Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Pollyanna Platitudes, Penance and Chocolate

            Pollyanna Platitudes, Penance and Chocolate
            I did a terrible thing. A generally cheerful friend was in obvious pain. Be it emotional, physical, grief, imaginary—doesn’t matter. Pain is pain. Pain twists one’s guts and simply must be passed through. I hugged my friend, opened my mouth and out rolled a blah, blah, blah, blah, useless platitude. I cringed while speaking the words. But once out, there was no cramming the words back where they originated.

            I hate myself for that. I know better. When I’m hurting I want someone, anyone, to fold me into their arms. I want a heart-felt hug. I don’t want to hear, “Oh, Honey, time will erase the pain.” Or, “Perhaps what happened was for the best.” Or, “Better to find out now than later.” Or—any one of a million other well-meant platitudes.

Platitudes might even hold an edge of truth. But when I’m in pain, I want neither platitudes nor truth. Comfort me with silence. And chocolate.

That’s me. “Why?” you ask. “We mean well.”

Yes, I believe you. I meant well when the useless cliche automatically rolled off my tongue. We learned these commonplace banalities honestly, probably at mother’s knee. We use them when at a loss for words, when we want to be helpful, and sincerely want to give comfort. Try chocolate instead. Not just any chocolate. Designer chocolate.

            My theory, not substantiated at all, is that platitudes come from a place of smug righteousness. “Well, I’ve been through something like that and I know what to do.” Or, “I’m so glad it’s you and not me. Dodged that bullet.” Or, “I can’t wait to spread this tidbit of news. So we can comfort you, of course.” Stinks, doesn’t it? 

Enough of my rant. For me (and hopefully, for you) it is better when I acknowledge your sorrow, and keep my lips zipped. So, what got into me that day? I wanted to rip out my tongue.

            Hence, guilt. Also useless. Hey, I grew up in the Catholic Church. I know how to do guilt. I spent a day mea culpa-ing all over the place.

            Chocolate can heal guilt too, by the way.

            So that’s my guilty story of the comfort I failed to give. Once I quit beating myself I turned to another kind of comfort—my lovely king-size goose-down comforter.

            Winter is on the way—I say this when it is 80 F. this afternoon. I’m told nights are in the 40’s in December and January and houses aren’t heated in this southern country. It is toasty warm by mid-morning, so why spend money on heat?

            My problem is that my down comforter is huge and laps across the floor in all directions when I plunk it onto my double-size bed. This is a problem I can fix with action: scissors, needle, thread and time. I hauled my comforter and a box of straight pins out to the patio and cut off the outer section all the way around. The bedding is constructed in such a way that the perimeter was (mostly) stitched and could be down-sized, pun intended, losing feathers only on the throw-away section (mostly).

            To finish my comforter, I’ll roll a hem and secure it with a blanket stitch, by hand. It will take several days. I don’t mind. Hand work is meditative. Penance for platitudes?

            It’s justice. It’s kismet. It’s fate. It’s the way it’s meant to be. It happens for a reason. It’s God’s plan for me. Life has not given me more than I can handle. Blah, blah, blah. And so on.

Stitching the perimeter of a comforter, each working of the needle and thread, through, up and around, might help remind me that it is not my business to be one of Job’s comforters.

Hugs, your presence, a hot dish and goose down. All provide me comfort. Don’t forget the chocolate.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

November 10, 2016

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