I am holed up tonight in a motel room in Bangor, a scant few hours on the back end of BikeMaine 2018.
In one sense, there’s not much to it: a warm shower, a clean bed, and some time alone – all of which I desperately and critically need right now.
But tonight there’s a lot more, because in this little motel room, I had just now what San Francisco politician Willie Brown called a Come-To-Jesus moment – a flash of clarity in which one comes to know and understand the finality of any given situation, and accept that this is, in fact, how things will be from now on.
I think I first heard Brown use the phrase when I was a young reporter, covering him during his time as the Mayor of San Francisco. He was talking about union negotiations, I think, characterizing that moment when an agreement long pursued is finally at hand.
My Come-to-Jesus moment in this instance, though, is much more personal.
This is what happened: as I rolled into Bangor tonight after a week on the road with 450 bicyclists in northern Maine, I thought, geez, I should probably get something to eat. It’s been a while. And it had.
So I got something to eat. I got it to go, too, so I could bring it back to the motel room, where I planned to enjoy a leisurely meal alone and begin slowly and carefully reintegrating myself back into reality.
The food was good, maybe because it was the first thing I’d eaten in a week that I didn’t have to wait in line for. Or not. I dunno, but I ripped into those baby-back ribs like nobody’s business. I ate like no one was watching, with sauce and grease coating my fingers and face as I flipped through the news, and it was good.
I put away two ribs, and was contemplating a third when it hit me: nah, that’d be bordering on gluttony. You’re not really hungry, and you don’t need it.
And that was that. Done.
And I realized: that never would have happened before the surgery, that recognition that I’d had enough. I’d have kept on eating. Food was something – comfort, maybe, solace, distraction or entertainment, whatever – anything but what it actually is: fuel for your body.
Which is how I think of it now, down to the gram of protein, something to be measured and tracked, monitored and adjusted accordingly, based on activity levels. Which are also tracked.
Of course, food is much more than that; it’s a sensuous experience of sights and smells and touch as much as taste, and something that’s better when it’s shared. And I love that about it.
But my relationship with it is radically different now, and this tiny moment of insight in a motel room in Bangor represents the first time that I’ve truly been able to wrap my mind around that fact.
On many other levels, that understanding about how things are now, as opposed to how they used to be, continues to elude me. I still think of myself as big and, ironically, less of a person because of it. When I walk through a crowded public space, I navigate as if I am fat, searching out the path of widest berth to better avoid awkward moments, which will come regardless, because I am fat.
And so on and so forth, an endless parade of tiny indignities and obstacles, none so difficult in and of themselves but utterly exhausting in the aggregate.
On a superficial level, I know this is not how it is anymore, because I am no longer fat. The scale and every other objective and accepted metric tell me that. But, this evening’s Come-to-Jesus moment notwithstanding, I haven’t truly accepted it.
But I think I’m beginning to get it. So for now, I’ll take these moments as they come, I guess, confident that more, similar realizations will also come, in time and in other ways.
After all, it took me a long time to get here, now, in this motel room in Bangor.