May 24, 10:10 PM. Finally, finally settling down. And the belly is quiet. Finally.
If anyone had asked me to predict how the day would go based on how I felt upon awakening this morning, I would have told them it is going to be darkness and shadows all around. A semi-blind groping through half-lit corridors, looking for a half-open door leading into a room lit by a single weak bulb. I felt downright shabby and feeble. Poor sleep, anxiety, and obligations will do that to a man.
Having a belly that worships the Trickster is no help, either. My gut was expressing some grievance, and it put a certain dull sheen on the day. I had things to do, but no energy or motivation to do them. Some could wait, others could not. Through the fog I was determined to slog.
I think it is no secret, to those who have read this blog on a regular basis, that I struggle occasionally with anxiety and depression. Every now and then the "sheer hellishness of life" (to borrow a wonderful phrase from Jim Harrison) sneaks up on me and hijacks my better nature. I get wound around the axle of the truck that hit me and I find it hard to disentangle myself. Today was one of those days.
The month of May has been an emotional sine wave for me. I have been in hot pursuit of employment opportunities, working on a storyline for a book, and trying to make time for creative endeavors. I have traveled to see my lovely Wee Lass, and had a marvelous time in her company. I have lain awake at night with my breath just short of panting, overwhelmed by dreams and the fear of failure. When I awoke this morning, my belly walloped me with a low-grade murmur of discontent. Everything congealed in the clear light of day.
It wasn't enough to keep me off my feet. But it sure made walking a chore. It made being human being a chore. I was of no mind to spend time in my own company. So the carrying out of tasks for the day was nothing I looked forward to completing. There was no choice.
I ate a little breakfast, forcing it down with a cup of tea while I sat out on the front patio. I count it as a blessing that the weather was gorgeous and cool. The birds were making the right kind of noise, and actually kept my mind from wandering into some darker byways. Still, I was exhausted, sick and sleepy. No way to go through life.
I rested a bit before I left to take care of the major task for the day, a photography assignment that mercifully kept my mind focused (Ha! A photography pun!) and off my griping belly. I read somewhere long ago that it is impossible to be depressed when engaged in meaningful tasks, and in this case a truth. Hooray for that!
Some background, if I may. Many years ago, my physician told me that in my case, stress manifests itself in the gut. Unfortunately, his diagnosis was spot on. It has been a limitation on me for years. Feeling this way has in some fashion become the normal for me.
By the time I finished what I needed to do, it was early afternoon and my body, as wracked as it was, was still giving me indications that it needed calories. With resignation and no enthusiasm I ran a search on my phone for something close, cheap and hopefully easy on the stomach. The closest restaurant it found was a Chinese place I had heard of but never had the opportunity to try.
So it was I found myself standing in the parking lot of a slightly beat-up looking strip center, staring at a window full of picture cards of different dishes, the names written in that faux-Asian script that seems vaguely insulting to me, even though I can't say exactly why. The neon OPEN sign blinked off and on, and with my belly woes and lack of enthusiasm asserting themselves, I almost turned and left. Almost.
Something told me to go in. I was greeted by a sweet older Chinese woman and a low- to no-concept interior decor that had me wondering which kindergarten class had done the honors. I was the only customer in the joint, pondering again if I should leave. The hostess was very nice, though, and I did need to eat. She cheerfully handed me a menu, and I sat down to order.
A small bowl of hot-and-sour soup. A plate of chicken and broccoli on steamed rice, garnished with a single fried wonton. The food was served on a simple white plate. There were no frills.
The food smelled delicious. I sampled the vegetables and a bit of chicken. It tasted...wonderful. It avoided the typical trap of too much sauce, and too thick. The wonton was the ubiquitous crab Rangoon, but amazingly it was good. Crispy, non-greasy, light. I couldn't believe my tastebuds.
The portion was just right. I felt satisfied, not over full. My belly even relaxed, after a few initial protestations. Even though I wasn't prepared to admit it, the cloud hovering over me began to lift. I thanked the hostess, paid my bill and left.
Somewhere along the way home, I began to feel good. Tired, still, but good. The walls began to recede a bit, and the light seemed a little brighter. I finished my errands and went home, reveling in the luxury of a nap I wanted to take, instead of feeling I had to take. It was wonderful.
I don't know what triggered my ascent. Maybe it was the simple passage of time, maybe it was someone being nice to me, maybe it was just a simple plate of food done well and served with charm. Whatever it was, it sure felt good to take the cure. It felt good to find the Way, tricked out in Chinese food.