my journey to a healthier body, from the inside out: what’s next…

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This week-long series isn’t about how I lost nearly 30 pounds in three months, rather this is about a lifetime battle with my body and how I’m finally traveled to a place where I’m settled in my skin and love it, from the inside out. This week, I’ll be sharing highly personal aspects of my life as well as practical tips I’ve learned–all in an effort to inspire you and remind myself that every day requires self-work and self-love. I was going to introduce this series when I hit my goal weight, but that felt pointless, because this is a journey that has no end until the end, and that’s actually really comforting. Shocking for a Type-A control freak like me. In today’s post I talk about what’s next. And candidly, I’m not too sure what that is.

Right now it’s evening in Seoul and my friend tells me that she expected something different, something else. We’d travel fourteen hours on a plane and it’s as if we’re back in New York with its illuminated shops and iPhone cases in the shape of ferocious animals. My other friend bids us leave, opting to roam the streets and alleyways of the city where the scent of fried chicken, bone broth and perfume hangs heavy. Even though the sky is painted black, it feels very much like afternoon here–the streets are packed with kids tapping on their phones and everyone feels as if they’ve just woken up. As if the day is new to them, while I stand in the middle of it, jetlagged, exhausted.

Caught in the betweens.

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I spent the better part of my plane ride sleeping and the other thick in the business of self-reflection. There are things I want to talk about but I can’t talk about them online and somehow it hasn’t been enough to share them, even with my closest friends, in “real life.” Exquisite, remarkable, astounding but too dark, they say. Relentlessly so. I have to shake my head and say, no, you haven’t even see dark. I haven’t shown you dark; I’ve given you light. You just can’t see it. Waiting for one person to see it.

A memory: When I was in high school, I always placed second in writing contests. Invariably, this one girl, ES, would win. She beat me in clarinet because her notes were precise while I was creative and sloppy and she won all of the awards because her stories were tidy. They were the kind of stories moms were proud to read in PTA newsletters, while mine were the sort that got me sent to the guidance counselor’s office. I remember one year when a teacher (who’d been a judge) pulled me aside and said that my story was supposed to win, but how could they give an award for a story so dark? About a girl who hung herself, and I realized then that I was getting punished for writing about the places people didn’t want to go.

Years later I traded emails with ES, who told me that she always felt like a fraud getting those awards. When I pressed her on it, she said, because it was obvious that you were always better. You just scared people. What you write unnerves people. I imagine that you still do.

This is how I feel right now. Sleepless in Seoul.

What this food journey has been for me is a way to shed that last vestige of feeling anesthetized. Food has this beguiling way of making you feel as if it understoods; it’s the friend who will never leave. They’re one of the cruelest of attachments, and we tend to give part of ourselves to the thing that we’re consuming in hopes that what you eat will somehow, someway devour the pain. You say to yourself, I have this pain and I don’t know where to put it. Where do you put pain? Do you put it in a box and lock it away? No, it’s easier to bury it in a plate of pasta. To hide it neatly in the folds of a butter croissant. But what you don’t realize (until perhaps too late) is that when one pain disappears another bolder one takes its place. My stress was replaced by a physical sickness and while I’ve battled the last vestiges of deliberately self-medicating myself through food, it leaves me in a tricky spot of having to see the pain, the heartbreak and disappointment on the horizon (the wise rises, warbles light a note held for too long and then descends like plague), and I have to weather it. I have to play every hand as it lays even if there are multiple games on the table.

Now that I’m present physically, mentally, emotionally, now where there’s nowhere to hide, I’m forced to sit with myself and ask myself the questions I’d been artfully evading. I’m nearly 39 and I’m still unclear what it is that I’m doing with my life.

Here’s what I know. I know I’ve made a deliberate choice not to be a mother because I think there are other ways you can mother and mend without reproduction. I know I can’t be tethered to a desk five days a week for the remaining 40 years of my life. I know that just because I’m good at something doesn’t mean I’m meant to do it. I know that the people with whom I surround myself are greater than the work I’m tasked to do. I know I want to feel unsettled at the start of every project. I know I want to say no regrets, no regrets, and mean it. I know I need to stop being angry watching younger women making oceans of money by posting photos of them in their finery. I know the thing that brings me the greatest joy is writing.

Some of my writing is dark, true, but dark is relative. Dark is necessary, Dante once remarked, in order for us to be engulfed in light. One has to travel to hell to reach paradise but no one wants to know about the train you took, whom you met along the way, they just want you to cue angels and gossamer curtains and billowing robes. They want to hear about the pay-off, the destination, the ending. They want to hear that I’m clean and sober but they don’t want the details. They want to say I’m this remarkable writer but they don’t want to settle into my work. They want to pay people vast sums of money for their “writing”– these are people who can barely string together a sentence–but me, me, can you write this for free?

Presence and the clarity that comes from being this healthy (these constructs are not mutually exclusive) has given birth to an interesting idea. One that merges type, image, voice. A form that combines podcast, blog, photography and sound. A new one way to tell the story in the event the motley lot won’t fall in love with the ones I’m already telling.

I’ve made a very risky financial decision to leave one of my corporate projects in November to spend this trip and the month of December trying to figure out my life. I miss love, feeling wrapped all up in it. I miss the start of new projects and the failures and tiny victories along the way. I miss meeting some new people. I just wish every decision I made wasn’t tethered to rent and student loan payments. I hate that I’ve spent my whole life making decisions that rely on the kind of income I bring in.

What I’ve learned on this food journey? There are a lot of fucking bandaids coming off and this is A LOT for me to handle right now. A lot of good. A lot of confusion. A minor disturbance in one place, so bear with me as I try to breathe it out. What you can count on is more of this. Longer posts, further introspection, pictures of friends (when they’ll allow me to share them as I’m fiercely protective of the men I date and my friends and their private lives), my stories and the stories of others along the way.

What’s next? Fuck if I know. I’ll be 39 next month and I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m still looking for a few people who can see my vision.

