soup and the fragility of human existence, redux

So it is absurdly cold here. As in: so cold there was a wind chill warning this morning even though there was no wind. It’s horrible – even though the sun is shining and the world looks so pretty with lots of fresh snow, I took the lad and the dog for a walk yesterday and we basically made it around the block before my lips started to go numb. Blah. For those of you who live in warm climates, this is the kind of cold that you can’t even begin to imagine. The vindictive part of me wishes you understood, but the kind part of me wishes that you never even have to try.

Fortunately, I found an excellent antidote in the form of this amazing red lentil soup recipe. It is so simple but I swear to you, I rolled my eyes in ecstasy after taking the first spoonful. I’m usually tempted to tweak recipes even before I make them, but after reading the comments on that post, I resisted and made the recipe exactly as directed. Seriously – it was amazing, more amazing than lentil soup has a right to be. And the drizzle of olive oil really added to it – it’s great without, but just that little bit of richness and fruitiness from good olive oil just adds another layer of tasty. Mmmmm. I just finished two bowls of it.

Finding that recipe was this emotional up and down to the day, actually – it’s an old post on a blog that deals with Middle East peace, writing, identity, family – lots more than food. I was really excited to find this woman’s blog, to make that connection that happens only by the delicate grace that comes about through the combination of luck, Googling and what I have in my cupboard. So when I was done with the recipe, I clicked over to her home page, only to find that the author of the blog, Leila Abu-Saba, had died in 2009 after a long struggle with breast cancer.

Leila, I never got the chance to connect with you. But wherever you are, know that every time I make this soup (the recipe for which, wonderfully, you shared by way of another writer whom you admired) I will be thinking of you and your husband and sons. I look forward to exploring your writing, and I hope you know that not only are you not forgotten, you are still being discovered and celebrated.

*******

Thanks, all you dear ones, for your beautiful comments on the last post. In a way, this one is a continuation – just more of that deep realization that we are all in this life temporarily. But I have to say that your comments and then the discovery of Leila’s blog have only reinforced for me the desire and intention to live with an open heart. Because everything is impermanent, but everything ripples out in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine. And I want my ripples to be reflections of who I am and what I believe most strongly.

As a sort of corollary to this, I was making up Facebook statuses in my head yesterday. (Anyone else do this? Just try and come up with succinct or witty ways of letting people know what’s going on, yet not quite get around to posting them? Or is this one of the signs that I really should leave the house more often and possibly engage in some basic personal hygiene?) And the one that really stuck with me yesterday was this:

“If you ever wonder how, exactly, I manage to ‘do it all,’ please know that it is only because I am wildly underfunctioning in some area of my life that I work hard to keep hidden from view.”

I’ve been really aware lately of how I project an image of myself as competent and controlled. I’ve done this for most of my life up to now – hence, a blog about wanting to explore vulnerability. But it is fascinating to see what is going on in the moment that I choose to gloss over what is really going on with me, or to just ask another question about what’s going on with someone else to avoid me having to even look within to find out what my honest answer might be to the simple question about how I am doing.

I had a few thoughts about what is going on for me in that moment, beyond the obvious habit of maintaining the status quo of how I don’t reveal myself. One is that I am struggling, much to my surprise, with feelings about the worth of the work that I am currently doing, i.e. being a mother and wife and homemaker. This is interesting to me because I have always felt really strongly that this is important, essential, deeply valuable work – work that transforms the world. So I was kind of unsettled to find during a recent visit with an old friend that I am feeling a bit insecure about the fact that I spend my days at home and don’t earn any money doing so. There is lots to investigate there, I think.

The second thing that occurred to me was that it is important to be wise about how fully we reveal ourselves. It’s one thing to say that vulnerability is the core of joy and all that, but at the same time, we need to have boundaries. We need to be clear about when and with whom it is safe to be fully ourselves. It’s not just where we feel comfortable about the vulnerability – in my case, it’s usually safe a long ways beyond where I feel completely comfortable, but at the same time, it’s not always kind to myself to really let it all out around certain people. So there is a lot of richness there, too – paying close attention to what that safety means to me, and when it is present, and when it is absent.

