I have been procrastinating, avoiding the “Add New Post” page. Just today I stalked a Praying Mantis in my rose bushes, watched the moon crest just above the trees in the fading afternoon light, uploaded photos of said Mantis and moon, and stopped just short of cleaning the cat’s litter box to avoid opening this page.
This procrastination is not for a lack of recipes I desperately want to share. I’ve got 22 drafts and a baker’s dozen of recipes that haven’t even made it into draft form yet. Each and every one of them is worthy of your time and mine. But I’m not ready to talk Apple Slices, Sweet Pickle Relish, or Crockpot Polenta just yet. I know, you come here for the food…but I appreciate your patience as I ramble about other things while I work my way back to the food.
I said that “words have been swirling through my head“. In its uncanny ability to recognize what I need before I do, the Universe has had one word in particular following me around. That word is gratitude. It started with Maggy’s piece talking about her husband’s expression of gratitude for the meals that she makes for him. I had a chance to chat with Maggy after I read that post, and what I didn’t tell her in the conversation is that reading her description of Andy’s expressions of gratitude instantly made me think of my dad.
My dad could cook, had cooked, but in his adult life he did not cook. Yet at the end of every meal, whether it was a simple ham and cheese sandwich with chips or a pot roast with mashed potatoes and gravy, he always thanked whomever had made the meal. It wasn’t until I started cooking for him and was the recipient of that thanks that I realized it was about more than the plate of food. It was his gratitude for the effort and love that went into the food.
Up until he became sick, my dad was not one to say “I love you”. And it was only after his death that family members told me that he was proud of me. But in his way, each time he expressed his gratitude for a meal, he was saying those things. I just wasn’t able to hear it in that moment.
As I said to Maggy, her discussion of gratitude really spoke to me at a time when I needed a reminder about why it is important for me to take the time to cook. It’s not just about the food. It’s about all that goes into it and how we, or I, use food as a metaphor for all of the things I can’t find the words to say.
And then a few weeks later, I opened a link in Twitter, not having any idea that I would again be coming face to face with the word gratitude. But there it was, in something like 18 point font, on a post by Matthew Naquin. As I read his words, I felt his pain. Because it was my pain also. But here it was, in black and white, the Universe basically giving me a lesson plan in how gratitude and the free will to choose can make a difference.
So why am I rambling about gratitude instead of talking about Peach Preserves or Honey Dijon Chicken Thighs? Partly because I’m struggling. Struggling with the day to day reality of feeling like my world has been turned upside down and shaken like a snow globe. Struggling with the overwhelming emotion that takes me by surprise…both with the fact that in my life I will never see either of my parents again as well as the fact that I have to consciously choose each and every day to make my future what I want it to be. So when these emotions come and knock me off balance, I have to stop and think about exactly why it is that I’m hitting a wall. What is it that I am reacting to?
In a single word, it’s change.
And that gets me to the other part of the why. I have been taking part in a weekly discussion with a small group of women. We each have our own struggles and challenges and we’re all at different places in our journeys. But there is so much that we can learn from each other’s experiences that the fine details aren’t quite as important as the big picture. In our discussion last week, I heard two more words that triggered this latest round of reflection and emotion, and reluctance to talk food. Be brave.
Two words that are simultaneously simple and powerful. And what they mean to me is not necessarily what they mean to anyone else. I hear them and think: be brave in the face of change; be brave and reach out for help; be brave and admit that I don’t have all the answers; be brave in spite of being afraid; be brave and actually choose change; be brave and express gratitude each and every day.
So maybe my procrastination earlier today was actually a bit of disguised gratitude. I chose to take the time to see the Mantis hiding in the rose bushes. And I chose to watch the moon crest the trees in the fading afternoon light. I chose to be brave and not care if the neighbors thought I was weird for climbing into the rose bushes or walking around my yard with the camera. And now I choose to go upstairs and make dinner for The Mistah to express my gratitude for his patience, support, and love.