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amer fort: jaipur, india {the longest post, ever}

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Perhaps I was too ambitious. Maybe I thought the physicality of ticking off an item on a list was still a marker of achievement. I came to India with purpose — I would have the space, time, and clarity to bring my novel home {the physical} while at the same time finding out if I need to define what it is that I want to do with my life {the mental; line forms to the left}. And naturally, there would be time, oceans of it, to complete freelance projects, and make sense and shape of all that is India. I would navigate its streets, inhale its spices, feel its people.

I never conceived of that fact that India is both exhilarating and exhausting, and I’m again reminded that once you attempt to define something, that thing changes its form until it is something else altogether.

We’re closing out our trip in Jaipur, which is a city of three million people, but it might as well be thirty with its symphony of sound, color, taste and smell. Yesterday we wandered The Pink City, and I tried to ignore the way men looked at us, looked through and under our clothes. I tried not to feel unsettled by the fact that there were hundreds of women covered in black cloth with only a slit for their eyes to betray their identity. We wove in and out of a thoroughfare of chaos with the constant drone of a horn honking {this is the norm, it seems}, people shouting, women negotiating fruit and fabric, men calling — always the siren call of the sea nymphs turned land turned street turned petal pink — cows swaggering, camels sleeping, dogs nipping, cats calculating, and the seven of us wandering, making sure we were always, always together.

There was the hiss and spit of fire {The river’s tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf/Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind/Crosses the brown land, unheard./The nymphs are departed, writes Eliot}, the spark of turquoise and cobalt dyes, the men walking beside me, telling me, It costs nothing to look. Come look. Come over here. I do not follow because I think of the fire and charcoal and how it is possible that within eight short days I can bear witness to so many examples of following a loved one into the dark.

I was supposed to finish this book. I had a kind of idea of how I would end it. The novel is a triptych of sorts, a verse repeated three times — three generations of broken women — but finally broken {a new song sung, a new page being written} by a woman who starts off the story by setting a woman’s hair on fire, but ends up wanting the single thing she, and all of the women who had come before, had been missing — someone to follow her into the dark.

Believe me when I say that I see the pages. I see the words as I’m typing them, but all I can do is feel. All I can do is exist amongst these stories people whom I hardly know, tell, and I’m reminded of the fact that I am very much on the verge. I am on the precipice of something, and the idea of returning to New York to deal with all this shit is at turns thrilling and frightening.

I’m genuinely excited and frightened of a great many things, and this is okay to feel this. It’s okay to settle into the dark but not set up shop in it. To not lay your bricks down, but perhaps a little blanket that you can carry with you when you’re ready for the light.

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Today we spent a great deal of the deal at the Amer Fort in Jaipur. From the intricate fusion of Hindu and Muslim architecture and the iridescent embossed silver mirrors, walls and doors, to the cool pastels of the summer rooms and the the apartments of the 12 women the king kept, the Fort {Palace} is an extraordinary sight to see. One could wander the stairs and tunnels and complex irrigation systems all day. We also procured fragrant oils in cactus, lavender, jasmine, sandalwood, rose and grass, whose flowers were hand-pressed and melded with hands that come from three generations of fragrance manufacturing. We saw fakirs {!!!} and cobras and dogs on their backs, and monkeys, who, in one moment would eat from the palm of your hand and then attack it.

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All the while I think of an honest love letter a new friend of mine wrote to her childhood friend, who has slowly become more than that. I remember reading it over dinner and feeling the familiar ache of a woman who has the strength to risk plucking out her heart and laying it down to be received. I was struck by this love described so simply, so plainly, and it is the very thing in which I desire for myself and for my Kate, the center character in my novel.

I think of our tour guide, Raj, a kind man who regaled the story of he {a Brahmin} and “Sweetie” {his Sikh wife}. They were beloveds through high school and college, but they kept their love a secret to no one save the very fundamentalist family. So Raj would escort her on movie dates and drop her off around the corner of her house, and Sweetie would pursue three different degrees to defer the suite of arranged Sikh suitors her parents had dutifully selected. Sweetie went on her interviews, which were a constant play on what is said and unsaid, and after having told three families that no, she does not eat meat, and no, she does not cook, and no, she is not religious, Raj’s family met with Sweetie’s and told the story of two people very much in love.

In short, this meeting was a disaster. Raj’s family was escorted out before the chai had been laid down on the table, and the father blamed the mother for the catastrophe that was Sweetie’s digressions. Family members made the 10-hour journey from Punjab to discuss, for 15 days straight, the plight of Sweetie. There were tears, threats, anguish and despair, and finally Raj took a calculated risk and told the family that he and Sweetie had already signed papers to be married.

A family debacle is one thing. A legal one is quite another. Arrangements were made, concessions acquiesced to, and for seventeen years Raj and Sweetie made a wonderful home and life for themselves, and the families became whole with the birth of two very beautiful children.

I listen to this story on a moving bus, and parts of it are funny and other parts are heartbreaking, but the light, the love is palpable, and this was once a young man who would risk everything for the woman he loved.

I think: I have this. I have this story in my hands and what to do with it? I wait for the time when mind, heart and hand are ready to move. I’m excited for the velocity of this book. I’m frightened of my personal velocity {the life undefined, the financial insecurity that is real}, and I know right now that I can’t control any of it.

All I can do is breathe, be present, and hope that life and art intersect and the character gets her way and the woman gets her way, and everyone is followed into, and ushered out of, the dark.

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little prince + a meditation on what’s next

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I’m constantly aware of lost opportunities. I used to think such lost opportunities were beautiful towns flashing by my train windows, but now I imagine they are lanterns from the past, casting light on what’s ahead.Chris Huntington

Some time ago I thought I’d lost four years of my life. I kept running to stand still, but there was no stillness, only noise — so much of it that it threatened to crowd and smother. As a result, I lived on autopilot; I became a person who was what I was going after. Having grown up in New York, I used to feed off the frenzy, thrive on my own personal velocity, but it wasn’t until the past few years that I’ve craved quiet. I’m desperate for the minimal and the beautiful. So I rid myself of my finery — pretty handbags and expensive shoes — because I never wore those trappings of supposed success. They merely served as bandaids for my misery. I rid myself of barnacles, unhealthy attachments in the form of people and things, to be present with people who inspire and challenge me. Finally, I rid myself of a job that made me sick, and although I’m humbled to have had such an auspicious professional opportunity, the losses I experienced were incalculable: I stopped reading and writing and living my life as I once did, mindfully.

