500 Calorie Dinner

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My ongoing recovery from spine surgery makes traditional dieting an ill-advised move. While gaining significant amounts of weight would complicate my healing, trying to lose weight at this point would be more risky. I feel I’m better off erring on the side of excess to optimize my recovery, especially since I lost a considerable amount of blood during the surgery itself.

I figure the best approach is to forget my weight for the next couple months and try my best to eat what I need every day. This afternoon I picked up some ham and cheese from the deli, something I seldom do because the sight of all the variety in a deli case somehow baffles me. I typically walk away with my purchases wondering if I could have made better choices in taste or value. In the interest of better disclosure, I will tell you that my job complicates my deli uncertainty: I happen to work for a grocery distributor that offers even more varieties of salads, meats, and cheeses than one would ever see in a single deli case. When I look at a grocery store deli case, I also have an implicit awareness of what is missing, and I wonder why this or that cheese log or cured meat isn’t in the case. Stated otherwise, I have a hard time picking the items that are available in a reasonable amount of time, so I usually skip the deli section.

This afternoon, the deli counter was empty of customers as I walked by, so I picked a proven honey ham and a hot pepper cheese with no agony whatsoever of what I may have missed by making those choices. I also picked up some 80 calorie buns and once home built a sandwich and salad dressed up with some hummus and salsa (because I think that the best way to dress up a salad is with sauces or spreads made mainly from vegetables).

I was able to fill my stomach with gusto while getting some of the protein and calcium I need to assist the bone building in my lumbar fusion.

My Healing Continues

I am now 18 days past my surgery. I have met and exceeded my therapeutic benchmark of a 20 minute mile, but I am easily exhausted and still caught in reveries I wish I could transcribe directly from my mind. By the time I sit down to write such thoughts, it seems that some search for information or news online eclipses my urge to write just in time such thoughts to evaporate.

I’ve accomplished two things which are notable to me over the past three days, and I will admit that I’m uncertain which is more important. First, I chopped up a large container of vegetables for snacking:

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at which point I wonder if it is alright to end a sentence with a photo. Is such punctuation permissible as our cultural tendency toward multimedia communication has grown in permanence?

My second feat was readingĀ Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. At this juncture I offer the shameful admission that I have seldom read fiction over the past twenty years. At that point, I felt defeated in realizing that it was improbable that anyone’s lifetime, let alone mine, would endure so long to read enough other canonical works of fiction and critical works thereof to inform my reading of future works of literary fiction. Since I hadn’t read (and the examples are legion, really), any Milton, Hardy, or Foucault by my mid-20’s, wasn’t my critical ship permanently lost at sea by that point? If I couldn’t even commit to an Oxford comma, why bother writing at all, at least no more than is necessary?

It may seem odd that I’d elevate the cutting of vegetables to the reading of a novel, but such tension is ever present in my life. My body needs the nutrients in those vegetables just as much as my mind craved the words of that book. I have struggled to feed my mind properly more than I have struggled to nourish my body as it needs.

I highly recommend eating as many vegetables as you can stand and taking the time to read a book that could crack your mind wide open. Lincoln in the Bardo was such a book for me.

This novel looks more like a draft for a play or movie with a cast that an editor would demand be shorn a bit for the sake of clarity. It is as if Saunders knew that his work could never be perfect, yet the ideas within demanded release to the world nonetheless.

The majority of the people in this novel are already dead before the narrative begins. They are lingering in this realm concurrent to the death of Willie Lincoln, and they witness his funeral and Abraham Lincoln’s acute mourning at the loss of his young son. They must convince Willie to do what each of them has been unable yet to do, to move on from this life.

While this novel is set during the Civil War, it reminds one that there are basic human concerns that endure through every era. No matter what time and place contains your lifetime, you will know both joy and agony, and certainly not in equal measure. As I read this book, I considered once again that while there are plenty of remedies for pain, we need none for pleasure. For example, no one has had an orgasm so stunning as to require anesthesia.

Everyone suffers, and our suffering is only amplified when we cling to that which holds us back from transformation. Yes, our lives are ripe with opportunities for change, yet we are usually tempted to do the impossible, to stop the inevitably of change. This can take simple forms, such as insisting one is permanently right about something, which is also impossible.

I consider how in my youth I wasted time agonizing over how I would love someone and be so dissatisfied at how they cared for me in return. Why can’t my father be a dad that hugs? Why can’t this friend of mine fall in love with me as I have with him? I tilted at that windmill time and again, each battle leaving me feeling more and more unlovable. Then I had my daughter and fell to earth on this matter. What matters is that I love, and it is a fool’s mission to dwell of how someone else feels about me. We are incapable of knowing the reality of anyone’s feelings but our own. We can look for various clues and signs of reciprocity, put the devotion of another to the test by being our worst or best for that person, but such endeavors are pointless.

The reward of love is the feeling itself and what it inspires you to do for those you love.

This is true balm for suffering, to love without care for its return.