In Praise of Hunger

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Hunger gets a bad rap.  For obvious reasons.  It’s associated with deprivation, starvation and mal-nutrition.  I myself have a love-hate relationship with physical hunger– I get a little twinge of power when I get hungry, which is that old illusion of control that drove my eating disorder back in the day.  But I can only stand that twinge for a short time because my head gets foggy, my temper flares and I find myself running for a handful of almonds or a cheese stick or something to “take the edge off.”

But there are other hungers that I’m paying closer attention to.  Not physical hunger, but emotional.  Spiritual. Metaphysical.  Those hungers too I have scrambled to satisfy too soon, often grabbing the first “snack” I can reach to make the hunger pangs stop.  The result is a Band-Aid-like patch work of solutions to the deep hungers that are rumbling within me.  And while I am grateful for the solutions that have come along and headed off my hunger, I can’t help but wonder: If I would have let myself be hungry a little bit longer, might I have found more gratifying, sustainable solutions?

It’s like wandering around Disneyland and realizing, Hey! I’m peckish.  You know that waiting until you find a proper food court would be best because there you could find what you are really craving– a salad with a spicy protein or a vegetarian taco.  But the hunger, it’s uncomfortable.  It seems so wrong to be uncomfortable at Disneyland.  I’m supposed to be enjoying this– I should eat something quick so I can seize my birthright, a fun day at Disney.  Just ahead is a cotton candy vendor that also sells popcorn.  Score!  You get both, because you deserve it, so you munch and feel better.

But that wasn’t what you really wanted.  And now you are too full to stop the quarter-mile ahead and get the fiesta salad.  You’re no longer that hungry, but you are still sort of hungry.  Protein. Now you need protein.  So you grab a bag of roasted nuts and carry on.

Sure, you made it work.  You fueled yourself through Disney, which was no easy feat.  But, what if you had been willing to be hungry just a little longer?

I’m listening to my hungers. I feel like I am falling in love with them. I need them. I need them to talk to me, to guide me forward, to tell me what it will take to satisfy them.  I’m giving them more floor space– room to really grab my attention because the soft, easy solutions are like cotton candy and popcorn: They’re temporary empty calories.  I need to listen more closely to the deep rumbles and pangs of hunger because I need more information about what it will take to feed them.

Hunger is a good word for me right now.  It’s unrealized ambition. It’s striving. It’s moving forward.  It’s being haunted by possible failure, disappointment, or public ridicule.  It’s me gathering strength, focus, and commitment to launch.

It feels so good to be hungry.

42 thoughts on “In Praise of Hunger

  1. My goodness! I LOVE this post! You’re an amazing author to begin with but I get extra excited with alliteration in philosophical form. I can definitely relate to feeling that hunger of life! I just finished a post of my own that started as a hunger, but has been a source of my heartburn the last year. It was cathartic to puke all that acid out to leave room for more hunger pains. ;)

  2. I get this post – it’s like you put words to what I’ve been feeling going into a new year. I just ended a short term relationship that while it took the edge off of my hunger for companionship wasn’t really satisfying the deeper hunger for long term partnership – for me or for him.

  3. I am soooo with you on this right now. I’m in the phase where I’m rejecting all the popcorn and cotton candy projects to stare, unblinkingly, at the long path to the fiesta salad. Dressing on the side, yo, I can see it from here.

  4. so true… i go in for quick fixes as well, but there is nothing like the feeling of really wanting something. eye of the tiger… yeah, we’ve been in a rocky marathon over here.

  5. Feast

    I drank at every vine.
    The last was like the first.
    I came upon no wine
    So wonderful as thirst.

    I gnawed at every root.
    I ate of every plant.
    I came upon no fruit
    So wonderful as want.

    Feed the grape and bean
    To the vintner and monger:
    I will lie down lean
    With my thirst and my hunger.

    Edna St. Vincent Millay

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