I’ve been eating crap lately. And, no surprise, I’ve been feeling like crap, too.
I put a lot of stock in the ‘garbage-in, garbage-out’ (GIGO) theory of health. As a nurse, I see far too many patients who have lived their lives on fast food, snack food, and few-to-no vegetables and now turn to bariatric surgery to solve their problems of morbid obesity, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. I’m ambivalent about the benefits of bariatric surgery, but my larger point is that I, personally, have always tried to use nutrition to combat stress. As a wellness strategy of self-care for caregivers, eating nutritious foods is key.
But, honey, I ain’t no saint.
July is a bad grief month for me. My dad died in July, and so did my mother-in-law, father-in-law, and brother-in-law. In addition, my late father-in-law’s and brother-in-law’s birthdays fell in July, as did my in-laws’ wedding anniversary. So, Lee and I face a lot of reminders of our losses each July. I’m always relieved when the unrelenting heat and grief of July segues into August, the month of Lee’s birth and the gateway into fall.
Around this time last year, Lee awakened me around midnight and said, “Your dad is lying on the floor in his bedroom.”
I swiftly arose and went across the hall. Dad had disassembled his bed: mattress standing against one wall, box spring strewn across the bed frame on the other side. Dad lay flat on his back, eyes, closed, with one leg draped across the bedrail.
Kneeling, gently nudged his shoulder. “Dad, are you all right?”
He opened his eyes but didn’t move. Looking straight at me, he said, “I have never felt so humiliated.” Coming from such a proud man, his words crushed me.
Lee and I were able to get him up off the floor and onto the seat of his walker while we re-assembled the bed. Blood stained the box springs from a gash on Dad’s shin, but otherwise the man seemed intact.
Looking back, I see this event as the moment his decline accelerated into a fast-moving spiral that spun him into death about two weeks later.
So, today, while I struggle to work up any enthusiasm for fresh vegetables and lean meats, I’m giving myself permission to salve my pain with a few chocolate creme Oreos. And an extra piece of bacon. And some ice cream. And an extra martini every now and then. My self-care goal for this month isn’t to improve my health or lose 15 pounds; it’s merely to maintain my weight and strike a balance between eating what’s good for me and doing a little self-medication with food. As long as the scales don’t tip toward the junk food side, I think Ill be OK.
And soon July will fade into August, and I’ll have survived. I’ll be able to again see the healthy, delicious possibilities of a a perfectly grilled chicken breast accompanied by a side of asparagus and bruschetta topped with diced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. And maybe I’ll even be able to contemplate an early morning hike to start the day.
But for right now, in this moment, with these memories weighing on me, please pass me an Oreo.