I’m always learning new things about myself. Plumbing the depths, as it were.  

I listened to a podcast episode that posited our personalities are constantly changing.  Personality, you know, the thing people get married for, befriend others for, commit to follow.  Turns out, that unshakable sense of “you” is quite shakable.  The podcast narrator assumed people would be horrified and destabilized by the news.  I was fascinated; I leaned all the way in.  I’m weird.

I do wish my newest self discovery was more related to my personality and less related to my physiology.  The discovery is this: though my outsides remain as Anglo as ever, my insides are distinctly African.  

I made this discovery the night before Thanksgiving.

I love Thanksgiving.  Gratitude is an attitude that can always be more developed and it’s a holiday slightly removed from the weighty expectation that can make Christmas so stressful.

Our Thanksgiving plans had already undergone a big change as our original hosts confirmed Tuesday evening that they wouldn’t be providing the meal.  I was energized.  I had no problem heading back to the store Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to purchase the rest of our feast ingredients.  I even talked my sweet, obliging, fifteen year old niece into spending Wednesday afternoon prepping desserts (two pies and a pudding), sweet potato casserole, and homemade pumpkin cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  I’d purchased all that was needed for Apple Cider mimosas and Peppermint White Russians.  I demanded an early feast so that we could have a first round of leftovers the same day.  I. Was. Ready.

I attended Thanksgiving Eve service with a light and anticipatory spirit.  I skipped into the church pie social wanting to enjoy myself but knowing the day for over indulgence had not yet arrived.  So, from the 20 or so pies, I chose small slices from two: one Caramel Apple, one Butterfinger.  I blame the Butterfinger.  

That pie has nothing real in it.  There’s no fruit or natural starches hiding out.  It’s the epitome of processed decadence.  Pre-African Elaine would have reveled in the joy and trans fat.  African Elaine was defeated almost instantaneously.  As soon as we got home, I knew I’d crossed a line into dangerous territory.  I popped Pepto tabs and prayed to sleep it off.  

I was awake every hour on the hour.  I swear I felt every inch of my GI tract.  My stomach made noises I’d not ever heard.  

I woke up to bake cinnamon rolls and make mimosas for my parents to enjoy.  I collapsed back into bed.  I missed Thanksgiving Day service downtown.  Dad braved the grocery store on Thanksgiving day to buy me Alka-Seltzer and gingerade.  Mom spent hours in the kitchen preparing the meal I’d planned.  I fell into a deep, healing sleep sometime around noon.  I vaguely recall the garage door closing around 3pm as my parents transported the finally finished meal to my brother’s house two hours late.  They forgot to eat dessert.  I woke around 6pm and waited for my parents to get home.  I ate stale crackers.  My GI tract slowly recovered.  I tested it with one bite of every Thanksgiving dish.  

I thank God for cautiously consumed leftovers and I vow to respect the changes made to my insides after a year in Africa…at least until this weekend when my college roommate comes to visit.  

You think I can handle MSG-laden Chinese food and drinking like a 21 y/o?