Week Twenty-Four: In your wheelhouse

A Love Letter (of sorts).

          Last night I dreamt I went to my old wheelhouse again. It seemed to me I stood by the front door and could not enter, for a liquorice padlock and barley chain barred the way. I called out in my dream, but there was no answer.  Moving closer, I peered through the pasta curtains and saw that it was deserted. Suddenly, the way it does in dreams, bread appeared in my pocket, and I took it out. It was warm and crackled in just the right way as I sat down on the front stoop, glancing furtively around. I ate it; bites too loud in the unforgiving silence.

It sounds stupid, unimportant, ridiculous, to dream about something like that. Most of my dreams are exactly that, but not this one. This one wrapped me up in a blanket of yesterday and kissed my forehead, a bittersweet lipstick mark left behind.

What I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t stupid to me.

This is a love letter, of sorts, to all the food I can no longer eat.

To the pasta, durum or soft wheat; you entered my life the way you left it – with ease and tender tastes and loops and swirls and bowties. The last time I had you the water spilled over the pot, and I tried to avoid using a strainer because I’m lazy. You stayed patiently in my freezer waiting for me to fulfil your destiny (you almost got eaten by my roommate but I saved you, remember?). It hurts my heart to leave you for a lesser substitute. This I promise you – I will love you, only you, not your lesser imitations, for the rest of my life.

To the KFCs, the Burger Kings, the Subways and especially the McDonald's. You were there for me when I needed you most – in moments of weakness, solitude, and, on one occasion, in Switzerland when you were the only thing I could afford. I drive past you now and see your golden arches through the fogged up window of my car, soft and alluring. Regret lingers in my chest; regret for things lost which cannot be regained, for the damage you did to me which I asked for. For the fact that the choice of what I can and can’t eat has been taken from me.

To the meat pies – I will miss you on the days when all I want is to be a kid again; to remember the times mum picked me up from school, and I would beg for a pie and I would get you, sometimes, if I promised you wouldn’t ruin my dinner. The pastry was soft and the meat hot; one or the other spilled all over me and I would lick the sauce off my fingers, sticky and sweet and not caring I looked like a grub. You, more than anything, more than photos and love letters and report cards carefully kept (“Stephanie is a friendly and outgoing student who would benefit from more time spent not talking in class”), are my childhood. You are my childhood, and I put you away with the teddy bears and the frilly socks with a heavy sort of sadness in my soul.

To the chocolate – O! The chocolate – the milky sweet melting moments we have shared are now locked away forever in my secret heart of hearts; a souvenir of the past, like so many smeared post cards from my father, illegible after years of being read, and re-read, and held to my chest with tears in my eyes. Thank you for all that you have given me.

To the bread, who has known me all my life. On cold mornings, fresh from the bakery or the oven; I have kneaded you, I have cut you, I have toasted you, I have squeezed your crust and felt it splinter under my fingers. You are the best and the worst of them; I want so badly for you to still be a part of me, but that hope has been taken from me. You were my wheelhouse and I have been served an eviction notice. I am outside of my wheelhouse now, looking back at it from some far-off place, imagining how you are getting on without me, now that you have made it clear how much you don’t want me. You make me sick, you’ve made me sick for years only I didn’t know it; I blamed grief and stress and myself while you and your gluten destroyed my insides, and I can’t look back without feelings of betrayal forcing me to feel hate for the thing I once loved so dearly.

I said this was a love letter, of sorts, but really this is goodbye.

I will venture off into the wilderness of the health food aisle and allergy information blurbs. I will explore the exotic lands of Quinoa and Millet and leave the shores of wheat, barley and rye behind. I will face the future with feathers in my heart and the knowledge that I will be truly well for the first time in years; that this is something I can control; that I will be happy and won’t cry for no reason; that I won’t need to get treatment for illnesses I don’t have. That I won’t have people telling me I’m anorexic and that I’m disgusting and should be ashamed of myself. I will build a new wheelhouse, made from rice and salad and fruit, and I will live in it, one day, when I grow into this new world of mine. And I will not talk of you again; I will not tell of my dream, for the dream is mine no longer. The dream is no more. 

NB** The first paragraph and last few lines are inspired by the opening chapter of 'Rebecca', by Daphne du Maurier.

I've never posted anything so true to life before. I wrote this because I have been recently diagnosed with coeliac disease after years of feeling unwell and being tested for everything under the sun. I am so so happy to finally have a diagnosis so I can move on with my life!

As I have never posted anything like this before (completely from my own point of view, non-fiction), I would love to hear what you think. 


30 thoughts on “Week Twenty-Four: In your wheelhouse

  1. This was written in such an interesting way! As of a few years ago, I decided to get healthy and give up all the junk… I’m failing a bit now, but I’m still a nutrition fiend on the inside. I chose to do so because of my family history of heart problems at a very young age. Though I also have some mental issues with food I’m working on too. This was a really well written piece and I enjoyed it!

    • Thank you so much!! I’m so glad you thought so. Healthy eating is hard, especially when forced upon you due to health reasons – silly families with their histories! But it is for the best in the long run. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave me a comment x

  2. Deeply moving and touching. It’s *VERY* good as it is, but you did ask for concrit. There is one issue which bugged me a little:

    In the section when you talk about fast food restaurants, you mention four major chains but only talk about “your golden arches” when it comes to discussing passing them by now. It may be more effective to rearrange the first sentence so that you list that chain last, in terms of “and especially McDonalds”. Technically you could leave it as-is, as it is a relatively minor “off-note”… but if you make that change, that paragraph will read a little more smoothly.

