Friday, July 23, 2010

A little sunburn, a little inspiration...thoughts upon slowing down

"Figure out what you have to do in life and then just go to work and do it. Look at your world as a beautiful world. And it is a beautiful world. It's just your job to make it a little bit better."
-Leah Chase, as relayed to Kim Severson

I just finished reading Spoon Fed, and I have to be honest here. I thought this would just be a fun beach read, something along the lines of Cooking for Mr. Latte, or Confessions of a Closet Master Baker- memoirs told through food, with recipes sprinkled in for fun and to illustrate the writer's perspective more clearly. This last, though, was something more.

Severson, who writes for the New York Times, breaks down her journey into so many varied elements. Sure, each chapter deals largely with a woman
(her mom, Marion Cunningham, Edna Lewis, Rachael Ray, Ruth Reichl) who ended up being influential in her life for one reason or another, but it's as much about food and career as tenacity, self-knowledge, love and family.

Food as the outward expression of love, of generosity, speaks to me. Times when I've been too sick or busy or depressed to really truly cook and to feed my family are sad and difficult for me, and I know this is rooted in my past. To gather the family, blood and "adopted", at the table, has always been one of my mother's greatest joys. You're here? Stay for dinner. I've always wanted to have those open arms and doors, but it doesn't come easily to me, and I have begun to realize that it has less to do with being closed off, and more to do with shyness, with fighting the introvert.

But do I need to fight the introvert? Really?

Maybe part of this journey that we're on is meant to include awareness and acceptance of self. For me: finding a way to have the open heart and arms without beating down the introvert.

Maybe part of this is managing expectations, another element Severson explores in her book. This is certainly not a new idea to me- I remember having a conversation with a friend years ago where he frankly told me that he tries to have no expectations on anything in his life. And it's not as bleak as it sounds, it's not out of a fear of disappointment...rather, it's a way to be open to whatever comes his way. I think it's a valuable viewpoint. I find that building preconceived ideas, whether about people or situations, never helps anything, and in fact will often just result in my being rattled by what happens.

I've tried this week to do just that- to abandon the expectations and just go with the flow. Vacations will not go according to plan, workdays will bring unexpected snafus, people will do or say things that surprise you. And it's all fine. It's good, and necessary.

Driving back over the bridge last night from Rye to Dover, we saw the most incredible sunset. It was like driving into the open heart of God. And as I watched the brilliant bands of pink and orange and blue and gray, it occurred to me that the serendipity I've come across in my life is far beyond anything I could possibly have hoped I would find.

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