When the pain in my back got so bad that I couldn’t sleep left-side or right, or even belly-up, I went shuffling to my doctor’s where the nurse weighed me, took my blood pressure, asked where it hurt, and finally looked at me, cocking her head, and said, “Have you been depressed lately?” At which point I broke down into a drippy, wailing mess.
Without going into the whole story of my daughter’s dying seven years ago, I wanted to let the nurse know I felt entitled to some depression. But the question left me speechless. I stood there shaking and sobbing, looking anywhere but at her eyes, wondering if I had liver cancer, and wishing I could just curl up to sleep. Hanging on the wall was a children’s book illustration of a sleeping family. They were floating in the sky, each member cozily cocooned in their own fuzzy, quilted slipper-shaped bed.
I returned home with comfort food from Wegmans, Aleve, and a prescription for physical therapy sessions, and spent the next several hours visualizing my pain away in Photoshop. I’m calling it a Self Care Day.
What do you do to take care of yourself?
“Is there anything to eat?” my son asked, staring for a long time into the empty refrigerator.
“Look in the freezer,” I told him. “There might still be some storm food left.”
Everyone I spoke to last week agreed that storm food was a good idea.
“What’s storm food?” one friend had asked. “You mean the non-perishable, no-cooking-necessary stuff you keep in the cupboard for when the power goes out? Like powdered milk and canned beans?”
“You mean comfort food. That’s what I want in a storm,” she’d insisted.
“Not exactly. I’m thinking hearty stews and homemade soups that you freeze for emergencies, for when you can’t cook or get out of the house. Like turkey chili or Moroccan lamb stew. It should be healthy and delicious. It has to feed body and soul,” I had told her, trying to sort out the difference between storm food and comfort food. “Comfort food is too high in sugar and carbs; it’s more about nostalgia than nourishment.” I then listed a half dozen dishes, like the Curried Lentil, Kale and Butternut Squash Soup at the Finger Lakes Feasting website; and the Pork Pot Roast with Pears at Ciao Chow Bambina’s; and Alton Brown’s Sauerbraten recipe. There were five Sundays in November and I intended to make five different stews.
Storm food is purposefully and lovingly prepared, and then stashed away for future catastrophes. The packed freezer and individual-sized portions of nourishing foods provide a feeling of wellbeing similar to that found in comfort food. Each meal that finds its way to your table in a time of turmoil is like a care package.
Even before my daughter died, every fall I stored food to help weather winter storms. A storm could be a blizzard, a level-4 hurricane affecting the entire East Coast, or simply a headache. Once in a while a storm appears in my son, coming home hungry, looking pathetic like he hasn’t seen food in a year. Feeding my son a bowl of care brings even more joy than quelling my own storms.
“Really, look in the freezer,” I told him. “It only takes ten minutes to nuke up a storm food. How about turkey chili from last December?”
How do you weather a storm? What special things do you do to take care of yourself and the ones you love during a difficult time?