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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

I will die if I don’t eat.

As a child, every morning upon rising, I recall my mother’s first words:

I will die if I don’t eat something when I wake up.

I think truisms from our youth get absorbed like sun rays on the skin, changing our color into a new shade of desperation. And so I too became convinced that imminent death awaited those who did not eat upon rising.

Perhaps this self induced anxiety contributed to food issues later in life.

For my own children, though, not wanting to become my mother, I moderated the declaration:

I cannot function if I don’t eat first thing in the morning.

Somehow that seemed closer to the truth for a gypsy mother raising children, which I considered a step up from the wolf mother who raised me. Lest you find that a harsh description, bear in mind this is the mother who declared her entire lifetime that she adhered to the parenting practice of benign neglect. Her pride in having mastered that technique was palpable. The fact that it horrified everyone who ever heard her declare it always escaped her attention.

For some reason, many of her truisms were sustenance related.

If you drink water, you will get worms.

Every child needs to eat a pound of dirt a year.

When you are young, these truisms get internalized, I think, often in ways too deep to be easily recognized by our daily, conscious, functioning self. But since I am no longer young, I have been experimenting these last few years testing the hypotheses that have ruled my existence for all of my life. And here is what I have discovered:

I do not die if I don’t eat when I get up.

Every sunrise finds me walking on a coffee fueled adventure, and my dead body has yet to be left on the trail. I have not had to drag my calorie deprived body down the trail nor boost it into my car. Some mornings, I manage to hike without even having coffee in my system.

The world is full of miracles.

In fact, I have found that I don’t die if my lunch happens at 3 pm instead of noon, or my dinner at 7 pm instead of 5 pm on the dot. So much anxiety in my youth was fueled by what would happen if meals did not occur on a regular, arbitrary schedule, regardless of connection to actual hunger.

I might also point out that though I am a copious water drinker, I have yet to be diagnosed with worms. To be fair, my mom did grow up in a time when water purification was not a priority, so this may have been true for her. But we were raised in a time when a simple turning of a handle on a faucet brought unlimited, safe drinking water.

The world is full of miracles.

And as for the pound of dirt? Unless you count the dusty expectations that were never met, or the shifting sands of my own perceptions, I believe I am pretty dirt free.

Of all the truisms, though, that infiltrated my developing soul, the most damaging was this:

Mitchell women are different.

This was usually uttered when confronted with a woman who seemed put together and strong and confident. Mom would let me know in no uncertain terms that women like this were shallow and not worthy of imitation.

Since everything admirable in other women was met with derision, I stopped observing or emulating to protect myself from her disapproval and thus never learned the language and culture of women until I spent a week in the North Cascades wilderness on the first all women Outward Bound journey.

That is a story for another time, but I will tell you that the most valuable lesson from the journey was simply this:

Mitchell women are women,

part of a tribe characterized by courage, compassion, and grace, and linked forever together by our shared experience in a world that fails on far too many occasions to notice and acknowledge our strengths and our innate competence, individually and collectively.

We are the glue that holds the world together, whether we dress in designer clothes or tattered jeans. We are the heart and soul of humanity, whether we have monthly pedicures or leave traces of hand clipped toenails on the worn carpets that cover our floors. And we are the conscience of this human existence, whether we run board meetings or cry ourselves through another diaper change, exhausted and alone.

We are women, regardless of our last names or upbringing, and we are a better tribe when we celebrate each other and lift each other up, disdaining the eye of judgement and embracing the heart of acceptance for our unique abilities and passions.

So go forth, tribe members.

Eat breakfast whenever you want…or not. Drink lots of water without fear. And don’t worry about the dirt. Leave it where it is on the ground.

It was never meant for you anyway.

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4 comentários

02 de ago. de 2023

I'm sure it's coincidental, and I haven't seen it, but from what I've read, the Barbie movie has the empowerment themes as well. As always, your writings resonate with me and make my day. Someday you'll have to tell me what benign neglect looks like...

Char Seawell
Char Seawell
03 de ago. de 2023
Respondendo a

My kids and granddaughters saw it and corrected my misassumptions! I guess I will have to go…. Thanks for your kind comments!


Jack McLeod
Jack McLeod
01 de ago. de 2023

Char, I've been impressed and humbled by your strengths and beauty since the first day I met you, the heart and soul of humanity indeed. ❤️

Char Seawell
Char Seawell
03 de ago. de 2023
Respondendo a

That is so kind. I knew we were kindred spirits when we worked together and when you inspired my daughters by your teaching. Loving that you are permanently in your happy place.

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