“Once I knew only darkness and stillness… my life was without past or future… but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.” ~ Helen Keller
Writing as much as I do, I find myself developing a personal relationship with words. Now this might sound funny, but I know for a fact when I go through hard times and find myself knee deep in transition that I go straight for my books and collected quotes as a means of getting grounded again.
One particular time in my life when this “self-comforting” tactic became somewhat obsessive, was the year after my divorce. Leading up to my 19+ year marriage failing, I had also lost my grandparents, whom I dearly loved and sold my coffee house. Now I was having a major identity crisis as a “suddenly single,” 42-year-old adult. During this time of many losses, I found myself doing silly little superstitious things to help me feel more secure. The rituals were comforting and made me feel in control of something.
One of these quirky things was to eat Chinese food. Oh, not that I had a particular passion for the taste of tofu and fried rice. I did, however, have a strong urge for the little folded cookies that accompanied such food which revealed my future at a time when I was unable to comprehend I even had one. So comforting were the told fortunes of:
“You will soon have your moment of glory.”
“Clear your emotional, mental and psychic space and you’ll see.”
“Success is getting up just one more time than you fall down.”
These printed words, falling out of pastries, held a glimmer of hope for me like nothing else I found.
I began tacking them around my cubicle at work and found myself reading them with such authority that they almost became “sanctioned.” I’m telling you, “when life comes at you fast,” simple cookies with little pieces of paper in them become “cubical scripture” and bring a calmness and clarity like nothing else.
I was so into my little cookie friends that the local Chinese restaurant knew me by name. Once in awhile I would talk my work buddies into ordering with me, and that helped me feel like things were not so out of control. But, when shear panic fell upon me at the site of only one cookie down in the bag with three orders, drastic measures were taken and I placed the little, lonely cookie in my car to be counseled for its wisdom later…yeah, I was totally out of control!
Time passed and I began to see that I might have a problem when one of my co-workers helped me see the light. She very subtly typed out a little piece of paper, placed it among the other little fortune cookie papers plastered on my cubicle wall that read:
“You will DIE from MSG poisoning if you do not STOP eating all this Chinese food!”
This was a real wake-up call, from a true friend who spoke truth to me. I began to think that I just might be searching for hope in a place that was not healthy. I know that after speaking to others that have been in places of major loss, we all tend to grasp at ANYTHING in which glimmers of clarity and hope can be found. It’s a natural process of grieving.
As I am now 9+ years out of this season, I still find it fascinating and reflect on it with some giggles, tears, thankfulness and “Aha’s”! However, now when I am in transition and faced with hardship, I am able to reflect on my lessons through this season and seek foundational clarity in scripture, council with others, and inner reflection.
One huge take-away for me was the power of words to bring hope, healing, and strength. I now am a firm believer that we should all be very diligent in speaking truth, hope, and a sense of community over those who might be hurting. Transitions are hard. Let’s walk through them together, and if you’d like to tuck a few little fortune cookies for a snack along the way…that’s just fine too.
Some of my favorite cookie messages:
“Turn off your computer and read a book.”
“Fate will come looking for you. Don’t bother hiding.”
“Like a special fungus, your love will grow in strange places.”
“Your best idea will come to you in the shower this week. Act on it.”
“A good way to keep healthy is to eat more Chinese food.”