Recently, someone screeched in and out of my life recklessly. I was left slack-jawed, blinking, with my stomach in the vicinity of my ankles.
Not so long ago, a hairpin turn like this would have flattened me. I would have spent many trembly hours on the phone with friends in order to, in therapy lingo, “process” my feelings. I would have done this because I believed that feelings were something that had to be “worked through” in order for me to live authentically.
Now, ten years post Divorce Apocalypse, years in which I’ve been too busy and exhausted to do a whole lot of processing, I have come to believe that that line of thinking is a load of crap. Some feelings don’t ever get worked through. Talking about them won’t make you any more authentic, except for authentically sad.
Which brings me to last Sunday, when I had my friends Laurie and Jo over for dinner. I was telling them the story of the reckless person, as I do believe that talking is important to make sense of things. But Jo was concerned that I was avoiding my feelings, and that this was unhealthy.
To which I replied: If I had spent the last ten years feeling all my feelings I would be six feet under.
When I was doing my clinical training, I studied with a seasoned, successful family therapist. And she said something that has always stuck with me: “People don’t change because of insight. They change, and then they have insight.” She took a lot of pressure off of us interns by telling us that doing something in a session, even if it’s just getting familiy members to swap seats, would be more effective than talking.
* * *
“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”
This line is credited to the Doyenne of Dysfunction Liz Taylor, and it’s a recipe I’ve learned to live by. I pour myself a glass of red wine every night, reapply lipstick frequently, and pull myself into some semblance of togetherness as often as possible.
I’ve found another ingredient that helps: soup. Making soup is active, and it’s hard to be depressed and active at the same time. When you’re chopping, slicing, stirring, pureeing, you have to focus on something besides your problems.
Good soup is magical. It warms and comforts. It elicits moans that are almost orgasmic. It slows people down (it’s almost impossible to eat soup fast) and brings them together.
And that’s exactly what happened last Sunday, when I served soup, salad, and chunks of baguette to Laurie and Jo. Whenever I have them over, I make a different soup. This one was Cheesy Onion Bisque, an obscenely good concoction not for the calorie-conscious, from the Tupelo Honey cookbook. We discussed my Woman Up philosophy to psychological survival, Jo’s new relationship, and Laurie’s new documentary.
The next day Jo e-mailed me to tell me the soup was my best one yet. Making it hadn’t solved my problems. But it did what talking about my feelings rarely does.
It made me feel better.