I’ve been feeling pretty connected in the last year or so, and especially in the last few weeks. So it came as a surprise to me when I was hit by a sudden and intense wave of loneliness late last weekend.
With the loneliness came fear of more loneliness. Just as I was starting to spiral a bit, I came across a line of poetry by Ocean Vuong:
They were the best possible words for me to read at that moment.
I thought about this notion that loneliness is still time spent with the world. When I’m lonely, I almost always feel as though I’ve been removed from the world. Time doesn’t stop, work doesn’t stop, but my sense of being part of and belonging to the world around me does stop.
Maybe I’m more in the world than I think I am in these moments. As I watch from a place of solitude, feeling the familiar mix of longing and detachment, it may be that those very emotions are an indication that I somehow still belong.
When I was anorexic, I watched TV shows on the Food Network and read cookbooks obsessively. There wasn’t any Instagram or TikTok back then, but if there had been, I’m sure I’d have been glued to both of them.
Looking at this through a clinical lens, I know that the obsessive food-gazing (without food-partaking) was part of the eating disorder pathology. Many, if not most people with anorexia have this habit. People who don’t have anorexia nervosa, but are starving, have been known to collect recipes and read cookbooks, too.
Intuitively, though, I know that the habit wasn’t only a disease symptom. It had greater meaning, and was more connected to my eventual healing, than that.
Looking at food and reading about food was my way of remaining connected to my desire to eat, even as anorexia kept me from acting on that desire. The part of me that loves food now and loved food then was fighting to stay alive.
Sometimes we experience things through longing when we’re unable or unready to experience them in any other way.
I’ve been selling some of my things as I prepare to move, which is of course bringing up memories of my eight years in this space. They were some of the most isolated I’ve had. Not surprisingly, I experienced the worst depression of my life here.
But even in my deepest moments of alienation, I felt glimmers of longing for connection. I watched shows and read books and poetry about love and family. I looked back at old photos and read old emails that reminded me of what it was like to feel seen, held and understood. I thought about things I’d do and places I’d go if I ever felt like me again.
That longing may have been more profoundly meaningful than I realized. It may have been my lifeline, the one part of human connectedness that I could hold onto until I was better.
Perhaps it was my way of spending time in the world, even as I also retreated from it.
The title of that Ocean Vuong poem is “Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong.” I don’t know what Vuong’s meaning in choosing that title was. For me, it brings to mind the difficult journey of figuring out how to be alone without being lonely, at peace with one’s own company.
Maybe someday I’ll love Gena Hamshaw.
I think I may be getting a little closer.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
Now these are some great-looking cauliflower steaks.
I’ve never even thought about trying to recreate Bitchin’ sauce, because it’s just. so. perfect.
But Melissa is the intrepid soul who’s undertaken that task, and now I really want to try her homemade version.
It’s not exactly soup season, but who am I kidding? I don’t have a season for soup. I’ll eat Eva’s white bean wild rice soup at any time of the year.
I’ve made plenty of chocolate zucchini loaves, but chocolate zucchini cake?! Even better.
1. I was so unexpectedly moved by this essay about one woman’s quest to get naked outdoors, in the company of others. To say much more might spoil its insights and surprises, but here is a tiny snippet that captures its spirit:
2. Are you watching The Bear? It doesn’t stress me out, which is the reaction most people are having, but I’m definitely engrossed. It’s intense and well-acted and feels like a pretty real depiction of life in the restaurant industry. I thought this review captured it pretty well.
4. Practically every subject was a struggle for me when I was a post-bacc student, but weirdly, I loved (and somehow excelled in) calculus. I enjoyed reading about Alec Wilkinson’s experience of learning calculus at sixty-five.
5. As an eating disorder dietitian, I work with a lot of adolescents and their families, and I love it. I enjoyed reading this article about the adolescent brain and the opportunities that exist for healing and growth in that time of life. But I’d add that adolescents are such good teachers exactly as they are and regardless of who they’ll become. I learn so much from my teen clients.
On that note, it’s time to wind down a little. I hope that this week will be full of promise for all of us.
A little tidbit from yesterday: I got on the phone with a friend at some point during the day. At the end of our call, she asked if I wanted to join her as she walked her dog (she lives close by). I told her no; I had just taken a walk, and I had more work to do. After we hung up, I stared at my apartment and my kitchen counter covered in ingredients. I wanted to work, but I felt resistance…
Lots of big firsts-in-a-while this week and last! First few subway rides. First couple of al fresco meals at local eateries. First indoor visit with my mom, though we still wore masks and kept distance. First time seeing a close friend or two. I’ve been building up to this, along with other New Yorkers. Grocery shopping has gradually gotten less tense and scary. Errands and walking around outdoors feels normal-ish again. Wearing a mask has simply become part of my routine; I hang…
Happy weekend to you, and happy Easter to those who are celebrating today. This is less my holiday than Passover, which I celebrated on Friday, or Greek Easter, which my mom and I will celebrate next Sunday, but I’m spending time with the idea of rebirth. A year ago today, Steven moved out. It’s a strange anniversary to commemorate, but I’ve been surprised at how much feeling it brings up. Memories have been coming and going, and I even had my first dream…
Two Aprils ago, I sat in my apartment with a college friend who over the years has become like a brother to me, though he lives on the West Coast and we see each other only a few times each year. “You know,” he said, “I know it’s last minute and you’ll probably say no, but you should come to Passover at my Mom’s tonight.” The invitation made good sense; I’d become close to his family when we were undergraduates, and, since his…