Fighter Jets and Heart Attacks

When the world feels out of order, I scan the refrigerator, select a recipe, and settle in with “My Favorite Murder” or some tunes, and cook.

At this moment, I am writing. Writing is another way I work through intense feelings. In the past, I’d run things out over some hard miles but my body isn’t happy with that form of stress relief anymore, so cooking and writing must suffice as coping mechanisms

Last night, stress stomped in via text message. Do you remember when people used to call to deliver bad news? You’d pick up the phone, say “hello,” and then somebody’d start off with everyone’s okay.

Everyone’s okay would’ve been reassuring if it didn’t immediately reveal that, in the very, very recent past, everyone was not okay.

But, hey; at least some warning was intended–as if the slight pause after your greeting didn’t quite do the trick. There’s something terrible in that minuscule silence. Should one of the kids call, I know before the first quavering “Mom . . . ” that whatever comes next will tear up my heart. That pause, that hitch in the throat, reveals tons of trouble.

Texts, now–they’re a whole different business, a brave new world of disaster notification. Texts with bad news are like rolling your own in poker; do you dump the whole shebang up front or slowly expose your hand, bit by bit, no matter how bad?

So last night, my husband texts. The little ash-colored square pops up; he writes that a dear friend had a heart attack; I gasp, eyes wide. Now, to be fair, my hubby includes comforting info (procedures were done; things are “all good now”). He packs everything, bad and better, into one tiny box.

I blink at his words; as they sink in, I furiously start typing all my questions. But what’s this? Here’s another message . . . I peer curiously before realizing what I’m seeing. He’s sent a screen shot of an internal memo, without caption, warning employees of rockets fired. From the Gaza strip. Toward Tel Aviv.


If that’s not a what the fuck moment, what is?

I’ve been to Tel Aviv; I know how small and close-quartered Israel is. Here’s some perspective: Imagine the good folks in Waco taking umbrage at Austin’s hipster chic or getting sick of the Texas legislature and lobbing a few warheads southward.

Actually, back that up: the distance from Gaza to Tel Aviv is only 44.42 miles. That’s a trip to Schlitterbahn, people. Granted, traveling to New Braunfels (48.6 miles) feels like an eternity when chaperoning a car crammed with hopped-up-on-water-slide-anticipation youngsters but, for normal humans, 44.42 miles involves less time than your favorite podcast. Or waiting in line at SXSW to see Kathy Griffin, which, at an hour and a half, is either twice the time of or roughly equivalent to that drive (#atxtraffic).

I have run longer than this. Many times.

So you see why my heart began to pound double time.

Our flurry of messages overlaps until, in frustration, I type, “Can you actually talk to me now?”

He phones. We speak about hospitals and rockets and later, I go to bed, understanding tomorrow will be full of worry until my loved ones are safe. I spend the next morning putting things in order–tidying the house, clearing email boxes, ticking off errands–until I’m able to close the door on the world. Until I can dive into the calming precision of measuring, the solid heft of a good knife, the golden scent of melting butter.

Stirring, chopping, pouring, washing. Drying dishes. Wiping counters.

Shrinking the universe until it fits within my kitchen. Padding my jangling nerves with the familiar and practiced.

Putting aside images of scarred hearts and screaming jets.

Taking care of the things I can.

This evening, I delivered a warm casserole, kale salad, nice bottle of wine, and tight hug to our friend.

Minutes before I knocked on their door, my husband sent his “safe arrival in London” text message.

When he makes it all the way home, a good meal will be waiting. There’s just a bit more cooking yet to do.

text messages with emojis

More Info

“My Favorite Murder”

What is Schlitterbahn?

You don’t really know where Gaza is, do you?

Who’s bombing who?

3 recipes for hummus

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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