Monday, February 24, 2014

The Hole in My Soul

I gave in. I succumbed. I bought another New Age book, another book by Deepak Chopra, to guide me through the choppy waters of life. Chopra's latest book, available in hardcover only right now is What Are You Hungry For? (The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Spirit.) The book was screaming for me to buy a copy when I was browsing through Barnes & Noble one cold, winter's day in January, but I wasn't shopping for self-help books that day. 

No list of New Year's Resolutions for this girl; not this year. I was keeping things simple. I ignored the whole table of diet and exercise books. Okay, I glanced at the table, raised my eyebrows at Deepak's book after reading the title, and simply walked away. I honestly didn't know what I was hungry for, and I wasn't interested in discovering the source of my hunger. I didn't want to know what was inside the book. You've got to be ready for that kind of information. I wasn't ready.

Fast forward a few weeks. The stress diet had been working pretty well for me. I'd dropped a few pounds between my lack of appetite, and my forced marches up the canyon each day, but I could feel the emptiness growing inside me. The hole that demands to be fed was making its presence known, and it wasn't interested in food, but food is what is easily obtained at the grocery store, and the things the hole is hungry for is not, so I fed it a steady diet of whatever's available, preferably straight out of the package, and standing in front of the kitchen sink.

So in February when I was shopping for a Valentine's gift, I bought myself a little present, too. I would add What Are You Hungry For? to my stack of books to read. Its presence triggered slight feelings of guilt whenever I saw it, unopened, unread.

A couple of nights ago, when I had managed to break my recliner's hold on me long enough to make something to eat, I rose like the Phoenix from the ashes, and returned to the recliner proclaiming to my sixteen year old, "Dinner is served." My son knew I had been baking chocolate chip cookies because he had to pick up the Guittard chips after school so I could add them to the dough. He knew better than to question my peculiar menu for the evening, and gratefully poured himself a glass of milk, and sat in the leather recliner beside me, eating his dinner, still warm from the oven.

Between bites of my own cookies, I glanced at my reading table beside me, pointing out the book to Bridger.  "Apparently, what I'm hungry for is chocolate chip cookies."  We both smiled as we dined on milk and cookies. In my heart, though, I knew the truth. I was almost ready to stop making fun of the book, to end my judging of this book by its cover, and investigate the answers offered inside.

I dusted the cookie crumbs off the dust jacket of Deepak's book so you could see the cover. I want you to notice the word DIET is nowhere to be found on the front, although my sarcasm was satisfied that the ISBN's bar code on the back means that when Barnes & Noble is no longer pushing New Year's Resolutions down our throats, the unsold copies of the book will be found in the Health & Fitness Section, under Diet & Nutrition. DIET. There's that four-letter word. 

Deepak's got guts; I'll give him that. Right there on the back of the dust jacket, he offers his big secret for all to see.  "There is only one principle that applies: Life is about fulfillment. If your life isn't fulfilled, your stomach can never supply what's missing." So, why bother to read the book? Why didn't I just save myself some money, and walk away without buying that book if I already knew what was inside? 

I bought it because I know there are some lessons in our lives that we will be presented time and time again, until we truly understand the principles being taught. This life lesson is one of mine. You see, I've been down this road before. This isn't this cowgirl's first rodeo.

Several years ago, I was going to a counselor on a regular basis, trying to figure out why I was so miserable. I kept thinking if she could fix my broken parts, I would feel happy and whole again. I told her that Rascal Flatts sang a song called "Holes," that I felt summed up my life. One line says, "I pour drink after drink, but nothing hits bottom." Alcohol has never been my weakness; food has always been my drug of choice.

One day, my therapist offered hypnotism as a therapy to help me. I tried to be polite, but what I wanted to do was scoff heartily at her suggestion. I curbed my disdain for the practice, and forced myself to be open enough to give it a try. 

What happened next surprised me. After a long day of teaching school, I was exhausted, and settling back onto her couch cushions felt good. I closed my eyes, relaxed, and just listened to her soft voice. She invited me to walk to a place of my choosing, a paradise for me, and I soon heard waves lapping on a shore, and felt my feet walking through warm sand. She told me that I was carrying a basket, a basket full of all of my problems. She encouraged me to set the basket down before walking down the steps that would lead me to my paradise. Her voice reassured me that my basket would be waiting for me to retrieve it, if I wanted to do so when we were done, but for now, I needed to let it go, and leave it at the top of the stairs. In my mind, I saw my basket brimming with my "fat clothes," my low self-esteem, my insatiable desire for food, my sadness, and my fear of the future. All I had to do was set it down for a time, so I could see what that felt like. 

As I mentally released my fingers from the basket, I began to cry. I couldn't stop crying. My body wasn't racked with sobs, but tears were streaming down my cheeks. She continued the session by inviting me to travel down the steps, and seeing the beauty awaiting me in the paradise I had created for myself. After spending some time there, I walked back up the stairs, and she told me that just as she'd promised, my basket was still there. Some of the things in my basket had served me for quite some time. I could choose any, and all of the things that were there, or I could simply leave the whole basket where it was. Then I really began to cry. Was it really that easy? I could just let go of the burdens I'd chosen to carry all of this time? 

Before I left her that day, she asked what I had chosen to do with the things in my basket. That was easy, I told her. I left the whole basket behind. Who in their right mind would consciously choose to carry those things when given a choice? I could no longer allow myself to haul that stuff around with me any more. 

It has been awhile since I have thought about my basket, and today I realize that not only have I selected another basket for myself, but I've been gathering things to put in it, too. It is time to examine what is in my basket, and determine what is worth keeping, and what needs to be released.

When I find myself turning to food for comfort, red flags appear. I know that I will eat and eat and eat until I resolve the confusion, the sadness, the anger; whatever it is that is driving me to seek fulfillment in unhealthy ways. I've only read the first couple of chapters of my new book, but I am finally ready to admit what I am really hungry for. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will not take me so long to identify what is missing, and I can only hope that I will soon be on my way to filling the hole in my soul which no food can satisfy. I will keep you posted.


  1. Going through the basket is sometimes as hard as tossing it, but you can't have inner peace as long as you carry the basket. I haven't read that book. Let me know how you like it when you finish. Hope you have a blessed day, Denise.

    1. Suzi, I am still reading the book. I am almost ready once again, to give a healthy lifestyle a go. I've stuffed down the grieving, the loneliness, and the sadness long enough. It has served its purpose. It's time to move on.


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