I spent this year getting reacquainted with Felicia Sullivan. I read books, all kinds. I started a novel. I baked boxes of delicious sweets. I took on consulting projects with companies and people whom I admire and respect. I suffered a grave loss and gained a new love. I spent time rebuilding friendships, making up for the weddings I missed and minor triumphs celebrated in my absence. In essence, I became present in my life, all of it, even the dark parts. But still. Even with the compasses calibrated, a focused mind, and a voice that is softer and slower, I can’t yet find my way.

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve lost time or opportunities until I read that quote above, and realized that I am where I’m meant to be, as this is the place that will take me to what’s next.

After a week catching up with some of my closest friends, I spent an afternoon at Little Prince, a serene French bistro in Soho, with a new friend. We knew one another as client and consultant, and now that my project is over, we’re delighted to find one another now as friends. We spoke about work and travel and love, and it occurs to me that over a year ago I spoke of working outside of the U.S., in some capacity, and that gnawing feeling hasn’t abated. It just got lost in my exhaustion over visa requirements, paperwork, and the bureaucracy that surrounds living in a country that is unfamiliar. I also indulged in flights of fancy (Paris) when my French is subpar, instead of focusing on markets that would make sense for my skillset.

Honestly, I don’t know what 2014 brings, but I plan to say YES. I plan to think about Singapore, China, Australia, and other parts of the world I’d dare to live. I plan to finish my book and bake many more loaves and spend time with many more friends.

Until then, I can revel in the fact that I’ve discovered one of the best burgers New York has to offer, and a brunch spot that doesn’t feel as if I need a megaphone for a conversation. Until then, I can continue to be present and enjoy this life.

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ricotta chive + parsley pesto pasta

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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunity and instinct. In January, I had a series of conversations with one of my two mentors, which was fraught with anguish, insecurity + doubt. Four years ago, I was confident, outspoken, strong-willed and determined, however, with the passing of each day, my job, and more specifically, my boss, made me doubt myself. Made me think that I was lesser than I was. While I take responsibility for the fact that people only affect you to the degree in which you allow them to, I couldn’t help but think that the years had been stolen from me. That I was, to a certain extent, manipulated. While I created the buttons, my boss knew how to push them to the point where I felt it was difficult to breathe. So when I sat down with my mentor, and spoke plainly about leaving, I wondered aloud about my self-worth.

Who would hire me? To which he responded, Are you fucking kidding me? Are you really being serious? The question isn’t who will hire you, it’s whether you’ll find something, a love, a passion, that will make you happy. It took a long time to absorb the weight of those words and believe that my greatness was possible, even when I had been lead to think otherwise. I needed to literally get out of the country and put some distance between myself and all the events that transpired after my leaving, including severing ties with people whose bitterness and anger threatened to pull me under, but now I’m finally at a place where I know my value and am unapologetic about shouting it from the rafters.

This weekend, as I made this dish for the work week ahead, I thought about a very exciting opportunity to lead a very formidable brand’s global social marketing efforts. The job was audacious in every sense of the word, and I contemplated picking up my life and moving out west, but something was off. Something didn’t feel right about it all, and before I embarked on a final round of interviews I pulled myself out of the running.

I wrote my very wonderful HR contact, and my potential boss, that the timing wasn’t right. I’d spent so long trying to architect a life where I’m able to write, build this postage stamp of an online home, and consult, that I’ve become protective of this life, and feel as if this opportunity would usurp it.

Naturally, I had a mini (translation: major) panic attack after I sent the emails, because there went the sense of security. There went the sure thing. Until I had lunch with my other mentor, who presented something even more ambitious. Something I wouldn’t have to pursue until the new year.

Try the idea out for size, she said. Think about it. Let’s keep talking.

Because when you deliberately close one small door, a giant one flings open. And it’s only when you allow yourself the space, clarity and quiet, then you’re able to listen, make choices about which doors to open and close.

INGREDIENTS
1 lb of ground sirloin, seasoned with salt + pepper
2 cups parsley, chopped
1/2 cup chives, chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 pecorino romano
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 lb whole wheat pasta
1/4 cup pasta water, reserved
1 tbsp pecorino romano for topping

chives

DIRECTIONS
In a large skillet, fry the sirloin until brown, approximately 5-7 minutes. While the beef is cooking, boil the water for the pasta. Ever since Nigella Lawson said that pasta water should resemble the waters of the Mediterranean, I’ve been diligent about adding salt.

In a blender {or as luck would have it, a Vitamix), add all of your ingredients and blitz until you have a silky smooth pesto consistency. Stir in your ricotta cheese until well-blended. Set aside.

Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1/4 cup of water. Add the pasta to the beef, then add the pesto and the past water, and stir until all of the noodles are coated.

Serve hot with a sprinkling of cheese.

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what happens when you pay attention {long read}

Old Mine at Night

Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see …each other in life. Vanity, fear, desire, competition– all such distortions within our own egos– condition our vision of those in relation to us. Add to those distortions to our own egos the corresponding distortions in the egos of others, and you see how cloudy the glass must become through which we look at each other. Except when there is that rare case of two people who love intensely enough to burn through all those layers of opacity and see each other’s naked hearts. ― Tennessee Williams

There’s been a reason for this demonstrable quiet, when the only sound is the beating of my own heart. Barely a whisper, it’s a steady thump, methodic, something of a metronome. I use this beat to keep time, and I think about the years before this moment and the hours after, and the sickness, love, heartbreak and trembling that lie in the spaces between. In my home, I close all the windows, draw the shades and lay out my tools for excavation. Photographs — terrific images of a life lived in sepia — serve as a constant reminder of my once carefully-crafted fiction. So committed I was to this life, this mask, of feigned achievement and merriment (a beloved! a critically-acclaimed book! an Ivy-league graduate degree! a best friend who pantomimed my sentences! a body that never gained weight, but rather lost it, in disturbing degrees!), that I practically wrote the story out on my hands, face and knees. The story of Felicia Sullivan, written on the body, incanted back to me — just in case I’d forget. Back then I drank a lot {a lot} and forgetting was the sort of thing I was wont to do.

