Patience Training from Every Side

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Life seems to be conspiring to teach me patience.

Sickness? Slows me down. Makes me wait. Makes me rest.

Scheduling Conflicts? Makes me not get what I want. Makes me feel useless.

Grief? Makes me emotional, not clear-headed. Makes me feel like I haven’t accomplished anything.

and now, today, Work. Long hours of work. A never-ending to-do list makes me work, but more importantly, makes me wait for others who I need to help me before I can complete tasks.

Sometimes, I need to learn a lesson, and life is teaching me now; since marriage began, I’ve noticed that I have some circumstances in which I’m patient and can adjust expectations, and others (especially in my home life) where I’m truly a child. It’s been getting better, but life has ramped it up to a new level lately. I’m having to understand that sometimes sickness, schedules, grief, and work are going to conspire to take away my feelings of control and strength.

And that is okay. It really is. It feels awful when it’s happening, but every single time I adjust, I look out from my new place of belief, and realize what I wanted all along was not so much better than this. They are roughly the same, this world and the one I wanted so badly.

I think of my parents’ turtle in moments like these. He does do a whole lot, mostly sitting and sunning himself all day, but when a cricket or a fish happen near him, his head can rear into action and snap them up. I want to be the person who can wait; this just happens to be a season when I’m having to learn and re-learn this patience every day.

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Rejecting “Always Do More”

For a few years now, I’ve been struggling with more. I want to work more, write more, and do more. I want to cook more, clean more, talk to others more, listen more.

I don’t often think about where the time for such “more” comes from. I think I assume that I’m a magical efficiency machine, who keeps figuring life out so thoroughly that I am always doing things quicker and less – my laundry magically is done faster, or I can multitask my way through dinner while simultaneously washing dishes.

This is sometimes true; my tasks at work take much less time than when I first began. But I also have more tasks, and the growing mound of tasks is growing faster than efficiency can mitigate.

All I’m saying here is that I need to stop pegging success and satisfaction with myself to the feeling that I’m doing more than I was doing last year. Never mind whether these things are valuable; I was letting myself feel comforted that at least I’m operating at 110%! At least it’s a whole LOT of nothing!

I’m trying to see my life as refining instead of adding – what must come into my life because it will enrich it? At the same time, what can I lay down, now that I see I cannot or do not need to do it any more? I’m not so good at this part. I either throw a task away, furious at myself for having to admit defeat, or I just try to keep doing it, complaining all the way.

I’m working on it. There are things I need to do less of every time I try to fit more in. I cannot magically make everything hard in life take less time, and I’m starting to really plan my life to cope with that fact.

Family Time Adventures

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Because of a family funeral, I’ve been on the road for days now. One unexpected surprise, among many, was the visit to the Bob Evans Farm, which is in Ohio and is the original Bob Evans restaurant! We had a delicious meal after a long drive on a very overwhelming week, and I will remember for a long time how nice it was to sit down and be greeted and served here. The weather has been almost heartbreakingly pretty lately and I barely know what to do with February 70s, but I’m trying to take everything one moment at a time.

Thinking about Hospitality (repost)

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In the wake of the Presidential election, I’m even more thoughtful about community building and neighborliness than before. It’s easy to assume the country is close and united when we have two moderate candidates in the running, but throughout this election cycle, I’ve been stunned by the differences in mindsets among the candidates, and by the closeness of the races: the country is divided.

I know that there are some disagreements that getting to know each other cannot solve. I know that being political is not a good way to run a food blog or host a dinner party or any of the things I claim. But I do think that talking to each other, knowing people whose experiences are different from our own, seems to be one of the only chances for getting out of this mess. Half of America is a stranger to the other half; they need to have each other over for dinner.

For this reason, part of my upcoming thoughts on the blog are going to shift toward discussing modern hospitality and how people talk to strangers around them. I want to keep talking about food, because I think we are all so united when it comes to food and wanting to belong. However, I think that the ability to be isolated and self-reliant but miserable is higher than it ever has been in the United States, and I want to be a part of figuring out where we need to come together. So many books talk about how we are desperate to connect to each other, that disconnection causes so much pain and ruin. I would submit there has to be a place where people are brought together who disagree with each other, who can eat together and maybe let down some of their most emotionally-held beliefs for a little while.

This blog has always been about forming community with my friends and family; I just think that this election cycle shows that I need to move beyond that, to strangers and political opponents and people I don’t understand. We all have to live together, after all.

Cutting Off Anxiety at the Roots (repost)

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This book I’ve been reading, Daring Greatly, talks about two different kinds of stress responses: in one case, people try to manage their circumstances such that all the stress is organized, prioritized, and handled. The other group of people try to seek root causes and remove the problems that cause the stress. The example Brené Brown gives is people who save time at the end of every night and beginning of every day to handle all their unread emails, versus people who make it clear that they may take a while to read emails and delete all unnecessary ones without responses.

