitting in.  It was so easy.  And then it was like a little bubble popped, and I was done.  I blinked, smiled, stood up, put the plate and fork in the sink, rinsed them.  Started forming sentences in my mind.  Wandered over to the computer and sat down to write (one-handed…with a warm little kitten asleep on the other hand.  Talk about doing things slowly!)

So dinner was delayed tonight.  Oh, well.  I think I might get up earlier so I can delay breakfast tomorrow, too.


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