My kitchen used to be a prison, and now it’s a sanctuary.
In the early years of my younger daughter’s life, she had to follow a series of complicated medically prescribed diets that left me frantic for recipes and alternative products. The kitchen was the battlefield where I wrestled gluten-free starches and egg substitutes and strange milk alternatives into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was where I brought many times the normal grocery budget for one year, and a head-scratching selection of 1980s diet foods for one terrible spring. That kitchen held the answer as to whether my daughter would eat well or starve. It was where I gave up me for her.
But something happened once she was well, and eating normally, and it happened to both of us.
After a while, I missed the thrill of the battlefield. I missed the puzzle of ingredients that I could assemble into a picture that made sense. I missed using my skills. I began, over the years that followed, to love my kitchen. When I cook or bake something delicious and beautiful, I feel a sense of accomplishment that is, finally, not also connected to fear of what might have happened if I failed. When I’m doing it, I am both energized and peaceful. I’m now grateful to be in my kitchen. Continue Reading…
“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
I used to think there was such a thing as an adult.
At first, the adults were my parents and my teachers. They gave me answers in absolutes; this is the right thing and that is the wrong thing. That made me feel safe, and also freed me from my own opinions. If mine didn’t match theirs, it must be wrong. They were older and smarter and more experienced.
Then I got older and met more adults, and some of them seemed even more expert than my parents and teachers had been. Some were as sure of themselves as my former “adults” had been. It was terribly confusing to learn that the things I’d taken for gospel were, in fact, debatable. Some of these adults were gentle in sharing their wisdom, offering it alongside the wisdom I’d held before, calling it not the choice but a choice. That made me feel unsteady; how could I choose the adultiest adults, the rightest choices, the smartest smart people? If they all disagreed, did that make my original parents and teachers right? wrong? neither? WHO WERE THE REAL ADULTS?
It wasn’t until my youngest daughter got sick that I realized that there is no such thing as an adult. Continue Reading…
Photo by Matt Lingenfelter, Taken at The Moth Chicago
I was on stage at The Moth, a storytelling event that happens several times a month in Chicago. I was telling a story about mistakes, the story about how a host of people missed the right diagnosis for my daughter when she was a baby. I felt confident, telling this story. The lights on stage were so bright that I couldn’t see the crowd, and I didn’t feel anxious or wrong or awkward. I just told it, calmly, always always always hoping someone in the crowd will come to me afterward and say “your story compels me.”
Compels them to what, I’m not sure.
What surprises me about this photo is how my fists are clenched. They’re tight. I didn’t feel tight or clenched. Continue Reading…
Every year, spring shows up like a surprise party. I spend the winter in a midwest funk of grey on grey on dirty brown, trudging through alley slush and tensing my muscles against hidden ice, head down, every slog a sigh.
And then one morning, I wake up and see the sun sliver its light through the curtain, and I go downstairs to find my children are in short sleeves, their bare arms the same beautiful smooth gift I treasured each spring when they were tiny. Now they’re sparkling teenagers, up before me, deep into videos and social media before I can stumble down the stairs each morning — but I still treasure those bare arms, the pieces of them I forgot over the long winter, more skin to marvel over.
They used to live inside me, those arms.
Outside, sun shines brightly, and a check of the weather forecast tells me those short sleeves are audacious choices still, but not so audacious as they would have been last week. And maybe, just maybe, today is the day for my first non-treadmill run of the year. Continue Reading…