When You Don’t Know What to Do, Eat?

www.stuffkit.comWhere do you feel stress? Some say they feel stress in their stomach or neck. I feel it in my desire to scarf down chocolate. Whoa, now, you might be saying. There’s nothing wrong with scarfing down chocolate. I know that, and of course you know that. But if I’m working on a tricky scene in my novel and a thought like, I don’t know what to do to beef up the emotion here, crosses my mind, why is my first thought afterward, So I should get some cookies or better still, some chocolate cookies?

Sigh. I know why. . . . Okay. I admit it. I am a stress eater.

Say it with me: “Hi, L. Marie,” as if we were in a 12-step group. And step 1 is admitting one’s powerlessness to overcome the problem. But that’s after admitting one has a problem in the first place. But the issue became obvious as I thought about my tricky scene and an impending curriculum deadline, plus the fact that this project doesn’t quite cover all the bills. My head began to pound and my thoughts turned to food.

At other times, my thoughts have turned to videogames like Tetris Blitz or Plants vs. Zombies—anything to take my mind off the issues still very much in existence.


In college and my young adult years, drinking and hanging out with the wrong men were the crutches I sometimes relied upon when stressed. Ha! Like those worked. As Eddie Murphy, who played Buckwheat on Saturday Night Live, once sang, I was “wookin’ pa nub [and stress relief] in all da wrong places.” (If that reference totally confuses you, go here.)

Speaking of 12-step groups, here are the first four steps ala Wikipedia:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (or food or videogames or our own failures)—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Wondering why I only included four? The hard work of number 4 is my usual stopping place. If I take a “fearless moral inventory,” I realize that fear of inadequacy is something I’ve battled for years. So when I don’t know what to do rears its ugly head, I go for what I know to do.


And the problem of not knowing what to do is still there, still waiting to be dealt with.

I have to again mention The Lego Movie, though my last two posts have done so. (There is so much truth in this movie.) I can’t help thinking of something Emmet Brickowoski, the main character, says at a crucial moment: “I don’t know what I’m doing.” But he does what needs to be done, despite the fact that he feels inadequate.


Emmet Brickowoski

And that’s what I’m trying to do: what needs to be done. I feel better just admitting that I often feel inadequate. Yet, I still have to get things done. This brings to mind another scene, one from The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf wasn’t sure which direction to take in the mines of Moria (scene 34 here). He sat for a bit, mulling over the problem, until the solution came to him.


Gandalf in Moria

I need to give myself permission to sit and mull over matters, instead of immediately turning to substitutes like food or videogames. And taking inventory is part of the mulling process.

Thanks for listening! Maybe I can do the same for you someday.

Chocolate from fanpop.com. Tetris Blitz image from lojadogame.com.br. Emmet from aceshowbiz.com. Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf from wallpapermay.com.

29 thoughts on “When You Don’t Know What to Do, Eat?

  1. Sitting and mulling–what great advice. It’s something I’m working on too. So happy to know we’re on the same path. My day is better just knowing that.

  2. I think I admit to having no clue what I’m doing every day. I do the stress and boredom eating too. It gets really bad if I have to wait for something that can happen any minute.

  3. When I can’t seem to make myself sit and mull, I go for a walk and mull. My brain fires better when I’m moving. I’ll often have epiphanies that require dragging out the phone for immediate notes, and I usually come back feeling more positive than I did when I started. Might not work for you, but I know a lot of writers use this technique. Stephen King, for one.

    • I do like a good walk, Andra. And you know I enjoy hearing about your rambles and seeing your pictures. 🙂 Another friend of mine also uses her phone on her walks to make notes. I need to do that. 🙂

  4. Where would the fun be if we always knew what we were doing? 🙂

    Seriously though, giving yourself permission to remain idle and think is probably one of the hardest thing for a creative person to do. I’m glad you’ve recognized that it’s what often needs doing though. And instead of using the cookies as a substitute, you can use them as a reward. Cookies make delicious rewards!

    And thank you for introducing me to yet another game…I just downloaded Tetris Blitz onto my phone. 🙂

    • I have that on my phone. 🙂 The only thing annoying about it is the constant insistence on involving Facebook. I keep skipping that option. But it is addictive, especially when you’re rewarded with coins. 🙂

  5. I’m afraid I may not be able to help you with your…addiction. See, I would be the bad influence encouraging to have two or three more pieces of cake and to wash them down with some Sangria! I would be your ENABLER! Before you know it, we would both be useless blobs sitting in your kitchen ordering pizza after the cake was gone. 🙂

  6. Yes, that sounds like a great approach to me — really getting familiar with the urge to eat and what it feels like. I do that when it comes to my urge to get up and run screaming away from the piano while I am working on a song, and it has surely increased my equanimity.

  7. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

    ― Rainer Maria Rilke

    In other words, when you’re ready, you’ll get it. 🙂

    • Love that quote, and I appreciate your bringing it up. Someone mentioned to me the need to love the questions. That’s such a huge thing and one I’ve been really trying to do. We never get to the point where we’ve totally “arrived,” do we? There are always questions that will arise. And yes, sometimes answers are long in coming.

      • No, we don’t. We may ‘arrive’ at some level platform, but it’s only another departure point. The problem is developing patience and enjoying the ride. It’s easier said than done. We all know it’s a journey not a destination, but by jove, how we create lots of little destinations for ourselves along the way! It’s almost like we’re creating distractions to stop us thinking about the massive journey we’re all on. Birth, growth, ageing and death. And I think it’s the last one that we don’t want to look at, so we keep ourselves busy with little plans and task, that then vex us when they remain uncompleted.
        Although Rilke says that ‘patience is everything’ I’m starting to feel that ‘appreciation is everything’.
        Chocolate helps, but appreciation makes life sweeter.

  8. Ooo… chocolate. *dreamy smile* Yup. Chocolate is a good friend of mine. Happily, I have a food allergy that only allows me to eat the really high quality, hence expensive, dark varieties. (It’s not a cop-out. I really can only eat certain brands.) It probably saves me tons of weight since I can’t afford to eat it every time I’m stressed.

    I get stuck on not being perfect, which I think is closely akin to fear of failure. In fact, it’s probably the spawn of fear of failure and self-criticism. There’s a line from The Importance of Being Earnest that I try to keep in my head (and should probably post on every wall in my house). One foux-Earnest says to his fiance, “You’re perfect.” She replies, “Oh, I certainly hope I’m not that. If I were perfect, it would mean I should have nothing to improve. I want to be always improving.” Or something pretty close to that. 🙂

    • Love that quote, ReGi! I know what you mean about the fear of not being perfect.
      Now I want some high quality chocolate. Or, low quality. Sad to say, I have even eaten chocolate I dropped on the floor. *hangs head*

  9. I don’t have the eye-hand coordination to succeed at videogames. But there’s always the Internet and an endless supply of YouTube music videos. Today’s obsessions–the Luis Suárez biting incident and the German goth electronic group Blutangel. Kind of connected too, if you watch the video.

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