Bloated in Bruges

4 Apr

Every time I’m in a terrible place or moment that I’m desperate to pass, I remind myself of my self-talk driving across Nebraska one time. I had that raging churn and hellfire of diarrhea on a long drive, and Nebraska has hundreds of miles of cornfields and very few rest stops, fuel stations, fast food joints, Wal-Marts, 4th cousins’ homes or any place one can answer that particular cacophonous call of nature.

All I kept saying as I floored the accelerator and caught air in the potholes was, “Some day, this will just be a memory.”

Those cornfields were starting to look accommodating.

I made it, though. A tiny gas station that had what I most needed: indoor plumbing.

In my early 20s, I was on the road touring full time as a comedian, and that was one of many times I was in this situation. When I remind myself that “some day, this will just be a memory,” though, I always think specifically of Nebraska.

April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month. I was diagnosed IBS with constipation in college. After college, I was a traveling starving artist with only catastrophic health coverage … not that *this* wasn’t a catastrophe. I self-treated with laxatives. I became dependent on laxatives. This could qualify me as bulimic.

Eventually, I left the road, became a high school teacher, got great state benefits, and got on medication for a while. It helped, then it was recalled, and I went back to taking nothing, and I was doing OK.

I occasionally had flare-ups of constipation and started to have flare-ups of diarrhea, but not often.

Then I got the fibro. IBS is a symptom of fibromyalgia, so you can guess how well I did with that.

My gut is a complete wreck.

Two summers ago, a friend was talking about the keto diet. He was on it to lose weight. He said it also gave him great energy and clearheadedness. My other least favorite symptoms of fibro are the cognitive impairment (“fibro fog”) and the fatigue. I was like, *sign me up!*

It worked! And I shrank! AND my IBS got *way* better!! Yay, finally progress!

I got a cute little flat belly. I didn’t have “emergencies” anymore. And in the mornings, I no longer sounded like an entire symphonic horn section blasting and tooting grievances at yesterdays’ meals.

This meant that if I liked, I could actually have a man sleep over without my having to hold in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture the next morning.

Something about me though is I love food. Like,

I.

Love.

Food.

Which brings me to Bruges. Literally. It’s what brought me here. Well, that and medieval architecture and dreamy canals.

I came off my low-carb diet … mind you, to grievous consequences, due to my body forgetting how to handle sugar and wheat.

But, I mean….

Belgian “French fries” (pommes frites)

Belgian chocolate

Belgian waffles

Belgian beer

This tiny little country with so many bests in the world and I’m literally lapping it up, to the reSOUNDing despair of my intestines.

These are the consequences, and this is the deal I’ve made with myself.

I’m grateful. That I don’t have actual food allergies. That I don’t have celiac disease. That I don’t have Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Yes, my gut is a wreck, but I’m not going to die, and I can work back to a happier tum after my vacation.

This is what helps me on all those good- behavior days. I’m on a special diet for my fibro and IBS, but sometimes I cheat, and these allowances make all the other days easier. Because I’m not saying “never.” I’m not saying I can never have another donut, or never another Domino’s pizza, or never another Reuben sandwich. It’s not “never.” It’s just “not know.”

I can totally get on a restrictive diet if it’s merely a “not now.”

So today I’m living my “now,” and I’m enjoying every bloated second of it, and then I’ll enjoy every jolly second of being back on the wagon.

Keep these ideas for you if they may suit any needs:

  • Some day, this will just be a memory.
  • It’s not never, it’s just not now.

It’s no fair, that we have to work so hard. That the pasta doesn’t come without such cost. But this attention to what “ableds” take for granted is where our superpower lies.

There are the things we can still have. There are the things we’ve lost forever. We grieve. And there are the things we can have with consequences. That is our lives, a dance in the balance of contentment, indulgence, grief and repercussions. The compromises within our choices and lack of choice. And that is our gift, the expert intricacies in working the balance in the penultimate way, our resilient, trial-and-pain accumulation of skill to not just live life, but practice and fail, climb and fall, and then … conquer it.

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