Sometimes Hunger is Good

I’m sitting at my desk, a day and a half into a three-day juice cleanse–-and my stomach just growled.

Since I’m committed to the cleanse, I have no desire to dash off to the kitchen and pop a handful of nuts into my mouth or grab a bar, or perhaps, make a salad. (When I make a decision, I make it, especially when it comes to resetting my body.)

Instead, I paused and reflected on how much energy I am feeling and how my mind is clear. I’m also aware of a sense of excitement and optimism mantling my day, something that has been missing for more than a month. With travel, graduation celebrations, and a few farewell gatherings, I’ve been indulging far too much in food and drink that taste good but are often not good for my body, mind, or spirit. I’ve been slugging, my creativity has suffered, and I’ve been moved to tears or agitated more often than usual.

As I reflected on my rumbling stomach while sipping my beat chia juice, the thought that hunger is good crossed my mind. And by this, I’m not talking about the hunger that some people suffer because they don’t have the resources to sustain themselves.

I’m talking about the hunger that many of us don’t allow ourselves to feel because it’s so easy to fill up our lives with whatever is at hand: food, drink, lovers, television, social media, exercise, gatherings, work — and more.

We don’t give ourselves space to figure out what it is we do want. And I’m as guilty of that as anyone.

It’s easy for me to do a cleanse and forgo my favorite foods — my morning coffee and my nightly glass of wine, and even skip the chocolate. I do this at least four times a year. At one point in my life, I went three years without coffee, chocolate, alcohol, and meat products. Yes, I’ll admit that might have been a bit too much. But I did it.

What challenges me most is giving myself space to be. To sit with a cup of tea and watch the birds fly, or the leaves on the tree rustle in the evening breeze, or the sun set over the Pacific. To breathe.

I’ve been filling my calendar with client sessions, virtual networking meetings, and social engagements without considering what all that busyness is costing me — or even what it is I’m truly longing for.

Until now.

This cleanse is coming to me at a monumental time in my life. For much of the last decade, I’ve lived in San Diego to be near my daughter and my grandsons. While I had a two-year hiatus in Colorado, I flew back every 4–6 weeks to visit family. My son and his family are also here — four grandchildren in total and one more on the way due to make his debut in August.

But now, change is in the air. My son-in-law has been commissioned as a Chief Warrant Officer in the Navy, and now my daughter and her family are heading to Japan — for three years. My son and his family are expected to move to Austin by the end of the year. I moved here to be near my children, and now my children are off on their own adventures.

Many beautiful, precious memories were made during my stay in San Diego. When I scroll through the pictures of playdates with Mio (this is what my grandsons call me) that I regularly had with the boys, tears well up in my eyes. I have been blessed to have had this time with them, and I’m glad I made the decision to be here. I was at their births, picked them up at school, watched movies, played board games, and so much more.

However, that decision eleven years ago came with a price. I made sacrifices that put my family first and my career — and me second. I left behind a full-time teaching position at a university and access to saltwater fly fishing whenever I chose. On the flip side of those precious memories, I have some grief and some regret about what I left behind. Saying “yes” to one part of my experience, required that I say “no” to another.

So this leads me to ask: What is it I’m hungering for now?

I have the space to look at what I want, and I’m doing so cautiously so I don’t fill it up with some wild-hair whim (although I do have the freedom to do just that). As someone who loves adventure, I’m careful to make sure that my choices are grounded in the middle way. Choices that neither have me dancing too far over the edge nor hold me back. I’ve been prone to both.

And I think that’s what cleanses do for us. They give us space to remove whatever is clouding our perception. Do I really want a glass of wine, or do I want to take a walk? Do I want that piece of chocolate, or would a glass of green juice be more satisfying? Do I want to take on that client, or would keeping the space for my own writing better serve my long-term interests? Do I really want to have coffee with that guy from Zoosk (who, by the way, doesn’t fly fish or hike) or would an evening alone for some soul searching be the better choice? Do I want to remain in San Diego, or is it time to find a place that puts a spark in my soul?

These are the questions that I’m pondering on my morning walks, as I’m journaling, and driving around town on errands. The answers, I know will appear, as long as I give myself space to hear their whispers.

And now let me ask you: What are you hungry for?

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