• Rachel

The Grapes of Wrath

I stopped counting and writing down how many grapes I could have in a single sitting a while ago. I have become content with not having to control the exact number, size and colour of my allotment. I thought I’d made peace with the idea of “a handful” (when it comes to grapes, anyway. Nuts, crisps, even raisins, are a different matter entirely).

But, this morning, the woman upstairs insists I had too many grapes. I don’t specifically know how many I had, because I had simply grabbed a handful from the fridge to have with my breakfast…just like a normal person who happened to like grapes would probably do. I don’t know how big each grape was. I do know that they were all green, but only because it was an entirely green bunch and I am not colour blind.

It doesn’t matter, though. It was too many. However many it was, the woman upstairs has decided it was too many, and there was no changing her mind. It was one of those situations in which I simply wasn't going to get a word in edgeways. Like someone elderly slowly losing her mind to dementia, she can be more reasonable and lucid some days, or hours, than others. She can be more cruel some days than others.

No, we're not going back to this. I've had enough of counting grapes. We've moved past this. I still spend enough of my time counting raisins, Maltesers, grams of granola, ravioli parcels, cashews, potatoes, Polo mints, the number of seeds in my wholegrain bread...sigh.

“I’m gettin’ tired way past where sleep rests me.”

Like the one taken by the Joads in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, this journey, and indeed this destination, is far from straightforward. There is loss, setback, disappointment, and fear along the way. The destination is hazy, and somewhat ethereal. There are too many elbows in this neoliberal society vying for the top spot without a care for who they injure in the process. There are too many elbows in the lower levels of the capitalist food chain for all to have a chance of survival. In moments of weakness, it often doesn't feel worthwhile. Like the Joads, I'm beginning to wonder whether the California of life beyond anorexia really is the paradise that has been promised.

But, like the Joad family, there is nothing left for me in the dusty plains of anorexia's Oklahoma. The woman upstairs cannot offer me any more hope of prospering. She's burned my crops and left me bankrupt. Though somehow deciding to leave her fills me with a crooked sense of nostalgia like leaving one's hometown, there is no future with her.

“I’m scared of stuff so nice. I ain’t got faith. I’m scared somepin ain’t so nice about it.”

Unlike the lives of American Mid-western migrant farm workers in 1930s, my destination is worth sticking on this journey for. The American dream of a life beyond anorexia is not a fantasy, filled in reality with yet more oppression and ridicule. I know, because I've walked this road before. The woman upstairs tries to convince me to stay put, whispering things she's heard about life beyond my current familiar in attempt to make me tremble. But I've lived in recovery California, and I yearn to return to its oasis.

So, though we may often be one step forwards and one step back...three steps forwards and two steps back...a lunge forwards, and then a trip up with my face in the dirt...this journey continues on, for, to plagiarise C.S. Lewis yet again, there really are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.


“You got to think about that day, an' then the nex' day. Jus' take ever' day.”

― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

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