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Emily Nunn’s new book The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart is a memoir about a woman in the midst of grief. In the wake of her brother’s death, her fiancé breaks up with her and her life falls apart. What does she do? First, she moves toward health, going to rehab to get sober, but then she embarks on a “comfort food tour,” visiting friends around the country who have offered to host her (and cook for her) while she puts the pieces of her life back together.

I caught up with Emily for a sneak peek at her book and the lessons she learned along the way about connection, community, and love.

Tell me a little bit about your book?

Well, you know, it’s got a lot going on, but the premise of it was, I had this period in my life, years ago, where the top three or four things on that list of terrible things that can happen to you—I can’t remember the name of the chart—but about four or five of those happened to me, all within a couple of months. I just completely fell apart and I drank a bunch of wine and I got on Facebook, the way people do, and I complained about my life. I woke up the next day and I thought ‘oh my god, what have I done. I’m going to have lost half of my Facebook friends.’ Instead I had these amazing, incredible, warm notes from people—I mean hundreds of them—from friends that I hadn’t talked to in ages, some who were living across town from me, basically on my side, telling me they had a place for me if I needed it. It was like crying across the backyard fence with all your friends, or going down to the river to mourn—all of this kind of community on the internet. One of my old friends from college said ‘Well, you should just come with all of us and make comfort food—come visit us,’ and I was like ‘That’s a really good idea.’ So even though that didn’t happen immediately, and even though my life didn’t repair itself immediately—things got a little bit worse for a while, and that’s the reality of most situations like this, you don’t heal them with a comfort food tour—but that’s what I ended up doing. I ended up traveling around and staying with friends and cooking with them and they cooked for me or I cooked for them and some of them gave me favorite recipes and sometimes we just hung out, but it ended up turning into a real project for me and it was a real lifesaver, that part of the book, visiting so many old friends and friends also that I had actually never met before, some of them were friends from the ether that I had met through food sites. Meeting them in person was pretty amazing, and it turned into a book.

Obviously your book is about a lot more than food. Why did you choose food as a lens to explore heartbreak, family, and friendship?

Because at that point in my life it was kind of the only thing that I felt like I could count on. It actually makes me feel like crying saying that. I don’t know if I’ve ever really thought about that. I was a food writer at the Chicago Tribune and I had covered restaurants at The New Yorker magazine so food has always been a big part of my life, but it’s a way to connect and at that point in my life I felt so isolated and alone, despite the fact that these people were coming to me, I felt a little bit like I was in a jar and my trust was kind of shattered and my desire to be around other people was kind of shattered, but I knew that I needed to learn to trust people, I needed to connect. It’s the way that we all do connect, I mean our culture, you know, you meet for coffee, you meet for a hamburger, you meet for a glass of wine, you go to the zoo and you feed animals. We’re a food culture. I mean sitting at the table with people you love, there’s nothing like it, and there’s nothing like it with strangers either, so it turned out to be really perfect and natural.

At the beginning of the book, you had a hard time believing that you were worthy of love, even from yourself, what changed along the way and what are some of the ways you’ve learned to show yourself love?

I wish I had an easy answer for you but my path back from heartbreak, in many different ways not just a love relationship, but other areas of my life was hard for a while. I actually avoided it as long as I could. I avoided grieving, I avoided facing the heartbreak but you know it was a really gradual process and for me it actually took a really, really long time.

But as far as taking care of myself, there was this night, a really clear night, with moon and stars and I was outside and I was drinking coffee even though it was night time and I looked up and I could see the stars—I was out in the country and I just had this feeling that I was going to be okay, and it had been a long long time since I had thought I was going to be okay. I struggled for a long time. But I trusted that, I just chose to believe in it and I hung on to it.

As far as changing my habits, I had to ease into it, of course, but I think it was the people connection. I had to cook for other people before I could cook for myself, and that eventually led me to cooking for myself. I cook for myself all the time now. Back then, I stopped doing things that were harmful first. What I would do is I would force myself to accept love from people who were offering it to me. I forced myself to be aware of other people, that I wasn’t alone in the world, that nobody really is. It is partly your responsibility to not feel that way. It was really hard for me to accept things from other people, and I forced myself to do it. That’s part of what the comfort food tour is about—making myself accept love. I think if you didn’t learn to do it as a kid I think you kind of have to teach yourself.

The comfort food tour was at at least in part a way to break unhealthy relational habits that you had. Would you talk a little bit about that process?

First of all, of course you have to be aware of it. When something happens in a dysfunctional family like mine, the patterns develop so early that you don’t notice for a long time that you are picking people like your family. If your family is, say narcissistic, or if your family is very shut down—if you have very reserved parents, I think you pick a very reserved guy. I think I’ve done that in my life and it didn’t really dawn on me to the degree that I needed it to until everything fell apart. When it felt like nobody in my life was really there for me, they were worried about how my break down made them look or made them feel, but I didn’t get a lot of support—it was a wake-up call. I was able to except certain kinds of ways of relating that might not be exactly the healthiest kind, they didn’t seem abnormal to me. So having everything split wide open the way it did really opened my eyes. I don’t recommend my method, it would be better to go to a good therapist, but I had it thrust upon me. I wasn’t going around saying ‘I wonder why I feel funny all the time?’ until the bad things came to visit.

