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The Bluepenciler

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You are what you eat.

Ever heard that expression?  If it’s true, then I’m a Hostess Twinkie, or a Ding Dong, or a Ho Ho, or some other kind of cupcake; except I don’t buy those because at $1.09 or more each they are much too expensive. Instead I’ll fork over a quarter for a Little Debbie cake whenever I’m in the mood for something with absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever, which is pretty often.

If I could somehow control my eating habits I could probably get rid of the little paunch wrapped around my mid-section that just won’t go away regardless of how many miles I ride my mountain bike. More fruit, lots of vegetables, less sugar, and for crying out loud, cut down on the saturated fats!

I suppose if you are what you eat, you must also be what you drink. I’m sure it goes without saying that caffeine, hops - and yes, sugar - are not the best ingredients to be pouring into my body. More milk, lots of juice, less coffee, fewer Kokanee. And for crying out loud, cut down on the gut-wrenching sodas!

Eating and drinking, though, are habits that are hard to break. Of course, they aren’t just habits; they are necessary to the continuance of Life. But something dawned on me the other night about my eating and drinking habits - it’s not what I eat and drink that enables me to continue living anymore than where and with whom I eat and drink.

I like being in the company of friends and family and almost without fail our get-togethers involve food and beverages, not to mention conversation and laughter, hugs and handshakes, stories, gossip and a sense of belonging. I grew up with that sense of belonging, surrounded by a loving family. Friends were easy to come by and without an inkling of its importance, my place in Life as a child was secure and who I was was as certain as the sun coming up and the sun going down. My parents made sure of that, wrapping us in a cocoon of love that embraces me and my siblings to this day.

Early in life my identity was rooted in the nurturing of my father. I grew and flourished in the fertile soil of his devotion to his family and even though he’s been dead more than ten years, I still feel his influence. One of my first, feeble efforts at poetry produced these lines which he never got to read.

I am a son

For I was born of flesh and blood

And as a child I laughed and cried

And always had a place to hide

When Life became a flood

Of fears and hurts and clouded skies

In the shadow of my father’s eyes.

The times he spent

In teaching me of right and wrong

And helping me to grow each day

I had the joy of hearing him say

This is where you belong

Secure among your family ties

In the shadow of your father’s eyes.

Thus I grew

And became a man and left my home

But always, ever mindful of

My father’s care, my father’s love

My own flesh and bone

I am his son until I die

Look close, I’ve got my father’s eyes.

I am who I am because of my upbringing, because of genetics, because of the interaction of others all the days of my life. My identity is shaped and defined by the people with whom I surround myself. I am not what I eat. I am not what I drink. 

Who am I? I am the quietness of friends mesmerized by a campfire. I am the brunt of jokes when I do silly things. 

I am the smile on my mother’s face and I am warmth when embraced by my sister’s hug. I am the steadfast loyalty in my brothers’ voices. 

I am anger when I’ve wronged someone. I am sadness when done wrong by. I am joy when wrongs are made right.

I am selfish and full of pride. I am trying to learn not to be so selfish nor so proud. But I am proud of others and I am proud of you. And I’d like you to be proud of me.

I am a lie and I am truth, and I am not sure I always know the difference.

I am one lonely person on a big planet surrounded by what I think are a lot of other lonely people.

I am a story told to make you laugh, to make you cry. I am laughter. I am tears.

I am simply me, but without you my identity is incomplete.

I’m probably addicted to a few of the things I eat and drink, but more than that I am addicted to the companionship that sustains the continuance of my life. I am you. You are me. Without each other we’re nothing more than what we eat and drink.

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Author info

Dennis Nicholls Dennis Nicholls was the founder, publisher, janitor and paperboy of the River Journal from 1993 to 2001. He passed away in 2009.

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