Funny how after all this time, I don’t like having my picture taken. I went from boxes of me wearing my mask to a few photos of me, without makeup, in another part of the world. I prefer photographs of food and the unmovable, instead.

When we talk about tools we always might want to think about kitchen appliances. The stand mixer, springform pans, measuring cups and whisks that got me out of this mess. Forced me to do something with my hands, made me breathe and stand in one space for long stretches of time. A few weeks ago, my father reminded me of the catastrophe that was my first cheesecake. How proud I was of the smooth surface, the whipped cream and the buttery crumb base — it was its own fiction because I’d used confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated sugar and the cake tasted of cold, slightly sweetened, cream cheese. But I couldn’t break your heart, I just couldn’t, my father said. We laugh now because I know my sugars, now. I know my way around the kitchen, now. In my home I observe the counters, the cabinets and the items housed within, and I regard them less as instruments of survival but more as extensions of my limbs. A hand that now holds a whisk is a longer hand, creating something that is an extension of my heart. Another way to physically say the words: you mean this much, I love you like this, and you are home to me.

You are home to me.

Last week I received a note from a person with whom I’d had a falling out some two years ago. I don’t remember how we stopped speaking, I just know that one day I’d be excised from her life, and I was left confused and hurt because although we weren’t terribly close, I tried to be the sort of friend who would be there when someone started taking ink to their own body. Rewriting their story, erasing it, blotting out all the years and shame that came before. Thinking that alcohol was the only salve, the terrific anesthetic. None of her friends had been brave enough to tell her that she was going under, that the drink was a river that temporarily washed off the ink, but would always, inevitably, draw her with its undertow. I was as honest and kind and as non-judgmental as I tried to be, and my words were met with rage and the door was closed on the story that was us. Clamped shut. Dead-bolted. Can’t go in.

Until last week. Two years sober, she wrote me and confessed that my words had saved her life. I remember reading this note rushing about the city, scrolling through my messages, dodging cars and traffic lights, and I froze. Stood in the middle of Broadway as people snarled and gnashed their teeth because I was in their fucking way, and here a woman wrote me a short note affirming that words, kindness and compassion have the ability to buoy and save.

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This weekend I spent time with my best friend, a woman whom I’ve known for half my life, and it occurred to me that there was a time when I wasn’t ready to pay attention. In 2001, my best friend said those same words to me, practically begged me to pay attention, told me that she’d take me home with her to Connecticut if that was what it would take to save my life, and I refused her. I can only imagine her heartbreak on the train ride back, and all the years that passed, all the years she spent patiently waiting for me to give myself the greatest gift one could give to themselves: their life back, on their own terms, lived mindfully, compassionately and with complete and sometimes painful attention.

We went to church yesterday, and while my faith as of late has vacillated, even though I’ve become skeptical of God’s existence — an existence grounded in unadulterated faith and art rather than mathematics and science — the pastor’s sermon put my heart on pause. He talked about how we manage our shame and paths that may not have been draped in light. Always, we opt to put things behind us, poised to hit the delete key, always; we desperately desire to re-write the story, re-position the facts, but these are all variations on the same mask. The same fabric woven into more fanciful finery. All serve to divert attention, move us further and further away from ourselves, when, quite simply, we could just be honest, ask for forgiveness and move on.

All this time I thought of forgiveness as something I should seek from others, rather than something that I needed to give to myself.

If we were to sit here now and architect a patchwork, if we were to fire up a loom, notice how words are the thread. Words are what binds us to one another and ourselves, and words also have the ability to excise, complete, sever and maim.

This is a rather circuitous way of coming back to the slumbering heart and the quiet that has fallen on this space. The reason being is that I didn’t yet have the words {and I would offer that I still don’t} to explain what happens when you open your creaking, wooden heart. What happens when you pry open your eyes, put away the phone and breathe through the most difficult of spaces? How do you explain what happens when you pay attention?

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Would I have continued to neglect my cat’s illness? Would I have pressed on a few more years ignoring the urge to sit in front of a keyboard and type words that weren’t even close to a marketing plan? Would I have continued to sit in a spin class where the shouting and music resembled manic Tourette’s? Would I have dismissed that woman’s kind words? Would I have smothered my growing intolerance to dairy, whose consumption has given me bouts of extreme illness? Would I have continued to slouch through my days loveless, cold, perhaps too independent — so much so that I exist to fortress myself, my own private prison that is at turns safe and confining?

Time is leaving its indelible mark, and it’s one of attention. Attention has allowed me to open my heart and let all these beautiful, magical people in. Attention is saving my beloved cat’s life. Attention is allowing me to come back to myself and meet a new version of myself.

And this new self isn’t the woman I once was. And this new self is having an occasional glass of wine without the three-piece luggage set that follows.

I worried about writing this. I worried about telling my closest friends this. That I’d have to embark on long explanations on the difference between alcoholism and binge drinking, and that there was always a possibility of me drinking again but I’d always have to examine why. I worried about this newly-sober woman, and I thought to myself, do I have to be sober for her? Am I letting her down? Will people not understand? Will people judge?

Yes, they will do all of these things. People may whisper. People may not get it. But so far I get it. So far, I know this version of myself who has a glass of wine with dinner isn’t the same girl self-medicating to mourn her mother all those years ago. Believe me when I say that I was shocked, SHOCKED, when the closest people in my life felt this way too. These dramatic conversations that I’d recreated in my head never came to pass because I’d earned my friends’ trust and they know I’d never do anything to jeopardize it.

And then I realized that the only person I have to be concerned about is myself. How I feel about this. Who I am as a result of paying attention, and how I connect more meaningfully with the ones I love as a result of it. How they see through all the distortions and layers of opacity to get to our most raw and beautiful selves.

The rest is just someone else’s story.

