Monday, July 20, 2015

Bread and Butter

I learned it as a child. Whenever I walk through two or more people having a conversation, or when someone walks between me and a companion, I have to say “bread and butter.” I still do it. And here’s why.

Remember the scene in Ghost when Patrick Swayze’s character steps through a solid wall for the first time, or any scene in Harry Potter when he is transported through walls or across space? They have disrupted the energy of the universe. And so, when they arrive at their destination, they shake themselves off, because it’s an uncomfortable feeling stepping through energy.

That’s how I feel when I am forced to walk between two people who are connected to each other in some way. I am entering their energy field, and I don’t want to. After I am safely through, I shake off the feeling and say “bread and butter,” as if that will clear away any remaining negative energy. I will do almost anything to avoid being in the center, but, I have noticed, many people force me into cutting between them.

It’s a crowded street, and instead of stepping to the side, so we can pass each other comfortably, they hold their ground, continue their conversation and walk around me, one on each side. Sometimes their energy is clearly angry, they are having a heated discussion, and I don’t exist for them, but there is a tangible energy running between them, and I can feel it.

If someone walks between me and the person I’m with, that too is a disruption. The invisible cord connecting us has been cut and needs to be restored. So I say “bread and butter.”

You’re told that that when you talk to someone you should look them in the eye. That the eyes are the gateway to the soul. If you were looking at someone and another person walked between you, the interruption would be clear,  just as when you’re watching an activity and someone else steps in front of you and blocks your view. But even when we don’t look at each other, when two people are together a connection is formed between them even if it is a negative one.

When that connection is severed it needs to be restored, and for whatever reason, saying “bread and butter” is meant to effect that healing.

What's the Meaning

Why is that? I went to look up the phrase “bread and butter” online, and to my surprise there were lots of references to it in this context, although its origins are unclear and I have yet to meet another person who says it as well. One suggestion for the phrase is that bread and butter are two things that go together—at least they did before fats and wheats became things to avoid—and therefore they indicate a connection re-established.

Now, I admit I’m from a superstitious family. I was never allowed to walk under a ladder—I still don’t today, despite all the construction around me in Center City. If there is a ladder in my way, I will walk around or cross the street. I have mixed feelings about walking under scaffolding. I don’t know if it’s the same thing, but I will avoid it if I can. (Unless it’s pouring out, and it keeps me dry. But I don’t know an incantation for fixing that.)

I turn around when I see a black cat. When I get a new purse, I put in pennies. When I move I make sure I have candles and bread and salt and honey. I avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks—“step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” I’m not protecting my mother so much as recognizing that the world is a very uncertain place, and you should do whatever you can to keep us all safe.

We're All Connected 

The connection between people is something that matters. It’s something we don’t value enough. Very often when people are together they forget to connect to the other person on a deeper level. Not only don’t we look each other in the eyes, we get so involved with what we are trying to say we don’t take into account the actual person we are talking with. And nowadays, that other person is often not actually present, they are at the other end of an electronic connection.

Worse yet, some people get so into their own ideology they can’t even see the person standing before them as another human being. We become labeled by our appearance, our attributes, our ideas, and then criticized for being who we are. Maybe we need to say “bread and butter” more often. Not only when we break the connection between two people on the street, but when we allow something else to come between the honest connections between ourselves and another person.

 Racism, sexism, ageism all occur when we can’t look at each other honestly without the interfering goggles of prejudice. Our politicians can’t deal honestly with each other because they are looking inward not outward, at what will get them elected, not what the people they represent really need.

So I will continue to say “bread and butter” under my breath whenever I’m aware that something has disrupted the energy around me and in doing so, hope that I am doing my small part to keep the world connected.  

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