I started Contented Belly in February 2015 after my diagnosis of fructose malabsorption. My goal, and one that I hope I accomplished, was to create a one stop shop where people could learn about various gastrointestinal diseases and gain a better understanding of how food can affect us. It has been a fun journey in which I have learned a lot about food, various diets and lifestyles, processed food, the history and culture of food, and, even with my PhD in Biology, biology.
At the same time, I have also been exploring and learning about many ideas and topics that I have not been sharing on Contented Belly. In September 2016, I jumped off the 9-5 hamster wheel and started the process of figuring out how to live a fulfilling life without ending up with regrets on my death bed. Before the jump, I worked for ten years as a Higher Education Administrator and taught part time at a university. I valued my time there and saw myself staying that course until retirement. But after a couple of experiences I started thinking, “Is this what life is all about and do I want to stay on this path?”.
I have always been one to question why we do things the way we do, much to the chagrin of my religious teachers in high school. Additionally, in high school I loved trying things. I was on the debate team and drama club, volunteered as a candy striper at the local hospital, and started and became the editor of my school newspaper. I embraced life and wanted to experience as much as I could. Then college happened and as the typical biology major thinking I wanted to go to medical school with 8 am classes and labs attached to almost every one, I focused so much on my studies and became swept up in society’s expectations in terms of where meaning and value is found in life. I stayed stuck in that way of thinking through graduate school and as I began my professional career.
However, during those ten years something slowly started seeping out. A yearning to explore and try new things, to live a more centered life that followed my beat. The seeping probably started as I became more settled and confident at work and had time to breath. Being sick and later diagnosed with fructose malabsorption and learning to manage my symptoms through my diet also helped. It forced me to listen to and take care of myself, something I had not been doing for a long time. Since the beginning of college, I had a mentality of just pushing through my challenges and focusing on the next goal. But I would have to say the main jolt to my system that caused everything to come out and made me really consider leaving the secure world of what I knew to enter this whole new unknown world were the deaths of my father-in-law Ron and sister-in-law Diane.
Ron had lung cancer and was not responding to chemotherapy. Over time he was getting worse, so we were not surprised when we got the phone call from my husband’s brother saying that he did not have long to live. We drove down to Pennsylvania to say goodbye and be with the family. We arrived on a Sunday and Ron passed on Thursday. For those five days we watched as he laid on his bed in and out, mostly out, of consciousness. We could see that he was struggling with dying–he was not ready. And then on Thursday, we all sat and watched him as he breathed his last breath. I had never seen anyone die before and it affected me to the core.
This was in May and four months later my husband’s sister was diagnosed with cancer. Soon after we learned that her cancer was incurable. Diane was 50 with two children and many dreams I know she still had not fulfilled. She died a little over a year later, two days before Thanksgiving in a hospital in Center City, Philadelphia. Ironically, the area she loved and dreamed of moving to from the suburbs, but never did.
I did not want to end my life with regrets and grieve over unfulfilled dreams. At the same time, I realized that I had shut a lot of myself off in search of my education and career and that I was not even sure who I was and what I wanted. I needed a change to figure things out. The first change happened in May 2016 when my husband and I moved from Boston to Cape Cod. We were married there in 2003 and fell in love with the area. During our honeymoon we promised that one day we would retire there. But after everything that happened, we didn’t know if we would get to retirement and did not want to wait anymore. The next change occurred on August 31, 2016 which was the last day of my 9-5 life and September 1, 2016 which was the start of my current journey.
During this time, I have been enjoying teaching and advising on a part-time basis, but my main goal is to discover who I am and how can I live my life filled with meaning and purpose. I have been reading, watching, taking classes, walking, being, processing, and experiencing many different ways of thinking, living, and growing. It is these topics that I have not been writing about on Contented Belly, but want to. So, I am expanding the focus of Contented Belly from only discussing gastrointestinal disorders and food to include content on alternative healing, alternative lifestyles, spirituality, meditation, plant-based diets, zero waste lifestyles, climate change, and various other topics that I am discovering and exploring. I am excited to share my journey with you and hope you join me and share your experiences as we find our paths.
If we strip everything we are told we must be in the Wasteland, what is left? When everything we once valued is taken from us, what then do we become?
– Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted