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home : readerswrite : yourstory May 30, 2016

Listen to my hunger
"Mutated and raging like an ugly and insatiable fire, my hunger was actually my voice."
--Jaspar Lepak

by Jaspar Lepak


I'm a songwriter. But I didnʼt become a songwriter until after I had been sick with an eating disorder for nearly 10 years. Like many good girls, I had grown up believing that being good meant not having needs. Food became the only need I could have, and the more I denied my other needs, the louder my hunger became.

I hated my hunger until I realized it was the only thing keeping me alive. Mutated and raging like an ugly and insatiable fire, my hunger was actually my voice: it had preserved every part of me that I had tried to disown. In order to discover who I was again apart from the eating disorder, I had to listen to my hunger.

I was practicing guitar scales in the small, backyard cottage I shared with my husband in Durban, South Africa, when a letter arrived from a friend in Minneapolis. I put the guitar down and stared at the envelope. It was painted solid blue, and the back was eclipsed by a red, purple and orange lotus. Inside I found pages of lined notebook paper from my friend writing to tell me about her current stage of recovery from an eating disorder.

I looked again at the lotus on the envelope. It appeared very similar to a flame.

It didnʼt take long for tears to well in my eyes. I had made a similar recovery years before, and I knew this process well. She was learning to trust her feelings again: Am I hungry? Am I full? Am I sad? What do I need? When I finished reading, I grabbed my songbook off the music stand and began to write these words:

I know a woman who feels every moment.
With sorrow and joy, she is blown by the wind.
Her heart moves so quickly, it tires her to follow,
But this world wasnʼt made for such sensitive things.


I am now back in the United States. While in South Africa, I wrote 10 songs in that backyard cottage, including the song I wrote in response to my friendʼs letter.

Every time I sing "I Know a Woman" to a live audience, it feels like all of my other songs don't matter. This was the one they wanted to take home with them. It is an anthem song, proclaiming every womanʼs right to sing the song she was born to sing.

Jaspar Lepak recently moved from Minneapolis to Seattle, but returns frequently to perform. She will be sharing the stage with her sister, Janelle Loes, at Minneapolis' Lake Harriet Bandshell on Aug. 11, 5:30-7 p.m. www.jasparlepak.com

FFI: Listen to Lepak's "I Know a Woman" tinyurl.com

Got a story?
We'd like to hear it. For writer's guidelines, go to www.womenspress.com. Email your 450-word personal essay to editor@womenspress.com

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