“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart,
your raw and beautiful heart…you feel so full and rich, as if you were about to shed tears.
In order to be a good warrior, one has to feel this sad and tender heart.” –Chogyam Trungpa
The sad heart is often a hungry heart. So many tears I’ve chased with trips to the diner for fluffy eggs on squishy booths. Ribbons of pasta, slippery with bittersweet olive oil. Bowls of popcorn. The clichés — pints of ice cream, boxes of chocolates — exist for good reason. Sugar, fat, dairy, brunch: balm for heart-chafe.
More often, in the throes of heart-sadness, I don’t want to eat at all. My tummy feels like there’s war going on inside, bloody and unimaginable. If food is joy, dining feels sacrilege.
Years ago, after a long heart-wrenching fight, the kind that wears you out and leaves you silent, all the tears cried out, Micky and I shared a pillowy macaroon. It was pistachio, from Bouchon Bakery, which makes beautiful macaroons. I smiled for the first time all day, under the spell of its airy sweetness.
“You care about food more than you care about me,” he said, all glare, no smile.
I hated that he could rob me of this small, exquisite joy. The soft, nutty center. His unhappy eyes. The horror that he was right — I liked the delicate confection a lot better than my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend that day. Under the hot blaze of his judgment, I wilted.
Heartbreak is a terrible kind of pain. You’ve felt it, I’m sure. Sometimes it’s knife-sharp, stinging, and I have to sit down, or sneak off to the bathroom to cry. What a good word, heartbreak; the physicality of it. My insides are bursting, undoing themselves. Other times, it’s dull and throbbing. It catches me off guard. I’m walking down Broadway and I have to stop for a second, brace myself against a building, breathe.
Heartbreak builds on itself, some horrific and gorgeous structure, as love does. Each disappointment invites echoes of previous breakups, endings, goodbyes. I have to remind myself they are not failures: I shared misshapen tamales and melty gelato, bliss, misery, mess. I lived, I loved, I learned.
I’m sad, when I arrive at my friend’s apartment in Dumbo, the slow-simmering and achy kind. I tell her husband it’s been a bad dating run.
“I’m so sorry for my gender,” he says, kindly.
“It’s not your whole gender (I haven’t lost all hope), just a few individuals.” He looks skeptical.
Friends come, and with them, the sadness dissipates. There are tortillas from a tortilla press, hot and carb-y and perfect, and charred broccoli with aioli. Cheddar sharp enough to tickle the roof of my mouth. Then tea and hibiscus-scented marshmallows. Laughter, loopy stories, love.
Riding the subway home, I am struck by fullness, not of my stomach but of my heart. So many friends to cheer me up and give me perspective. Friends to bake banana bread with, heavy on the chocolate chips, and tell it how it is. Food fieldtrips to Flushing, East Harlem. A city pulsating with hope and deliciousness.
There is so much love here. I hope you feel it. In case you don’t know, Saturday is Valentine’s Day. Come celebrate with us at Chalk Point Kitchen in SoHo. Romance is nice, but true love transcends mush. Single, taken, hungry…there will be games, and gorgeous cocktails, and genius takes on veggies, and chocolate, and music. Fill up that incredible, tender, hungry heart of yours.