    But overall this is a *DEEPLY* effective piece. Thank you for sharing this…

    • thank you so much! I went ahead and took your advice; it was something I had been playing around with anyhow – sometimes it just takes that one extra person to tell you it bugs them too, but I couldn’t think of a way to fix it til you said that!

  3. You know, a lot of us who usually do fiction seem to be doing nonfiction this week. I like it. šŸ™‚

    Yay for having a diagnosis and knowing what’s up so you can get better! šŸ™‚

    Also, I can identify somewhat. After the ulcer last year, I’ve had to change my diet quite a bit. There are foods that I can’t eat anymore either.

    It’ll be worth it to feel okay though. *hugs*

  4. This is lovely writing, and I wish you all the best with your new diet. I’ve watched one of my friends adjusting to a gluten-free diet, and it clearly wasn’t easy, but hopefully it will make a big difference to your health.

  5. Most of my children are gluten free (and a couple are dairy free too). In some ways it’s easier for them, because they haven’t had to give up foods that they learned to adore, whereas as an adult, it’s so hard to go gluten free because it does taste different, but as their mother, I wish sometimes I could just get them a cake from the shop as a treat like everyone else gets to.

    On the upside, gluten free products these days are so much better than they were ten years ago and they’re getting better all the time. And now that you know what the problem is and it’s a relatively easy fix, you can move on. If you haven’t read it, “Gluten Free, Worry Free” was a great book that a friend lent to me when we first had to give up gluten. One of the things that stuck with me from that was that the list of things you CAN eat is still so much greater than the list of things you can’t. It’s a nice thing to hold on to on those days when it seems as though EVERYTHING is stuffed full with gluten…

    • Exactly so! It is MUCH better than it was years ago. The only thing I worry about is the health risks associated with an autoimmune disease, but because I’m a nurse I guess that comes with the territory.
      You sound like such a great mum! šŸ™‚

    • oh well thank you!! That’s exactly what I was trying to convey – I’m so glad it came through. This was the first time I’d written something like this, so I was a bit nervy about it. Thanks much for commenting, it means a lot to me šŸ™‚

  6. On one level this is quite comical but I really tuned into the grieving of your having to say goodbye to some old friends. I ‘m glad you know your diagnosis ,You will feel ever so much better following the diet that will work for your body. And you will make new friends with other foods!
    I think it was a very good entry and I liked your non-fiction!

    • I’m glad you found it funny in parts! It was meant to be light hearted with a bit of seriousness thrown in šŸ˜‰

      Thank you so much for such a lovely comment – about my writing and about my health šŸ™‚ It means a lot to me šŸ™‚

  7. I’m glad you have found something that is helping you feel better!

    It is SO hard to give up certain foods, isn’t it? You expressed well how it is not only the taste of them but the way that eating them brings back emotions and memories.

    I wish you well. It’s so hard to give up things. I hope it all works out!

    And since you asked, yes, I enjoyed reading a non-fiction entry from you:) It helps me know who you are better (if that makes sense)

    • Thank you so much!!! That’s exactly what I was trying to do with the memories šŸ™‚ This could have been my ‘food memory’ entry couldn’t it? But I didn’t know back then.

      It does make sense, and I want to get to know my fellow idolers better too – I’m making a huge effort this week to join in the green room and commenting and etc – nursing and shift work makes it difficult but I’m getting there!

  8. OMG I loved this so much!! The way you wrote it just works so well and I am SO glad I wasn’t crazy thinking of Rebecca XD

    We have a box of 4-and-20 pies in the freezer and I keep thinking of having one for lunch… before changing my mind and grabbing something healthier. I am super glad I JUST had dinner or I’d be so tempted to just go and bung a pie in the oven now šŸ˜€

  9. Brilliant writing, and such an interesting angle on the subject.
    Have lots of friends who suffer this, and know how the odd night eating something bad affects them, they are so sick.

    I have noticed that Aldi has a great supply of GF now.

    Excellent entry.

    • This is really neat – I love how you’ve taken a personal story and elevated it to this beautiful dream litany, and the Rebecca parallels work so well! You reminded me of an immersion theatre piece I saw where the audience walked through and the actors created vignettes all around – part of the show was based on Rebecca, and just the dreamlike quality seems tied to your essay.

      I’m sorry I didn’t have time to read this week – I just finished leading a retreat for a small aerial company that wants to change their culture, and it was good but also more draining and time-eating than I thought it would be!

  10. *hugs* This is beautifully written; you have as lovely a way with non-fiction as with fiction. šŸ™‚

    I love how much your love for each of these foods, but more than that for what they represent to you, shines through.

  11. glancing furtively around. I ate it; bites too loud in the unforgiving silence.
    I love the guilt conveyed by these words, even if it’s just the guilt of eating something you shouldn’t rather than mustn’t.

    I will face the future with feathers in my heart
    Lovely phrasing.

    I wondered at first if this was about giving up junk food, but while on can cut back and try to be more moderate, going gluten-free is much harder. You can’t really be “moderate” with that– especially if it turns out that it does make a meaningful difference.

    I enjoyed your love-letter, and wish you success in this new phase!

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