Not everybody can take quite so elaborate a comfort food tour in the wake of the end of a relationship or in the midst of grief. What advice would you give to those wanting to experience a similar journey in their own lives?

First of all, anybody can cook. I say this in the book again and again: making a sandwich for somebody is cooking and there’s a saying: the best damn sandwich is the one someone else makes for you. It’s such a special thing to do for somebody. It’s just incredibly healing.

If you’re single and all your friends have families, you have to say: ‘Can I come and have family night with you? Can I be at your table?’ You have to say to your friends: ‘I want to meet people, I want you to set me up. I want to come to your house for dinner. I want to be with you. I know you have a family. When can you and I go for coffee?’ Whatever it is, you have to make yourself a part of other people’s families, and not get your feelings hurt if they are like: ‘No, this is family time,’ but you have to kind of sing above your voice in terms of getting the love you need.

What was your greatest take away from living this story and writing this book?

For me personally it was that I could survive anything, that no matter how far down I fell in so many different ways I could pick myself up and keep going. I could continue on some sort of path but that to do that I had to connect to other people.

When I was writing the book and not quite sure what I was trying to say I think what I wanted was to make sure that people knew that there was a way out of a deep hole—that when you feel like you’re being pushed just further and further down and you feel hopeless that you can get out—it does happen eventually.

The food lens is a really important aspect of it, but I think it applies to anybody’s life, especially when talking about relationships. You have to find a window into relating to other people, you have to get outside yourself and that can be really difficult. I wanted to show people that no matter how dysfunctional your family is, no matter how horrible a thing has happened in your life, not just to you but to other people in your family, or your friends, I guess it’s about finding your inner strength and connecting. I guess that was kind of the point of the book.

Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook.

The post Emily Nunn’s Comfort Food Diaries: Lessons in Life and Love appeared first on eHarmony Blog.

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Dear Sara: After a year of going on dozens of so-so dates, I finally met a guy I really liked. Our dates were lively and fun, and he was really cute. It had been ages since I’d felt that way about anyone, and I was so happy and relieved.

I was sure he felt the same way. We spent all three dates laughing and chatting, and when we kissed on our third date it was … well, it was just wonderful. Finally, it seemed like I was going to find the relationship I’ve been wanting for so long.

Then he disappeared. He sent a few texts about “being really busy at work blah blah blah” and then just stopped texting entirely. I’m devastated. And what makes the situation worse is that some of my friends are saying things like, “Oh, come on. You only went on three dates! Shouldn’t you be over it by now?” I’m not over it. Not even close. Am I completely weird for having such a strong reaction? – A

Dear A: No, I don’t think you’re completely weird. Or maybe I’m just weird in the same way. During my single years, I was often chided to “just get over” some man who broke my heart. I was often presented with calculations based on the amount of time I had spent with this man, and the amount of time that had passed since. The math was never good.

When people say things like this to us, it’s because they find it frustrating to see someone they love so miserable over someone who, to them, is just some random jerk. It is very, very hard to watch. But what they don’t understand is that this kind of heartbreak isn’t simply about the management consultant you had dinner with three times. The devastation is about the hope that has been dashed. It’s less about the time that you spent with this one person, and more about the many months or years before that that you spent trying to find someone you liked this much.

But don’t get down on your friends too much—they mean well. Most likely, they’ve either never experienced longtime singledom or they have allowed themselves to forget. Either way, there is no point in judging how you feel, or even analyzing why you feel that way. You were hurt, so honor that. I don’t mean wallow in it by mentally rehashing the ordeal. I mean, just let yourself feel sad without judging that feeling. As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron often says, “Feel the feeling. Drop the storyline.”

When you criticize yourself for feeling bad, it doesn’t make you feel any better—all you’re doing is adding shame to the hurt. But when you can allow those difficult feelings to have a little space, that’s when start to loosen up. In other words, if you want to “let it go” start by letting it be.

Sara

Sara Eckel is a personal coach and the author of It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single. You can get a free bonus chapter of her book at saraeckel.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. Ask her questions here.

The post ‘It Was Only Three Dates, But I’m Devastated’ appeared first on eHarmony Blog.

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Hi there,

If this is the fall where you can’t quite seem to get excited about the idea of new beginnings, I’m writing this to you. You’re here, I know, because you’re holding onto hope by a tiny little thread. I get it—it seems like an impossibility that you will meet the right person, someone who will love you and someone you will love. It seems likely that your relationship status will stay as it is. After all, what’s different about now?

