Monday, June 27, 2011

The Texas Cheeseburger: miraculous agent of change?

I know of someone going through a divorce right now, and it’s got me reflecting on that whole roller coaster.  In trying to assure this person that things DO get better – and even unimaginably good! – after such an upheaval, I’m reminded how much my life has changed in the last five years.

I could get all deep and talk about “meaning making” and the potential of humankind to overcome difficulty, but I’m going to keep it simple.  Forgiveness and hamburgers.

I have no idea why, but the traditional “Texas Cheeseburger” is a bun with beef patty, cheese, pickles, and mustard.  No veggies, no frills, just 100% greasy, meaty goodness.  Why is this relevant?  My ex husband was/is a big fan.  Once I let go of my girlie need to be seen eating healthy things like tomato, I became a fan, too.  A Texas cheeseburger is unpretentious and straight-talking.  And it has lots of mustard.  Win-win!

So, I have good cheeseburger memories that span many years: driving to Sonic in his primer gray oilfield services sedan for some mustardy happiness on a bun, cruising around backroads with the windows down, and sharing our dismay at having to pick lettuce off burgers made in foreign states.

I bit into a really good Texas cheeseburger this afternoon, and something exploded in my brain.  No, there wasn’t mustard up my nose.  I felt spontaneous, effortless forgiveness toward my ex.  I’ve been praying for help to forgive him for five years now – working pretty hard at it.  With that first bite, all the good memories flooded back.  For the space of two or three heartbeats, I considered actually emailing him to say “Hey, I ate a burger today that made me think of you and remember that we shared some good stuff.  I hope you can still get good burgers where you live.”  I didn’t think about the betrayal or the hurt or the spiraling near-breakdown.  I just thought about summer days when I loved a guy who inspired admiration in me.  I smiled.  I actually smiled.  My friends will ask: “Do you mean that grumpy/sarcastic half smile with the growl behind it?”  Then they'll laugh and punch me in the arm.  But...nope.  It was a “happy-burger-letting-go-of-the-need-to-control-the-situation” smile.  It was a "forgetting-myself" smile.  It was "I don't need to be seen eating tomatoes and I don't need to spend any more time hating him for the sake of some vague idea of justice."

It was very weird.  Do I feel all warm and fuzzy toward my ex now?  No.  Would I be able to hold a conversation with him about our breakup without wanting to scratch his eyes out?  Quite possibly, and that’s a first for me.  Would I go get tested if he needed a kidney transplant?  Maybe.  Will I keep praying for him?  More than ever before, and with less growling!

For all of psychology’s search for “agents of therapeutic change”, I have to say I think change occurs organically a good deal of the time.  It’s probably different for every person.  I think I’ve found my recipe:



  1. Two points:
    1. Unpretentious, straight-talking, lots of mustard? I can only hope to be described in such a way.

    2. I've had these cheeseburger moments before and wondered if I had gone insane or really just reached a point of God's divinely inspired forgiveness. I am much gratified to know that I am not alone.

  2. Beautiful, Chel. Love those beautiful moments. Reading your post, I felt that great feeling of mercy and forgiveness so many times given in moments just like yours. God loves to use the simple things for our help, like mere bread and wine. Thank you for the honesty with which you express yourself.

  3. Which part of the brain links memories to forgiveness? The amygdala, is it?

    You do realize this opens up great new avenues of therapy?! Combine taste and smell with prayer and time (and a few well-placed cognitive therapy sessions), and BLAMMO! Mystic burger soul transformation! (or waffle or tabouli or mai tai or whatever...)

  4. Wow, my moment of "forgiveness" came while I was sitting at a red light! It also made me smile really big!! I have recalled that moment many times and remember the big relief I felt deep inside of me. It literally was like a big weight taken off of me. I carried that weight around for such a long time and when it was lifted it did feel like a "miracle". Now, I know it was! Thanks for this blog piece!!