I’m on a cruise ship with my mom and brother this week.

We somehow made it out and away from the coast despite there being a Category 5 hurricane out there in the Atlantic by the name of Dorian.

This trip is for my mom’s 70th birthday — she’s always wanted to go on a cruise, so my brother and I surprised her with tickets this year.

It’s bittersweet, with the hurricane wreaking so much havoc (a situation we know well) and us still trying to have the trip of a lifetime.

I guess it’s really just about us being together.

One of the cliches about cruises that’s incredibly accurate is how much people eat. I’m not sure if that’s the secret to it all (keep ‘em full, keep ‘em happy), or if it’s supposed to be an experience of luxury.

I just know it’s… a lot.

I had ice cream at three different times yesterday! Some people say that’s what a vacation is all about. But I have a little theory that we will find any reason to eat — especially if emotions are involved.

Two weeks ago, I finished production on my latest short film. It’s about that period after a family member’s death (in the South), where people from around the neighborhood and town stop by incessantly to drop off thoughts, prayers, and casseroles as a way to show their love.

I call it, “The Casserole Brigade,” a title that actually came from my mother.

The film is a dark comedy about two brothers dealing with the loss of their mom and being bombarded with food all day long while waiting for a call from the funeral home.

One brother indulges in everything; the other is infuriated by the charade.

But the question the film asks is one I often ask myself:

What is the role of food in our lives? Is it for comfort? Celebration? Or is it just a tool for survival?

I try (and fail very frequently) to treat it as the substance for which I use to fuel my body and nothing more. But I’m an animal, and often I overeat with seemingly no self-control.

All of us do at times.

We eat when we’re sad, we eat when we’re happy, we eat when we’re tired, we eat when we’re bored and we eat when we need an activity to do together.

It’s easy for me to feel jaded and cynical about this, especially when so much of the behavior seems to be rooted in our subconscious and happens without our control.

During my normal day-to-day routine, I usually fast through breakfast and at least try to get in one workout, even a short one, each day.

But mainly, I seek to have control. I want my food decisions to be exactly that: a decision.

When we attach eating to emotions, whether happy (like a cruise) or sad (like a funeral), I feel like we lose that control and aren’t make a decision to eat, but just doing it by default.

That default is what scares me, especially when I come from a family with history of diabetes and heart disease.

But when I find myself feeling this way, I wonder what area of my life or experience am I compromising? Because there’s always a trade-off in any decision.

Usually, that trade-off is connection. It’s not so much about the actual eating, I suppose. It’s about what it represents.

It represents togetherness, prosperity, and celebration. Historically, after fasting months, families would get together for big meals (Like Easter dinner after Lent) and even though we don’t necessarily associate it with religion these days, the act of eating as a celebration continues.

Even me, someone who is easily disgusted by the clear consumerism pushed on us during holidays, or on cruises, doesn’t want to sacrifice that.

Instead, I will cherish each moment that I have with my family, even if we have to do it through biscuits and banana pudding.

When the celebratory (or sad) moment passes, I will get back to controlling what I can control in my life: eating well and exercising often, but allowing myself to actually enjoy this life while I’m here.

Rain Bennett is a two-time Emmy-nominated filmmaker, writer, and competitive storyteller with over a decade of experience producing documentary films that focus on health and wellness. His mission is simple: to make the world happier and healthier by sharing stories of change.

You can read the rest of “Right as Rain” here, and check back every Wednesday on Chapelboro for a new column!