I woke up this morning with an Alanis song stuck in my head. You may remember “Not the Doctor” from Jagged Little Pill. It’s an anthem to an addict she loves. She goes on to insist that she doesn’t want to be “the filler” of the “void that’s solely yours.” The line that was echoing in my head this morning as I was reaching for one of the many sweet treats displayed throughout my great-uncle’s house was “I don’t want to be your food or the light from the fridge on your face at midnight, hey: What are you hungry for?” I’ve always thought this line was a great reminder about those things that we use to fill us even though they don’t fit the hole we’re trying to fill. Like that red round child’s toy (if you were born in the 70s or 80s you know which one I’m talking about) that has shapes carved into the ball with corresponding yellow three dimensional shapes that fit in to each hole. Try as you might, that star shape will not fit into the square. You can try, but it won’t go into the hole unless it’s the correct corresponding piece. Oh, if only real life were like that.
In my quest to fill the various voids in my life, I have certainly tried to fit plenty of stars (and moons and horseshoes…Lucky Charms anyone?) into square-shaped voids. I have been the one standing at the fridge at midnight, light shining on my face, looking at all options and finding that nothing there really fit my craving. More often than not, I’d grab the sugariest, flouriest (okay…I know it’s not a word, but you get my point!), densest, sweetest, already-made food and start cramming it in. Only recently have I found it in me to pause for a moment and admit that these “goodies” were not what I was hungry for. Only recently have I paused to ask: What are you hungry for?
Sometimes I can’t pin down what it is that I’m hungry for. Sometimes I don’t want to admit what it is that I’m hungry for (as that would mean digging in more deeply and working on all of my “stuff”!). Sometimes I just want to stand by the fridge and look at the options until one morphs into that “thing” that I’m hungry for. Sometimes, if I stand long enough, I’ll figure it out and STILL go for the sugary star and cram it into the square hole. Sometimes, if I do this enough, I’ll put myself into a perpetual sugar coma that keeps me from addressing what it is I’m hungry for. Until my pants won’t zip. Then I have to at least think about it.
All of this to say: it’s not a linear journey. Not for me anyway. Progress is messy, and some days I have the patience to think about the question of my hunger; other days I just give in to the false remedy. But the more I consider the question, and the more I stay away from the star-shaped sugary “solutions”, the closer I get to clarity, and the easier it is to stay away from those stars.
So as we turn to one of the most food-centric times of the year, I invite you to enjoy family and friends and, yes, even the food. But don’t be afraid to pause and ask yourself: Is this what I’m really hungry for? If the answer is no, you don’t necessarily have to find the square-shaped solution that will fit your hunger, but maybe, just maybe, asking the question will bring you a step or two closer!