Monday, November 17, 2008

Lunch Break

As long as I've been teaching, I've skipped lunch during the school day. That means for the last 10 years, I've watched countless students scurry off to the cafeteria carrying their brown bags on a mission to consume and digest vital nutrients needed for their bodies to function properly. At times, I've even unflinchingly endured other students and teachers chowing down right in front of me. At the risk of sounding inhuman or perhaps superhuman (Captain Nihilist, Commander Abstemious, or Mr. Fast . . . ) I've even turned down free, delicious, edible food from others, even the complementary hot dogs and catfish served up by the school's administration on "Teacher Appreciation Day."

What seems almost more incredulous to friends and colleagues who partake in the more-regular consumption of victual vittles, is that I also skip breakfast! With only a pot (or two) of coffee each morning and an occasional package (or three) of Skittles candy, I have been able to make it on my feet all day long without replenishing my expended energy in the form of comestible comida.

"How do you do that?" people ask as crumbs from their sandwich fly out of their mouth.

"Don't you get hungry?" they inquire as they unwrap a candy bar.

"That's not good for you?" they retort as they polish off their diet soda, bag of chips, and aforementioned candy bar.

"Your strange!" they conclude as they misuse the word 'your.'

My response to all these comments are always the same: clever and witty, spoken confidently and loud enough to drown out the sound of my grumbling belly.

"I do it by not eating."

"Yes, I get hungry, like I get older: slowly and unnoticeably, until . . . BOOM . . . it's dinner time and now I'm starving and 24 hours older."

"If it's not good for me, why am I soooooooooo good after all these years?"

"Yes, I'm strange, but I'm no stranger to proper grammar."

Responding in this way has always hushed those "eating" people in much the same way sticking a piece of undercooked chicken in their mouth does: they get that funny look on their face and run out of the room trying to find the nearest place to upchuck. It's also an effective way to insulate myself from the true hunger that I often feel while appearing to be strong, virulent, and satiated.

Not eating originally began out of a lack of prioritizing it. From my earliest days of teaching, I'd arise very early, sip my coffee, then head out the door to the classroom. Eating breakfast or making a lunch for later seemed to disrupt the quiet simpleness of my mornings, besides, I was still have asleep and too tired to me that productive in the kitchen at that hour of the morning. I got used to going without during the day. In fact, if I DID try to eat a morsel here or there on occasion, I found it was counterproductive to my teaching. As the blood flowed to my stomach, I left my brain, and I found myself more interested in taking a nap than taking a square root. A sleeping teacher does not set a good example for cognizant, mathematical industry.

Anyone who looked at me would never guess that I skipped two meals during the weekdays. I wasn't frail and emaciated, but just the opposite. At times, I ballooned up to 240 pounds (in 2004 when I became idle with my FIRST knee infection.) Needless to say, I'd make up for lost nutrition once a day: from after school until bed time. On weekends, I'd get on the eating schedule of my family: breakfast, lunch, dinner, with snacks in between. My body's metabolism was strained and warped, but it got used to it. When I began running, I'd continue the strange habit of skipping breakfast and lunch only to run each afternoon with nothing in my stomach. "Was I supposed to feel this light-headed when I ran?" "Is it normal to nearly faint with each step?" I figured I was getting extra lean by burning my reserves.

I actually never felt as bad as my hyperbolic comments above allude to. It worked for me . . . .

Recently, however, with my new bout of knee problems, infections, kidney problems, anemia, and 24-hour IV infusions, my energy level is very low, fragile, and unpredictable. Each evening, I seem to "crash" earlier and earlier. With daylight savings time ending (or starting?) recently, it gets darker very early now, but I still manage to "hit the sack" before dark. This means around 5:00 pm, I am so worn out, I don't even feel like hobbling to the bathroom to do the bathroom thing. With a PICC line on my left bicep and an exposed surgical wound still on my right knee, I cannot take showers, so bathing with left arm and weakened, atrophied, skinny, unbendable right leg high the air is such an arduous effort that I'm likely to drown in 5 inches of water simply because I'm too weak to tread water (or sit up!)

Consequently, for the past two weeks now, my wonderfully supportive wonderful wife has been making me . . . . get this . . . . a LUNCH to take to school. At first, I was reluctant to eat it, not wanting to break my routine and risk a soporific afternoon, but my low blood sugar, low red-blood cell and hemoglobin count physiologically dictated that I EAT, lest I become a mathematical martyr on the alter of a document camera at the front of the room. The taste and sensation of food upon my tounge in my classroom slowly went from feeling taboo and dirty to allowable and enjoyable. "I could get used to teaching with cheesy fingers and Dorito breath," I thought!!! Especially since the nourishment helped carry me through the afternoon, whereby I could confidently say that the square root of 9 is plus or minus 3. Without the nutrients and energy of cheese flavored triangular tortilla snacks (and salads, turkey sandwiches, pickles, carrots, cheddar cheese wedges, and lots of Gatorade), I might have only had the energy to declare the positive square root, or worse yet, make a more egregious error that would find its way into the notes of my pupils, whereby they would memorize false information as being factual, which could potentially lead to embarrassing moments for them somewhere down the line on a game show . . .

To make a long story short, I'm eating lunch now. I'm still skipping breakfast, but at least I'm a member of the brown baggers on campus. Once I'm all better, it is going to be a hard habit to break again, but by then, my wife might be tired of making my lunch for me and the problem will take care of itself.

Gotta go! I've got some crunching to do, and I don't mean numbers.


Anonymous said...

YEA -- I always wondered how you got through the day on skittles only!!! I didn't mean to make your stomach growl while I was eating my boring lunch. Thank goodness you had skittles.

I wish you had more energy. I guess that will come with time.

I'm so happy to see you writing again.

Anonymous said...

Your wonderfully supportive wonderful wife is tired. Get well soon.