Are you hungry?
Is it a physical hunger – a bodily cry for nutrients and energy to keep going? What does that feel like for you normally?
Or is it a different hunger masquerading as physical hunger?
On the one hand, it sounds like an easy distinction to make – physical vs. emotional and/or spiritual hunger, it’s gotta be obvious, right?
On the other hand…an emptiness that demands fillling, comfort, warmth, anything to take away the panging pains – is there a difference between these hungers?
The thing is that emotional and/or spiritual hunger can give out physical symptoms of hunger too – just to make things really confusing.
And the most difficult part is that it often feels like there are no words for it either.
You feel it – physically, and possibly emotionally and spiritually – but nothing seems to ease it.
You eat well – maybe better than usual, and it eases the physical hunger, maybe even to the point of bursting. But it’s not enough.
Some of the magazines and health blogs will tell you that you are mistaking hunger for thirst. But even when you drink those 8 big glasses of water a day, it’s not working.
Other magazines and health blogs will say that you’re not getting enough sleep, and that’s what’s making you reach for the biscuit tin in the afternoon. Except that, even if you get your 7-8 hours a night, it doesn’t stop.
You might even be in generally good health physically – nothing is wrong.
Except that it really is.
This is when your hunger is not just a physical hunger: it’s emotional and/or spiritual hunger.
There are so many different words that could describe it:
Hunger. Emptiness. Wordless longing. Soul cry. Undisclosed desires. Hidden truths. Disconnection from your deeper self, or soul. Going through the motions…
…and feeling nothing.
For me, this is limbo – that awkward in-between place that I can’t always put my finger on.
That emptiness, when it is there, stops me experiencing meaning and joy threaded into everything that I do. It becomes difficult to infuse the usually easy enthusiasm, deliberateness, and love into the things I do.
That sounds kinda dramatic, doesn’t it?
I’m quite sure that it sounds ridiculous to hear people like me implying:
“Everything I do, I do it with sweeping love and graciousness, and life is cotton candy and rose-tinted, and my home is clean and tidy and somewhat minimalist, and I work out 5 times a week and floss my teeth…<enter any other sickeningly saccharine, perfectionism-inducing images here>…”
BIG HINT: My life is nowhere near like that, and that’s not what I mean when I talk about joy and meaning in everything I do.
What I really mean is that – you know really well that feeling of going through the motions and not emotionally feeling anything? When I talk about joy and meaning in everything I do, I mean the very opposite of going through the motions. It’s the sudden death of feeling woven into an interconnected web of life and energy – of feeling the ripples that actions I take have in the world around me.
Because the thing is, that gently easy joy is one of those things that you don’t notice until it’s gone, and you probably only notice it’s gone when you start noticing that you’re behaving differently to what you usually do, or when you start to notice that hunger, emptiness, and meaninglessness.
And that hunger can be scary. It doesn’t go away no matter what you eat or do. It feels like you have reverted back to your toddler self, inwardly crying when you don’t know what’s wrong and can’t sooth yourself, can’t make it right.
I can only imagine that it’s even more painful when you experience this whilst caring for an actual crying toddler who won’t calm down.
It doesn’t go away because you’re not giving yourself the right “food” to satiate your hunger.
Because sometimes? You don’t actually need food food – you actually need something else.
You could be feeling:
A desire for life to be simpler, for less responsibilities, a return to Innocence…even though underneath it all, you know you can’t go back
Fear. Worry. Anxiety. Dread…and wanting safety
Boredom and stagnation
Restlessness with your current circumstances
You could be craving:
Something, ANYTHING to fill that void
Connection with another person
And you’re trying to satisfy your cravings in the hope that it will change your feelings – maybe one of those feelings above.
Yet, everything you know that would help just isn’t working.
It’s not working because the “food” isn’t right.
You need to seek.
The inside of a seed must be one of the most private places in the world.
The inside of a seed must also be one of the most exciting and terrifying places to be.
Because a seed is never meant to remain a seed – seeds that remain seeds exhaust their supply of energy within and die. It needs to break through its shell so that it can grow.
It’s exciting to look forward to the journey of becoming a seedling, and then a sprout, and to eventually grow into a young plant.
It’s equally terrifying to crack open the shell, because everything that you have known is going to disappear and bring in piercingly painful light, and you can’t piece the shell back together and go back to being a seed afterwards. And yet, the alternative – entropy, and eventual death – aren’t great options either: they can’t be denied.
Seedlings seek the sun above and water and nutrients in the soil below to grow.
People also need to seek the right things needed to grow.
Food can only go so far.
What do you need after food?
Of the world around you, outside your shell.
Of yourself, and the vast world inside you.
Hunger, beyond physical hunger?
Is your call to start your journey.
Honour that call.
Break the shell, and satiate your hunger.