I reached for my phone on the nightstand. Where was I? What was going on? I tried to read the time on my phone, but my eyes weren’t cooperating. Straining, I was able to make out 3:01 am. I coughed. And realized my lungs were being constricted. Panic set in, and I started to sort out the time line. I flashed my phone around the room, I was at my parents’ house. I tried to cough again, panic. Ok… wait just a second. I am at my parents, babies are asleep in here with me, teen son is in the next room… we celebrated my mom’s birthday last night. You made her a cake. You had a slice of cake. Your obituary will now read you died from cake consumption. Now I am both panicked and humiliated.
Like Mama Cass, forever known for dying by choking to death on a sandwich, I will die from eating cake. At this point, I try and swallow and I cannot. As I take shallow breaths I am trying to talk my heart rate down and formulate a plan. The plan needs for me to receive medical attention, pretty quickly, without me having to answer a nurse asking “What seems to be the problem?” with “I ate cake.”
I stumble to the bathroom and flip on the switch. From what I can see through the slits of my swollen eyes, I am covered in hot red hives. I look like a cartoon version of myself, that my three-year-old drew, with a red crayon. Desperate I dig through drawers and cabinets. I find a bottle of Benadryl and pour some in my mouth. First thing, if I live, I owe my children an apology, they were right. Bubble gum flavored Benadryl is beyond disgusting. Second, I can’t swallow. The pink liquid seeps out of my swollen lips and down my pajamas, between my boobs. I hear my rasping, strangled voice say… “I hate you, Jami.”
I am not ready to go wake my dad and ask him to call 911. I take the Benadryl back to the bedroom pour some in my mouth and lay down. The thought process here is some will trickle down my throat and the rest may absorb through my cheeks and no one will ever have to know about this. This process adds a drowning aspect to my anaphylaxis… but sticky and exhausted as I am I keep up the process until I am finally able to swallow. As I lay there, not knowing if I would die, I wondered if they would serve cake at my funeral.
So to date, this will be my most vulnerable post, although admitting I poured apple cider vinegar in my nose and peed my pants, was hard; It is far more difficult to admit I intentionally risked my life. And it is hard to admit I can never, ever have birthday cake again. Ever. Although I have the same reaction to bee stings as I do wheat… I avoid bees. I like cake.
A current book project I am working on invokes this discussion… at what point are we willing to sacrifice what we want for what is best? We make decisions every day that can be life altering. Should I get up and go to the gym? Should I text her back while I am driving or wait until I get home? What punishment is most fitting for this child? Which school should we send them? Which insurance plan would be a better deal? Should I eat cake?
Little decisions can later impact bigger decisions. I covet tribal beach life. No laundry. A strictly Paleo diet, sun, surf, naps, chasing brown babies in the crystal clear tide… I sometimes wish there was less to chose from… then there would be less sacrifice for what would be best. The clutter of a big American life is exhausting. If the floor of my hut is made of dirt, I never have to sweep or mop it. If all that I can choose for dessert is coconut, pineapple, or a kiwi, I won’t die from having birthday cake.
Maybe this is shallow. I am an adult and I wan’t to make good decisions. But when I don’t, what is the cost? I have a precious, wise friend and she has a beautiful & talented daughter. The daughter is one of my favorite characters on this planet, we will call her AC. AC was recently was cast the lead role in the summer’s ballet. Leading up to this she’s been in several other productions, busy with church, school, and practicing relentlessly for the upcoming ballet. My friend grieved for her beautiful daughter as she watched AC limp into practice one evening and she decided she was going to batten down the hatches. My daughter Sophie and AC are friends so I am hearing a lot of “No her mom won’t let her go…” and “I don’t get to see her again because she needs to rest her feet.”
It occurs to me I am jealous of these boundaries. I want someone to boss me, to tell me what is best for me. Someone to say “Um, Jami, you cannot have birthday cake.” And not because I am in trouble, but because I need the boundary so I can be well. So ironically the morning after death by cake the scripture in my journal was “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food…” (Romans 14:20). Just like my friend doesn’t want AC to no longer be able to perform, so she makes her young daughter rest, God is offering me the same wisdom. “Jami, don’t eat cake or you will die.” Maybe the audible command of a mom is easier to follow, I don’t know. But knowing my Father in Heaven has left clear instructions for me is outstanding. Knowing He met me the morning after death by cake with a specific instruction to this folly is overwhelming. Sure, it could be a coincidence… but I don’t think so. The work He does in me as a wife, mom, and writer is important. He needs me not to die eating dessert or the work is destroyed.
Today I hope to embrace this truth. To say yes when it brings glory and no when it doesn’t. To seek biblical truths, and be the kind of child of God who is willing to be bossed. A child of God who is eager to step away from the cake, have a kiwi… and live. J