Food for Thought

Despite all the entertaining perks that come with writing fantasy novels, occasionally having an overactive imagination does get in the way. For example, I spent the whole of Tuesday worrying that I might have been fatally poisoned by a foul-tasting, Wimpy waffle.

After I woefully declared I was going to die, Mr. Omar also took a bite. He agreed it tasted awful but shrugged it off as harmless, offering me a sip of strawberry milkshake before sending it back and continuing as usual. I, of course, persisted with thoughts about what could possibly have made the waffle taste so foul. Had something accidentally been mixed in? Was I the innocent victim of a spiteful, disgruntled employee? Had the batter fermented into an edible or posionous form of alcohol? If it had been something poisonous, would the effect be immediate or would it lead to later complications, possibly shaving a day or two off the end of my life when I’m old and wrinkly? Had Mr. Omar been romantically brave by also eating the waffle, or was he just really confident that I was (as usual) overreacting?

As this event occurred on Tuesday and I am writing on Thursday, it goes without saying who won the argument. Thankfully I survived without so much as a stomachache, though it did induce a lot of deep, philsophical questions about the nature of caring, as near-death experiences often do.

Speaking of which, I have yet to see any troublesome incident visibly affect Mr. Omar in the decade we’ve been together, whereas I am almost always affected. Given this personality difference, his “toughen up, buttercup” attitude toward everything makes it difficult for me to trust that he’s accurately assessed the situation at hand. After all, a lot of emergencies require immediate attention to avoid disaster, and perceived apathy in the face of genuine struggle looks at best cold, often cruel.

Still, “over” caring can be equally damaging. Unneccessary stress in the recent waffle situation hurt my body more than the bad bite, and things like feeding an animal that should be foraging, for example, can leave it fat, bored and ultimately unhappy, without the necessary skills it needs to survive.

As the night went on without incident, I did start to wonder why I don’t have more confidence in my body to get through situations. If someone had shown similar doubt in my mental abilities I would have been offended, irrespective of the amount of suffering that may be required to achieve the task at hand. Regardless of what it takes, I will always think that I’d somehow get it done.

Caring the right amount though, is such a scary call to make. I once read a quote in Gaudium et Spes that says, “Feed the man dying of hunger, for if you have not fed him, you have killed him.” Metaphorically speaking, I really cannot bear the thought of finding out later that a person starved to death while I thought I was encouraging them with “tough love.” How to love confidently while also caring appropriately, that is the question of a lifetime.

Then again, sometimes one’s patience just runs out and we really do just not care. Growing up, I never liked learning about social justice; the problems always seemed too big, complicated and depressing to do anything about, and people, I’d decided, are just difficult. Now I find a lot of hope in the “social” aspect, at least. Everyone is supposed to care. If I’m having a bad day and just can’t give a darn, there should be other people around to help. If a cry goes unanswered, it’s a mark on society as a whole. One can only do what one can do.

Still, I must try my best. While searching for an appropriate image for this post (it’s time to move on from the waffle), I came across photos from a visit to an alpaca farm around the same time last year. The pictures have sat on my desktop since then as I had nothing to say on the subject. Now, they’ve found their story, and it is this: aplacas are tough.

Though they may look like soft and cuddly providers of quality knitwear, alpacas are not as innocent as they look. When I started feeding them, these cutesy fluff-mops turned really aggressive and pushy; if I remember correctly, one even gnawed at the eye of another just to get a shot at the bucket.

Just like the penguins with whom I once worked, like most animals alpacas are a lot tougher than they look. When you care, you see the toughness. Maybe it draws it out, I don’t know. Often it gives you something in return, like fuzzy ponchos and a renewed sense of hope in the world.

It is usually enough.