Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Fourth Stage of Grief: Tater Tot Casserole

After learning of my ex-fiance's surprise disappearing act a few weeks ago, I immediately did what any self-respecting woman in my position would do: I called my therapist.

After she picked her jaw up off the floor (and there were numerous floor/jaw bruise incidents that week. Seriously, how did NO ONE in my life see this coming?) she told me that as luck would have it there had been a cancellation in her schedule and that she could see me that afternoon.

After I did my best to lay waste to an entire box of tissues in her office, she produced a slightly modified list based on the Kubler-Ross "Five Stages of Grief" model (with an extra step thrown in, because hey, I'm an over achiever) and told me to be aware of the steps I'd have to go through as I adjusted to the abrupt end of the relationship. And I, being a homework loving geek from way back, have been clutching it ever since. Observe:

An actual scanned copy of the list my therapist gave me, which I've included here because its germane to the post, and not just because I really wanted to use my new hand held wand scanner. Which totally rocks. And that's on the lowest resolution! I'm not saying I also scanned a throw pillow and my dog's back, but if I HAD done that you'd totally be able to see every fiber in the fabric and each individual dog hair. On both the pillow and the dog.

Step 1: Denial passed pretty quickly. I don't spend a lot of time mired in those parts anymore. Check!

Step 2: Anger? Um, yes. A lot of it. That one hasn't faded as quickly, and I'm given to understand that these steps are somewhat fluid in nature and that anger might linger even as I make my way through the rest of the list. Check. Check. Checkcheckcheckcheckcheck. CHECK!

Step 3: I'm still a little fuzzy on the whole "bargaining" thing, but I'm pretty sure it refers to all those times I thought things like "maybe if I hadn't gained weight" or "If only I hadn't gotten mad at him that one time 5 months ago when he totally deserved it" or "maybe if I click my heels together three times and wish REEEEEEEEAAALY hard I'll wake up and none of this will have happened." So, check. I guess.

Which brings us to the stage I am currently firmly ensconced in:

Step 4: Depression.

I wish that I could tell you that I am so well adjusted that I had a good cry and then got right on with the business of acceptance, but I can't. I'm sad. I'm sad that the future I had counted on isn't possible anymore, that someone I loved would treat me with so little consideration and respect. I'm sad because, let's face it, cancelling a wedding is a depressing task. And for me, food and depression often go hand in hand.

When I'm depressed, it can be hard not to seek comfort in dishes that fall into the category that has the word "comfort" in the title. On days when it feels like the empty space inside of me will swallow me whole, the only thing that has a chance to fill that void is something warm and satisfying. It's a temporary fix, one that will leave me empty in the long run, but in the short term that rarely seems to matter. I fall prey to the brand of magical thinking that whatever ails me will certainly be cured by a gooey grilled cheese (and if it happens to include bacon, so much the better). Or the perfect almond cupcake. Or a mountain of fettuccini alfredo with butter soaked breadsticks and a token salad.

Or a plate full of savory-on-the-bottom-gooey-in-the-middle-crispy-on-the-top Tater Tot Casserole.

I made some the other night. I'd been thinking about it all day, going over the ingredients in my mental kitchen inventory, and practically sitting on the floor watching the oven window like a television as I watched it bubble and brown. As I scooped it out onto my plate, I could barely wait for the steam to dissipate so I could engage in casserole therapy to drown my sorrows. Giddy with excitement, I inverted the pepper grinder over my plate and, just as I began to turn the barrel, I felt the top give way and watched in horror as a full cup of peppercorns spilled all over it. As the tiny spheres stuck to the creamy sauce and got lodged in the molten cheese, I reacted perfectly appropriately by bursting into angry, heartbroken tears and loudly asserting that HE had done this to me, had loosened the top of the peppermill on PURPOSE, a last insult before he left designed to further RUIN MY LIFE!!

It was a short lived, though impressive, tantrum. All the hurt and anger that I'd been keeping at bay for the last few weeks came pouring out in a flood of tears over a very peppery heap of ruined dinner in the sink. When I pulled myself together, I calmly served myself up a replacement helping, then sat down to eat it. It was good, but it wasn't as good as I thought it might be. It wasn't comfort, it was just food.

It turns out that all the work I've put in on myself during the last few years hasn't been in vain. I am convinced that without it I wouldn't be where I am today, just three weeks out, and already working my way back to normal, to a life that goes on toward new hope.

Get ready, Step 5. I'm heading your way.

1 comment:

  1. Let me tell you about my hairbrush...it was the victim of a post=breakup tantrum that I threw before meeting my husband. I still keep the two pieces around to remind me, and my husband constantly reminds me (seems it was an error to tell him about it-ha). Point is, I totally get it. I'm glad the TT casserole was there to break your fall!

    And let's face it, of course he loosened the top on the peppercorns!!!

    It will suck for a while, a long while, but it will get better...