My Body as a Site of Failure / Self- Love, and a Recipe for Korean Chicken Soup

Disclaimer: this entry is pretty whiny.

My body is hell, and I hate it. I’m not talking about my self-image (at least, not today), but more about its functioning. As you may know, when I started my job as director of development in May, I was eager to use the opportunity to grow and learn and absorb in all aspects of my life. With what I thought was a healthier approach to my career (not having it consume every waking moment of my life), I ventured into the territory of newness, of actually doing shit I had always talked about: leading a team in a full time job, joining a board or advisory committee, taking Italian tutoring lessons, volunteering with the students at my school, exercising, making lots of new dishes (and cooking for 1-3 hours/day), committing to this blog (with a goal of posting at least three entries/month), taking advantage of all that NYC has to offer (the most adult-feeling thing I did in the last few months is become a member at the Brooklyn Academy of Music), and spending lots more time loving and supporting my friends and family. Well, I’m doing all that, and my body is revolting.

My stupid body responds to stress by shutting itself down. I get migraines. My immune system says “NOPE NO MO” and becomes defenseless against the silliest colds. I am prone to ulcers and GERD. The muscles in my neck turn into steel rods. This is really annoying. Have I told you how annoying this is? How it makes me feel like an epic failure?

I have this chronic fear that I’m lazy, and that if I stagnate, my soul will die.  I know it’s a problem that I only value myself when I have something to show for my efforts, but it’s not something I can change easily. So until I can transform that manic energy and anxiety into something healthier, I’m trying to figure out how to not feel like my body is sabotaging my desire to live a happy and successful life.

I was a pretty sickly child growing up. With chronic asthma, a slew of stomach issues, and a sadly underachieving immune system, I was a mess. My father recently told me that I would frequently become painfully ill before piano competitions (high fevers), but that I would force myself to go. One time, I made myself play at a recital with a 102 fever, bowed, and then collapsed. Though mama was one of the reasons I pushed myself so hard, she realized what was happening and once told me something interesting: “Isn’t it nice that your body will tell you when it’s just too much?”

WHAT. How on earth is it nice that my weak constitution and seemingly fragile body get to determine what I can and cannot do? Why should my illness-prone body that I inherited from my mother (why couldn’t I get her brain or looks, instead?) get to set limits on my future? I look around at my family, my peers, my friends, who do so much with their lives, who work endless hours, and still manage to find time to be the dopest people of all time. Why can’t my body let me do more of that? Sure, these questions may make me sound petulant and bratty. But I can’t help but be appalled by my body’s inability to match my desires and ambition.

I spent the last few days trying to tend to my ailing body and spirit. And I thought a lot about my mother’s gentle, powerful, and irritatingly leading question. If I take away the whole “my life only has value if I’m doing a shit ton of stuff” element, perhaps it truly is a blessing that something can tell me, “hey, slow down for a second.” Maybe my body provides me with a visceral litmus test. Perhaps my physical health is an indicator of my mental/emotional health. Maybe, instead of being a site of failure, my body is actually trying to love me into submission.

Of course, all of this is purely conceptual. I still feel like a big fool for not being able to do everything I want to do without getting sick. I don’t know what to do about it, but I know how I should try to feel. Perhaps some other time, I can think about how to actually chill out.

And now, a recipe for a Korean chicken soup that made me feel less like a disaster zone!

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Yeong Gye Baeksuk (Korean Chicken Soup) Recipe
Recipe adapted from Kimchimari.com
6 Servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 cornish game hen
1 whole head of garlic, peeled (8-12 cloves of garlic)
1 whole onion, peeled and left whole
4 green onion stalks
5 slices of fresh ginger
10 cups of cold water
salt and pepper to taste
sauce for chicken – 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce + 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
2 cups of jasmine rice, cooked per instructions

Directions

  1. Discard the giblets inside the Cornish hen’s cavity. If there’s a lot of fat near the breast area or the bottom, trim the fat as much as you can. Wash the chicken under running water and pat it dry with paper towels.
  2. Add chicken, garlic, onion, three stalks of green onions, and ginger to pot and add 8 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil.
  3. Once it’s boiling, simmer at medium low or low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. Check if the chicken is fully cooked by piercing the area between the thigh and the belly to see if any blood comes out. Cook for a few minutes longer if you see any redness.
  4. Take the chicken out onto a plate and let it cool for a few minutes. Chop up the green onions.
  5. Serve the soup with rice, pieces of the chicken, and green onions in a bowl. Serve with salt and pepper so it can be seasoned at the table. If you so desire, make some vinegar-soy sauce for dipping the chicken meat.

Coming up (I promise)…Our States, Our People, Our Food: Chinese Immigration to Mississippi and a Recipe for Salt and Pepper Shrimp

3 thoughts on “My Body as a Site of Failure / Self- Love, and a Recipe for Korean Chicken Soup

  1. Please slow down and take care of yourself. Wanting to do a million things is fine, but you know you don’t have to do them all at once, right? It is a lesson I have had to learn and it is making the journey more enjoyable. Slowing down will help you create memories, not just check marks on a list. Aside: you are missed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Aiesha,

      Your words remind me of my mother’s- they’re kind and strong. Not to completely miss the point, but how do you do all that you do?! Let’s you and I grab coffee one day? You are missed, too.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Meal Planning 101: On Cooking with Limited Time and Energy, plus a Menu of Meals | Exposed Eats with Yejin

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