Top photo credit: Jeffrey Sullivan

daily dose of wisdom: design the day

I’ve always been the sort of woman who oscillates wildly. Skirting the extremes, I take comfort in the dark spaces — so much so that there was a time when I made a country of it. Blanketing the whole of my world with my sadness. It was cold and suffocating, and I’d find myself clawing at the air for escape and never budging an inch. Even as I gave off the impression that I was always moving, I was sessile. Imagine a wounded bird cradled in someone’s hands. The bird knows it has to flap its wings, even makes the motion to do it, but can’t. There is no flight, only the suggestion of it. The desperation for it.

This fissure between my private and public lives was too much to bear, and I slowly found new ways to take flight. To get off the ground, as it were.

The past few weeks have been trying. From friends who’ve deeply disappointed me by their lack of presence, to my cat’s illness — whose conditions oscillates wildly each day {the irony} — to my inability to be inspired, I’ve found myself back to familiar terrain.

Until I saw a longer version of the above video, which put my heart on pause. The simple notion of empowering yourself to define your day as if it’s already happened, rather than allowing it to simply happen, feels prolific. Predictive versus actual. Active versus passive.

Design your day. The act is easy enough. Wake each morning and write, very simply, the account of how your day went, already. Write in the past tense {e.g. I wrote the first draft of an incredible short story. I met two people who changed the shape of how I think.} and make yourself accountable by sending your day designed, in an email, to several of your friends. By the end of the day, you return to your list and compare notes.

So, I’m giving this a go, starting today. I’ll keep you abreast of my progress!

fresh strawberry no-bake pie + a home of one’s own

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Last week I had breakfast with an old friend and I was thick in the business of anger. I talked about people who’ve ventured beyond what is comfortable in an effort to be there in my darkest moments, while people I’ve known for years, people with whom I’ve shared my innards, eek by with a perfunctory phone call, a quick email or text. Confused and hurt, I prattled on to my friend whom I’ve known for years. After a long pause, she offered this: Maybe people think you need your space; you’re this intensely private person, you’re fiercely independent, so much so that people might think that you can actually handle this all on your own. But! But! But I can’t. How do they know that? How do I know that? she said in a way that was caring, but succinct, honest in a way that broke through. After all of these years of not needing people, of architecting a wall, creating a fortress around this ticking clock that is my heart, I have to be the one that says, out loud: I need you. Come on in.

This is not easy. I’m uncomfortable with asking for help. I hate the words: can you, I need, Is it possible? Perhaps I’m holding on to the last vestiges that bind me to my mother, for she was a woman who never cried, thought vulnerability a sickness, a disease that deserved a proper snuffing out, and that left an indelible mark. For years I’ve been impenetrable, so this notion of old habits being hard to break? It’s true.

Yesterday, I spent the day with my father, and his is the sort of kindness that puts my heart on pause. My father leads a very simple, quiet life, and I don’t say this in the pejorative, I don’t judge any of this — in fact, I often feel small alongside all of his goodness. My largeness seems laughable against a man who has consistently lived a noble, dignified life. We watched movies sitting side by side in plush chairs, passing a bowl of cookies between us, and I told my father that he’s a good man, the best I know, and he turned to me and said, You’re not so bad too.

We laughed as we’re prone to do, and he pressed on. Told me he’s proud of the woman I’ve grown into, specifically within the past few years. I’m calmer now, less impatient, less prone to volcanic acts and material cravings. When I told him about this conversation I had with a friend, how I lamented that I’m trying so hard to let people in, he agreed that this is the last big part of the wall that needs a proper wreckage.

I told my father about this ambitious project I’ve got cooking, a project that requires a few other people to make some magic, and he joked and offered his home as a place to stay if things don’t work out. To which I snapped that a 37-year-old woman doesn’t move home with dad when things get tough. And he laughed and laughed and said, There goes that pride again. There goes the I can’t do it on my own, again. There goes that wall, that will, which refuses to bend.

When I left yesterday, my father said that we’re alright people. We’re good stock. I hugged him and promised to bring him a pie this week, much like this one, and he offered that maybe my baking could be a first step in venture into the archaic language of need. Of want. Of love.

But then again, sometimes people can try harder. Just as much as I’m trying harder. GRRR.

{work in progress, as always}

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from the forthcoming Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, review forthcoming in Medium
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups hulled and quartered strawberries, plus 4 1/2 cups (cut very large berries into eighths and leave very small ones whole; three pounds whole berries total)
1 1/8 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 9 crackers)
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup heavy cream, lightly whipped (optional)

DIRECTIONS
In a medium saucepan, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, the cornstarch and salt. Add 3 cups of the strawberries and roughly mash the fruit with the end of a whisk. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heave, whisking constantly and further mashing the strawberries until they are broken down (some berry lumps are okay). Boil for a full minute, whisking constantly. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the crust. In a large bowl, stir together the graham crackers, the remaining tablespoon of sugar, and the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Very lightly press the crumbs into a nine inch pie dish, starting with the sides and then covering the bottom.

When the strawberry mixture is at room temperature, gently stir in the remaining 4 1/2 cups of strawberries, then spoon the filling into the graham cracker crust. Refrigerate for at least two hours or up to 2 days. Serve with whipped cream.

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edamame + corn quinoa salad + a trip to ps1

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The scariest moment is always just before you start. –Stephen King

Yesterday was a photograph worth shredding. A day worth tearing to pieces and setting the scraps of paper aflame. Right now I’m writing this from a friend’s apartment, surrounded by her beautiful zoo of cats and dogs, creating some distance from it all. A few weeks ago, someone regarded me with interest, said, I don’t know what to think of you. I can’t put you in a box. I want to put you in a box, because it’s easier that way, but I can’t. At the time, I laughed when the person said this, felt proud that I couldn’t fit neatly anywhere, but as time passes, this notion that I will never be simple, be easy, starts to fill me with dread. And I think that’s what I keep evading — the fact that I consistently deviate toward a box in which I’ll never fit. Invariably, I’ll squeeze and adjust and won’t breath for a bit, and as soon as I find myself lodged halfway in, it’s only then that I’ll panic, want to climb out and run as fast as my legs will take me. It’s only then that I regard the box as a coffin, trying to pull me under, under.

I’ve always been a difficult woman.

