September 2, 2023 by Molly Patrick

When you’re worse than zero

Last Sunday, I stood in my kitchen, ready to assemble this epically delicious fan-favorite Butternut Squash Lasagna. The cauliflower and chickpeas were in the oven for this bowl, and I had just whipped together this five-star-rated Thai Peanut Sauce. I also had some organic collard greens soaking in the sink and shredded coconut toasting on the stove.

In the midst of it all, I stopped.

I have been going through a really hard time lately. It’s not just the death of my sister. That’s been brutal, and I miss her more than I knew possible. But what I’m currently going through, on top of mourning, is part of the messy, hurtful, residual fuckery of separating from someone. Throw in the magic and delight of falling madly in love, and you’ve got a recipe for feeling ALL the feelings.

When Kirstie was alive, she and I would start our conversations by establishing what number she was that day.

10 would be energetic, on the go, and out of pain.
5.5 would be definite pain, but not enough to stay in bed.
0 would be in bed, in pain, and unable to do anything.

We had a scaling system so she could quickly help her family understand how she was feeling without going into all the details. She was so sick of talking about how she was doing (and, more specifically, how she was not doing well).

There was another rating Kirstie often used toward the end of her life. It was worse than 0. It was shit-point-shit.

It was bottom-of-the-barrel-can’t-be-much-worse-without-actually-being-dead. When she was shit-point-shit, I knew she had either been admitted to the hospital or was on her way there. When it was shit-point-shit, all anyone could do was listen to her cry and rage and sometimes scream into the phone until her pain meds started to kick in. I would tell her I loved her and try my best to be a gentle witness to her pain.

I don't have cancer, and my body is healthy, but my God, I have been an emotional heap of shit-point-shit lately (which is mind twisty because, at the same time, I am joyfully happy to be in love with Carole, who is such an incredible human). The hardest part is that I want so badly to call Kirstie and tell her all about it. Where there used to be my sister, there is now a void. A quiet. An emptiness. A hole. She was here, and now she’s not. It’s so simple and nearly impossible to understand.

Which is why, last Sunday, as I was cooking in my kitchen, I was thoroughly shocked when I realized… I was okay.

Even though my sister died.
Even though there is so much uncertainty in my life right now.
Even though I’ve gone through more boxes of tissue this month than in all my life combined.
Even though there are so many hard things that I can’t share with you.

I am okay.

Last month was probably the hardest month of my life, and I never thought about drinking or smoking. Not once did I forget about eating plant based. And I continued to make adequate sleep a priority.

I stood in my kitchen, between the Thai Peanut Sauce and the collard greens, and I realized that when shit-point-shit hit my fan and came knockin’, I didn’t run. I didn’t hide. I didn’t look away.

I didn’t abandon myself in the darkness.
I was the light, slowly leading myself out.

When you’re in the thick of hard times, you might not feel like taking care of yourself. It’s easy to put healthy eating, good sleep, moving your body, staying hydrated, and the rest of healthy adulting on the back burner. I get that.

But as the saying goes, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. There is a lot we can’t control in this life. Most things, in fact. But we get to decide how much suffering we incur because of those things.

Pain will come a knockin’ regardless of how much kale we eat, how many hours of sleep we get, how often we meditate, how in love we are, or how organic our food is.

But if you don’t abandon yourself.
If you keep making one small healthy choice at a time.
If you open yourself up and fully experience what you’re going through.
If you are tender with yourself.
If you listen to what your body needs.
You will suffer less.

The pain of life is plenty to handle without the addition of suffering.

What one small healthy choice can you make today that will lessen your load? If you can’t think of anything, download our free Beginners Guide to Eating More Plants and start there.

I’m with you, and we’re going to be okay.


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Written by ex-boozer and ex-smoker, Molly Patrick that will help you eat more plants while throwing perfection down the garbage disposal.


Not for those offended by the F word.