Sometimes, despite your best efforts to live in the good juju, the world decides to go all cold and prickly and smack its gum in your face.
Two friends and a very cool middle schooler I know have been having a string of bad days. It’s nothing they can’t handle or emerge triumphant from, but still. I feel helpless to cheer them up. Then my friend Christine showed me this picture, and it got me thinking about the essential nature of comfort and how that concept changes as we get older.
Return with me to that time before we were grownups with bills, bosses, and errant moles. Even before we were teenagers. Do you remember what it felt like to be upset back then? Your face would get red and you’d take those three-inhale-deep breaths before your eyes filled with tears. The slow, satisfying outward curl of the boo-boo lip.
Were you a thumb-sucker, blanket-gripper, hair-twirler, doll-dragger, nail-biter or
behind-your-mom’s skirt-hider? Maybe you were a fan of the comfort foods. We were all about Jell-O parfaits and chocolate milk at our house. I can remember stirring 3 or 4 spoonfuls of Nestlé's Quik into the glass and watching the undissolved bubbles rise to the top. Waiting for the powder inside them to break on my tongue. Now that’s comfort. When the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days hit back then, we had a plan.
It’s harder now. The problems are bigger and our go-to comforts aren't always quite so wholesome or accessible (not talking to you, yoga-doers and triathletes). We’re often too busy to wait for the good to return and reveal itself. There’s homework, work-work and, unlike when we were were little, people expect stuff from us. We take the time to figure out why we feel bad, but we rarely give ourselves the gift of just being in the badness. What if we stopped trying to soldier on so much and just named the badness, stood under the storm cloud and let it rain down for a minute, an hour, a day? Wouldn't the very act of standing still there, sucking that boo-boo lip in and blowing it back out again, be a comfort? Maybe to us, but I bet the storm cloud would get bored and move on.