A Tale of Change and Healing Through… a Sandwich

By Cecilia Tellis (Follow us on LinkedIn)

Photo by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

Today, for the first time in a long time, I made a sandwich. Well, two actually – one for me, and one for my kiddo. Nothing too fancy: lightly toasted rye bread, ham (the plant-based kind), Swiss cheese (not my fave, but all that we had), thinly sliced dill pickle, romaine lettuce, homegrown tomato, mayonnaise (the full fat kind, always!), honey mustard, and a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper. I assembled everything carefully, layering the ingredients in such a way so that individual elements wouldn’t fall out if I pressed down too hard. I cut the sandwich on a diagonal and admired the symmetry I had created. Two wonderfully portable and aesthetically pleasing shapes showcasing a rainbow of colours: pink, red, green, beige, like the flag of some imaginary joyous nation. While I marvelled at this masterpiece, my kid had already gobbled down half his sandwich, eating with purpose so that he could quickly return to watching TV.

You might be wondering why I’m going on and on about a simple sandwich. What may arguably be the most banal lunch that one could have, especially during a work-from-home day. I surprised myself as well since ham (the real kind!) sandwiches were what I ate for years in elementary school. Each week we’d purchase 200 grams of Black Forest ham which, as the family lunch maker, I would dutifully layer between two slices of whole wheat bread and plain yellow mustard. It was tasty I suppose, only moderately healthy, but ultimately uninspiring.

Was this a sign of growth? Nostalgia? Reverence? Maybe all of the above. But actually, I can pinpoint this mealtime revelation to both mindfulness and meditation. I had used the Headspace app for a few years off and on, but really became serious about meditating on January 1, 2021. Knowing that I was going to face some psychologically and emotionally tough months ahead with the ongoing pandemic, a hectic work and home life, and growing impatience with a healthcare system that was failing the most vulnerable, I was desperate to find ways to silence my inner critic, those thoughts that pummeled my self-esteem and insisted that I wasn’t enough. 

Meditating daily, usually before the sun came up, helped me to “see” and quiet those intrusive thoughts, to deepen my self-compassion, and to recognize my self-worth. Over months and years, and through therapy sessions, many moments of self-reflection, selectively saying yes to meaningful work, and being enveloped by loving family and friends, I began to slowly shift how I viewed myself. I was someone who had agency, influence, a changemaker who had a voice. I didn’t have to make myself small anymore, I could and should be taking up more space. My thoughts and ideas mattered. I mattered. I also learned a Tagalog phrase, ako ay sapat (“I am enough”). And yes, friends, I even bought the t-shirt.

As for that sammie, I ate mine slowly, contentedly, biting through the soft and crunchy layers, while looking over at my kid’s bulging cheeks. “This is sooooo good, mama!” he exclaimed. Grateful that he too had acknowledged this humble culinary creation, I made a note to myself to seek out more satisfying sandwich recipes, and to never underestimate the power of mindfulness as a path to healing.

A big shout-out to the brilliant Arianna Alcaraz for recommending me to Notes Between Us, and to my VimLoC pal, Allan Cho for inspiring me with your post, “Living Well, Living Mindfully in a Post-Pandemic World“.


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.