Wednesday, September 22, 2010

too sweet

So now, where were we? Ah yes, four hundred women. Eyes closed. Savoring a Hershey's kiss.


Geneen didn't let us eat the chocolate right away. The pixie cup we were handed contained two raisins, two tortilla chips and one Hershey's kiss.

I was not pleased.

I'd read about these eating exercises of Geneen's. In fact, it's how she begins Women, Food, and God. I had an inkling of what was to come, and when I'm feeling anxious, the very last thing that I want to do is eat. And chips, raisins and too-sweet chocolate? Thanks, but I'll pass.

But I'd paid a king's ransom for this retreat, so I decided to play along, placing the tortilla in my mouth as instructed by Geneen. Had I just put a salt lick in my mouth? The taste was so aggressive that I nearly gagged. When was the last time I'd had a tortilla chip? Months, years, even. The saltiness triggered something in me: I felt naughty and dirty, and not in the good way. "This is way. too. damn. salty. And it's too white. These are not whole grain chips. I feel bloated already. Awesome, now the nasty chip is soggy. Why is this still in my mouth?" I was barely able to swallow it. Then came the raisin, which, thanks to a palette coated in salt, was the most sharply sweet nugget of dried fruit I'd ever encountered. Five minutes had passed, and I'd eaten only a chip and a raisin, and was getting cranky.

I looked down into my cup at that shiny morsel wrapped in silver and rolled my eyes (well, figuratively, anyway). I could see Geneen's plan completely: we were supposed to see the chocolate as a sinful, irresistible vehicle for drowning whatever particular emotion we didn't quite feel up to facing that day. "Whatever, Geneen; I'm not playing that game. I'm going to take the teensiest bite possible so I can at least say that I tried some, but I am not eating more of this kiss because this thing is too sweet for me. These women are out of their mind if they think this is a treat because it is nothing more than sugar processed within an inch of its life."

With disgust and self-satisfaction, I swallowed that teensiest bite and opened my eyes. Rows and rows of women sat before me, eyes squeezed shut, lips pursed and undulating.

"My God, look how happy they are."

I was wrenched out of myself and suspended in a place that felt still and wonder-filled. These women were allowing themselves to taste -- to really taste, and savour, and relish -- this small bit of chocolate, maybe for the first time since they were children. They were treating themselves. Not because they had been "good" but because for a brief moment, they knew that they couldn't be anything other than good, anything other than enough.

I sent out a prayer to Geneen, to those beautiful women, and to that too-sweet Hershey's kiss. The joy in that room washed over me, and I felt humbled.

Baptism by chocolate.


  1. that's funny - i felt the same way about the tortilla chip, but i probably eat them once a month. i suppose i'm going to have to find some other vehicle for guacamole. :)

    i love this. it gave me chills, perhaps because i was one of them. one of those four-hundred women, learning how to allow our chocolate, and ourselves, be enough.

    thanks for this, friend.

  2. Get out of my head lady!! Seriously!! I had the same thoughts about the chocolate...and then I just gave myself over to it and savored it, even knowing that it wasn't the best chocolate!

  3. Kate: You know what has become such a struggle for me? Having made the decision that my body doesn't feel good when I eat too-processed foods (which would probably include those tortilla chips), I have trouble separating not eating them in order to be kinder to myself versus not eating them because they're "bad." In other words, I'm coming to realize that there are, in fact, foods that might be bad for me, despite my shrinking away from that terminology. I suppose unnutritious, or unhealthful might be less loaded terms, but I'd really like to get to a place where I can say, "Hey, those chips aren't good for me, so I don't want them." and not have the immediate inclination to eat them because I want to make myself feel bad. It's a delicate balance to strike, no doubt.

    Karen: You're so funny! I'll get out of your head as soon as I can figure out how to get out of my own :-) Also, I think Geneen was right on when she said that when we make a choice to eat something that perhaps our body won't be too happy with later, we should accept that we're making the choice and enjoy it fully. Sounds like exactly what you did.

  4. Yeah, somewhere along the line I figured out that eating a delicious chocolate chip cookie with pleasure and gusto (and no guilt) was better karmically (is that even a word) than eating a plate of broccoli because it's "good for me" even though I don't really like it and know it will give me gas later...

  5. I'm going to make a t-shirt that has a picture of a giant apple pie on it, and underneath reads "Gusto, not guilt."

  6. i love that. i might make a sign for my kitchen that says that. fancy, no kidding. etsy is calling your name with that. i'm thinking ice cream bowls, plates, magnets, bumper stickers, t-shirts... etsy is calling your name. i'll be your publicist.