In my “Nobody’s Bringing Me Casseroles” blog and here on Huffington Post, I often write about casseroles — both actual and metaphorical. In our culture, casseroles symbolize an expression of comfort from others. When a woman becomes widowed, everyone in the community instinctively comes to her aid, bringing homemade casseroles and other food, offering to help with household chores, childcare, etc. However, when a woman’s husband leaves her (but not the planet), nobody brings her casseroles. She is often abandoned by the people around her — including some of her closest friends.
As a result, when a woman experiences a separation or divorce, she is frequently left to deal with all of the grief, loneliness and despair of widowhood, but without the outpouring of sympathy and support that people would naturally provide to an actual widow. And brother, she could really use those casseroles and other expressions of comfort!
If you’re going through a similar situation, hopefully you’ll swallow your pride and let your friends and family members know that you would appreciate an invitation to cocktails, dinner, or a movie, an occasional shoulder to cry on and some words of comfort. But you can also consciously choose to be good to yourself — to bring yourself a “casserole” as often as possible.
Here are 7 ways to accomplish just that:
- Treat yourself. What puts a grin on your face? A mani/pedi? A good book? A fabulous pair of shoes? A Broadway show? A weekend getaway? While it’s true that money doesn’t buy happiness, sometimes spending a few bucks on yourself is just what you need. You can indulge in some pampering from time to time without worrying about depleting the kids’ college funds. You deserve it!
- Keep busy. They say, “The devil finds work for idle hands.” I don’t believe in the devil, but I know that inactivity always leads to bad results. If you’ve got too much time on your hands you’ll dwell on your problems instead of taking positive action to move forward. Always seek to improve, to be a better person tomorrow than you are today. You’ll be so busy learning new things and making the world a better place that there won’t be any time for the “devil’s work.”
- Be grateful. There’s an old Yiddish saying that if everyone threw their troubles into a pile, you’d claim your own rather than someone else’s. Even though you’re going through real difficulties, always remember that many others face problems that are exponentially worse than yours. On what I refer to as my “poor me” days, I tell myself: “How many people would trade my absolute worst day for theirs, in a heartbeat?” If you and your children are healthy and you have a roof over your head, you’re doing a lot better than many others in this world. To be clear: this doesn’t mean denying or trivializing your problems; it’s just a reminder to appreciate what you have instead of mourning what you’ve lost.
- Accept responsibility for your own happiness. You can’t control what happens to you; you can only control how you react to what happens. Have you been wronged by your ex or others? Acknowledge your hurt and anger. Work through it, then try to forgive and move on. Remember: you control your feelings. If you cede that control to others, you give up your personal power. As wise Benjamin Franklin once said, “The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
- Try affirmations. Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life, defines an affirmation as “A positive statement you say or think about yourself” to “help reprogram negative self-talk.” Affirmations are short, personal statements — always in the present tense — that you repeat to yourself. They can be based on anything significant to you. Some examples: “My life is so good.” “I am of value.” “I attract fulfilling relationships.” You may think this sounds too “New Agey/touchy-feely.” But it’s really just about adopting a positive outlook. Like the song says, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative; latch on to the affirmative; don’t mess with Mr. in between.”
- Make an actual casserole. If you’ve got kids, choose a recipe that includes pasta — they’ll sing your praises while they clean their plates. If you don’t have kids, or if they’re already grown and flown, choose a more sophisticated dish and invite some friends over to share your creation (along with a nice bottle of wine). Either way, casseroles are the ultimate comfort food.
- Give a casserole to someone else! Buddha said, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Now that you know the power of a simple act of kindness or sympathetic word, pass it on. Surely you know someone who is suffering or in need of some support. Reach out to him or her with a casserole (real or metaphorical). You’ll be amazed at the power of giving to others; you’ll benefit as much as the person you help. St. Francis of Assisi was on the same wave length as Buddha when he wrote: “It is in giving that we receive.”
And finally, most importantly:
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