Monday, December 31, 2012
Word of the Year
My word of the year for 2011 was "Nurture."
It turned out to be the perfect choice, though not for the reasons I'd intended. I'd written that I hoped to nurture "people, animals, ideas, projects, tomatoes, and also myself." But the year was so chaotic - multiple break-ups and attempts to cling to a doomed relationship, numerous moves before settling down, much trauma and heartbreak, and far too many tears.
My overwhelming memory of that year is of the tears. Instead of my nurturing others, I am still so immensely overwhelmed by the generosity and love and kindness of those who nurtured me. It wasn't what I'd planned. But it was still the operative word for the year. As much as I'm loathe to quote the Rolling Stones, I have to say that "you can't always get what you want, but ... you just might find you get what you need."
Restored, though still frail and fragile, I was ready to "Reach" in 2012:
"Reach out to friends, to keep them close.
Reach out to new people, to broaden and enrich my family.
Reach out to those in need.
Reach beyond my comfort zone.
Reach for new opportunities, both personal and professional.
Reach beyond my limitations, not letting them inhibit me.
Reach my potential ... reach for the proverbial stars."
I reached new audiences when invited to write each month for the Washtenaw Jewish News in addition to my regular posts for AnnArbor.com, and with an article about The Molly Goldberg Cookbook for Repast, the quarterly newsletter of The Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor. (I'm thrilled to have been asked to contribute an essay about baking my own matzah for an issue to be devoted to Jewish baking, too.)
I reached out when new adventures were offered, such as: being invited to work with the wonderful people at Entre-SLAM (an opportunity I've unfortunately had to take a hiatus from, given recent stresses), or judging culinary masterpieces for the Ann Arbor Civic Theatre (chili) and Perry Nursery School (pie) as well as Temple Beth Emeth's Sisterhood (brisket) and the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan (luscious desserts).
I reached into my bank account to start fixing up the condo I landed in, which I inherited from my ex-husband (who will one day appear on "Hoarders"). It's not presentable yet, but I hope one day to be able to host Friday night dinners and holiday celebrations with loved ones. I reached past my comfort zone, which already encompassed a wide variety of musical styles (everything from 80s New Wave to French chansons, from Cuban rhythms to Medieval chants), and even found that I like country music ... a long-reviled genre that I've now grown rather fond of; it provides a great background while I'm writing.
I reached out to old friends, going out for coffee or for dinner or for hot fudge sundaes, to keep them close. I reached out to new people, welcoming fresh faces into my extended family. If there was a way to reach out or a direction to reach towards, I tried valiantly to do it. I became an opportunist, but not with any negative connotations: if an opportunity presented itself, I gratefully appreciated it and cherished it and sought to do my best with it.
And so, after achieving so many of the goals I'd hoped for in my choice of last year's word - both thrilled and humbled at being able to reach into so many different facets of myself and of life - I considered what to do for 2013.
Along with my beloved Leanne of From Chaos Comes Happiness, who initiated this project by choosing a new word each year and encouraging all of us to join her, I pondered the coming months and my hopes and dreams for them. In July - when Leanne and I finally met in the real world, as opposed to only hanging out together in cyberspace - we discussed my choice as we toured, and became inspired by, The Art Institute of Chicago. I shared with her the word that, even at that early time, seemed like the perfect choice.
I confessed to Leanne that, after a year of misery and then a year of rebuilding, I found myself - every so often, quite by surprise - dancing as I cooked. A spin. A twirl. A swivel of my hip. As I stirred. As I baked. As I waited for the timer to ring. I could play music I enjoyed, music that infused what I was creating. Music to which I would instinctively sway, something I hadn't done for more than two years. Music I had chosen, music I loved.
I was happy.
I could once again cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water to the sounds of passionate Italian opera, rather than being told the noodles (and only a certain type of approved noodles) had to be sparingly prepared in a small, cramped saucepan so as not to irresponsibly squander precious resources such as water and electricity. Italians - who know just a bit about these matters! - say that you should cook pasta in a large pot of salted water, precisely so it can dance without being constrained. For many, many months, I still could not cook pasta once I was free of the limitations ... or, rather, just free. I would try, and tension would overcome me. Such a simple thing, and yet it had been taken from me for a long while. But I found I could enjoy this again.
I was happy.
Craig doesn't like to dance. He won't go line dancing with me even though, when I tried it, I remarkably found that I enjoy it and have some talent for it. Just the other day, he did write to me that "I'll dance w/you anywhere," but then added a disclaimer ... "(well, almost anywhere!)" Maybe I'll get him to dance at the Ann Arbor Art Fair in July ...? Perhaps at Memphis in May, which I plan to attend for the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, but which also offers a music festival ...?
But he's dancing through life with me, even if he won't go out on a dance floor. And it's a life that's been a bit complicated in our four months together, as one of my most cherished loved ones has been hospitalized for rehab but still relapsed several times afterward, as I've found my once-legendary immune system has been compromised by two bouts of bronchitis, as he's suffered from kidney stones and then even threw his back out on Christmas Eve, as we negotiate with elderly parents and take care of Craig's adorable little aging dog, contend with the abundant energy and enthusiasm of my grandpuppy, and help to guide our kids who still seek to find their way in the adult world.
I reached out across the table when we met for coffee, and Craig took my hands in his ... my new dance partner.
And so, in 2013 I intend to dance. Dance while I cook. Dance - or, at least, bop a little bit - while I drive. Dance in the grocery store, a place I find so full of fun and inspiration (and only occasional routine drudgery). Do the Snoopy "happy dance" whenever I can, appreciating the moments that inspire it.
Because I will also have to continue to dance with the twin devils of mental illness and alcoholism, which occasionally rear their ugly heads in my loved ones and do not back down readily from the war even if some battles have been won. They have been rudely cutting in again recently, making me dance on tiptoe rather than dancing with joy.
I will dance with my boyfriend, even if he won't do so in public. I will dance through life, because the alternative is to sit still, to be stagnant. I may not always do it gracefully, as I tend to be a bit clumsy; Jeremy is convinced that Armageddon will arrive the day I don't have any bruises on my legs.
But I will dance, literally and figuratively.
And so, what better way to end this with than a cheesy dance song from the 70s??? (I have such a perverse affinity for this genre, though no one else can tolerate it!) So much is in place that's never been settled before, even if my life is still a work in progress. Yeah, it's taken me 50 years to even get to this point. But my ancestors were living into their 80s even 150 years ago, and my paternal grandfather lived to be 98. I'm only halfway done!
Ghosts of Postings Past and Present
- ► 2013 (89)
- Word of the Year
- Frugal Floozie Friday - The Northside Grill
- Top 10 of 2012
- Santa Sammi, or Two Versions of a Bolognese
- Frugal Floozie Friday - Siam Cuisine
- Eggnog Pudding (a2.com)
- Cappuccino Biscotti
- Frugal Floozie Friday - Luca's Coney Island
- New Treats from Whole Foods Market
- Loaded Baked Potato Latkes
- Frugal Floozie Friday - Glee Cake & Pastry
- Shake 'n' Bake Cupcakes?!?!?
- ▼ December (12)
- ► 2011 (259)