Friday, May 27, 2011

In Search of Comfort

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking. That’s a good thing, I’m pretty sure, as I clear away the cobwebs in my head and make way for new things to come. Frankly, I’ve been thinking a lot about plumbing lately, and although there are many things that I am thankful for (family, friends, community, really good coffee, kittens…), I have recently realized that one of the things about which I am most grateful is that I am not a plumber. And, as Kathryn said, no problem can be that interesting if you can make it go away by throwing some money at it. In this case, it is a lot of money, and a lot of sludge, but by this time next week, it will probably be fixed. Woo Hoo!
When my head has not been filled with plumbing (or sushi, which is my default, and which makes me smile like a good plumbing problem never will), I’ve been thinking a lot about comfort. That is a word that I use many times each week, often without putting too much thought into what it really means. You may do this, too. I think of comfort related to my big girl shoes – actually, they are really the opposite of comfort. In my experience, comfortable shoes usually mean chuck taylors. I think of comfort in terms of food. For me, macaroni and cheese (but not the box kind, and therefore, not neon orange and not involving anything that really should not come in powder form) is the ultimate comfort food, especially with some peas mixed in. I also think about mattresses, sweat pants, and hammocks. And all of these things can, and do, provide comfort.
But what does the word comfort really mean? I’m not talking about a dictionary definition. I’m talking about the kind of comfort that sooths us, that makes hard things not seem so hard, that helps us remember that we are not alone, even when the world feels very lonely. I’m talking about the kind of comfort we get from holding a sleeping baby (or a sleeping cat if your baby is all grown up and rarely falls asleep in your lap anymore.); the comfort we get from a gentle smile from someone we love; from sitting with people in conversation about the things that are most real to us, or, if we are very blessed, with those with whom we have an even deeper connection, in silence.
Many of us, whether or not we are aware of it, spend significant amounts of time on our quests for comfort. Hopefully, the physical comfort is not too hard to find. If you’re having trouble, you’re welcome to put on your flannel garden gnome pajamas, toss some shredded cheddar into a pot of noodles, and curl up on the couch with a good book (and a cat. Or a baby, if you’re really lucky.)
But for many of us, it is emotional comfort, spiritual peace, that most eludes us. And it may be the most important thing to find. I know that for me, the times when I am most in need of emotional comfort, I often feel least able to ask for it. Instead of reaching out, I hide, actually or metaphorically, or put up walls to crouch behind, or smile and pretend that everything is okay. And eventually, it usually is. But I wonder how my life would be different if I were more able to ask for the comfort I need? Or accept the comfort that is offered? Comfort won’t fix the broken pipes. Or miraculously fill my bank account so that I can pay the plumber. But comfort will help me feel less alone. Comfort will help me be less alone. And comfort, whether from someone I love, a new pair of converse, or a big bowl of macaroni and cheese, can often make all the difference in how I experience my day and give comfort others. And so, as I clear my head of dust and worn out ideas, I will try to fill the empty space with things and thoughts that bring me peace. And I would be happy to share.


  1. Beautiful Beth.
    I know when I am in *need* of emotional comfort, I tend to retreat too... when what I really need is to be in the company of people..people who really matter to me.

    happy day!

  2. Yes, this is true. As I get older, it is easier for me to ask for comfort from those whom I am close to, but my default is still to hide or to seek escape or to be very still and silent.