Have you ever had a piece of really fine, Southern-cooked cornbread? Bacon grease, buttermilk, and an iron skillet are all involved in creating the delectable treat. Its rich, flavorful, crunchy-soft texture makes it perfect as a bread or a "sopper" - a side dish designed to mop up grave or juices so nothing of a delicious meal is wasted.
It's obvious, is it not, that I am a fan of cornbread. But this story has nothing to do with actually eating cornbread. There was no cornbread in either of the Christmas meals in which I participated. Ham was the main dish at both sides of the family's gatherings. The breads of choice were potato rolls and yeast rolls. No, cornbread just popped into my mind one day. The sixth day of our holiday trip, I was sitting in the living room with many beloved family members, and the thought just occurred - "I feel like a piece of cornbread.". I was in the overwhelming emotional state of love, grief, exhaustion, recovery from illness, desire to help, desire to sleep - and I pictured myself as a triangle of cornbread. I don't mean that I had been stirred and baked at a high heat. I mean that the consistency and purposes of the piece of cornbread as it sits on the dinner plate seemed to perfectly portray my perception of how I react to all overtures and approaches to me.
First things first - I feel loved. I feel loved by friends. I feel loved at work. I especially felt loved when visiting the families this past week. It's so good to get to see the family. I love seeing and spending time with everyone. We're all different, yet all a part of the same group. I think of it as a meal on a plate - all your different items, and I'm the piece of cornbread. Nobody would not want the cornbread there - I belong.
I feel covered. I feel as if everyone wants to spread a layer of protection over me like so much butter! Thank you, by the way. I have needed a lot of protection this year. Sometimes, without that layer of people to step up to others and say "Do you know who this is?" or "Let me tell you what you're dealing with here...", I would have dried up and crumbled away. Many family, friends, and even social media acquaintances have spread a layer of protection over me by coming to my defense in some matter or sympathizing with their own experience stories that make me laugh and feel as if I'm not alone.
A good cornbread is a little crumbly. It's a coarse bread, so those pieces sometimes just crumble away. I can identify with the crumbly nature of cornbread. Innocent things - tv commercials, e-mails, greeting cards, comments, questions, advice - all of those can crumble me in a second. Just as the fork doesn't mean to hit the cornbread on its way to the vegetables, the world doesn't mean to stab me. My consistency right now makes it easy for little things to just stick in and knock a piece of me away. If anyone can actually give me a real, factual system for not being too sensitive, I will listen and try it. How do you change the way you are emotionally made? The important part, though, is that even though I may get a bit crumbled, so many others are there for me to hold me together.
To know I'm not alone is such an advantage. There are big chunks of time when I am now physically alone. (There will be another post someday on the advantages of dogs and cats.) But I am not alone in any way other than that. Just as all the servings of food on a plate bump into each other, and the juices roll around to be soaked up by the cornbread, I am surrounded, in spirit, with so many of you that drop everything to be there if I call, text, make a comment, or cry out through a status. You reach out and I soak it up. Thank you. Just as cornbread is made richer by soaking in some juice (I'm thinking good old-fashioned beans and cornbread, a little sausage with it....), I am made richer and stronger by your support. I am trying to take steps on the road to recovery. When I stop still and stare, it may be your simple smile or pat on the arm that gives me strength to pick up my foot and take another step.
So, here's to the new year. I can make an honest toast that says "May it be better than 2013." Even thinking that hurts, though, because 2013 contained my last months of my "old" life. The life I thought I'd live forever. Thank goodness for the love and ideas and wisdom out there that this little ol' piece of cornbread can soak up. I might sit and stare and act a little bland, but please know I gather in your wishes, hugs and love and convert them to the strength to go on. Happy New Year.