Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Two Journeys 3

I'm in Haiti! If you think of it, send up a prayer for me and our team. While I'm traveling, I wanted to share another, slightly less exciting, journey with you. I found out I was gluten-intolerant a few years ago and, while this may not seem like a particularly compelling journey, I've learned some interesting things about myself along the way.

Yesterday, I talked about how my frustrations with my new dietary needs had more to do with my fear of being weak or needy than the diet itself. For three years I struggled with trying to avoid the foods that were making me sick while also not inconveniencing others or appearing "whiney." I was so stressed that I would just give up until I felt yucky enough to want to try it again.

But eventually, I started meeting other people who didn’t eat wheat or dairy or whatever. Not because they were granola-hippies, but because it made them sick too. They also didn’t seem to have a problem telling people they had "special" dietary requirements the way that I did.

In fact, one of my good friends found out she was a hard-core Celiac, she couldn’t even touch gluten without reacting to it. We’d go out to dinner she would greet the waiter with “Hi, I’m April! I’m going to need a gluten free menu,”

She’d get on my case about it too.
“Sarah, you need to stop apologizing for not being able to eat certain foods.”
The fact that she didn't feel the need to downplay her illness or ask forgiveness for a condition she couldn't control was amazing to me. She was so brave, like Batman; she was my hero.

But I wasn't that brave yet. Sp when I found out that my coworker went gluten-free a few years back because he almost died from food related complications, it was like finding a little oasis, little piece of evidence that I’m not a complete freak.

That it is okay to have a weird diet.

Friends started voluntarily making special foods just for me. My friend Rachel was the best. I was at a Christmas party and she came up to me and said, “I found a recipe for peanut butter cookies that doesn’t even have flour in it because I know you can’t have gluten.”

I about started crying, I’m not joking.

See, it wasn’t just about being able to eat cookies (though that would have warranted tears as well), it was the fact that she thought I was important enough to make the effort; she went out of her way to make me feel normal. She legitimized my needs by meeting them without me even asking. To me, that was huge.

What can I say? I’m a special kind of crazy.

I’m also a person who fights everyday against feeling needy or asking for help and this was the most incredible gift someone could have given me.

She made it safe for me to be weak.

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