I know the feeling associated with that statement. I am a lover of food as well as a life-long consumer. I love varieties. I love the way food titillates all of my senses and I love the sense of well being and intimacy. Food is sensually and aesthetically pleasing to my body and my soul, but I am walking away from food by mouth, at least for now and probably always for the most part.
I have known what it is to be governed by appetites. Paul spoke of those whose gods were their bellies. I've been there and, for some time, have gotten largely past it. I thought I had until this time of culmination in a developing wave of complications has matured. Now, because of some severe and complicated esophageal dysphagia, I am exchanging normal eating for a G-Tube.
In many ways, it can be a relief not be be governed by meals and meal schedules and to be rid of the need to feed one's body with food through the mouth. Some of the benefits of fasting for an extended period of time are coming my way through the back door of medical necessity. There are elements of this that are liberating.
In another way, meals tend to punctuate our days in ways that give us milestones and benchmarks. In the new normal, there are replacement routines that will motivate and discipline me to take in nutrients, but none have the attraction of the aromas, tastes, textures, and aesthetic presentation of edible and prepared foods.
There are also the rhythms and movements of prayer and the spiritual disciplines which nourish the spirit. These can be quite satisfying.
The instincts and drives of appetite have been given us by God and through nature to compel us to get the nutrition we need. Without those instinctive appetites to call us to supply food, we must rely upon our commitments and establish new forms of punctuation.
We use meals to gather as families and communities around a common table. Food promotes community and conversation among friends and strangers who become friends. What happens when we must be more intentional about conversation?
What happens is that we are stripped bare of any pretense or attraction other than the sheer joy of feasting upon friendship and human interaction.
We use food as a reward system - usually addictive "comfort" foods and corrosive sugars that do not speak to our body's wellness needs, but appeal to our senses. We even reward our good behaviors of eating well with the destructive behaviors and "a little treat" of poison.
So, when they delivered my green tea with a little honey in the hospital yesterday, I was delighted. That last drop I licked off the tiny bag made my day. The rest was dissolved into the clear liquid that I am able to sip a bit, and did no apparent harm.
I'll keep reflecting upon this as I journey through the potential of a life without eating by mouth. I know that some capacity may return in the future, but there is no guarantee. The strongest likelihood, bordering on certainty, is that the bulk of my intake with come through a tiny tube that will be surgically implanted in my belly tomorrow.
There had been some hope that a recent surgery might restore my ability to eat normally. That did not materialize.
I have been living without solid food for over six weeks now and anything other than clear liquids, also for three to four weeks. I expect to learn a lot as this simplifies my life while complicating it in other ways.
I will travel with cans packed next to my CPAP machine, vitamins, and pill crusher, but I will travel.
I will learn gracious but firm ways to decline the kindest offers of meals, snacks, and culinary expressions of love and hospitality. I will pray not to offend.
I will enjoy the look and smell of foods and will sit down to meals with people and a cup of tea.
I will cook for anyone willing to eat. I may even taste and spit out when no one is looking - just to make sure it is OK.
More important, I will learn more about what is truly important and live life more purposefully and with more focus and intention.
I've had some good meals in my day, but I hear the call to a bigger feast.
Here is some background from a Facebook post:
I have a report on me and my progress, but first a joke, then a scripture that used a bit of humor, and then, a short reflection followed by the long update.
"Here’s some advice: At a job interview, tell them you’re willing to give 110 percent. Unless the job is a statistician." - Comedian Adam Gropman
If you did not get that, try this:
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.'”
""When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved?'”
Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'”
All things are possible, even impossible situations have great possibilities and you can, only with God, exceed 100%
Now the report!
As you can see, I am posting, so I am still with you. The swelling began to go down in my arm after the PICC line was removed. I am getting 2-100 mg injections of Lovanox a day and am on an IV for hydration and some nutrition. There is still some pain, but it is much better. It took a few weeks to empty my esophagus, but now that it is empty, I am not vomiting. Nothing goes in but some green or herbal tea - and not too much of that.
I had a visit here in Santa Monica from our DOM, Pastor Jason Blankenship which was a huge surprise and blessing and, before I left Fresno, from Pastor Don Hargis, my neighbor and also a huge blessing.
My surgeon was to be flying in today, but he is technically off until Tuesday. He has been on my case from afar. What a great guy, Dr. David Chen! I think they will want to resolve the clots before they do the surgery. It is somewhat more complicated than a normal PEG tube. It is pretty interesting, because they will bypass the stomach pouch I have been using and cut through some intestinal wall flapped over the old remnant stomach. It will need to be laparoscopic under general anesthesia.
I will then have two active stomachs that empty into the intestines. One for food and most of my liquids and the other, at least for now and the foreseeable future, just for liquids.
Won't I be special :) - and walking conversation piece? :) :)
"Hey, see that dude? He's got two working stomachs!"
The usual procedure involves cutting a small hole in the abdomen and entering from above through an endoscopic insertion with some wires and tubes to be pulled through (or vice versa). I did not become well versed in that because it is not an option for me.
I specialize in causing trouble.
Someone in food service is not getting the message about liquids only. Someone else is.
The was who is getting the message has caused me to accumulate the world's most impressive collection of tea bags that anyone ever collected in a hospital. They send me three cups of hot water per meal.
The one who isn't sent me a full breakfast this morning. I decided to have them remove the top and let me look at it. It looked and smelled delicious. In fact, I have seldom seen such lovely eggs. I said. "Thank you. You can take it away now." :)
I am trying to use the time well, studying a lot, doing correspondence, listening to lectures, watching documentaries, talking to you, passing on things that inspire, interest, challenge, or even irritate me, preparing for my Theology class that begins January 24 (SIGN UP!!! :) ), and working on the next steps for 4141 Ministries .
I have plenty to do and plenty of time to do it.
I cannot overstate how wonderful the staff, nurses, care providers, housekeepers, doctors, and clerks are here at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica .I am also deeply indebted the the doctor's nurses, EMTs, and NAs who helped me so well at Saint Agnes Medical Center . They knew I needed to be here where folks understand my complicated anatomy and helped me get here. They also were essential during those early hours for saving my life.
Now, if you are among the heroic ones who waded through all of that to get to this: Thanks to YOU for the hundreds of prayers and expressions of support. I hope there are some folks who can be encouraged by my journey. God gives me strength and joy for whatever challenges arise - not because I am worthy. I assure you, I am not, but because of God's infinite grace and mercy.
So, here I am, being threaded through the eye of a needle, 110% and, surprisingly, it is working.