I have any easy time succumbing to doubt myself. In other ways, my life is going really well, maybe that’s enough, maybe I don’t get to be happily coupled as well. When I say things like this to my therapist, or to the friends who know and love me, often they laugh. Why wouldn’t it happen to you? They say. It’s just not the right time yet.

It’s so easy for me to hold hope for other people. I’m confident that my friend who is job hunting will find something great, ready at any moment to hear of long-awaited pregnancies, of a closing date on the right house, of new boyfriends, engagements, and book deals. Why is it so hard for me to believe that the very best things will happen to me?

Lately, I’ve been taking a break from hope. I’m letting other people hold it for me. I’m letting my therapist believe that love is just around the corner, letting my girlfriends look forward to dancing at my wedding, letting my family know for certain that someone is going to fall in love with my particularities and quirks.

It’s helped me to be lighter, not hoping all on my own. Maybe you should try it, too. I’ll hold some hope for you.

Maybe you’re comforted by statistics: the numbers show that most of us will eventually find partners, even if we have to wait a while.

Perhaps you prefer anecdotes. Lately, I’ve watched a few couples get together, even in my small city, where it seems like everyone is already married. There is no way of knowing where love is going to strike, and when.

But maybe you just need to hear somebody say this: you’re going to make it through. You are strong, and brave. You have what it takes. You are lovable. You are just someone’s type. You are the answers to somebody’s prayers, the one they have been waiting for. I just know it.

Believe me, I know that waiting is hard. I don’t blame you if you want to take a break from carrying the weight of hope. Pass it along to your friends, give it to your therapist if you have one. Maybe you’ll find that you’re better off without it. I’m sure that ceasing to worry will not preclude your meeting someone great. Maybe without the worry, you’ll be able to see them more clearly when their path intersects with yours.

So give up the stress, the doubts, the franticness. Embrace true hope, which is calm and self-assured. Allow yourself to believe that all is well and that everything will come right in the end, and see how it feels. Relax into the knowledge that you are loved and lovable already, as if it were a warm bath.

Don’t forget to treat yourself with kindness—make yourself something delicious to eat, wear your favorite sweater, put on your favorite song in the car, go out with friends, or go to sleep a little earlier. Remember that you are your best significant other, no matter how great a future partner might be. They might love you to the moon and back, but they will never know you as well as you know yourself. Set an example for how you should be treated. Be generous with you.

They always say that love happens when you aren’t looking for it. For many of us, this is a completely ridiculous statement. Even when I’m at my most content, I can’t trick myself into thinking that I don’t want a partner. My eyes still turn when a new guy enters the room. I can’t turn off that part of myself that wants to fall in love. Maybe you can’t either, so don’t. You won’t block love by hoping for it, by talking about it, any more than you will attract it by playing coy. When it comes, it still might manage to surprise you, how, or when, or who, but it won’t mind if you swing the door open wide, seeing it coming. For my part, I’ve left the door open with a note on the screen. Let yourself in. I’m ready, wrapped in hope.

Love,

Cara

Cara Strickland writes about food and drink, mental health, faith and being single from her home in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys hot tea, good wine, and deep conversations. She will always want to play with your dog. Connect with her on Twitter @anxiouscook.

The post A Letter to Those Who Hope appeared first on eHarmony Blog.

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eHarmony Blog | Trusted Dating Site for .. by Jeannie Assimos, Vice President, Co.. - 1y ago

It all started when an eharmony engineer named Greg Petroski thought to himself, wouldn’t it be cool if there was an eharmony skill for Amazon Alexa, where you could check out your matches, listen to messages, and get updated without lifting a finger?

Not even a year later, that thought has become a reality.

eharmony users can now enable the eharmony ‘Skill’ for Alexa, hear their matches and messages by voice and then ask Alexa for more info on dating prospects.

How It Works:

To get started, first enable the eharmony skill, then link your eharmony account in the Alexa app, and say “Alexa, open eharmony.” From there you can navigate to the sections of eharmony that you’d like to hear about. As the skill reads through the profiles and tells you about your matches, it also sends a photo of a potential love interest to your smartphone. And those with an Echo Show can see their matches photos right there, resulting in a completely hands-free way to experience eharmony.

Here are some helpful phrases to use with Alexa.

•To check out your matches, say “Alexa, ask eharmony for my matches.”
•To read your unread messages, say “Alexa, ask eharmony to read my messages.
•To hear who viewed your profile, say “Alexa, ask eharmony who viewed my profile.”
•To get a summary of your account activity, say “Alexa, ask eharmony to give me a summary.”

Alexa also offers an element of fun with witty remarks such as…

•”Oh my, you have a lot of new matches.”
•”Let me tell you about your first match. Ooh la la! She lives 5 miles away!”
•”Oh and there is NAME. What a catch! He seems great.”
•”You have five unread messages, woo hoo!”
•”You are popular today!”

Thank you Greg, Amazon, Alexa, and I hope you all enjoy the skill.

The post ‘Alexa, Show Me My Matches!’ appeared first on eHarmony Blog.

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