I remember back when I was a kid, if someone I loved was sad, I would ply them with blankets and then pile stuffed animals allll around them. My favorite blanket close to their face, a stuffed dog I was particularly fond of protecting their knees. Perhaps a teddy or two, placed with all the dedication I could muster, into their arms.
Please accept this.
Please be happy with this.
I don’t know what else to do for you.
Then, with all the conviction my little heart, and with the type of screwed-up faces that only the very very young can make look adorable, I would simply sit and stare at them until they got better. I’d no idea how else to cope with the morose faces I was used to seeing happy all the time. Sometimes, and only when the one I loved was very, very sad, I would give them something of mine. A favorite crayon. A blue plastic beetle I kept in my pocket for days. Often I gave rings.
My mom still has most of the thing’s I’ve given her.
Eventually, as I grew older, and as the dewy bright-eyed lens of childhood fell away, I realized that the same comfort bestowed upon me by my stuffed companions did not transfer to the adults I loved. I’m sure the gesture was sweet, but ultimately the toys and blankets and awkward staring did not make them all better. They got better on their own.
So, for a while, instead of plushy replicas of animals, I’d just sit with them.
Until I realized that maybe they wanted to be alone with their feelings to think things out.
I tried to reason my way around this for a long time.
Maybe they do want me there.
Maybe I can help.
When I finally reached the “terrible teens,” I realized that I enjoyed being alone when I was sad. It made for less awkward tears and less explanations. So I gave up on trying to comfort people .
Now I just make food.
What better way to say “I love you” than handing someone tired out by emotions a piece of content cake? Or a better truce than a mini-pepper, given in good faith? What consoles better than a mutual grilled-cheese, or a dinner where everyone eats the salad even if they don’t like it?
Food is so much easier to deal with then people.
You can always try again. The ingredients stay fresh in the fridge and aren’t offended if you neglect them for a while to realign your own life. The stove has easily controllable knobs, nothing gets blown out of proportion.
Toast is particularly good for anger. Nice crunches, lots of messy crumbs. I don’t even sweep the crumbs into the garbage if I’m feeling especially bitter.
I find sympathy in my scrambled eggs. There is something immensely satisfying in splattering the contents of a perfectly innocuous egg in order to feel better about yourself.
Why bother with fixing the problem when you can fix yourself a nice bowl of pasta?
The mundane task of cooking takes my mind away, the crunch crunch noise the knife makes against the onions is distracting.
An apple, or sometimes potato chips, comes in handy while whittling at a problem.
Hotdogs are the ultimate comfort food. When life gets too heavy, I just make myself heavier by eating more food.
Because after all, your toast always, always, lands butter-side down.
I cry over spilt milk, too. It’s not as though the milk cares. It has less than nothing to do with the saltwater coming out of my eyes. Brings me solace, though.
Because if you can’t find empathy in your own breakfast, where can you find it?