It took me about thirty seconds of determined shoving to get my car into reverse, and then into first, yesterday morning.  Rather than risk getting stuck at work with a failed clutch, I parked it and got a ride from generous friend & co-worker Brenna.  So today is the day I get to figure all that out, whether I need a new clutch, whether I can get a car loan for a new car, where is the new car for me, how do you go about buying a car, etc.  Trolling craigslist for cars is strange—people can’t spell or use punctuation properly, or they say things like “no title, must sell immediately”—but looking at cars in lots is scary in its own right.  Used car salespeople aren’t, surely, trying to sell me a lemon … but they are trying to make me spend an extra thousand bucks, right?  Or give me a bad interest rate?  In the grand scheme of things, is getting a good car for a bad deal really that bad of a deal?  They just seem kind of menacing.  Anyway, I’m not at work this morning.  So yay, I get to blog.

Well.  Here we are, about eight months after Marshall’s diagnosis of Meniere’s disease.  We tended to “hole up” already, especially when I was in grad school and we were both so busy, but Meniere’s is like our permanent house-guest, now.  Figuring out how to live with these symptoms and anxieties takes a lot of energy, and we find ourselves at the end of the summer holed up again.  Part of that is food: we can’t really eat what other people eat, now, since American restaurants don’t make low-sodium entrees, and neither do Americans in general. In general, it seems, we drink salt-water, eat pillars of salt, smear salt lotions in our noses and pores, and publish love songs to salt in all spheres of life, public, private, etc.  Americans eat a lot of salt.

So—we don’t really go to restaurants—except for one that Marshall knows can make a no-salt grilled salmon filet—and other people just don’t know how to cook for us, so the Great Gathering Locus of the human community, which is food, can’t gather us anymore.  Or at least not in the same way.  When we’ve wanted to go to potlucks, Marshall’s had to eat at home, and just sit around while everybody else eats, which is lame.  And if we want to have dinner with friends, we have to cook, and hope that they won’t find what we make too bland.  This diet change—while it can be lovely in several ways, which I will detail in the next paragraph—is probably the single most isolating thing in our lives right now.

BUT OF COURSE!  This doesn’t mean we’re isolated from friends and family.  Since Marshall’s dad has Meniere’s, too, his parents know how to cook for us, and have given us numerous life-saving recipes, like no-sodium soy sauce (so we don’t have to completely give up Thai food or sushi), low-sodium lasagna, low-sodium spaghetti sauce, and no-sodium barbecue sauce.  They also turned us on to the best salt substitute around.  Their awesome helpfulness & moral support is the main reason we shelved the moving-to-Seattle-for-a-year plan.  And were happy to do so.  My parents have also quickly & eagerly adapted food situations for us, and my mom has accepted our diet change (and the extra work she has to do when cooking for us at family gatherings) with unfazed generosity.  She pretty much exemplifies hospitality, I think.  Even our siblings have started to make forays into no-salt territory for us.  None of these acts of love goes unnoticed by me …

So we do still get to eat with people.  And, thanks to the recipes from Marshall’s parents, recipes I found desperately searching the internet, and recipes I adapted myself from old-favorites, we are gathering together—the two of us—in ways we didn’t quite do, before.  Since we don’t go out to eat much anymore, we cook everyday.  And, despite early-marriage kitchen spats, we can totally (for the most part) cook together.  Like, both of us in the kitchen together.  For two people with definite ideas on how things should be chopped / kneaded / sautéed / sliced / greased / rolled / ad infinitum, we actually have figured out how to divide tasks and not get in each other’s hair.  Although Marshall can still be annoying as hell.  Haha.

We’ve begun to make really beautiful food, and have become so much more comfortable in the kitchen.  We’re getting more efficient, faster, and so much healthier.  It’s awesome to have frozen pizza with your love, in a collegy kind of way, an I-want-to-be-a-kid-again kind of way, but we’re growing up.  The body has spoken: I can’t handle frozen pizzas anymore.  So we change our lives.  And while this change is isolating, necessity—still—is the mother of invention.  We’re inventing new ways to eat well and be with friends and family.

So I will now list the things that we can make (or buy) no- or low-sodium that have brought the most rejoicing to our household: pad thai, rosemary rolls, pesto, frittatas, lemon bars, roasted broccoli & green beans & root vegetables, wild rice pilaf, roast chicken, hamburgers, hamburger buns, corn and black bean salad, sweet potato fries, winter squash soup,  blood orange sorbet, and kombucha.  To name a few.  We’ve expanded our repertoire so much that I was thinking about starting one of those food blogs for people with sodium-restricted diets.  Or something.

So far, there’s no way to save biscuits, or cornbread, or bacon, or sausage.  To name a few.  No more sriracha, no more coffee.  (Hot things and caffeine are out.)  But whatever.   Seriously.  Whatever.  When you have to change your life, when you simply must, or you will die (or, in Marshall’s case, potentially lose hearing, balance, independence), then you do.  I’m done looking back.  I’m looking forward.  This is hard for Marshall, who is still unsure how to process what’s happening to him.  We’re still not really sure what’s happening to him—seems to change every week.  But we’re still living.  Hunkering down, in a holding pattern, surviving.

And no matter what you’re surviving—small traumas or massive ones—you have to give yourself time, forgive yourself daily for not having moved very far forward (or for having moved, seemingly, very far backward).  We’re eating.  We’re eating together.  Living in trees, sleeping under a skylight, reading books, watching tv shows, keeping alive for whenever the next thing appears on the horizon.  Patience is everything (Rilke).