Finding Comfort After Your Child’s Health Crisis

I’ve been reading about pearls lately. I’m reminded that they are “what happens when an oyster or some other mollusk is irritated by the invasion of some disturbing intruder into its closed shell”…

 Pearls are layers and layers of soothing “nacre” intended to insulate the delicate mollusk from the irritant that has abraded it.  At root, a pearl is a “disturbance”, a beauty caused by something that isn’t supposed to be there, about which something needs to be done.

The Sound of Paper, Julia Cameron

I wonder why that is so interesting to me?  I think it’s because I have a shell in which I arrange myself, my life.  Things inevitably intrude, they are not in my plan and they irritate and upset me.  It’s interesting that the oyster doesn’t rid itself of the intruder – it overcomes the intrusion by soothing itself.  Layer upon layer of soothing.  The beautiful pearl is formed.

This week-end I am soothing myself.  Six weeks ago one of my daughters went into a health crisis.  It’s been an intense period nursing her back and we aren’t there yet.  But we are enough along the road to recovery for me to take some time out.  Even though I am in my house every day – there is this weird feeling that I have been absent.  I am reopening my life after an unplanned disturbance.

I started this soothing of self by looking in my fridge.  I haven’t cooked an evening meal in my own kitchen for six weeks.  The fridge reminds me of those ghost towns in westerns with the tumbleweed blowing down the streets and the shutters banging.  I cleaned out my fridge until it sparkled, all white and empty. There was even a dead fly in there.  Bloody hell, I thought to myself.  Why would a fly do that?  When did it happen?  How long has it been in there – this cold dead fly?  The finding of the fly is the bottom of my dark well.  The very bottom – and I am climbing out now. Back into the gentle winter sun.

I shopped for the food that I love.  Fabulous salad food. I bought –

  • sunflower seeds
  • pepitas (pumpkin seed)
  • pine nuts
  • walnuts
  • carrots
  • Japanese pumpkin
  • sweet potato
  • sunflower shoots
  • chorizo sausage
  • baby spinach
  • marinated feta cheese
  • peanuts
  • almonds

Then I roasted the seeds and tossed them with tamari (a sweet soy sauce).  I roasted up pumpkin which is my most favourite thing to eat.  I made some honey roasted walnuts. I stacked these in glass jars so I can see them every time I open the fridge.  They smile back at me and say you are back!

I experimented with steel cut oats and some hippy stuff I’ve never tried.  They take ages to cook and have a nutty and creamy taste.  I chop up my dried apricots and figs and almonds.  I sprinkle seeds and drizzle honey. I am channelling my lovely mother and her careful breakfast bowls. I am finding my way back into my life – using interesting new things.  I am wondering where I have been.

I would like to pause here to tell you how much I love feta cheese.  I buy a little jar that has cubes marinating in peppercorns and other bits and pieces.  Sometimes when I am feeling flat I go to the fridge and I eat a cube of feta.  Maybe on a cracker or just on its own.  The taste of marinated feta seems to fire neural pathways that say – your life has meaning, everything is ok, you are a happy person with feta in your fridge.  I must never to be without a jar of marinated feta ever again.  Why would you when it clearly has such life-saving properties?

Last week my youngest daughter called me.  She was sad and she wanted me to come over.  Boy troubles.  I drove there imagining how terrible things were.  What I found at her house was a miracle.  I sat at the kitchen table fascinated by my own daughter.  I watched as she chopped up vegetables and cooked us a tasty stew. She stood there, a glass of wine in hand, telling me the sorry tale.  She had lovely music playing and a scented candle burning.  Her hair was swept up and she looked so effortlessly gorgeous. Don’t get me wrong, it was really a sad time.  Maybe this boyfriend was not for her she wondered aloud.

What shocked me was how she was handling this.  Not in a pub, not with greasy takeaway food, not in any of the one hundred dubious choices I made over the years.  Here was my own child cooking a meal and chatting to her Mother.  I felt some shift in myself.  This grown-up child that I worry about so much may just know how to soothe herself better than I ever did.  Maybe it skips a generation.  My Mum knew how to comfort herself.  My daughter knows.  How is it that I, a middle-aged woman, feel I am just learning?

I plan to roast sweet potato this afternoon.  I will continue to find threads of myself and follow them.  I will be led by my mother and my daughter and I will soothe myself.  I will think of you soothing yourself from the things that intrude and irritate.

So in summary, the soothing of ourselves can be a beautiful thing and the meaning of life can be found in a jar of feta.  Happy pearl making.