For the Love of Pumpkin

October 5, 2016

pumpkin“Oh come on! You can’t hate pumpkin!” my friend said curtly while shaking her head at me.

We were sitting at her kitchen table talking about carving a pumpkin when she recalled my pumpkin-history. I was turned off eating pumpkin by a popular diet system that I religiously followed for decades.

This diet system touted canned pumpkin as the perfect low-cal, high fiber meal extender in its more-food-for-fewer-points = more pounds lost formula. I would have sold my soul to lose 20 lb. back then, so I kept every one of their rules and rushed out to buy dozens of cans of pumpkin. Obediently, I added it to everything: my oatmeal, my smoothies, my mashed potatoes and even my beloved dog Gracie’s food (What was I thinking??)

Not only did I hate the taste of pumpkin, but I hated the texture, too. This realization woke me to the ludicrous notions that quantity of food supersedes quality of food and that eating more food for fewer points was considered a sane relationship to honoring the body’s hunger and satiety.

“How do you hate pumpkin when it is so big these days? Pumpkin crackers, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin meatloaf… and I make the best pumpkin muffins. You’d love them! Everybody thinks they’re delicious,” she lectured me.

I scrunched up my face, and then I defended my pumpkin-lovin’ self, “I am not a pumpkin hater! I adore their squatty round shape with the elegant pin-tucks. I love to decorate them, and I go a little crazy decorating with them. You know that I watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV every fall. I even use it as a term of endearment – I once had a car named Pumpkin. I just don’t like to eat it from a can…”

She scowled at me disapprovingly. So I showed her my shoes, my wallet and my favorite scarf all in swoon-worthy deep pumpkin orange. “Oh, I eat roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil! Does that count?”

She rolled her eyes at me and asked, “Have you tried a Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte? Everybody loves those. There’s always a line out the door to get one…”

“Contrary to the marketing message, there’s only a hint of pumpkin puree in a Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte, and besides, you know that I don’t drink coffee…” I said, quietly.

I could feel the distance growing between us as we stood staring at each other in a pumpkin standoff.

“What is the matter with you?!” she hissed disparagingly, looking a little like a Jack-o-lantern.

And there it was. The gut punching, soul crushing shame message that I used to do anything to avoid feeling.

Shame, according to shame researcher and author Brené Brown is the intensely painful thought-based feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging just as we are. Left unaddressed, these internalized shame messages will keep us hustling for worthiness… like eating pumpkin to belong when we really don’t like it.

“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness — the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness—that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging — lives inside of our story.” —Brené Brown

My shameful failing, according to my friend, was not joining in the trendy pumpkin food-fest and not molding myself to accommodate her view of the world.

For a few breaths, I felt vulnerable and rejected. But I found my footing, stepped out of the pool of shame and calmly replied, “There is nothing the matter with me. I simply don’t like the taste of pumpkin,” and shrugged my shoulders.

It was obvious that my friend felt threatened by my pumpkin preference, so I tried to assure her that we could happily coexist in our differences. I wouldn’t stop her from joining in the all-pumpkin-all-the-time autumnal food trend nor did she need to force feed me pumpkin muffins with pumpkin spice latte chasers.

Shame messages will surely come our way, but we don’t have to believe, accept or internalize those painful missives. When we are at ease with who we are and what we like and want in life we know our worthiness from the inside out. Now, that’s what I call delicious!

I am Lisa Bourdon and I detest canned pumpkin. This is my (pumpkin lovin’) story.

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