Finding my next leap has been an exhausting process. I’ve met with many companies that are settled when I crave the unsettling, while many others talk a good game about an open culture, use all the buzz words so acutely, but then they ignore the cowering girl at reception, they whisper that they envy me my trip to Europe because, they too, want to get out. To run. After a dozen of these instances, I start to feel as if the days repeat themselves with minor variation. Photocopies of boxes stacked up neatly in open workspaces. People sporting headphones, music blasting, miming sleep. Phones that never ring because the idea of a voice is irksome when we can email our passive aggressive state. People who moan about Monday and Sundays much like how one would regard an apocalypse. The week has been reduced to five days where only coffee and Spotify will save.

I’m difficult because I want none of this. I don’t want to be complacent, to punch a series of memorized numbers that will grant me trespass to a place that I will inevitably grow to hate. I don’t want to befriend Seamless. I don’t want to spend every day inching my way toward the dying, the final box and its heavy lid and the earth that will usher us back from where it is that we’ve come.

I’m difficult because I refuse to except anything less than extraordinary in a market that’s below ordinary, at an experience level where people feel as if they can get mediocrity and inexperience on the cheap instead of making the investment, instead of thinking about the long haul. I’m difficult because I want all my children — my food, writing, friends and business work — to have equal time in the proverbial playing field, rather than reduced to a changeling, some strange, ugly thing relegated to dark corners and hidden under blankets.

I wonder if what I want actually exists, and this is the thought that keeps me up most nights, bleeding into day.

Every day I try my hardest to remain focused and positive. I fixate on creating. I try to spend time in the company of others, desperate to turn the beat around. But I’m scared of being crippled by real financial obligations (student loans, debt) to escape the ordinary.

Yesterday, paralyzed, I spent the day with art and food. Here’s hoping that I’m soon able to walk, leap, run.

INGREDIENTS: Edamame + Corn Quinoa Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
For the salad
1 lb frozen corn (fresh, shucked corn will also do)
1 lb frozen edamame (fresh will also work)
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
Salt/pepper to taste

For the dressing
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white (or red) wine vinegar
1 tsp ground mustard
Salt/pepper to taste
–Whisk all together to make a delicious vinaigrette

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DIRECTIONS
I know what you must be thinking — there’s a lot of contrasting flavors here, but somehow they work. Somehow, they’re harmonious and coalesce. Trust me on this. However, if you are the mistrustful sort, you can always dress this in a simple olive oil (3 tbsp) with the existing flavorings, and the salad is equally divine.

In a medium pot, boil 2 cups of water and the pre-rinsed quinoa. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Once the quinoa is done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large pot, cook the frozen corn and edamame (if using fresh, just shock for a minute in the hot water) on hight heat for 5-7 minutes. When done, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, add 2 tbsp olive oil, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir for 30 seconds, and then tumble in the corn and edamame. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the cooked veggie mixture to the quinoa. Toss gently with a spoon. Add the carrots and stir. If you’re rocking the vinaigrette, dress the salad with it, otherwise, feel free to indulge in olive oil to keep the mixture fragrant and delicious.

Serve lukewarm or cold.

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watermelon, blueberry + basil quinoa salad + a red awakening

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Always the setting forth was the same, Same sea, same dangers waiting for him, As though he had got nowhere but older. Behind him on the receding shore, The identical reproaches, and somewhere, Out before him, the unraveling patience, He was wedded to. There were the islands, Each with its woman and twining welcome, To be navigated, and one to call “home.” The knowledge of all that he had betrayed, Grew till it was the same where he stayed, Or went. Therefore he went. And what wonder, If sometimes he could not remember, Which was the one who wished on his departure, Perils that he could never sail through, And which, improbable remote, and true, Was the one he kept sailing home to? — “Odysseus” by W.S. Merwin

Today I woke thinking of red. It’s strange, I know, but I’ve always been prone to dreaming in shape and color. Fields of blistering poppies, Stop signs, scarlet paint thrown onto a canvas, a thumping rabbit’s heart covered in leaves, and a sanguine river gushing out of the very elegant elevator doors in The Shining — I saw all of this as I woke. It was a tableaux of rich color — reds faded to the orange and browns of daguerreotype, and hues so bright they threatened to scald.

On my way to the laundry, I noticed these abandoned shoes. And then I read this: I realised that I was staring at a fork in life — a choice between the somewhat Known and the completely Unknown. That was really what it came down to. The rational brain wanted to choose the former. And a seemingly irrational voice wanted the latter.

Perhaps this color assault was meant to awaken, to jolt oneself out of bed, to snap into life, get into the frame as it were. Red is symbolically interpreted as intense passion, love, energy, life (and arguably, the fear of losing it). Red has the power to pause, to cease, to make one surrender. A heart beating under skin. A valiant man in uniform running into a towering inferno. But red could also signify courage, longing, determination — a will that will not bend, a force that will not be broken.

I thought about this today for it’s the first day in weeks that I’ve enjoyed uninterrupted sleep. I didn’t wake to a random sound, my cat’s restless breathing, or my own thoughts racing. I felt awake.

I also realize that I’m on the verge. Sort of like Odysseus watching all that he’s left behind, moving toward something unchartered and unknown. I think about taking great risks, making leaps, packing bags, being nomadic, embarking on the newness of something, and it’s all very thrilling.

In celebration of this red awakening, I’ve embarked on a minor challenge: finding a myriad of ways to fix quinoa. I’ve found books, blogs, and combinations that are exciting, and I’ll be sharing them all with you this week. So sit tight, soak your quinoa and think about the ways in which you can breathe life into a body that maybe once you thought was ready for the pasture.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe inspired by Quinoa Revolution, but beyond the watermelon + quinoa, this recipe is all mine.
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed under cold water
1 cup water
2 cups cubed watermelon
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
1 tbsp of the sundried tomato olive oil (or regular olive oil is fine, too)
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp blanched, slivered almonds, lightly toasted in a dry pan for 1-2 minutes
1/4 cup gruyere, cut into small cubes (the salad is divine without cheese, so don’t freak if you can’t have dairy. Or, you can opt to use feta)
Salt/pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
After you’ve rinsed the quinoa, add it, along with the cup of water to a medium pot. Bring the water to a boil, and then simmer, covered for 15 minutes. When done, fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, toss the watermelon, blueberries, sundried tomatoes, basil, almonds and gruyere. Add the cooled quinoa, oil, salt + pepper to taste. Serve lukewarm or chilled.

