I haven't been hungry in over a month. Oh, I've felt hunger pangs and certainly followed through with them by eating something. But I haven't felt any kind of craving or enjoyment from it. I just eat when my stomach feels empty and stop when it feels full. But I don't enjoy it at all. Even the thought of eating sometimes makes me feel quite nauseated. It's something I've never experienced before, as I used to do exactly the opposite when things got difficult.
Of course, my first reaction is to assume that I have some kind of tumor sitting on that part of my brain that controls such things. My second reaction is that I really need to stop watching House every single time it comes on (What can I say? I have a thing for Kal Penn.) After I think about that for a while, I realize that my issue probably has something to do with sadness, or disappointment, or pain, or stress. When I start feeling anxiety or insecurity, apparently my new reaction is to shut down. My digestive system switches to survival mode, and when I do make myself eat, it's always an egg sandwich. Egg, cheese, sometimes bacon, on a bagel. And I chew and swallow as mechanically as a fuel pump. My stomach just acts annoyed at the whole process.
I can feel the anxiety coming on every single time it happens. I never know how long it will last or how people will react to it. It's a bit like carrying a raw egg around. If you carry it in your hand, people will think you're nutso. But if you put it in your pocket, eventually it will break and you are nutso anyway AND have egg yolk running down your leg. No matter what happens, you can't set it down and just walk away from it. It's your egg, and no one else can care for it but you.
At the point when my appetite went away, around the end of December, I was carrying no fewer than a dozen eggs around. Switching them from pocket to pocket, trying to keep them all hidden, but feeling that at any minute, all of them were going to break.
And so last Wednesday evening, as I sat here on my couch looking at my apartment which was still in shambles from moving in, thinking about everything I had to do and everything I wanted to do, I dropped my eggs. The anxiety finally broke through. First, there came the fact that I've been living in transit for over a month, between apartments, making calls every single day to the broker, the landlord, the cable company, the electric company...everyone. There was the added stress of trying to do my job while all of that was going on, and with that came the egg of never making enough to make ends meet without spending every waking moment on top of it doing freelance work, which I haven't gotten in almost a year. Additionally, there is my writing, which I could never sit down long enough to do without remembering some other huge task that needed to come first. And then there was the fact that I had been on a few dates with someone I'd had a crush on for a while and felt the ugliness and paranoia that comes with having an ex (one that I see every day) who cheated and manipulated and left me to build my self-esteem back up from the foundation. And then, if that weren't enough, there was the strange smell coming from the refrigerator, the fact my oven doesn't work, and the yellowing leaves of my houseplants. I couldn't just fix everything and get on with my life, and it made me crazy. By Friday, I was psychotic. And over the next four days, all I could do was muddle through, watch TV, and cry.
When I was a little kid, it was my job to gather the eggs in the henhouse. I would walk out with my big metal bucket, gently nudge the chickens aside, avoiding their sharp little pecks, and steal their eggs. Sometimes I would break one. Sometimes they would already be broken. But most of the time, I was able to get them all back to the house with their shells intact. At least until the day I discovered the laws of physics. I liked to swing the bucket around and around and marvel at the fact that if I went at just the right speed and without stopping too quickly, the eggs would stay right where they were in the bucket. I could have my fun and never break a single egg. But during one of these magical lessons in physics, I stopped the bucket mid-swing right over my head. The eggs fell out, and all of them broke. I then had to carry an empty bucket back to the house and confess, egg yolk and shells in my hair and a guilty expression on my face.
I broke the eggs. Literally twenty years ago. And figuratively last week. I can't put them back together. And I certainly can't make an omelet out of the mess. So, what do you do with a bunch of broken eggs? I guess you pick up your bucket and you walk away from them. You trust that soon you can eat something besides egg sandwiches again and that it's going to be all right.
(The included photograph is "Broken Eggs" by Canadian photgrapher Reuben R. Sallows, taken in 1911.)