I had an epiphany this week while standing in my kitchen. For the first time in a long time, I felt at home.
It’s been a while.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved to cook. Some of my favorite memories as a child center around a mixing bowl and beaters and baking lessons with my mom. When I became an adult, the kitchen evolved into a place where I could express my creativity and unwind. Food became a love language for me as it gave me the opportunity to gather with and feed my people.
For so many years of my life, the kitchen’s been a place of joy.
That all shifted when my oldest son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies as a toddler. Like so many food allergy moms, I was not only overwhelmed with fear but completely at a loss. Food was now our enemy. I only knew one other allergy mom at the time, and I’ll never forget how I felt when she gave me her favorite recipe for egg-free chocolate cupcakes. It was such a small gesture, but in it, she sowed the seed of confidence that I needed to believe, “OK, we can do this.”
And, my resolve remained steadfast when, two years later, my new baby was also diagnosed with multiple food allergies, including one to dairy. With my cooking repertoire tweaked, even in the fear and disappointment surrounding this new food enemy, I felt emboldened. I was determined that we were going to once again make it work.
And, we did.
But in August of 2021, everything changed yet again. My oldest son—and first food allergy kid—was admitted to the hospital in diabetic ketoacidosis. And we began a whole new journey as a type 1 diabetes family. This time, I did not feel strong. I was not filled with resolve. And, it wasn’t just fear and sadness that overwhelmed me.
I felt absolutely defeated.
Yes, it was still about food . . . but completely different. We had to learn to take over the job of my son’s non-working pancreas. Without this crucial organ making the insulin needed to unlock his cells and receive energy from his food, his body is reliant on us to give him the insulin he needs to survive. This means learning to count every carb he eats, doing mathematical equations to properly dose his medication, administering shots, and monitoring his blood sugar 24/7.
Now, every food has the capability to become our enemy because any food can potentially give him too much or not enough of what he needs. And, in this, I have felt paralyzed. Food has ushered in stress and numbers and needles. It’s been difficult to comprehend the possibility that I could ever feel happy in my kitchen again.
Yet, this week, I felt it.
There was no lightning bolt, no angel appearing in my doorway. It was a simple moment. There I was chopping vegetables and grilling chicken and feeling . . . normal. Our meal was healthy and safe and a perfect balance of carbs. I didn’t feel scared or insecure or sad as I stood there.
I was at peace.
I don’t believe we magically find ourselves peeking out from the other side of something really hard. And even if we’ve overcome hardship before, we may struggle to reflect backward with confidence that we’ll find our joy again. Instead, it’s a culmination of time and space and putting one foot in front of the other.
For me, this moment was six months in the making. Six long months of showing up and trying our best. Six months of praying. Six months of talking through our ups and downs with supportive friends who I trust the most. Six months of delicately balancing the sadness for what we’ve lost and triumph in how we’ve grown. Six months of cheering on and believing in my son.
There’s no question that I’ve got further to go, but that spark of what I’ve been missing was confirmation that I’m heading in the right direction.
Wherever your joy once was, whether it’s in the kitchen or somewhere else entirely, I hope you know this message is universal. We grow through what’s hard and our joy patiently waits for us. In the same place that it’s always been.
Just remember that with each little step forward, we are all moving closer to finding it once again.