On milkshakes. And bitterness.

Someone wrote me a letter recently.
He questioned the happiness I express here.

Why must everything you write be happy? 
He asked me.
Why must you focus on the positive? 
Why don’t you explore the pain, the hate, the bitterness that touches you too?
Because those things all relate to food too. 
Lemons are sour. Onions make you cry. 
It was out of the blue
I didn’t expect it. 

And it hurt me. 
Scared me. 
Seared my soul a little bit. 
There are two sides of anxiety for me
when I am upset I eat
when I am really upset I cannot eat. 
Food does not taste. 
I couldn’t eat that day. 
When I cannot eat 
food is like swallowing
sawdust or marbles 

that is what food tastes like.
And for someone who loves to eat 
as much as I do
this is unendurable.
But this person had a point
you cannot be happyhappyjoyjoy all the time,

you have to let it out. 
You cannot have a high without a low. 
You have to feel the pain. 
Let the pain show in your words 
when pain happens
This person was telling me to be honest
about all of it: 
The joy and the sorrow
to eat it all up. 
And share it. 
I hurt sometimes. 
I have had some awful days recently.
If my soul had bones
my bones would have been aching like crazy.
I struggle with self doubt. 
I get so tired sometimes,
all these words and people and places
and repetitive classes and boring lectures
and things I do not care about
coming at me all day every day. 
And all the time, a little voice inside me says
you must care you must care you must care
but I can’t make myself. 

And this year I think my heart ached a little, for the first time,
and that was interesting and achey.
And I ate at the most
miserable steakhouse in the world the other day 
and the floor was covered in peanut shells and I was disgusted.
And I am ready for summer.
I want to stick my head out of a sunroof in a car going fast 
and I want to scream and I want to go skinny dipping and I want to 
write a song that is great not good and I want to be free and I want to be impossible
and I want to do good and I want to do bad and I want to be together and alone. 

There you are. 
There is some of me that is not all light and joy. 
There is a taste of my bitterness, a few of my more minor grievances against the world, 
like those tiny samples they give you at the grocery store in little paper cups. 

But let me tell you something.
When your stomach is coiling in knots
of bitterness or anxiety or sadness or worry or fear and love or wonder or bliss or joy or delight or happiness or boredom 
or none of those things
there is one thing you can always do:

The sweetness rolls around your tastebuds
and freezes them
and the cream coats your belly
and you will feel better. 

I speak from experience.


My Favorite Places for Milkshakes in Austin, TX


Hopdoddy Burger Bar 1400 S Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78704

Hut's Hamburgers 807 W 6th St., Austin, TX 78703
Hill-Bert's Burgers 7211 Burnet Rd., Austin, TX 78757

P. Terry's 404 S Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78704