Breakfast in bed has crumbs, and crumbs are the way back out of the forest. Eat the breakfast, follow the path between big trees whose canopies overlap so you walk always among others’ shadows, instead of casting your own. The breakfast crumbs you left under the pillow. The breakfast crumbs your spine pressed into the creases in the sheets. The crumbs the ants are presently hauling away, but not before this footfall, and then the next, breakfast without end.
Breakfast in bed sounds great, until it’s Hospital Day 4, and you’re dreaming of your own dear toaster’s lopsided feet and sticky sides, and how you can shuffle up to it in your own good time, never mind the metal toast-cover and the patient-ID barcode. Breakfast in bed is different when you are living everything in bed, and you are a patient. Patience. Breakfast in bed as a patient is leaving crumbs on the unmarked paths of your own endurance. Who sees you? You would give a lot to see a wolf’s pelt fluttering in the breeze. You would give a lot to follow paths of smells and fox-turds, new glowing amanitas in morning light. You would give a lot to walk anywhere, but now is the time of breakfasts in bed.
Today’s breakfast is not in bed: it is two slices of toasted bread, buttered by my Love before catching the bus catching the tram catching the plane back across the ocean. And a cup of black tea in a white porcelain mug. Today’s breakfast is sitting in a narrow seat, writing, elbow-jostled by other travelers like me, as we prepare to cross the ocean. We are leaving a trail of security-scanned toothpaste and worn underwear stuffed into the corners of our suitcases. We are scattering a trail of those we leave behind. We are breakfasting on the adrenaline high of fastening our bodies into these unforested spaces. No wolves and no foxes. Our spines will press pretzel-bits into the dark-blue fake leather of our seats.
Breakfast in bed requires walking 500 miles across Spain. I arrive smelly and tired, having followed breadcrumbs of millions of pilgrims into my own body. Yellow blazes, cockle-shells, arrows, piles of stones. Arriving at the palace where pilgrims once stayed, I unfold the 500 franc bill in my pocket, given to me by my godmother, and ask, If I give you this, will you give me breakfast in bed? After one month of sleeping in orchards, on dirt roads, hidden at the edges of fields, I set down my backpack next to a heavy wooden bed like a forest sleigh. I peel off my sweaty socks, revealing feet like white fetlocks. I peel off my pilgrim’s clothes and slide into a deep, white bath. I sleep off the weariness of walking every day for a month, and the weariness of not walking anymore.
In the morning the form I filled out requesting breakfast in bed, and hung from the outside doorknob, has been replaced with a monumental tray bearing a heavy silver pitcher of hot chocolate, and pastries, butter, and jam. I spread crumbs between the damask sheets before heading to the train station for the long journey home. Breakfast in bed is the pause between before and after.
Here on the plane, breakfast is either a Chocolate Duet or an omelette, though neither will be served in bed. We eat breakfast in our chairs because there is nowhere else to be. Breakfast in bed presupposes somewhere else your legs could take you, but the fake-bear coat I am currently wearing is the closest thing to a forest animal around here, unless you count the pale sausages I avoided by ordering the unpopular Chocolate Duet. The steward says he feels sorry for the Chocolate Duet, because nobody wants it.
I am watching The Post, also in my chair, which is not a bed. There’s not a lot of leisure in this story of secrets and competition. No one has yet appeared on screen, reading about government lies while lying in bed, though Meryl Streep will in the fulness of time be eating breakfast in a fabulous robe. It is an active story, with many people walking around, but hardly any forest animals, or people doing anything in bed. It is a story about fighting and tirelessness, lies and truths.
Being a therapist means entering into the territory of lies and truths, with and without fighting. Someone tells me a story about their life, and I follow the crumbs with them, down into anthills and the bellies of foxes. I say, Yes, I see the crumbs, too, even if they are eventually gobbled by the forest. I let my body be a part of the remembering we are doing together. This is really happened. I am here seeing the story with you, as we move through steady shadow. This is real.
What I am flying back to is the story I am trying to build. I have rented an office and joined a practice. Now what? I am preparing to be prepared. I am putting down crumbs in the world that lead back to me. Here I am. Have you remembered to follow the crumbs your dreams leave for you? Have you remembered your bed? How are the foxes and bears dancing with you, today? I have rented an office and am flying back to whatever will fill it. I am flying back to the two black bears I roam the forests with, their nostrils flaring as they find the crumbs. They will gather burdock and other stickers, scattering small twigs and other crumbs of the forest around the house, to make sure we know our way back out.
Breakfast in bed and other kindnesses: may we learn to look upon one another at dark bus-stops, in newsrooms, in airplane seats, and see the potential for such crumbs of comfort to lead us back to who we are.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.