I will freely admit that I was one of those people who use food as a comfort. When I was having a crappy day, chocolate was always there. When I was angry, a good bowl of ice cream was the cure. When I was tired and feeling down, maybe some kids’ cereal and milk would help.
I can see this pattern back as far as I can remember. I clearly see it in my own mother to this day. I can remember some of it in my grandmother. She’d sit me down with some milk and cookies for a chat when I was upset. She taught me how to cook, so I still think of her whenever I cook.
Face it, feeding someone is a form of nurturing. It conveys care and concern. It fulfills a very primitive part of our psyche. Later on, we may use it to try to show love to ourself when we need that part fufilled again. The bad part is when it gets out of hand, for a variety of reasons.
But I’m dealing with the other side of this coin these days. I was used to this comfort mechanism but now much of it is denied to me. Food has gone from being the stalwart companion to always being suspected of treason. Food must be proven innocent before I can consume it and, even then, it can make me sick either through error, mislabeling or just a mistake.
My comfort has become discomfort and distrust.
This has been one of the hardest things to deal with since I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I can’t decide my crappy day entitles me to stop for a small shake on the way home. I can’t grab a quick candy bar from the bowl outside a co-worker’s door. I can’t even have a small chocolate milk from the refrigerator at work.
I miss more than the flavors and textures. I miss that primitive soothing that comes with comfort food. I do have some substitutes but it’s honestly not the same anymore. It can’t be the same anymore because there is no longer the loving and accepting relationship between myself and my comfort foods.
So I think I need to find a new way to feed that part of myself when I need nurturing and soothing. Some people successfully substitute things like manicures or pedicures, shopping, etc. but I’m trying to stay away from spending more money and I already am devoted to my manicures (my long nails are one of my few vanities). I definitely don’t need to accumulate more stuff.
But what does comfort food DO to me as I indulge (or used to). It would make me step back from whatever was troubling me for a small amount of time. This seemed to give me time to make a decision, recover and even subconsciously find other ways to deal with things. It forced me to take some time for myself, purely for myself. It didn’t take too long. I wasn’t a burden. It was always nearby. It wasn’t something I felt I had to share. It reminded me of my grandmother and my childhood. It required me to focus on it for a little while.
Thinking about this today, I realized that I have another thing I’ve enjoyed all my life that requires a minimum of items but that I remember even my Grandmother commenting on. I know it will strike a lot of you as really strange but hear me out.
When I was a child, I had a teacher complain that I needed to improve my handwriting because it was too dark and unfeminine and she took points off on a pretty decent essay because of my handwriting. This got my stubborn on (have I ever mentioned how very stubborn I can be?) and I decided right then that I would get my own back :) I spent an hour or more a day practicing my handwriting until I wrote about 1/2 size on college-ruled paper, very lightly and very well-formed. The next report I turned in to that teacher was (if I say so myself) beautiful.
Of course, she then marked me down because it was too faint and hard to read, but when I complained to my parents about her, they took my papers and complaint to the principal and got my points back for me. Let’s just say that teacher and I were glad to part company at the end of the year.
But for many years I had the best penmanship of anyone I knew. Slowly over the years I got more and more sloppy and now it’s merely adequate. I miss it, though. I really do hate sloppy handwriting – moreso when it’s my own.
I’ve wanted to learn Spencerian script for years. Spencerian is the handwriting of the 1800’s and is written with ink and a dip pen. It’s a beautiful script and not as chunky as some types nor as complex as copperplate or ornamental script. I put a small sample at the top of this post but you probably can’t see it too well. You can google it to see more examples, though.
Although the final execution of the beautiful letters requires the pens and ink, learning the shapes and practicing them doesn’t. All it really requires is a pencil, paper and a guide sheet. And some time and focus. You can’t practice quickly and you have to take it a little at a time. It also needs regular practice so I can’t merely binge and then ignore it and expect any improvement.
It’s a bit frivolous, not necessary for my daily survival but it’s also beautiful and unusual to see. I’m going to try it for a while when I feel like I need comfort or grounding and see if I can put it into the place where my comfort food used to be.
And, hey, no calories or allergies (that I know of)!
Wish me luck!