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get your food swoon on: bacon, figs + spinach sandwich

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I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. ― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Is it strange to hold a number but not feel the shape of it? The clocks are an altogether different matter — they force a kind of inventory. You stare at your hands, inspect your face under the glare of a sun that threatens to set your skin aflame, and contort your body this way and that. A mask, a doll, a funhouse mirror, a forest — you are all and none of these things, and you stare at photographs as a reminder of the person you used to be. As instructed, you’ve taken the inventory, you’ve done the maths, and all you’re left with are the additions. And as a result, all that has been taken away. This wasn’t what you used to look like, you think. You scramble to compare a photo taken then and a photo taken now, and you chart the minor (and sometimes significant) differences.

I’m 37, but I don’t feel it. No, that’s not true. I feel some it. I feel the quiet and patience that comes with having lived through the torrent, having felt the undertow, of having almost gone under, but didn’t. I’ve imagined all the ways in which I can end, complete — from a plane hurtling into the ocean to a wisp of air sputtering out in the middle of sleep — so the trash can flames and basement floods don’t incite the terror they once had the capacity to do. I feel something of the severe in terms of managing the multiplications. There was a time when I’d wake to a face covered in barnacles, all those who cling, burrow and fiercely attach to only drain, and I’d try to yank them off and tire from their resilience. Now I walk around with a scalpel, ready for the scraping. I feel a body slowly not able to recover like it used to. I feel the softness that won’t easily harden. I can start to see the years in my eyes and on patches of my face.

I’m 37, but I don’t feel it because I feel as if I’ve only just woken up. Had I been asleep all this time? Had I been dreaming?

This week an old friend tells me that my greatest challenge (there’s another challenge? I laugh in a way that isn’t funny) is taking comfort in the betweens. There was a time when I worked in marketing and only saw myself as a writer. Refusing to write jacket and campaign copy because it would ruin — I was a woman who would not bend. Then there was a time when I was all slideshows and key performance indicators, and all the important people in my life don’t even know I’d written a book. Don’t know I’m writing a new one. So my friend tells me that I’ve got to find a way to reconcile the two. Torch the masks and meet the world with this one face, these two hands, this one mind, divided.

We talk about the kids and their entitlement, which is sometimes true, but I wonder if we’re a little envious. If we want to age in reverse — start knowing too much to knowing nothing at all, and living every moment in the wonder of the next. It used to infuriate me to hear children cry because I wanted them to know how good they have it. How every moment forward brings a newness that they’ll never get back.

I’m 37 and I hear about the too lates, the new starts, the pivots, the awakenings — and I want to torch all of it.

I wonder if instead of us staring at photographs, obsessing over the surface of things, perhaps we can attempt to create a map of the country that is our heart, the cities that are our mind in swell, in bloom. We gawk at the largeness of it, of all that we’ve become and achieved, and perhaps we need this laid down on paper. Perhaps we need this taped to our mirrors, festooned on the walls. Perhaps then we’ll stop thinking about the maths, the numbers.

I don’t have an answer, but I know that I want to move in the direction of our heart being a country.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe inspired by Joanne Chang’s Famous Applewood Smoked BLT recipe in Flour, Too (Serves two)
8 slices applewood-smoked bacon, thick cut
4 slices good-quality slice sourdough bread
2 tbsp butter
2 cups baby spinach
12 figs, quartered
1 tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
Sea Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place bacon on the cookie sheet and bake for 24-28 minutes, until half is crispy and half is still a little bendy. Remove from oven. Lightly toast bread. Spread each slice with a tablespoon of butter. As I need to keep my dairy in check, I used Earth Balance butter. Top two slices with baby spinach and quartered figs, a drizzle of vinaigrette and bacon. Season with salt to taste. Top with second slice of bread. Cut in half and serve.

peanut butter + banana dairy-free ice cream

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Like all our memories, we like to take it out once in a while and lay it flat on the kitchen table, the way my wife does with her sewing patterns, where we line up the shape of our lives against that which we thought it would be by now. ― Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn

There was a day when you woke and your heart was a torrent. On the walls of the cold house in which you live, you scrawl: this was not what was intended. Something compels to write it all down. You scatter photographs on the floor and realize that you’ve fashioned a carpet of red-eyed strangers. Faces flush and beaming with drink, the scenes repeat themselves with minor variations. Always a clock in the background, always someone keeping time (miming a heartbeat), reminding you that your velocity isn’t personal. Did you actually think time was something that was yours to keep? You blast the songs you thought you knew and you flub all the lines. You contemplate a game of spades or gin rummy, but can’t find the pack of cards. Can’t remember the rules of the game. Can’t remember the last time your hand got played. And you start to realize that the future is waiting for you to find your way to it, to step into the frame, to play out the scene. Like our bodies and like our desires, the machines we have devised are possessed of a heart which is slowly reduced to embers, offers W.G. Sebald, and I’m starting to see the bigger picture.

Sometimes you think about traveling to certain cities and dialing the same number with the local area code. Sometimes you think about rabbits and multiplication. Mostly, you think about nothing at all.

That’s hardly true. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in this fiction? Hide behind the second person? Rebellions are always easier in your head.

A few weeks ago, you meet up with an old friend and trade war stories. Time passes, and you both agree that the second time is never as good as the first. That our lives are now ours to architect and shape, and this first is frightening because once you get a taste, once you feel the shape of something new, there’s no going back. You write lines that go like this: I want to tell him that I wish I’d never met Cassidy, I wish I stayed with the girls under the rafters, safe, because knowing there was a Goa and a beautiful house suffocating from so much loneliness is worse than not having known it at all. I want to begin with Cassidy and end with her, but a story never plays out the way you intend it. I want to tell him that we all bruise, on and below the surface.

