This morning, someone tweeted the question “What words do you turn to for comfort?”
It’s going to be okay. Everything is going to be alright.
Those are my words. I couldn’t stop thinking them, even after I typed them in and sent them back to her through Twitter-land.
What words do you turn to for comfort? as if I am all alone, in a room, and these words are standing there with big, wide open, flabby arms. Here, now now, we’ve got you. Come here bubbeleh. It’s going to be okay. Everything is going to be alright. Hefty words. Jewish words that smell like grandmother. Like Bubby. Words like brisket and floral dresses and wet mouths. Words that love and coddle and reassure. Words with hard “k” sounds, the “ah” in alright a sound like God. Powerful, all knowing. This is just the way it is. It is going to be alright. And so it is. Words that know their purpose in the world and deem themselves valuable and worthy even as you tell them how untrue they are, how much of a lie they must be, how they stand in front of you with open arms knowing damn well that thing are not okay. How can everything be alright when it’s not? you may sob into their blubbery arms. And the hardness of their bodies softens into a trusty thing and comfort is there in the room with you, sitting on the corner in your old chair like it had been there all along.
You turn to it and nod knowing that it’s that easy, that all you have to do is find someone to speak those words, to embody that grandmotherly intuition and just like that: Comfort is back in the room, helping you breathe and tie your shoes and get on with your day.
I’m a big advocate of safety. I like to feel safe. I seek out situations and people and words that make me feel safe to a fault. I didn’t have to think about it at all. The words buried under my tongue like little hopefuls.
They are always there, waiting in the wings. It’s going to be okay. Don’t worry in my mouth, fraying in the back of my throat, choking in my spit. It’s going to be alright buried in my gums.
I brought it as a the theme to my yoga class this morning after I saw Harriet Seitler’s tweet. This idea of comfort and how we seek out solace wherever we can, even in things as temporal as language.
I asked the people in my class what some of their own words were that they turned to for comfort. Answers varied from I love you to You did great to the ones-I-couldn’t-hear-because- I-am-nearly-deaf, but the gist was the same as my set of words. My own personal grandmotherly set of words were the same grandmotherly set of words for so many others. So many grandmothers walking around in calf-lengths, telling us all that we shouldn’t worry, that we were safe, that it would all be okay in the end.
May we all remember such comfort I suggested to the class before they opened their eyes and got up, moving on with their Sunday Starbucks and chores and kids’ soccer games. May we all remember the grandmother on our shoulders.
We think that we deserve this stress we carry like it’s our birthright. I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t deserve to be comforted when there is so much pain in the world. We think that if we keep ourselves busy, that if we keep moving, keep clocking in and out, the pattern of days all we have to keep us afloat, that we will succumb to the truth.
And what is the truth? That nobody is happy? That everyone is in pain?
Well, yes. Maybe there is some truth in that.
But that’s not the whole story. You can take comfort in that knowing.
Yes, people are filled with so much pain. Spend some time with them and you’ll see. It’s everywhere, this pain. This yearning for comfort and looking for it in even the most unlikely of places. Looking for it through drink and sex and the internet.
People are also filled with so much love. Spend some time with them and you’ll see. They are dying to be touched and also this: to give their love away.
People: so complex and different and so very much the same. Just like the words we choose to comfort us. Our grandmotherly words all so different and all so similar in their old lady shoes and wrinkled hands.
Everyone wanting to be told: You did good. That it’s going to be okay after all. Despite it all. Because of it all.
You did good.
Go tell someone you love that you love them. That it’s going to be okay. Right now. Go ask someone how they are doing and wait for their answer there in the doorway even if they stumble on their words as their eyes well up with water. Go hug someone. Hold it a little longer than usual. This is how we chip away at the pain. This is how we fill ourselves up with love.
Those words you turn to for comfort exist inside that place of love and they shift when you enter it. You may have thought they were one thing until you love so fully and find out that they were only in disguise. That they weren’t what you thought they were after all. They weren’t a grandmother in a floral dress. That they weren’t loud or big. They were soft, a whisper-like soundtrack, barely audible by human ears. Perhaps only audible by touch.
What the words speak: You are exactly where you need to be. They say things like It’s not going to be okay. It is okay.
They stop speaking in future tenses. They exist only in the here.
I am a poet. I love words and the carnival of sound they create in the mind and how they etch a place in my imagination I can escape to when I am lonely or happy. Or when I feel nothing.
Words are powerful and I do believe that the ones that bring us great comfort should be duly noted, tattooed in our minds as needed.
However, they will change as we change. As we grow into adult versions of ourselves (as if that ever happens) the words we look to for comfort might fall away like old cells and although we might vaguely remember them like we vaguely remember our seven year old faces, we know that it’s no longer us. If we reach up and touch our cheeks we feel a roughness that wasn’t there at age seven. Our noses are bigger. We don’t break or stop working because we’ve lost parts of ourselves.
We don’t need those cells anymore to move our blood along, to wake up in the morning and make the coffee. We’ve made new cells. We’ve regenerated.
Touch your cheek and remember how it feels because when you are very very old, say, as old as your grandmother, your cheek will feel different than it does right now and perhaps that will bring you some comfort. This great big life you’ve led and how your face is weathered but the love! The love you’ve brushed up against with this cheek is worth every word in the world.
We might look back at the words that used to bring us comfort and shake our heads knowingly at them like someone we once loved asking to come back again. We have the wherewithal to know that the last time we let them come back they hadn’t changed, that things were exactly the same as they always had been and that the farthest thing we’d felt was “comfort”. Comfort was a mile away at all times. So we know this and look past the set of words that used to bring us comfort and accept that although we are not perfect, we have grown and what once made us feel safe as houses, no longer does.
All the words that you look for in your bedrooms and grandmothers and old chairs are simply a reminder of that feeling of safety. The thing is, if you ask me, comfort is all around.
Look, love is everywhere.
Look love, it’s everywhere.
Look everywhere, it’s love.
However you word it, it is. It’s going to be okay.