Friday, July 15, 2011

Canary Tip: Letting Go

Black & White Mandala

As many of you already know, I am a server at The Steeping Room.  Through working there and eating there almost daily over the past 4 years, I have been shown how beautiful and delicious gluten-free and vegan dining can be.  Apparently I'm not the only one who's taken notice, as I've also witnessed the percentage of food-sensitive foodies balloon in that same time period.  And with that group also came an entire spectrum of emotions surrounding food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies.

For example, there are those to whom eating differently isn't really a big deal, and they seem content and satisfied with the way things are.  Then there are those who are exuberant and bubbly, joyful to have found a way of eating that promotes health and celebrates wellbeing.  And then there are those who seem angry or bitter, apparently inconvenienced by their diet and resentful of having to alter their lifestyle at all.  And having so many food-sensitive regulars at the restaurant,  what's been interesting is watching them transition from one emotion to the next and back again.

And it's a good reminder, because I've done it myself.  And undoubtedly, I will do it again.

I've been content, I've been exuberant, and, yes, I've been resentful.  I'll never forget one time in particular when someone pointed out my 'resentfulness' to me.  I was pouting over not having anything to eat on a film set.  It was catered, and even though I was the lead, there was hardly anything gluten or dairy free for me to eat, and what was there was cross-contaminated before I could even get to it.  What finally gave me perspective and jogged me out of my pity party was when someone close to me said, "Well, do diabetics always expect to be accommodated when they go out to eat?"  

Reality, it's nice to see you again.

I was expecting to be accommodated, and when it didn't happen, I got upset.  But in truth, I won't always be accommodated and there will be times where others might not understand because they can't, they won't, or it's not a priority.  And that's okay - because I can take care of myself.  And there are definitely others who have a much more difficult path, so why was I so up in arms?

As people with particular diets, I believe we all go through something similar at one point or another.  I think this is especially the case when a food sensitivity or intolerance is discovered later in life.  Something we've grown accustomed to or perceived as a given is no longer an option, and that, to put it bluntly, can really suck.  Where we can run into problems is when we try to stifle these emotional reactions to our diet, especially the ones perceived to be negative.

Interestingly, the word "negative" is thought to be synonymous with "bad," "undesirable," or even "destructive."  But in essence, the word "negative" simply refers to "the opposite of."  And how can you truly know something unless you know its opposite?  It's like the concept of yin and yang in Taoist philosophy, as illustrated in the mandala at the top of this post. Two things may appear contradictory or mutually exclusive, but in the grand scheme of things, they are complementary, one defining the other and vice versa.  You cannot have one side of a coin without the other.

And so in that moment when my negative emotions were brought to my attention, I was able to glimpse both sides of the coin.  And I learned a very important lesson that allowed me to live in greater harmony with my "canariness."  When something hurts us or makes us unwell, it's ultimately a good thing to let it go.  But at the same time, it's still a loss.  And we need to let ourselves grieve.

In this case, grieve the things we probably won't ever eat again.  Grieve the loss of convenience when it comes to feeding ourselves or having others feed us.  Grieve the life we expected to live and the way in which we expected to live it.  And in facing those feelings and bringing them closer to us as opposed to pushing them away, hopefully we can find some closure that will allow us to move on and move forward.

Feeling bad happens to all of us - it is a human emotion.  And so is feeling great, and feeling alive.  We will experience all of these emotions many times over in our lifetimes.  The key is to avoid fixating or grasping onto any one emotional state or making one more valuable or desirable over the other.  We can't always be happy, we can't always be content, and we can't always be sad or angry.  And by letting go of that expectation, we can then start to really learn, grow, and thrive.  It's impossible to outsmart or outrun change - it will find us one way or another.   So it's best we save our energy for embracing that change and seeking balance amidst life's many twists and turns.

A closing thought:

When you let go, try not to be afraid of falling.  
You might find that where you land is exactly 
where you wanted to be all along.

And when it happens, you'll be ready. Things rarely happen without reason.  In that, you can trust.


  1. Thank you! I needed that in more ways than one! And it's true... I've always said that strength is measured not in how long you can hold on, but how quickly you can let go.


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