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MY GLUTEN-FREE MARATHON IN 3 ACTS

It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?

— Henry David Thoreau

First Saturday, 2:00 p.m.

I am Ray Milland’s character in The Lost Weekend, but it is work and not a bottle I’ve climbed into. I’m not sure which is worse, yet there is no doubt which consumes the moral high ground in our workaholic nation. This offends the French in me.

It is the first of three consecutive Saturdays I’m booked to hand out samples of the gluten-free bread produced by the company I founded and help manage. Standing for four hours behind a demo table dispensing bread cubes is doing a number on my back and feet, despite my orthopedic shoes. The surface showcasing our product is four feet high, an occupational hazard.  By the end of the shift at the local Hy-Vee I limp out like Grandpa Amos from The Real McCoys. I had plans to do some grocery shopping for the next sampling siege (a monster—the Salt Lake City Gluten-Free Expo) but I don’t have what it takes. The store is the size of two football stadiums with no comprehensive product directory, just end-of-aisle marquees.  In my present state, the specter of hunting for baking supplies looms like The Amazing Race.

I’m feeling obsessive-compulsive about this whole thing. There’s no downtime between now and next Saturday when 7,000 people will traffic by my booth in Salt Lake. How is it mathematically possible to give each tongue and corresponding digestive tract a taste of my product, much less sell them baking mixes via a smartphone credit card processor I haven’t even practiced with–all in an eight-hour span?  

I’m having weird dreams. In the last one I walked off leaving my infant daughter (now 23) in the health food section.

I’m figuring 90 loaves total—my 60 (baked, cooled, frozen and shipped by Wednesday) plus the 30 my Mormon Special Forces Unit will bake on the eve of the event.

I am going through two of the five stages of grief—today, disbelief and bargaining. I should hit anger about two hours into the expo surrounded by cheerful Mormons.

I am afraid that this time I have sliced off more than I can chew. The week is young, and already it has sensitized me to the importance of self-care behaviors acquired so late in life, like weekends off with space to think about something or nothing at all, yoga and sleep—oh, and time to write and read.  I find one thing odd about that list:  it is void of anyone but myself (note: cancel e-Harmony before it automatically re-ups).

I flash to Poor Judd in the musical Oklahoma.  I swear, I do have friends and engage with them regularly, making plans for future bonding time, like the chili and wine fest in Denver (my colon spasms at the thought of this pairing) on the heels of the Salt Lake event (am I kidding myself thinking I will live to see another flight)?

It seems somewhat new and radical, given my serial relationships with men from the time I was 15, that there is no romantic coupling or safari on my list of must-haves.

This doesn’t make me feel worried, overjoyed or sad, but it does make me mildly curious.  It crosses my mind (just as my head sinks into the pillow) that I could meet a tall, dark and handsome Celiac in the throng of the 7,000 interfaces at next week’s expo, but that would be extreme speed dating.

I am at a place in my life I could have benefited from much earlier:

I love, need and seek serenity like I used to love, need, seek the companionship of a man.

Perhaps this is because if I don’t get the former I won’t be in any shape to find the latter.  Or not.  My head needs space to dream, observe, make meaning and manufacture something of value—wealth that comes in spiritual currency. Now, with this logistical labyrinth I have stepped into, my wild monkey mind generates all sorts of worry.

Will I make enough bread—literally and financially?  Will it be palatable once it freezes, thaws, is cut into small portion-cup cubes and set out for the masses?  How will those cups get filled fast enough?  Even with two other helpers flanking me, how will I have the time or presence of mind to answer questions?

Will my body hold up with all this perpetual motion; bending over, lifting up and maneuvering on and off planes with luggage?  Will this creeping apathy become radical? Will I be able to find my game face in time? Can I squeeze in a yoga class between now and then?

My father is about to turn 88. He has end-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Is it perspective, fatigue, or something else that has me confused about my priorities? Maybe I’m not the least bit confused.

The Next Saturday, 7:00 p.m., Salt Lake City

The expo is over—a harried success.  I get outside to look at the mountains just as the sunset fades to black. Until now I haven’t had time to remember that this is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Over the horizon of majestic juts, there is an umbrella of lavender clouds trimmed with a halo of golden light. Standing in the parking lot at Hyatt House, I want to shoot out the flood light.  I can hear a cricket in the bushes, a sole messenger of nature dominated by the din of passing traffic on the highway.

My feet ache and so does my heart.  My cup is empty.  But I did something wise in the throes of all that planning:  Denver. My daughter, friends, the chili fest. Soon I will go from feeling like a bad girl in the sea of gluten-free righteousness, to not bad enough.

Third Saturday:  Different Demo, Another Grocery Store

I am a gluten-free Dagwood sandwich, piled high with extroversion and work—a glutton for punishment.

But I love what I’m doing. I’m playful with the people who walk up to my table because I’ve managed to have some fun, rest and take a yoga class since The Monster in Salt Lake City.

My father taught me to be courteous to others (pay attention, smile, step aside and give them a wide berth). My mother taught me to be courteous to myself (give yourself a wide berth, get some rest and take a walk).

Those lessons have served me well.  But looking back on the past three weeks I realize there is something terribly wrong when you…

  • Are talking on your cell phone while getting a lip wax
  • Resort to getting your hair cut at the airport
  • Are in such a rush you forget to bring your hormone replacement and hairspray, and two days later you and your hair start to act out
  • Wear your orthopedic running shoes and discover they’re a size too small
  • See your reflection in the blackened screen of your laptop as you turn it on and frantically divert your gaze until the screen lights up
  • Ride in an elevator and have an urge to push the help button
  • Are in a place of extreme natural beauty but don’t have time to explore it, leaving you so frustrated you want to cry–but can’t

I’m taking the rest of this Saturday off to catch up on missed episodes of Scandal, admire my mums, dust, make chicken salad, and sleep.  Yum.

Holly Smith-Berry
Holly Smith-Berry
Like you, I’m a shape shifter, living as many roles as an umbrella has spokes: marketing exec, entrepreneur, parent, daughter, friend, sister, yogi, writer. Most of my career I’ve worked in the Housewares Industry developing new products. Sometimes I’ve taken them all the way from the gleam in an inventor’s eye to America’s kitchens.
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