Well, I was going to write an elaborate and fascinating post on used bookstores.
Hopefully I still will, at some point. But not today. I’ve got something else on my mind.
Chocolate chip cookies.
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I usually have chocolate chip cookies on the brain in some form or other. Warm on a napkin, with the chocolate just a little bit melty, they make my shoulders unclench any time of day. I’m an absentminded baker who tends to calculate quantities wrong, but for these cookies, I try harder to get them right. They were one of the American delicacies I missed most in Britain. But now they’re on my mind for a different reason.
It was Wednesday night, a hard night, a gloomy night. An odometer-raising, package-juggling, asparagus-and-tears-for-dinner night. Grandma’s not doing well, and the pressure had me full under its thumb that night. I was supposed to meet a friend for coffee, but though I love talking to her, I just didn’t want to on Wednesday. I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to sit and watch British TV until my mind melted into oblivion. I texted her.
She came anyway. Showed up on my doorstep, skipped coffee. Carried in her hands a green recyclable grocery bag. Containing chocolate chip cookies.
People say all kinds of things to friends who are hurting. Sometimes they’re well-meaning things like Every cloud has a silver lining. Or God works out everything for the good of those who love him. Maybe they’re true things. But when the wave of suffering knocks you over from behind and tumbles you on the sand until your skin is scraped raw and you can’t remember which way is up, even true things don’t help.
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Suffering is a quiet place, a place where the rules don’t work right and you have to reinvent the wheel. Like falling in love, it’s a different experience for every person, and it feels like no one has ever experienced it before. That’s why platitudes, no matter how true, don’t help. They’re words. And while I love words dearly, you can’t use them to set a shattered arm or leg. Like sticky, cheerful Disney-character band-aids, they’re utterly helpless to solve the mystery and horror of bone sticking through skin.
My friend couldn’t fix my problems on Wednesday night. She didn’t try. Instead, she listened with her full attention (I did end up talking) and gave me a hug (thank you, dear). The chocolate chip cookies she brought said I don’t have all the answers. But I love you anyway. And somewhere between soggy Kleenex and melty chocolate pieces, I found the strength to keep going til tomorrow. That’s what helps.
Lately music has been helping me where words fall short. So if you’re in that quiet place tonight, reinventing the wheel or staring at shattered bone, here’s a song that another friend showed me today. It’s not a solution. But maybe it’ll be like chocolate chip cookies on your doorstep.