This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?
Hmm. I’m not sure I understand exactly what this question is trying to do. I remember one moment in particular where my body overwhelmed my mind, but is that the type of answer this question is looking for? I’m not sure. But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that it is.
At the beginning of September, 2010, I ran out of money for food. This was not wholly unexpected — for about six months prior to this point, I had been making exactly enough money to pay my rent and housing costs, and then send enough money home to Canada to cover my loan payments. There was no money left over for food. This would of course seem like the worst budgeting imaginable, were it not for the fact that I started walking my neighbour’s dog right before my finances became really dire. This dogwalking earned me an extra £25 per week. Which was perfect — I got paid in cash on Friday of every week and did my grocery shopping Saturday morning, with that money. True, it meant that the daily week-to-week grind always made me nervous — God forbid I got sick, or got into an accident, or was suddenly faced with extra bills that would have required the creation of money out of nowhere. But I muddled through. I even managed to enjoy myself, and got a few surprises along the way.
Anyway, it all came crashing to a halt at the beginning of September, because this was when my neighbour lost her job. She came to me and asked if I could continue to walk the dog through September, and she would pay me a lump sum at the end of the month, when she had money scheduled to come in. I asked her for £20 of that money, which she gave me. And there I was, at the beginning of September, trying to figure out how to make £20 (roughly $30) last for four weeks.
The night that I ate the last edible contents of my fridge still sticks in my mind. I had oven baked french fries for dinner, with gravy that came in a can (the “add water, “gourmet” variety). It wasn’t a whole heckuva a lot, and I was still hungry when I was finished. I remember sitting at my little table and feeling completely, utterly despondent — I had no food, I was hungry, I had to get through a whole day of work the next day without breakfast or lunch, and survive for a good three weeks beyond that. With no money to buy anything else. It was pretty black.
Of course, even then I knew that it could be worse. My parents were a phone call away — I could have called them and explained the situation, and they would have padded my account right away. I could have borrowed money from friends. But the sheer nature of how stretched my finances were made the thought of borrowing money really freak me out — there was no extra to cover any money that was borrowed. I just didn’t want to do it. (I understand that there are lessons here about pride, as well — believe me, I have learned.)
Anyway, so I sat at my table and cried, and for the span of a few minutes I was nothing more than a stomach. There was no mind/body division. I was me, and I was hungry, and I couldn’t think about anything else. There was nothing else. So I went to bed (because if I was unconscious I couldn’t feel the hunger), and woke up the next morning, and trudged down to work.
When I got to work, there was an envelope on my desk. For Amanda, from The Fairies. I opened the envelope and found £20, and very narrowly burst into tears in the middle of a crowded office. So I ended up buying lunch for myself that day (and hot damn, was it good), and then I took the bus straight from work to the grocery store, and bought as much food as £20 would get me. It was enough to last me two more weeks. And then one of my dearest friends in the world came to visit, and she paid for groceries the entire time she was with me. So, in the end, it all turned out okay. I still don’t know who left that gift on my desk that day, but I continue to be thankful.
I am perfectly aware, and was perfectly aware at the time, that I was not starving. The situation was dire, yes, but as I’ve already said, I knew that there were things I could do to feed myself, if push came to shove. I would not want to equate the above experience with the hunger — real hunger — that exists in so many parts of the world. But I think I understand that hunger a little bit better, now. I understand what it means to have all of the other issues of your life disappear when faced with that gnawing hole in your stomach. Now that this will forever be a part of me, I hope that I’ll be able to be sensitive and generous in the face of the hunger that others experience. May this mind-body lesson stay with me always, and may the hunger that exists on a global level disappear someday, somehow. I think it’s something we all could wish.