On Thursday, I could not get myself moving when I got out of bed. No matter what I did, it seemed like I was moving through molasses, not connecting dots, walking into my bedroom to get something and realizing once I got there, that I’d forgotten what I was going to get.
By the fifth day in, this could not be caffeine-related, and yet, something was very, very off.
Then suddenly it was 8:35 a.m., I usually get to work at 9 a.m., and I still hadn’t managed to get in the shower. Or eat. I’d like to tell you what occupied that time between when the alarm went off at 6:30 and when I realized there was no way I was going to get to work on time, but honestly, I have no idea. It was like the time evaporated.
After I got out of the shower and got dressed, I realized the most serious and immediate problem: it wasn’t like I could just grab something for breakfast and go. I had a container of black beans, brown rice and roasted eggplant ready to go, but that was it…no oatmeal cooked, no hardboiled eggs, nothing that would serve as breakfast in a pinch. I looked at the clock (8:58 a.m.), and decided I would just have to be even later than I was already going to be.
It is, as it turns out, possible to make, eat and clean-up an egg-in-a-basket (yes, again), in less than five minutes, but it requires intense focus to the project and a willingness to eat without tasting one’s food. Which, to be honest, was OK with me. I was kind of sick of the whole egg-in-a-basket thing by Thursday.
Thursday’s schedule held an all-day meeting: nearly six hours in a conference room talking about meeting facilitation. It turned out this was a very interesting training, so it was less of a problem than I thought it might be, but when it got time for lunch, I had to forgo the catered meal brought in for us and head back to my office with my rice-beans-eggplant. When I returned to the conference room, there was a full tray of brownies and cookie bars sitting on the table.
“Genie, did you try the brownies with the nuts?” said my co-worker Stephanie. “They’re really good.” And then she slapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh my gosh…I’m so sorry.”
“I was thinking of suggesting we take the whole tray out of here,” said my co-worker Sam, who had been reading my updates all week and knew how things were going.
I concurred. Here’s the thing. I actually never like the cookies and brownies on the trays that come with catered work lunches. They’re usually good, but not great. But I eat them anyway, because they’re there, and they’re available, and everyone else is doing it. Truth is, this time, they didn’t tempt me that much. But everyone passing a bottle of San Pellegrino water around the conference room table after lunch, refilling their glasses with delicious, bubbly water-different-from-mine? And the people with mug after mug of tea? KILLING me.
After the meeting let out, I worked in my office awhile, then ate my lentil-brown rice-celery-carrot-onion concoction and took the AC Transit bus across Oakland to Freight and Salvage to meet friends to see Willy Porter and Raining Jane. Here’s one unexpected advantage: because I wasn’t meeting anyone for dinner beforehand, I got in line really early and snagged a second-row seat. Freight and Salvage is also a great place to go if you’re not spending any additional money. They’re set up with a coffeehouse food service in the back—light snacks and coffee and juice and organic sodas—but if you’re not in the mood for caffeine and cookies with your music, it’s not so tempting. My friend Brenda got a soda and a snack, but it wasn’t like I had to sit next to anyone drinking a beer and eating a basket of fries or anything like that. I drank my water, and it was all quite manageable.
Except for the fact that I had absolutely no energy. I’m a little anemic anyway, and by this point in the day and the week, it was occurring to me that while I was getting protein every day, that there was clearly something missing from the nutrients in my otherwise fairly nutritious diet. Iron, maybe? I’m not sure what it was, and would love to run all the food through some sort of nutritional number-cruncher to see what comes up.
“Can you imagine what this must be like for people who have to work two or three jobs and eat like this?” Brenda said. “No wonder two tacos for a dollar at Taco Bell becomes attractive. It’s not nutritious, but it seems like it, and it’s tasty and cheap and fast.”
“I can’t imagine raising kids on this. How do you get them all the nutrients they need?” I said.
“Well, and you’re able to articulate how bad you feel,” Brenda said. “Younger kids wouldn’t even be able to describe yet why they don’t feel well. Or understand it. And that’s going to affect their behavior and their learning and everything.”
Brenda drove me home after the show, and I sat in her passenger seat feeling like a big lump, not up for much conversation, and totally cranky. By this point, it was five hours after I’d eaten dinner, and I would have killed for a piece of pizza and a glass of wine. But I went to bed, raging a bit against the two days left, and, at the same time, so very grateful that the two days were all I had to get through. This was a temporary state for me, a learning experience I had the luxury to take advantage of—and to step away from when it was done.