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Mayhem.

I’m not a fan. Well, I am, sort of. I love the guy who plays “Mayhem” in the Allstate commercials. He’s this great character actor, Dean Winters. You’ve probably seen him as Liz Lemon’s idiot boyfriend who sells pagers on 30 Rock, or as Denis Leary’s cop brother who dies on Rescue Me. But to me and the Hubby, he’ll always be “Fromage”. Because Dean used to play a cop on Law and Order SVU. While testifying on the stand for a case of subway fondling, he explained what a “frotage” is (look it up). Except he mistakenly told the judge the perpetrator had engaged in an act of fromage. So now, whenever we see this guy on TV, we’re like, “Hey, it’s Fromage!” Love the Fromage.

But not a huge fan of mayhem. Earthquakes. Hurricanes. Ten inches of rain in 2 hours. The 10th anniversary of the WTC collapse. Naw, you can take that far away from me please. I don’t like mayhem – and the past 3 weeks has been a whirlwind of it, both in the world and at home. My doggie Lois busted her ACL resulting in emergency surgery, much hand-wringing and weeks of sleepless nights. The icing on this miserable cake? My hard drive died. With the first 10,000 words of my novel on it. Resulting in more hand-wringing and hyperventilation and speeding at 90 miles per hour towards the Genius Bar in Richmond with my computer baby in the backseat like a beloved family member who needs a tourniquet. Sure I backed up. At least I think I did…

After all this mayhem I just wanted to 1) curl up in the fetal position and 2) curl up in the fetal position. Which is what I did. As well as stuff my face with junk food. And I noticed something different.

Now, in the past during difficult times I’d go running for the cigarettes. Then I quit, replacing cigs with whiskey shots. Quit that too, and instead turned to chips for solace. On an especially bad week I can put away two bags of Grandma Utz’s easy. And a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cheesecake Brownie. Like a man on death row. Comfort foods are my best friends.

I tried that this time. That tried and true method of covering up my anxiety and pain with junk. Except this time it didn’t work. The chips just made me sick, and unlike the past, they didn’t really taste that great going down. Too salty.

I also stopped cooking. Stopped cooking things entirely. Where before I’d make up a huge bowl of comfort pasta (linguine with olive oil, caramelized shallots and parmesan) I discovered I didn’t want or need this taste at all. The very thought of it kinda made me ill.

This time I craved raw stuff. Well, not raw, but foods unadorned. A tomato slice with a drizzle of olive oil. A thin slice of prosciutto wrapped around a local wedge of cantaloupe. A slice of buffalo mozzarella served between two grown-myself basil leaves. Greek yogurt and local peaches. Food in its purest form, unembellished. My appetite shrank, and the need for prepping food along with it. I still wanted to eat, I just wanted food at its most austere. Pure flavors. Unadorned. Unembellished.

I found myself looking for foods I could eat that required no preparation. Even mixing a vinaigrette was too much. I had to be able to grab it from the fridge or pantry, and eat it right then. Nothing processed either. Pure foodstuffs.

And as I ate, my gratitude grew. My issues, my problems, are so miniscule compared with what other people are going through right now. I know this, I knew it even while wringing my hands standing at the Genius Bar. I am so GRATEFUL for the life I have because compared to some people I’m doing pretty damn well.

As I chewed that juicy cantaloupe wedge and the pure summer flavors danced over my tongue I was first grateful for the flavor, then grateful I could even have this fine local melon in my house, then grateful for the home we have, and my gratitude grew and grew until I felt ever so much better. Who know a simple slice of local melon could be a cure all?

Things have settled somewhat as they tend to do. These things come in waves I find. I had backed up my book after all (phew) and Miss Lois is taking her first tentative steps on her new knee. Our house is warm and safe and flood-free. And I’m ever, ever, EVER so grateful. For the food. For it all.

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