On Monday, July 29th, I intended to write about a momentous milestone in my life. But I wasn’t sure what to say that I haven’t said already before.
Finally, at the end of the day, feeling the need to mark the date, I went with, in the manner of all aspiring and procrastinating writers today, a Tweet: “As of today I’ve been gluten-free for 6 months. That calls for cake.”
If you’re into brevity, you might want to stop there. (But if that’s the case, I’m not sure why you put up with my blog in general.)
In response to my proclamation, probably picking up on the mention of cake, one Twitter buddy asked me if I ever cheat. We’ll come back to that one.
Another response came from Wendy of Palm Trees and Gluten Free, who wrote to congratulate me. She said, “It’s amazing how that date becomes as important as a birthday!”
I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s true. As on a birthday, I had that uneasy sense that I should feel different but don’t. Despite the importance we give to the occasion, a birthday usually doesn’t, in itself, represent a step forward. Sure, a few do grant you special privileges, like your 21st or 18th or 13th (if your parents truly didn’t allow PG-13 movies before then, that is). But by now, the majority of that kind of birthday is already behind me.
Instead, I’ve entered into that vast, undifferentiated stretch of road called adulthood, where birthdays are just markers of another year’s worth of life experience, thought of so rarely that I often can’t remember how old I am right away when asked. A birthday just means another year has passed. Not all at once, but second by second by second until 31,556,926 have fled.
Similarly, although six months’ worth of gluten freedom is a milestone of sorts, there was no reason to think that on the morning of July 29th I would wake up a changed person. Any change between the 28th and the 29th would have been so incremental as to be unremarkable. What’s important is the accumulation of improvements (however piddling) and experience over the course of those six months. Just like a birthday, this day meant no more than that I had made it a certain unknown percentage of the way through my gluten-free life.
As with a birthday, the amount of time the 29th marked seems simultaneously much shorter and much longer than it had really been. Shorter because, as has been observed again and again by writers more eloquent than I, it is in the nature of time to appear shorter when viewed backward than forward.
Longer because January 29th, the day of my official celiac diagnosis, wasn’t the first time I ditched wheat, barley, and rye. Almost three years before, I’d experimented with a diet low in pretty much everything thought to be tough on the gut (that’d be FODMAPs, and includes wheat, rye, and barley); I’d dabbled in “low-gluten” eating (which is basically a joke); and I’d done a whole-hog six-week gluten-free diet trial half a year before. Although it’s been six months of celiac-induced GFdom, gluten has been on my mind for longer.
Also because it’s been an intense six months. “I’m not sick because I’m stressed; I’m stressed because I’m sick”—how many times have I made that response? I still think it’s true, but it turns out not to be true that a diagnosis and prescription could take my stress away (hum that to the tune of the Berlin song). The certainty has eased some worries but added others: that the healing isn’t moving fast or far enough, that X, Y, or Z might have gluten in it, that I’m driving everyone crazy by talking about it all the time.
In honor of this date, I originally thought I might reveal all of my celiac symptoms on this blog (which you may or may not have noticed I’ve been quiet about, even as I bemoan our collective inability to talk about some of them). This wasn’t because you likely have any desire to know them but because I felt it would be terribly satisfying to cross off all those that had gone away.
But, after the sixth month, the truth is that few of what I believe to be celiac symptoms have actually resolved themselves. The gastro stuff is getting better, a little, but I still don’t know if the rest even are celiac symptoms. All I’ve gotten so far are “maybe”s and “we’ll see”s. To list what remains would be to jinx it.
So instead, dear readers, on this belated half-anniversary of my gluten-free rebirth, I leave you with only a promise: that six months, or twelve, or eighteen, or however many it takes from now, I will have crossed off more of that list. That I will not again succumb to the kind of complacency about my own well being that led to three years without a diagnosis. That I will beat this thing.
And—to answer my friend on Twitter—that no matter how long it takes, and how long it seems to take, under no circumstances and for no reason will I ever “cheat.”
Not even for cake.