I must admit that in everything from cooking to home care to work to gardening, my habit is to try to minimize impact, not eliminate stress from the roots. Something I’ve always felt under my actions was a belief that I should be able to deal with all the things that get thrown at me, and changing the rules of the game (i.e. asking people to email less!) would mean some kind of failure. But I’ve seen how less-stressed people are, and how their lives look more like a celebration than like a failure.

It makes me think that some of the things I need to do in the coming year should have to do with root causes: rather than constantly making time to scramble and cook in the evening, finding a way to enjoy the nights of take-out and also budget weekend time for meal prep. I want to plan our garden ahead of time but also modulate my expectations – we are lucky and our garden is for fun, not for sustenance, so there’s no reason to let it cause me stress. Even little things, like the ways Husband talks about keeping the house neater and more tidy, I need to put in perspective: even he tells me how when he talks about changing our house care, he’s talking about himself doing more, not about me doing more. It’s a good thing to be reminded that some stress is caused by our unrealistic expectations of ourselves, not by externally imposed strain. Now, to remember this next time something doesn’t go my way… It’s always a process!

In Praise of a Dependable Chain

img_5102-1I spend a lot of this blog talking about how much I want to eat out less, spend more time cooking, know more about the origins of my food, etc. While all of those things are definitely true, let’s not be unclear: I love eating at restaurants!

I don’t need them to be fancy; I love eating at the counter at Waffle House and I love trying tiny, fancy tapas at a swanky Spanish restaurant with candles on the tables. I like the interaction, the fact that I have so many options but I don’t have to come up with exactly what I want; I just have to identify it among many great choices.

I love that while my food is cooked, I can talk to my friends or to Husband, and I love guzzling tall glasses of water that I tend to forget to drink when I’m making my own meals or eating on the go at work. I like the sitting-down, doing-nothing-else of it.

Husband and I went to a big sit-down chain restaurant last night, a Chili’s, and I was reminded again how nice it is to go to a restaurant. I’m not a big fan of the little computers they keep on the tables, but it does help them save on costs and keep things quick for the servers, which I can appreciate in the prices. I loved eating something totally different from my husband; I liked my food, but I also loved stealing some of his. We were too full for an included dessert, so there was cheesecake to take home.

What I’ve loved most about my favorite restaurants is that some part of our experience is colored by the chef or the server or the bartender who talks to us about the life of the restaurant; that doesn’t really happen at Chili’s, but it still occurs to me, just in the easy kindness of our server last night who was clear and got us our food very quickly. There are times when a reasonably priced, super tasty, and convenient meal is just what I want. When I’m healthy and well rested, I’m all for taking things the long way with home gardening, home cooking, and restaurants that prioritize the local and seasonal, but I sure to appreciate the systems that allow me to, on a whim, decide to take a break for a night.

Simplifying the Wardrobe

I don’t really talk about clothing on this blog – not exactly connected to cooking! – but lately, I’ve been really experiencing a life change because of the 333 project, which I learned about from the Minimalism documentary on Netflix.

I have always been one of those girls who organizes closet and dresser and then, three days later, has mountains of clothes everywhere, nothing folded or put away. The principle of the 333 challenge is that by selecting a very specific, small amount of clothes and rotating them every week for 3 months, you keep your living space uncluttered, only wash the clothes you need, and always know that something you like is available to wear, cutting down on decision-making time.

Basically, I picked 33 “items,” deciding on tops and dresses and leggings and pants that could intermingle easily to make more than 7 outfits. I picked the things best for the weather this time of year, and put everything else I owned in another part of the house, boxed up. You have to be willing to wear essentially the same things every week for 12 weeks, but the benefits are insane!

I have been able to wake up 5 minutes later and with less stress about the idea of picking an outfit, which is wonderful before work. My floor is effortlessly clean, and since Husband is doing this too, we’ve cut down on laundry: before, we’d run 2-3 loads a weekend, partially because he couldn’t tell what needed washing and what really just needed to be picked up and hung on a hanger. Now we run one load of laundry, which is so much nicer and even a little more sustainable. I’m prepared for these clothes to wear out quicker than when I was rotating among a ton of things, but now that I know what things I really like, I think I’m more in a mindset to get things repaired so I can go on wearing the ones I like best.

In another two months, spring will be inching into my life again and so I’ll sub out this “wardrobe” for 7ish outfits worth of spring weather wear. It’ll be like getting an entirely new wardrobe! It’s not Steve Jobs style, where he always wore the same thing, but I kind of like that – only those closest to me will notice that I have only 7 outfits in rotation, and that’s fine with me! I’ll tell them how freeing, uncluttered, and environmentally-friendly these weeks have been.