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4 Responses to soup and the fragility of human existence, redux

  1. Wordgirl says:

    I was just thinking about you — and so so pleased to be tucked into my little cold corner of the world (wondering why my toes are and nose are so cold when I’m inside) reading your thoughts.

    Wow. I feel like I could have written parts of this. I used to have this idea of myself as so forthright and realized how private I am in some ways — and how I’ve been so for so long — and for me this idea of vulnerability really came about with Buddhism and reading etc.

    I was just feeling unsettled tonight; something about what’s going on in Cairo for some reason — and in the blogosphere — and the long, cold winter and those bright days you talk about where you can’t really be IN them — just watch them — magnified by the housebound nature of mothering in my world (I am not a scheduler of her time any more than I am of mine — but that means we are at home a lot) — and I was thinking about fear. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear… and how the only real comfort for me has been in the tenets of Buddhism and how I really valued the idea of training the mind in meditation and certain thought practices — like something I’d heard on NPR the other day about extending thoughts of kindness to others…

    Anyway, I’m rambling. This is just one of those posts that makes me glad to know you and wistful wishing you were a neighbor.

    What talks we’d have dishing soup out of handmade pottery bowls!

    XO

    P

  2. coffeegrl says:

    Yes, I make up Facebook posts and blog entries that are very witty and informative and never get around to posting them!

    I always wanted to be a mother. I was never especially attached to the idea of being pregnant, but the idea of raising children was very meaningful to me. I felt like having a family (much like my own when I was a child) would give my life even more richness. And having two children now, I absolutely feel that on some level that’s true. But I also see that I was right all along. I never thought that being a full-time stay-at-home mom would feel quite right for me. I wasn’t sure if I’d want to work part or full time once I had kids, but I have always worked hard to find a career path that was fulfilling to me (perhaps not high powered or making big bucks) and leaving that behind, while initially the right choice for me and my husband, is starting to wear on me. Quite a lot actually. Raising small children is very hard work and some people excel at it. I don’t feel like I’m one of those people. I can do it and do it well, but it doesn’t feel like it’s my “purpose” in life. Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that being a choice for some people, but it doesn’t feel right for me. I thought it might feel right, esp. when my daughter had first been born, but after several months of sleepless nights (okay we’re still having sleepless nights and she just turned 3!) it became clear to me that this isn’t nearly as much fun for me as it is for some women. I confess I worry about re-entering the work force (or volunteer ranks for that matter) at some point, (how will I find work after being unemployed for several years) but I truly feel it’s the best option for me and my family. If I’m not happy and fulfilled – truly happy – I don’t see how that can reflect well back on my family. Having said all that, I realize that there are some very strong opinions about stay-at-home vs. working moms and who works harder and all that jazz. It’s a hot button issue for a lot of people and anytime you state which you are/do there’s a lot that people assume about what kind of choices you’re made and what your values are. Tough stuff.
    Want to try the lentil soup! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh, that lentil soup recipe will be engaged before the week is over.

    That Brene Brown video resonated for me, too. And, like you, I am playing with how to be vulnerable but also strong. It fits in with the whole yin/yang-finding-the-middle-way thingy that keeps popping up.

    I’m so glad to hear you thinking out loud about all this. Helps me, too.

  4. xraevision says:

    I was never one of those girls who felt it was my calling to be a wife and mother, yet I am certain that everything I’ve struggled through in my life, everything I’ve overcome, everything I’ve grown to understand was all leading me to my son and the experience of conceiving, birthing and parenting him. At the same time, it’s really hard work and I can rarely get anyone to discuss this fact. Looks like all the other mothers out there have sculpted the perfect life, in which everything is beautiful and harmonious, but I tell myself it’s not true, that we’re all mostly trying to do our best, even if we fall short some days.

    Just had a nice dinner out with two close girlfriends who have children. Years ago, they spent time in Egypt and Tunisia respectively. Raved about Leila’s soup, and you for sharing, as it took me back to us feasting on the same dish right here in Waterloo at two Lebanese restaurants, both of which are now sadly closed after years in business. This is THE divine lentil soup that I have been searching for. You made my day and I’ve passed on the link.

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