For the Hurting Hearts, Roll Up Your Sleeves

There is a little girl teetering towards me. One step at a time, across the hardwood. She’s a beauty, this baby blond. The halo around her head is that whisper white, the kind that’s bound to darken. She’s a babbler. A charmer. I don’t have to look around to know she’s currently captivating everyone in the place. Everyone with a coffee cup and a beating heart.

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I can’t help but keep peeking over at her progress. She’s all waving arms and wobbly legs. A tiny tornado of pink, picking up speed.

She has mittens clipped to her parka sleeves; it’s cold out. She has a bite of croissant clenched in one fist. It’s crushed, crying out for air.

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She toddles along, unworried, unhurried. She has a tooth missing from her top row. She’s knee-height now, and staring at my shoes. She wears socks. She looks up delightedly, offers me the now pancaked piece of pastry. While I wrestle with what to do and wish I could take a quick poll (Are you supposed to take a little kid’s pastry? How can you refuse a little kid’s pastry?), she totters off, already on the move.

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She’s apparently already mastered the buh-bye. She can even blow a kiss while she’s at it. Do a little twirl, before plopping to her seat. She needs no permission; the world is her playground. She leans back, grubby hands making a grab for the outsides of both feet. She rocks there, momentarily quiet, doing the best demo of Happy Baby I’ve seen. Inside or outside of yoga.

I can’t ever remember being that unafraid, that carefree. That trusting, that flexible. Can you?

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There are times when I feel like I am the woman I am on the cusp of becoming. And then there are times when I revert back to the girl I was before. Stuck and scared, and determined to hover right around 100 pounds.

Last night, for a hair-raising ten minutes, I reverted back to the girl I used to be. The girl who would berate herself for stealing a few bites before dinner, almost done in the Dutch oven. I reverted back to the girl who would feel a hot flush of shame (and a burning lack of willpower), when she failed to follow such simple rules.

I wanted so badly to compensate. Just make dinner a teensy-tad smaller.

But almost as soon as I entertained the thought, I thought: woah, wait, there are no rules now. Well excluding the only one, which very clearly states NOT TO RESTRICT. Not ever again, in all caps. Bold, italics, underline.

I didn’t restrict. I texted five friends about my “transgression”, and immediately felt silly for having felt the need to do so. But it worked. It worked really well, especially when they replied with things like EVERYONE nibbles sometimes! It wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t!

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I thought about it some more, and decided I’d been tempted to taste-test because I’d been hungry. I’d walked almost 4 miles to the library earlier in the afternoon, and since I’ve begun eating more intuitively (read: following my meal plan less manically), there is every chance I’d needed the extra boost. But here’s what calls for claps. Not the ability to justify (and stay the course), but the ability to accept this as the absolute utter truth: even if I hadn’t really needed the impromptu snack, it wouldn’t really have mattered. Not in the grand scheme of things.

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Okay, so I’d had some braised cabbage (at various stages of doneness) primarily because the butter was good. And okay, so I’d had a few licks of maple-mustard sauce while the chicken cooked. I love the flavor of maple-mustard, whether it winds up being a good glaze or not.

It doesn’t mean I’ll start being unable to cook without eating sixteen spoons full of stuff as I go. I’ve been cooking for myself throughout this whole ordeal, and last night was the first night I’ve felt compelled to go a little overboard tasting-as-I-go. I’m actually glad it happened. It’s another big hurdle, overcome.

Today, writing this, I actually feel oddly confident that most nights I won’t want to fill up before a meal. And if/when I do, it’ll be because my body needs or wants it, for reasons I may or may not always be able to articulate. It just won’t matter, though. Not compared to the things that really do.

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I would never slap this little girl’s hand away, if she expressed an interest in maybe trying a caramelized onion. Beautifully browned, and still sticky-sweet. I’d swing that little girl up on my hip and show her how we decide the chicken is done around here, while I was at it. We do that by slicing off two pieces, blowing them cool, and popping them into our open mouths. Our open, eager mouths. Quick to smile.

And later on that night, after I’d tucked her in, I’d remind myself that worrying so much about every little thing does nothing but etch an unhappy frown deep into my forehead. I’d do the dishes and I’d remind myself that feeling happy when I go to lay my head down at night is victory, and everything else is just details.

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“You are forgiveness after a long hard day at work. You are forgiveness with its muddy knees and its sleeves rolled up. Don’t let the haunting stop you from becoming alive again. Don’t give your ghosts a voice louder than yours.” -Y.Z., For the hurting hearts

{Note: “All you need is love” photo filched from my older brother @nickersonross, who is currently standing in front of the John Lennon wall in Prague.}

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2 thoughts on “For the Hurting Hearts, Roll Up Your Sleeves

  1. Ah, I can relate so much to this post. Thinking of yourself, who was once a child, as deserving of care can really help bring compassion to the situation. You’d never deprive a young child of food if they were hungry. We all deserve to eat, to enjoy food, and to treat ourselves .

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