Updated: Aug 30, 2022
I’m writing this on Thanksgiving. What did you do this year?
For many of us, the holidays preface our annual pilgrimage back home. For better or worse, we gather with family and friends; cook and eat; and relax into nostalgia (even if the current state of affairs with our family is bleak). This year, some of us didn’t do our annual retreat – we remained isolated or perhaps celebrated with a smaller pod (and with more anxiety than usual). For those who gathered anyway, I almost can’t be mad. I haven’t had a hug in eight months, I won’t chide those who chose touch over isolation – truly, I don’t know what “safety” is anymore. Being touch deprived for 9 months doesn’t feel safe, nor does gathering with family during a global pandemic. NOR DOES A GOVERNMENT WHO HAS GIVEN US 1 STIPEND TO DATE TO COVER NEARLY A YEAR’S WORTH OF LIVING EXPENSES.
I think a lot about what this is doing to my body, how it’s taking years off of my life. We’re months into ongoing survival mode – our fight/flight and nervous system are a fucking wreck right now. The loneliness magnifies the dread. I recently tweeted, “I don’t know if it’s covid or anxiety” because the body sensations seem to overlap. The virus can manifest as headaches, fatigue, chest pains, etc. So does sadness.
What’s helped you? As in, what have you reached for to manage, even if it’s a new kind of “manage” that includes shaky hands and aches in your heart space. I’ve noticed the only thing that has meant anything throughout this pandemic – which has paralleled, being in and getting out of an abusive relationship, firmer boundaries with family that has led to loss/grief, multiple trauma-versaries including my born day – has been food. Early on in the pandemic I wrote about using your senses to better manage anxiety and depression. In that piece, I wrote poetry about croissants. Croissants are getting me through.
Today I made runny eggs with an everything bagel, toasted but still chewy, with cream cheese. I ordered a Nutella croissant from a local bakery and a warm chai from Starbucks with extra hazelnut, vanilla and cinnamon sprinkled on top. Bagel sandwiches are comfort food for me. When I was in high school, we would skip first period to get bagel sandwiches from the Bagel Bin around the corner. Usually, we were punished for this but there was something about being together, skipping school, eating and connecting over fresh bagels that felt safe. And in elementary school, bagels were my go-to meal at swim meets. I could be chilly and damp and chlorine-scented, but a bagel and cream cheese would fill me up and give me the carb-kick I needed to prep for my next event.
Food makes me feel safe. More specifically, it gives me the visceral feeling of being full and warm. It creates a body sensation similar to being held, making me feel less alone. And I, perhaps like you, cannot let loneliness linger too long at this moment. If I idle in isolation, I’m sure I will die. If not literally, then emotionally. I already feel the years peeling away every day that I go to sleep alone. Again. Wake up alone. Again. Eat alone. Again. Work alone. Again. Stare at a screen and twiddle my thumbs trying to distract myself a bit longer. I’ve lost count of the days. Sometimes I confused myself because I think it’s a Tuesday and it’s actually a Wednesday evening. What even is time?
About three months into the pandemic I started cooking again. The first thing I made was cake batter blondies. They were way dense and chewy, a combination of brown sugar and sprinkles. Delicious. I think I ate the whole pan within days. Then I made homemade pizza. Pear and gorgonzola with walnuts on top. An incredible salty/sweet combination. Then I said fuck it, lemme really learn how to fry. And it was fresh, fried snapper and fried shrimp. For a sauce, I mixed mayonnaise and lemon juice, a bit of salt and pepper (I believe this is called an aioli). Then in September I got really serious and bought a cast-iron skillet. I’ve been making crispy brussels sprouts nearly once a week. I mix soy sauce, chili paste, honey and ginger and drizzle it atop the slightly burnet brussels. AMAZING.
My pride and joy of the pandemic, for sure, has been learning how to make homemade biscuits. I wrote about this on Instagram because I was so excited, it’s quite intimate, making biscuits. As I googled recipes, I realized there’s almost a cult-like obsession and reverence for homemade biscuits. Blogs dedicated to creating the perfect biscuit, discussing buttermilk vs regular milk or how to veganize it for folks who don’t eat dairy. Tips for what you ought to bake biscuits on (dark vs light baking sheets or cast-iron skillets; parchment paper vs foil). The extremely sensitive topic of kneading, rolling pins and treating the dough with care (over-kneaded dough yields tough biscuits, a big no-no).
I’ve made so many batches of biscuits now, I get the reverence. If we paralleled biscuit making and gardening, there absolutely is a “green thumb” for baking.
Then it was poke bowls, avocado toast, overnight oats, the list goes on. My plan for next week is decadent smoothie bowls for breakfast and some kind of salmon for dinner. All I’ve been doing is eating. And there are side effects, of course. The internal dialogue goes, “What’s the long game here? Will we diet at some point? You aren’t even consistently exercising…” It’s frustrating. My body is desperate to feel some sense of embrace and the one, safe thing that creates that sensation then creates guilt. So, it’s emptiness or guilt. Unfair. I try to be gentle through the process and won’t spend too much time in cyclical conversation with myself or planning for a re-do on Monday (“new week, let’s juice!”). We’re all struggling right now, I refuse to lean into self-deprecation on top of everything else. I’ve also been playing with the idea that if I die from covid I would be fucking pissed if the months leading up to that I was dieting. So, yea, I deserve homemade chocolate chip cookies because it’s the apocalypse.
My body has changed since the start of the pandemic. In many ways, I realize the privilege of pandemic weight in comparison to folks who’ve been forced to ration meals to make them stretch. And in this way, I become disgusted with myself being any kind of preoccupied with whether or not my stomach is flat – PEOPLE ARE DYING, KIM. Fuck desirability, anyway. In truth, I no longer want the responsibility of being attractive. It’s too much pressure to attempt to upkeep. I’ve been coming to this for years, starting with not shaving my pits. Now I don’t shave my legs and I haven’t had my eyebrows arched since February. But I digress. There’s more here to unpack but, in the meantime, give yourself a break from being (or looking at on IG) a “bad bitch.”
Anyway… tonight I’m making pasta. Fresh noodles (I bought lol) and red sauce. Garlic, chili flakes and a sprinkle of sugar. Oregano, of course. Parmesan cheese to cover the plate. Red wine (I have Jam Jar) and garlic bread. Can you smell it? And for dessert, cashew milk ice cream with cashews and Godiva caramel sauce. Yum.
Tonight, I’m not alone. I’m not empty. Not isolated. What about you?