What Does Courage Mean To You?

Everybody has times when they need to be brave. For some it’s showing up for school every day in the face of bullying. For others, it’s finally walking out on that abusive relationship. And for some, it’s fulfilling the life long dream to sky dive.

For me, courage is putting a fork in my mouth.

When Lyme disease infected my body it left my digestive tract in ruins. I’ve been working to repair it for five years, and have yet to find lasting success. Improvement here and there, but no cure.

The way to understand my digestive tract is to think about electricity. Picture that lamp with the loose wiring. Sometimes when you turn the switch the light comes on. Others times it doesn’t, and other times it comes on after a little jiggling and stomping the floor.

That’s pretty much how it is with my digestion. Sometimes when I eat the food goes down relatively smoothy. Sometimes, it feels like the food just sits there and doesn’t move for hours and I feel so heavy it’s like my whole body is being pulled to the floor by my abdominal area. Sometimes it kind of moves through, leaving stomach aches, nausea and general abdominal discomfort in its wake.

I can eat the exact same lunch two days in a row. One day it will move through without incident, the next it’s a major problem. Same food. Same portions. Completely different results.

This is the mystery I live with. Every meal. Every day. When I eat, will I feel OK afterwards? Or will I be miserable for hours?

No way to know.

This uncertainty has caused me a great deal of anxiety over the years. How could it not? Digestion is supposed to be involuntary. Like breathing. You don’t think about breathing. It just happens. But my digestion doesn’t just happen. And I can tell you when something that’s supposed to just happen doesn’t, it’s very hard to deal with.

My unpredictable digestion would be easier to live with if I were carrying a little extra weight. But I’m not. I am skeletal. I feel like I don’t have an ounce to give. In spite of an intense effort to gain weight the last five years, all I’ve done is lose it. This reality makes it all the more difficult to tolerate the bad digestion days because then in addition to not feeling well, I worry about my weight.

I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out how to deal with this vicious cycle. Here’s what I’ve figured out:

  1. I’ve tried to let go of the weight concerns. It has taken me years to figure out that’s not the right end game. When I regain my health, I will regain my weight, and not before.
  2. On bad digestion days, I don’t think about how much I’m not able to eat. Instead, I eat smaller portions and try to be as kind to my poor little tummy as I can. I try to understand it can only do what it can do, regardless of how much I’d like it to do.
  3. I’ve stopped weighing myself. Instead, I do the best I can to eat as much as I can every day. My motto is “no calorie left behind”. Sometimes, we will be all done with dinner and everything will be cleaned up and I will think maybe I have room for one more bite of food. And I will find something, and I will eat it. Every bite helps. Every bite is a victory.
  4. I am trying to learn to trust my body. When something that’s supposed to be involuntary isn’t, a trust is broken. It’s a betrayal. One that leaves a long, deep, lasting mark. Truthfully, my body doesn’t give me a lot of reasons to trust, but what other choice do I have?

Lastly, I try to be brave. You see, I’m really worn out on how badly I feel after eating. And I’m worn out on the unpredictability of it all. And some days I think it would be so much easer not to eat at all. 

But that’s not a choice if I plan to continue living.

So, every day I come to the table. And every day I come with my question marks and concerns. Before each meal I say a silent prayer that I may be able to lovingly and graciously accept this food into my body. Then I briefly meditate in order to create a calm internal environment to help my digestion. 

Sometimes all this helps. Sometimes, it doesn’t.

That’s where courage comes in. I can’t always count on my digestion to work, so I always have to count on myself to be brave.

It’s not an easy task.

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