My new granddaughter Katherine lay on my shoulder after a feeding, her head nestled into my neck. Full, but unsettled, she tucked her little legs up and made little mewing sounds and head jerks that told me all was not well in her three week old world. Air may be one of life’s critical elements (food, water, and shelter being others), but too much of a good thing, especially air in Katherine’s tummy, was bad. Not on my watch!
I, having taken the honored moniker of “Nana,” reached back into memories of comforting my own babies. I patted Katherine’s Lilliputian back with my grownup hand, which seemed to completely cover the squirming form beneath it. Pat, pat, pat. Firm pats. Memory served me and Katherine well. I heard two good burps and a discrete little toot from the other end. Katherine’s legs immediately relaxed, her eyes closed, and her cherubic face reflected a “life is good” serenity.
Even though she had burped and was easing into the curves of my body, I continued the patting for reassurance more than production. Falling into a simpatico drowsiness, I thought about the things that cause us grownups discomfort and take up unnecessary room in our souls. Guilt, for instance. Guilt is like an air bubble in the gut. An unwelcome guest, it makes us keel over and hold our bodies in a protective posture, and it keeps us from participating in the good things of life. We hold onto guilt, and like an air bubble, we can have a hard time letting go of it. A healthy belch, I might suggest, could advance our enlightenment.
Remember the childish admonition we used to sing? It’s better to burp and bear the shame than not to burp and bear the pain. Think back to your last satisfying belch—mostly likely in the privacy of your car on the way back from a stolen moment of junk food at MacDonald’s. You knew it was coming from the pressure in your chest, and you were alone. So you opened your mouth, and this deep rumble massaged your windpipe as the excess air made its way out. It felt good, didn’t it? And the rude sound was delicious to the ear. You probably smiled to yourself because it was just a little bit naughty—one of those things that you’re taught not to do in polite society. Imagine if that rumbling and explosive release of air was the regret you have about the inadequacy of your parenting skills or the opportunities you let slide because it was too much effort. And I won’t even mention the category of regrets and guilt that can escape from the “toot” end of our bodies.
We could all use a spiritual burp. Imagine your guardian angel delivering a rhythmic thumping on our backs with love and care instead of the punishing whacks we give ourselves. Then the soul, curled up against the rigors and disappointments of life, could relax and make room for the good things. So the next time you are in the privacy of a car or empty kitchen and you feel a nascent burp, attach some useless guilt to it and let ‘er rip!