Woozy headaches. Growling tummies. Hangry outbursts. Our bodies are really good at giving us physical cues that we’re running short on fuel, and we need to fix it, stat. In a very literal way, hunger is an invasive signal that there’s a void that needs to be filled.
Thanksgiving is practically here, when many of us will stave off (literal) hunger by (literally) stuffing ourselves to the gills.* But beyond the food, this particular holiday holds a warmer, fuzzier appeal for many: theres something about it that turns me into a sentimental little sponge, soaking up the merriment and relishing the parts of the season that fill my tank and bring me comfort.
For me, that list of things isn’t especially original, but they all pack a punch. It’s giggling with my mom in person instead of over the phone from thousands of miles away. It’s drinking bourbon and smirking with my dad as we silently catch each other’s eye at a joke that no one else registers. It’s conversations over drinks and snort-laughing as we share stories. It’s a room full of people coming together from different places to form new traditions, in the spirit of inclusiveness. It’s warmth and generosity that’s so real, it’s practically tangible.
Family. Tradition. Connection. Stability. Love.
It’s a list that captures not just what I love so much about the holiday season, but also the things I value the most. I miss them when they’re absent, I savor them when I get to experience them, and more than anything they bring me intense comfort. They’re the things that fill me up - and whether it’s the unsettledness I feel when they’re missing or the fullness I feel when they’re present, that inner hunger for them is a powerful reminder of how much they matter.
That Inner Hunger Serves A Purpose
That hunger that’s rooted somewhere deep - the kind we feel when something we crave is missing - is a gift. It’s a cue to pause, to reassess, and to consider whether the path we’re on can provide that missing piece. It can be a flashing yellow light that warns us to proceed with caution, a trigger to reassess what’s working and what’s lacking, or even a green light to pivot bravely and move forward confidently. Like physical hunger, it’s a signal that there’s a void that needs to be filled.
The fact is, your soul knows when you’re not getting enough, or when you’re finally just starting to nourish it with a thing you’ve gone without for too long.
Space and energy to do creative work. Emotional support. Meaningful connection. Invigorating conversation. Great food. Physical activity. Feeling seen and understood.
That hunger we organically feel for the things that matter most is the thing that helps us build a life that matches who we are and what we value; it keeps us from mindlessly riding it out on autopilot, and reminds us to nourish and refill when the tank runs low. Without it, we may starve ourselves of the things we value most without ever realizing the harm we’re doing.
What’s Your Hunger Telling You?
If you were to listen hard, and tune into your inner hunger, what would you find? Where are you off balance, or running low, or growing weary? What would refuel you in this moment, and bring you that intense fullness and comfort?
As you celebrate Thanksgiving and sink into all those things you’re grateful for, I’d challenge you to listen in for that inner hunger, and consider how to feed it with a sense of purpose. If that means changing course or clearing an obstacle that’s in your way, ask yourself if that should inform your next move, even in a small way. Because that hunger serves a purpose, and you owe it to your soul to listen in close.
* Hunger as a metaphor is pretty universally relatable. But if you’re reading this post, you (like me) probably have the luxury of experiencing hunger as a fleeting discomfort, rather than the daily struggle to put food on your table. According to Feeding America, 1 in 7 Americans struggles to get enough to eat - and I’ll be honest, I’d feel like an ass hat writing this post that likens hunger to something worthy of celebration, without also acknowledging that access to food is a very real struggle that burdens many, many families.
In light of this, and of the Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve chosen to give to Feeding America (which was matched by an anonymous donor) -- if you have the means and feel so inclined, I’d encourage you to find a way to give back that feels right to you.