Sharing my Heartbreak with Stuffed Squash

Sharing my Heartbreak with Stuffed Squash

The following excerpt is from my book Good Food Better Sex. It is possible to misunderstand the title of this book and think that it is about the physical act of intercourse but it’s not. It’s about being human, about being healthy, and about being in love with life. This month in Chi Flow with Jo, we have been practicing Chi Gong and acupressure for the heart. In these times of returning lockdowns, loss of friends, family, job and even a way of life it is possible to lose heart and to feel heartbroken.

I share with you the thing that broke my heart, it was my father dying. I was 17 and in the midst of a life that didn’t fit me. I was a rebellious, confused, obnoxious, drunk, little girl − lost, terrified and desperately sad. That was before he died. After he died I had an excuse to carry on being all those things. People just looked, they watched, they said, “ahh poor girl, her father just died.”

I remember the night my mum told my brother and I how he died, I felt the pain in my chest, like my heart was being ripped open, slashed apart, as if my chest was cracking and splitting from a large quake inside. That pain, the grief was like nothing I have ever felt since. I howled and I screamed. My cries let fly in an unstoppable, keening flood. He was my idol and I adored him. He wouldn’t be there anymore and I was out of my mind and out of my body, with grief.

“When my father died we put him
in the ground
.  When my father died it was like a whole library burned down” – Laurie Anderson

For over 30 years that grief stayed with me. I learned to function on a day to day basis but it was always there, just beneath the surface. It took a lot
 of organization to keep the grief hidden so I could function. As I grew up, I took on too much work, ran too many projects, all to divert my mind and emotions from the maelstrom swelling beneath the surface. I had it in a box, wrapped up at the back of my mind but if a memory unexpectedly cropped up with a smell or a song, I would be instantly inconsolable. Even as the years passed if someone asked about him, tears welled up and I became a vulnerable mess, unable to function, unable to run a busy house as a single mum. So, I didn’t allow the pain and the grief, they were too uncontrollable and I didn’t have space for them in my busy life.

Finally, I had had enough of being alone, of choosing thoroughly inappropriate and incompatible boyfriends. I chose men who weren’t available or capable of supporting me, physically, emotionally, or financially. I chose partners with whom I was never going to be able to completely let go. To be seen and supported in all my incapable, messy, debilitating sadness. I remained safe if I picked partners who were thoroughly inappropriate. More often than not, I was attracted to people who needed a bottomless pit of emotional, financial or physical support themselves. Their needs distracted me from my own which meant I was never vulnerable, I was in control.

In my 40’s I decided to seek a professional therapist
 to help me open up to the grief of losing my father so that I could fall in love again. I explored my relationship with him, warts and all, but most of all I began to let go. I gave in to the swelling waves of deep emotional agony, smashed down the boulders that I had put up as protection. I was raw, vulnerable and broken but I also felt soft and lovable. Slowly and gently I picked myself up and nurtured that delicate, fluid, new me. I learned that I was able to cope, I went shopping, cooked dinner, put the kids to bed, gave Shiatsu treatments but now I knew that no matter how much I experienced grief, I would survive. I could now access the deep love I felt for my father without the terror of the grief. I felt tender, loveable and his presence all around me.

This realization brought about freedom to love without defenses or fear. When we deeply connect with another it is inevitable we will lose them. There is no stopping death and loss. I know one day I will lose my present lover and one day my children will lose me. Touching that deep pain and catastrophic loss of my father broke down my defenses, now I feel more able to love without armour or superficiality. I can show vulnerability and sadness without the terror of loss overwhelming me.

“Grief and love are forever intertwined. Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and like love, grief is non-negotiable.”   – Nick Cave

The world can be desperately unfair. tsunamis, war, drought, famine, lockdowns, death all bring grief on a daily basis. Through the sorrow, and the injustice, keep your heart open, circulating, and in connection with the possibility of change and love. Be tender with your soft loving self, stay in contact with your emotions, checking in, finding a healthy outlet, and expressing yourself. This recipe from the book Good Food Better Sex can’t right the wrongs in the world but it can support you so that you don’t harden your heart to the grief and sadness of loss.

This blog is taken from Good Food Better Sex: my books are full of personal stories and experiences as to how I’ve used food as medicine for greater love in my life.  Learn to create a compassionate dialogue with your body together with me and the food you choose.

Stuffed Squash (Serves 3)

• Base of 3 medium butternut squash
• 250g cooked rice
• 2 tbsp. sunflower oil
• 2 or 3 leeks
• 4 tbsp. crème fraiche
• 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
• 1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper
• 150g strong hard cheese, (mature cheddar, pecorino or manchego)
• 2 tbsp. of thyme leaves
• 2 large handfuls of chopped flat-leaf parsley
• Salt and black pepper to taste.
• 1 mozzarella ball

Cut the top off the butternut squash leaving the bulbous base. Scoop out the seeds and set aside. Prepare the filling by gently frying the leeks in oil until they are soft and transparent. Take off the heat and mix the cooked leeks with cooked rice, crème fraiche, Dijon mustard, hard cheese, herbs, salt and pepper. Stuff the mixture into the cavity of the squashes, place on a baking tray, top with a mozzarella disk and bake for 40-50 minutes at 180oC. To test if thoroughly cooked, slide a knife through the side of the squash. It should slide in and out like butter when ready.
Butternut squash and rice will assist the stomach and spleen meridians, giving the body comfort and support. The cheese and crème fraiche can put the lung and large intestine meridians under pressure meaning they may clog with mucus but the mustard and cayenne pepper are warming and clearing so this should balance things out. The herbs will benefit all areas of the body but especially the heart and the heart’s protective meridians, making sure we do not lose the capacity for connection by overprotection.

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