June 2 was National Donut Day. Everyone I know wished me a Happy Donut Day. I’m pretty sure more people wished me a Happy Donut Day than calls or messages I received on Mother’s Day. It wasn’t my day. I hadn’t previously celebrated it or made plans. Yet, friends and family alike messaged me and called me and wished me a Happy Donut Day.
It was all well placed because, you know what? I love donuts. I love them. It’s not simply that I love the fried, glazed, sweet pastry possibly filled with ethereal cream or decadent jelly. I love the box they come in with its’ folded corners, translucent plastic top, scribbles on the side and some franchise label holding the entire thin cardboard enclosure together. It’s the coffee that accompanies. It’s the lady working the retro orange-rust colored counter at 3am selling crullers and long johns. It’s the whole thing. Donuts are an experience.
When I was nineteen I dated a guy who had the metabolism of a giraffe (which I assume to be like this huge metabolism.) We went on a date at a park once, where we sat on a hill and polished off a dozen donuts from the local place down the street. Basically, I was pretty sure we were in love.
Donuts are simple. With them comes this implied sense of community as in “These are cheap and these are easy. These don’t complain and complicate.” They sit on the table in denominations of 12 and they wait, no questions asked, for you to take a few amid conversation.
It’s about perfection really. Donuts. Seems insane I guess. We all have idiosyncrasies and if donuts are mine I’ll reconcile the powdered sugar with myself.
It’s not ever really donuts though. It’s perfectionism.
I think back to my years with the airlines and the things I most loved. While I’d like to list the extensive travel and opportunities as the benefits I miss most, the truly honest answer for me is the perfection. The thrill for me was always the perfection.
Sometimes I miss the first class galley on the Boeing 747, and the service we prepared for international flights. There was a plate for bread. There was a cup for coffee. There was a fork for salad. There was a knife for butter. Each item had a purpose and each purpose had a place, both in time and tangible setting. Because this all happened on a plane, 40,000 feet in the air, every single item had to fit somewhere. It all had to come out, but eventually, it all had to be put away.
I miss the aircraft like I miss my favorite versions of myself. Everything was in order. I miss the fine lines of overhead bins, closed and latched. I miss plain white china adorned simply with a small grey logo, an aircraft or company name. I miss compartments, so many, where everything packed away neat and tidy, a door clasped shut, the weathered manila facade of general acceptance.
As I’ve worked through this pesky breast cancer thing, I’ve come to terms with the concept of perfection, this driving consumption that pushes and pulls. I struggle to define it. Do I refer to it as my battle with breast cancer?
I hardly think of my minimal efforts in this as fighting a battle. My idea of a battle is Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker jousting on the edge of the Deathstar reactor core. A battle is Verdun. A battle is some epic struggle of good versus evil. I didn’t struggle. I simply went to the hospital every day and had high doses of radiation beamed directly to a tumor in my breast. I even got to lay down on a special pillow while I did it. Total diva. No battle here.
Except, maybe there was a little bit of fighting? Maybe it wasn’t quite Luke dangling on the edge of the galactic abyss, but maybe there was a little bit of a scuffle? I know I felt tired. I still feel tired, now, even after treatment has ended. I push myself to continue life as usual, with my children, with home and with work. Still, there have been days when I’ve sat, head in my hands at the quiet kitchen table, when my house is sound asleep. I rub tired eyes and I think for a moment, “maybe I can’t do this.”
So, there’s been tired, and there’s also been this general lack of appetite, this nuisance telling me that I am not yet whole. I don’t want donuts. I love donuts and now I do not want them. Those perfect little circles of inclusive joy sit, packaged in rows of four on the table and I will not eat them, and to me, this is the hurtful thought that tells me I am not perfect. I am not columns of white china stacked away in preparation for turbulence. I am not pastry packed tight into consolatory presence. I am imperfection.
There’s magic in the art of embracing the thoughts in which we question our own strength. It’s human definition at it’s core. We’re not perfect. We get sick. We get tired. We can’t be neatly stored somewhere. We’re here, in all our faults and deficits.
So, maybe it is a battle, but maybe not on any level I ever might have anticipated. I know there will continue to be those inner conversations, the aching product of fatigue and weakness, but there will also be those moments, the ones when I feel a sense of order and completeness, the ones when the coffee cups and plates are set away, the ones when I am powerful and I am whole.
There will also be donuts.