Do you lose yourself when there's nothing to do?

We are human beings, not human doings.


I can still remember when I first saw this saying plastered to the church powerpoint. Even at 13, I thought, Wow, ain't that the truth. Even at 13, I defined myself by what I could do. What I could accomplish in a day.


At that age, I could do my homework. Go to youth group. Eat healthily. Write in my journal. Exercise. I could get coffee with girlfriends, even when I didn't feel like it.


Thirteen years later, homework has been swapped out with work, and youth group is now AA. The rest remains largely the same. I am still a human doing.


Most human doings are shit out of luck these days. The workaholic has been forced to "zoom" into meetings where she used to hold the floor. The man who goes abroad to "find himself" must find himself at home. The spouses who quite artfully avoided each other are now on the same WiFi connection. We're all forced to confront who we are as beings, not doings.

Two weeks ago, my friend texted me: "Are you willing to write about eating during covid? Specifically how to maintain recovery/good habits (like intuitive eating) during a time of real and/or perceived food scarcity?"


At the time, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. My recovery from disordered eating had not been affected by the pandemic. Maybe I’m just that recovered, I thought.

The next day, my gym closed. The owners, human doings themselves, were pissed. They told us so in an angry email to all their patrons. Exercise is the best way to boost your immunity. Had no one told our governor?


When it first happened, I was completely unaware. I sallied up to the front door as usual, ready to do. Closed until April 1st, they said.


In that moment, I became a human being.

About a month ago, I began to suspect that my recovery from disordered eating wasn't all that. Would I really be this accepting of weight gain if I didn't suspect that most of it was muscle?


Around that time, my gym offered me a free ride on the InBody, a scale that provides way more data than the average human doing can handle. Segmental lean analysis. (Whether your left arm weighs more than your right arm.) Basal metabolic rate. (How many calories you burn doing nothing.) Visceral fat level. (I have no idea, but it sounds scary.)

The metric that really terrified me? Skeletal muscle mass. (Pounds of muscle.) I'd had the same measurement taken seven months ago, just before I began recovery. When I stepped on the scale this time, I was faced with an uncomfortable truth: Despite my weight gain in recovery, my skeletal muscle mass is almost unchanged. I'd gained a lot more fat than muscle.


My first thought: How is that possible? I can lift heavier weights!” My second thought: Have I just imagined that I look good?


That was heartbreaking -- but at least my gym was still open. Two weeks later, it closed. Even imagined improvements were off-limits.


Now, I know what you’re thinking: what about at home-workouts? (Ok, maybe most of you weren't thinking that, but a few of you definitely were.) These days, advertisements for home workouts are spreading faster than the virus itself.


Part of me was ready to buy in. The only problem was, so was everyone else. Dumbbells and kettlebells are on backorder at every major retailer.


Sure, I can install my home pull-up bar. (And I have.) Sure, I can squat with a bag of cat litter over my head. (I've done that, too.) But fundamentally, I can do a lot less. And I must be a lot more.

Even if you don't struggle with disordered eating or body control, I'm willing to bet that many of the things that previously gave you a sense of comfort or purpose are now off-limits.


I know someone who quit smoking right before the world became something to smoke at. I know someone who got into the most prestigious med school in the country, only to be forced online. I know performers who can't perform, teachers who can't teach, travelers stuck at home.


I think most everyone is grappling with who they are minus what they can do.

I think most everyone is grappling with who they are minus what they can do.

Is God punishing us for our fragile identities? For how we source our sense of self?


Well, no. My God doesn't work like that. I never even read the Old Testament, let alone permitted it to shape my sense of justice. God has already forgiven us our preoccupation with weight, work, money, prestige, perfection. God is not wiping the earth clean. This isn't a flood.


And yet: isn't it interesting?

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