on death

Xray skeletons

Recently I was reminded I will one day die.

I had gotten an MRI and was viewing the results: a bulging disc near the top of my spine. Even as the doctor tapped her pen on the offending bump, my eyes strayed to other bones, other features. My jaw, especially. My jaw convinced me I will one day die. It was the jaw of a corpse.

The MRI revealed something I knew but didn’t realize: There was a skeleton in there, with a skull like the kind on a skinless body. There were empty black eye sockets. Teeth that would fall out and turn to powder. There was a brain that might nourish a tumor, which would press on nerves. Meanwhile the doctor tapped her pen on the screen, its plastic tip hitting the slipped disc where a nerve was already being pressed. She suggested physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractics, maybe an anti-inflammatory diet.

I came home and e-mailed my 74-year-old friend. He wrote back, “That was pretty scary, thinking of becoming a corpse.” And he’s a Buddhist who meditates on his death regularly.

Happy All Souls’ Day, everyone.

The entire braid of the self is coming unwound in a rush.

Advice for Future Corpses *
* And Those Who Love Them
p. 56

The Flat

prompt from my online writing course:

Describe a place that was meaningful for you, positive or negative. It could be a positive emotion or a negative emotion that you have for the place. Rules:

  1. No dialogue.
  2. No describing emotions.
  3. No backstory.

A thin mattress, set on a thin metal frame, served as the living room couch. A lockable metal trunk, forest green, served as a bench. Inside were bags of flour, and inside those were tiny lines that crawled.

A dusty metal bookshelf stood in the corner, with used books: a Wendell Berry novel, The Brothers Karamazov, and a small meditation on how to practice lovingkindness. Guides to “Scorpions and Spiders of the Sub-Sahara,” with their real-life photographs, were not displayed with spines out. They hid in the box a pocket-sized Bible came in.

Some doors were missing doorknobs; loops of yarn were tied to the holes. The toilet, too, was missing its knob; there was yarn in the tank, looped around the handle. The shower head emitted a thin stream of cold water, though in the baked month of January, the water was lukewarm.

Flip-flops stayed at either entrance to the flat. The floors, gritty before and after each mopping, smelled like lemon. Sometimes the toilet tank was filled with the cloudy water leftover from mopping or washing clothes, so when you flushed the toilet, it smelled like diluted cleaning solution. A trail of chalky sediment lined the bright blue plastic bucket after each pour.

In the kitchen, a trash bag hung over a pipe on the wall, and a calendar hung above that. The calendar was peppered with brown spots from the brown bugs that congregated around the trash bag. Spots freckled the shelves of canned goods, too.

Taped to the cement of the walls were handwritten excerpts from Psalm 42:


Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

The lettering was red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, rainbow.

Won’t you sing with me?

Dear friend and talented songwriter Momma Molasses let us crash her gig the other night. One of her newest songs is all about audience participation:

 

The church bells rang, and two voices sang.
Old sorrows became a dream.

All the wrong I’ve done…is forgiven,
and I don’t regret one thing.

Won’t you sing with me, my darling?
Won’t you sing with me someday?
Won’t you sing with me, my darling?
Won’t you sing with me always?

Whole30

On Day 12 of the Whole30 nutrition program. We’re hanging in there.

Quick summary: Fill up on meat/seafood, veggies, and fruit — but you can’t have dairy, beans/corn/soy, peanuts, grains, booze, added sugar, or things like carrageenan/MSG/sulfites (none of which I can define). You have to read every label and scrutinize every ingredient. It will likely mean you make your own sausage, tomato sauce, Caesar salad dressing, and mayonnaise.

Breakfast has gone from a bowl of dry Cheerios with cheese on the side, to:

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Slider buns get replaced with potato wedges, accompanied by homemade mushroom/kale/squash chips:

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And, as an added bonus, you get intimately acquainted with your grocery store clerks!

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The Whole30 lasts about 45 days — 30 days of following the rules, then a two-week period of slowly reintroducing food categories and seeing how your body responds. Do you feel more bloated? sluggish? Does your skin break out? Is your sleep suddenly restless? From then on, you can know which foods keep your energy high and which foods make you gassy. Everybody wins.

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lunches that make you want to go to work

Ideally, you’ll not only manage your weight better, you’ll also rack up NSVs — non-scale victories. But I’ve been surprised which ones have bubbled up, for me:

  1. more gratitude for food
    1. praying before every meal and almost every snack
      1. and meaning it!
  2. more peace while eating
    1. I used to “need” to read a book or watch a show while eating. Now I can sit quietly, simply savoring and thinking.
  3. more confidence in the kitchen
    1. hated to stray from a recipe, but now I’m growing more comfortable estimating — and riffing!
  4. less screen time
    1. because when you can’t just zone out in front of the boob tube, mindlessly feeding yourself chips, there are fewer and fewer excuses to watch TV at all
  5. more sense of control at work
    1. Building on the positive momentum of planning ahead and meal-prepping at home, I feel more motivated to tackle work projects and chip away at each next action. One positive change in life can lead to another, and another.

All right, so far the Whole30 has not been all magic & fairies…but the good has outweighed the struggle, and we’re still early into it. The book promises that in a week or two we’ll be filled with Tiger Blood.

I look forward to that.

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Thai turkey lorb on Romaine wedges, with fresh lime juice, riced potatoes, and kombucha to drink
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Yes.

 

Of course, eating itself reminds us that none of us can stay alive on our own. If you are breathing, it’s because someone fed you.

Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary, p. 71