Comfort

Barbara - Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts
Entered on October 30, 2008

I believe in comfort. At my job as a writing teacher this week, a young woman describes leaving her apartment on a sunny afternoon to pick up a Domino’s pizza and is dragged into an abandoned building and raped when she was fifteen. I talk with a teen who was placed in foster care and is separated from his twin brother. Another young woman reads an essay to the class in which she describes how she struggles with having her will to live thwarted by the constant stress of diabetes.

For each of these students, I offered recognition and compassion. I WAS each of these students: my placement within the Division of Social Services’ foster care system at age two, the searing shame of rape at age 15 and 17, my twin brother’s death of AIDS at age 35, and the struggle with my will to live throughout my life.

I stumbled on and coped in various ways: therapy, medication, Alanon meetings. But it wasn’t until this past year I finally experienced and released the terrible pain that had shadowed my entire life through daily meditation. I cried every single day for a year. I wailed, I sobbed, my body shook as day after day I sat on my meditation blocks and allowed what was within me to emerge. The healing I had longed for slowly took form.

But this week, I read a passage by Emmett Fox that discussed an error I had made. Some individuals feel they must get their thoughts and consciousness right because they believe God is an impersonal force, such as “electricity or gravity.” This, Emmett Fox said, leaves the individual alone.

So in my daily meditation on Monday, I focused on what Emmett Fox had written: God always helps. And I wailed, for the one element I had needed was comfort. When I got placed in foster care, when I got raped, when my twin brother died, and when my will to live flickered like a cheap forty watt bulb in a faulty socket, I needed someone to say, “I know it hurts” and hold me. In short, I needed comfort.

So that is what I prayed for: comfort. I wish I had said to each of those students, “I know how much it hurts,” and held them – all night if necessary. This is what I had given my twin as AIDS ravaged him. I would get in bed with him and hold him. How I wish I had asked someone to do that for me.

So I believe we need to offer real comfort of the body, the emotions and the soul when people write of the searing agony of their lives. Words help, but the agony lives in the body, the emotions, the heart, the soul. Comfort requires engaging our bodies, entwining our arms and legs, feeling our hearts and chests pressed against one another. This is what I believe we need to offer one another through our lives.