How do you comfort yourself?

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I’m curious. What do you do when you have multiple problems that you can’t fix fast enough, or you have to wait for the results of something important, and all this waiting and lack of control is overwhelming you?

It’s a rainy day and I have chosen the following comforts.

My husband and I just got our flu shots. The good news is that we went together, so it makes it more fun. Our nurse was adorable. He was wearing fancy scrubs. (They were elasticated at the ankle and tighter than typical scrubs, making him look like he was in expensive athleisure, and not your typical hospital gear.) I complimented him on that. He looked at me in the eyes. He smiled knowingly. “Thank you for noticing.” He appreciated the compliment.

I also complimented the pharmacist’s lavender hair. For that I received a curt acknowledgement mid-task. She is a very focused individual who wears pointed and jutting from her face pale pink spectacles. She is adorable. (I mean, her mask is also lavender, to match her hair, so that scores major style points in my book.)

It’s the little things. It has always been the little things.

Despite my intense fear of needles, I enjoy meeting new people. So there’s one comfort; the sweet moment of connection that a compliment brings, from one fabulous person to another. (Although my fuzzy rain-provoked hair and pajamas probably didn’t quite read as “fabulous” so much as, “I made it outside today. #Winning”. But who cares, this is 2021, when leopard print – hello – jogging pants pass as acceptable flu shot fashion – am I right? It’s all very confusing.)

The fabulous nurse made the flu shot painless. I mayyyyyy have asked my husband to play the new And Just Like That trailer to distract me from the needle. It worked. It was over in no time.

As we left the pharmacy, I felt sweet relief wash over me. I felt like a new person.

As the rain trickled down my car window, and the grey clouds enveloped us like a scratchy wool sweater, we rounded the corner, passed the train tracks, and our car wheels splashed the grass. I love the sound of a splash. I like how it looks; like a surfer’s dream wave, made of rain.

I said to my husband. “I feel completely overwhelmed by stress for x, y, and z reasons. I can’t seem to handle that there is always something right now. My baseline goes to panic so easily these days, it’s making these two (personal) issues happening at once almost impossible to deal with in my ping pong-y brain.” So we talked about it.

I realized I need to handle one problem at a time. I need to slow. it. down. and take it, one day at a time. Patience. (Ugh. Why can’t we skip passed discomfort faster?)

Next, I need the comfort of a latte. Warm milk please. A latte on a rainy day comforts me.

We stopped at our favorite boulangerie. As my husband waited in line for bread, the other customers, north of 65 years old, were causing quite the commotion. He kept me in the loop via text as I waited, smiling, in the car.

One didn’t like how the other was handling the door. (Very – Larry David – and the accidental door slam.) One lady was tapping her nail on the pastry fridge glass in a look-at-me raised voice repeating “Hello, Hello, Hello” because she wasn’t getting served fast enough.

I know the last few years have been trying. We are sick of discomfort. It makes everything harder somehow. It makes having empathy for ourselves all the more necessary. It makes looking around us, all the more important. We have to force ourselves off screens, out of our heads and into our bodies, and into the reality of today.

It’s so hard.

Apparently my request for a latte caused complete chaos behind the cash in the face of all of this other drama. All of this made me chuckle. Then, as I scrolled through Instagram, I noticed this video that put me in a philosophical state of mind. It reminded me that it’s never over. Look at them! Maybe we can’t avoid prolonged discomfort, but we can distract ourselves. (As long as that distraction doesn’t become permanent avoidance of reality. Also tricky right now.)

It ain’t ever over as long as you can dance with a partner; whether it’s your husband, a friend, a very stylish, or even a very eccentric stranger. It’s never over because we are all still here, together, ordering bread, complaining, and sipping our lattes. There is always warm milk. There is always rain splashing the thirsty grass. There is always something funny to notice.

As we arrived at home and parked the car, I had to step into a puddle to get the bread out of the trunk. The puddle was ankle deep, which I only realized after the fact. So, both feet ended up in the puddle. The seductive crunch of leaves floating on top of the innocent puddle had made it seem inviting, picturesque, and like it was a more shallow puddle than it was. Only once I was deep in the water, did I notice the illusion.

Fear creates illusions. Our brain can’t tell what’s real when we are waiting for news. It can’t seem to stop creating scenarios that scare us, in an effort to get ahead of an issue, in an attempt to make us feel in control. We want an answer, so our brain works hard to provide one. We want to see the puddle before we end up in the puddle, but we simply cannot avoid them. We can’t stay safe and locked up forever. We have to venture outside and take risks, even when every decision seems mired in possible issues. We have to pick a direction, without having all the information. It’s exhausting!

And so, warm milk. Handle one thing at a time. Laugh at something funny. If that doesn’t work. I have to just stop. Go for a walk. Paint. Write. Dance. Cook. Create. Call a friend. Nap. Play. Stop trying to get my brain to work out every single scenario because they are only illusions. I’ll probably just end up ankle deep in a puddle anyway, so just stop trying to avoid discomfort, and instead, enjoy the feeling of rain on my very wet feet. Yes, it’s ice cold, OOOOOO, but baby – I’m here.

And so, I tell myself, this too shall pass, just don’t rush it, or it will pass you by.

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