For me, this time of year is reserved for reflection. Reflection of both the positive and challenging moments that have shaped the past year.
Three months ago, I woke up each morning to a view of downtown Philadelphia, watching the sunrise over the lofty skyscrapers. I watched lights dance across the buildings as the work day started, and watched the city come alive with a flood of businessmen and women. As I watched them shuffle to work, I questioned how they never managed to spill their hot coffees as they maintained an upbeat jog to their offices. Three months before this, I watched the sunrise from a canoe in the middle of Lake Champlain on the small island of North Hero, Vermont and later watched fireworks illuminate the dark sky. I watched the smoke from the fireworks fall, leaving behind a sky of stars, a sky of stories untold and images left to the imagination to interpret, and even, to my luck, a single shooting star. My mind was blank as I tried to search for something to wish for. My sole hope was to pause this moment for a lifetime. Life for me at this moment was flawless, stunning, electrifying. At this time in my life, I hoped to fast forward times of sleep and rest, so I could wake up to this sensational life, and live another day worth pausing.
It has now been six months since I spent my days on the island of North Hero and only three short months since I watched the city of Philadelphia bustle from the window of my hospital room. Watching sunsets and sunrises seemed so distant as I began and ended each night with an aching stomach and check-ins from my medical team in the hospital. I was desperate for sleep, as it was my escape from the pain I endured. Each day I wished for the power to fast forward time, and reach beyond this perpetual agony to a time of freedom.
While I recovered in the hospital, the way I viewed pain underwent an evolution. During my first few days at the hospital, both the physical and mental pain were unbearable. It was something to be avoided, so I could hold on to what I believed to be control over my own emotions. As my stay continued and I began to surrender to the doctors' orders, I invited the pain to stay. I could no longer resort to numbing or avoidance. Each day, my stomach not only filled with food, but with grief, as I allowed the pain to sit in the pit of my stomach. As I neared the end of my stay at the hospital, and allowed myself to acknowledge my emotions, I began to see pain as a physical obstacle to leap over. I now understood that if pain could be tolerated and emotions could be felt, life could be as beautiful as it was during my stay in North Hero, Vermont once again. I now recognized pain as an unavoidable subject requiring strength and stamina, not a feeling reserved for people who are weak.
The people I met during my stay in the hospital allowed me to recognize this. We worked together to find the strength to endure our individual battles everyday. Each night, after a day of extensive eating, my hospital roommate and I would search deep inside ourselves for something to laugh at. One night, it was our nurse's new, and not so improved, haircut. Another night, we recalled the awful hospital food we ate earlier that day, gut laughing as we thought of the scrambled eggs we ate in the morning, which could have arguably been covered in American cheese or melted glue.
This situation, originally seen as one filled with lonesomeness, was now saved by the support from other patients on my floor. My amazingly supportive family, friends, and boyfriend aided me in facing hardships during the day, but it was the night time when feelings of isolation began to take root. I could never discount my family's, friends', and boyfriend's unbelievable commitment to me during this time in my life, but these challenging feelings were inevitable; I needed to face these regardless. Night time was when everyone on our floor came together and sought out support in one another. Before bed, I would take an allotted ten minute walk around the unit with others staying on the floor. It was these walks, when we knew no more food was being served and it was quiet, when we could all breathe a collective sigh of relief.
These walks allowed me to recognize that though we were all enduring daily pain, our situations were not identical. I gained a sense of hope knowing that people could relate to my struggles, but I had to acknowledge that each person came from a different background writing their own story. I learned that this disorder does not discriminate. It is not a generalized disease underpinned by vanity and fueled by people searching for a perfect physique. It is an impartial mental illness.
Just like the recipe for these mixed nuts posted below, everyone that I met during my stay in the hospital were unique and diverse. Some were spicy like smoked paprika, some sweeter, and some who lived their lives with zest and vibrance. This article is dedicated to those who I think about everyday. To the group of mixed "nuts" that have helped me to learn, cope, accept, and grow: my heart overflows with love when I think of you. Your strength is insurmountable and your tenacity remarkable. Here's to the hope of a life of abundance and days beginning with radiant sunrises and nights ending with vibrant sunsets.
Spiced Mixed Nuts
1/4 pound whole raw almonds
1/4 pound whole raw cashews
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of 1/2 fresh lime
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
3. In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients and toss until the nuts are coated
4. Spread out the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet
5. Roast for 20 minutes, then toss, and post for 20 more minutes
6. Remove the spiced nuts from the oven and allow them to cool before serving.
Recipe from The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home by Brian L. Patton