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How do you architect a life when everyone’s trying to write your story? When the peanut-crunching lot purport to know the ending. When they email Susan Miller horoscopes, trying to find a word that means something to you when this puts you to thinking that her lines are very much like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, where everyone is a gleaming photocopy of an opaque original. Look at the millions slouching to our generic fate. Look at us march! Look at us go! {The applause is thunderous. The curtains fall over our black eyes. The needle lifts and the song plays. Again, again.}

Are you fucking kidding me with this charade?

You make your life by living it. Measure for measure, moment by moment. You fix the things in your home that you were once content to leave broken. You scrape the barnacles off your body and pass time with people who invigorate rather than deplete. You open your locked heart, in degrees, and let all the right ones in. You even let in some of the wrong ones, because you need to feel this, too. You sleep during the day and work into the night. You tell CEOs of companies that you’re not walking into a puppy mill. Your mind is a non-negotiable. You actually write down your non-negotiables and say them out loud. You cover up the old words you once scrawled on your walls with new, hopeful ones: This is what I intend… You preach out with your heart, all of it, and hold your loved ones close. And although you are the one who needs helping, you turn the beat around and ask: How can I help you?

And when your voice is hoarse and your legs stiff from walking to one meeting to the next, fall back into the house you’ve made a home and eat spoonfuls of homemade ice cream.

Your velocity is personal. Your life is yours to shape. Here is the scalpel and compass. Go.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Roost, with modifications (makes 1 quart)
8 very ripe bananas, sliced
6 tbsp honey
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup roasted, salted, smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped toffee or dark chocolate chunks

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DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss sliced bananas with the honey, syrup and coconut oil. Spread into a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, lift the parchment on both sides and pour the bananas and caramelizing liquid into a high speed blender. Add the peanut butter and blend until very smooth. Pour into a freezer safe container and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, allow ice cream to sit on the counter to soften a bit and make sure you use an ice cream scoop dipped in hot water to help with the scooping.

NOTES IN THE MARGINS: I actually made two batches of the ice-cream, as I found the original recipe too savory for my taste, and the peanut butter was too pronounced a flavor at the expense of the roasted bananas. My adaptation dials down the peanut butter (I’m also trying vanilla flavored almond butter tonight, as well) and incorporates some sweet bits that will make this dairy-free treat sing.

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white bean salad + carrot salad with carrot ginger dressing + ripping the band-aids off

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When you begin to realize that there are divisions in your life that are not mathematical, is when things start to get dicey. It’s as if I’ve spent the past four years blissfully asleep, content in my ignorance, happy to let the world and all the beauty within it, slip, and then I woke from this night terror, confused and disoriented. The costs of ignorance are incalculable, I can’t even begin to do the maths on this one, and while I work on getting my personal house in order I’m growing concerned about the world around me, about the people in it and how they’re content to go through their day under anesthesia.

Have you ever seen the film, Carnival of Souls? A woman who was meant to die in a car accident, doesn’t, and you watch as she roams, soulless, through Utah. She’s a fragile wisp of a thing, prone to hysterics, but at the same time she’s comfortably uncomfortable in her self-imposed isolation from love and faith. In a few scenes in the film, you see her running through a department store, park or a crowded thoroughfare, screaming. No one can hear her, and this terrifies her — the threat of being alone in her torment, the idea that she can’t be heard when she wants to. This silence forces her to face the specter that was there all along — her death, physical + spiritual.

This is a roundabout way of saying that at times I feel very much like this woman. When I’m surrounded by people whose greatest lament is not getting their preferred Soul Cycle class, when an awkward silence falls when I talk about the world and all the monstrous things in it (The AP scandal, brutal rapes in Rio and India), when people can’t fathom going beyond their own sympathetic brunch because being a friend means you have to be there for the long haul, not just for a clasped hand and a few nods and a brunch paid — when all of this, all of this happens, I feel as if I’m alone in my lament.

When I talk about my writing and my excitement for it, and for looking for a job that won’t compromise it, people stare at me blankly to a point where I always, inevitably, ask, Am I boring you? When I think about how I shouldn’t have created such a sharp divide between myself and my co-workers, and how I now don’t know how to be friends with them, even after we’ve left the place that threatened to undo us, many don’t understand.

Maybe I’m hypersensitive (it wouldn’t be a first) or overtly-critical, but I’m walking through life without medication, walking with all the band-aids ripped off, and I need to move toward people who are going to get it. Who are going to be there for the long haul. Those who know that in the end, our friendship was worth the stretch.

In the interim, I’m focusing on making my life (amidst all this complexity) as simple as possible. Naturally, every conversation in my life starts, ends, or involves food, and this would be no different. How simple is it to make a cold carrot salad and a hot white bean one when a friend sits across from you and says she’s scared of the world, too? Or when your best friend, the woman you’ve known for half your life, tells me on a phone line that she doesn’t care about petty politics, she just wishes people would climb out of their damn box. These conversations give me hope. Warm my heart.

INGREDIENTS: Recipes adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good
For the carrot salad + carrot ginger dressing: Of note, there is a different version in her cookbook, however, you’ll find that it’s merely a shift in serving size rather than an alteration of ingredients.
4 cups shredded carrots (this is for the salad)
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (this is for the dressing)
1 large shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seed oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons water

For the white bean salad: Of note, I made some alterations to Paltrow’s original recipe, as I didn’t feel her version had enough thyme
1 14oz can of cannellini (or white kidney beans), drained and rinsed in cold water
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 tbsp of olive oil
Salt/cracked black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the carrot salad + carrot ginger dressing: Pulse the carrot, shallot and ginger in a blender until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, add the miso, vinegar and sesame seed oil and whiz together. While the blender is going, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil and the water. Toss spoonfulls of the dressing (how much you add is to your taste, really. I prefer salads that are lightly dressed as opposed to drenched) onto the carrots. I added a handful of black sesame seeds for color and additional crunch.

For the white bean salad: In a large skillet, add the olive oil and heat on medium. Sauté the garlic for 2-3 minutes until the garlic slightly browns, and then add the shallots and thyme, and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the onions are slightly translucent. Add the beans and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Serve hot, seasoned with salt/pepper, or at room temperature — either way, the beans are delicious!

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