"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Blueberry Yogurt

Oddly, I'm nostalgic, in a deep longing sort of way, for blueberry yogurt. I first became aware of this wistful yearning a few weeks ago as I was stirring my morning carton of  fruit-on-the-bottom fat-free Cascade Fresh blueberry yogurt. Something in the way the sweet pungency hit my brain took me back to late adolescence/early adulthood - the time when yogurt and I first became friends.

In the late sixties and early seventies of Northern Idaho and Spokane, eating yogurt was something those damned hippies did. I loved the outlaw aspect of being a yogurt eater, but I also fell in love with the flavor and the texture and how whole and healthy I felt afterwards.

Yogurt was simpler then. Not so many choices. Not so sweet. Not so fancy. The fruit was fruitier. The yogurt more sour. And thicker. 

In my early yogurt days I was on the verge of stepping into the world. I had my whole life in front of me. Limitless possibilities. Possibilities that I discovered I couldn't follow because the cost, my family's approval and acceptance, was too high. 

As a senior in high school, with the help of the girls' counselor who also happened to be my best friend's mom, I was accepted by a small prestigious private college. She helped me get grants and scholarships to pay the tuition. My parents wanted me to go to a community college so I'd be closer to home. When they found out about my decision to go away to a four year college, they were furious. And betrayed. And disappointed.

They and my brothers drove me in the family rambler station wagon to school the September of my freshman year. The two hours it took us to get from home to school were silent. While I had longed for years to be away from them, to be finally free, their driving away from me on that beautiful fall day felt like banishment.

And so I failed. Spectacularly. Repeatedly. To prove to them that I really did need them.

Oddly, I remember finding comfort in yogurt during those years. The healthy normality of it in complete defiance of my family's tastes and values. There were many stretches of time when yogurt was all I ate. A diet of only yogurt when you're twenty-something is a great way to save money and to lose weight and not feel deprived.

I also found comfort in a wide range of less healthy pursuits. All of which ultimately left me feeling even more empty than I had before.

I joined a cult to fill the emptiness. That didn't work either. During that decade, yogurt became the food that no one in the group except me liked. That give it the power to make me special. It became something that no one could take from me. 

When I couldn't take the loneliness and pain any more, I left the cult. And became respectable. Married a good man with a stable job who loved me (and still does). Became a teacher. Bought a house. Got a dog and a cat. Spent holidays with families. Found a brilliant therapist. Ate yogurt for breakfast with wheat germ mixed in.

I thought for a long time that I was fixed. That life was exactly as I had always wanted. It's turning out not to be the case. 

Like the recently remembered pungency of my first yogurt, the unrealized possibilities of those early years have surfaced again. With no small amount of insistent nudging. I buried a huge part of myself in my attempts to regain my parents' approval. I buried a huge part of myself to make myself acceptable to God when I joined the cult. I buried a huge part of myself to become a respectable good-girl wife and teacher.

All of those buried parts are pushing against the surface of my heart like the crocuses just under the frosted ground in my garden.

To let them out, I need to take a step away from what I think I'm supposed to be doing.  I need to take a step in the direction of my heart's urging. This step will mean leaving the security of a significant part of my respectable life behind. It will mean trusting in my own abilities. It will mean trusting that I don't have to do everything alone - because I can't. It will mean believing in something improbable and currently unknowable.

I am nearly frozen with fear. Sitting still in stale security. Flying forward to freedom. The choice, put like that, is simple. Except for the choke-hold of terror that wakes me in the dead of night and makes me gasp for air in the middle of a random conversation. 

If I have been able to trust in the steadfastness of yogurt all of these years, should I not also be able to trust in the rightness of my being and the gentle voice of my heart?

photo from Flickr


She said...

Oh, Deb, you take my breath away with your writing, with the connections you make, with your keen insight and complete honesty!

You are not alone!

I'm holding space for you right this minute.

Call me or email if you need to.

I love you so very much!

I'm on your side and rooting for you!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Could you take a half-step instead of a bigger one away from security and still do your searching? This is a beautiful essay. Have you thought of submitting it somewhere? I have a few suggestions for places if you're interested.

Jerri said...

Yes, you should trust in the rightness of your being.

No, you never needed yogurt to make you special. You simply are. Special.

Change is scary. Fear is powerful. You are strong.

Believe in yourself as we believe in you and all will be well, no matter what circumstances bring.

I love you dearly.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"I loved the outlaw aspect of being a yogurt eater,"

I think there's the "outlaw" part of you that hasn't had its full day in the sun.

I'm excited to watch that day fully eclipse.

M said...

A story about yogurt...who would have figured on that. You continue to amaze me with your imagination and the way you can connect the simplist of life's pleasures or activities with your own life...and all of ours.

I love you

Your Bro

Nancy said...

"All of those buried parts are pushing against the surface of my heart like the crocuses just under the frosted ground in my garden"

Your writing is so beautiful.

Trust yourself and listen to that voice. You can always take yogurt along on the journey for reassurance.

Terry said...

This is one of those rare passages, so beautifully written and yet containing both poignancy and simplicity in equal measures. Utterly profound.