Contemplating cooking…

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I have been doing quite a bit of cooking lately. Not much of a revelation unless you know me well.

You will know my self-value is not tied to how well I keep house involving cleaning or cooking – I was brought up to place significance and priority on my intellect and academics. Perhaps I am merely not sufficiently interested to do anything intricate or complex beyond the usual day-to-day meals and annual celebratory fare. You may also deduce that circumstances have favoured me not needing to do much house-keeping.

Lately, I have taken to cooking, experimenting and “catering” to my children’s taste buds (when I can). There is joy seeing them enjoying their meals, prepared by moi. And this has left me wondering why.

Am I cooking to fill time? As I don’t have a lot of time on my hands, I can answer this in the negative.

Am I cooking to fill time to avoid something else? A possibility, though I couldn’t think what. There is a certain mindfulness required when I am cooking, where I am “forced” to not think of anything else but the task at hand. Not exactly avoidance, is it? Cooking, and its creative process, is a mindful act and can be satisfying.

So, am I cooking to…?

Sitting here on a Saturday morning making up a shopping list after deciding on a menu for the coming week (yes, it is a creative project 😉 ), a possible answer or answers occurred to me.

I am preparing for my future. Not as a cook, but an empty-nester. It was not o much a plan but on reflection, a response to my life journey.

As my children mature, their taste buds too. So my experimentation serves to expand their world of foods. Most importantly, food inspires conversations of different cuisines, cultures and travels. We discover ourselves and each other in the process. And with aging parents, perhaps it is time for me to pick up this mantle?

Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat. ~ Guy Fieri

My selfish hope is that when my children leave home, they will continue to be tied to their home of origin and me, so cooking and foods will bring memories filled with nostalgic aromas, of connection and belonging. The soon-to-be adult boy has expressed a desire to explore the world, and said he would take two things with him, his family and his faith. Sweet, isn’t it? 🙂

Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love. ~ Giada De Laurentiis

Cooking is also a skill which I have been inspired to master, after hours of conversations on the intimacy of cooking together and the sensual experience of savouring foods. Perhaps a future of quiet company and adventurous samplings.

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give. ~ Julia Child

Yes, I may have hit upon the reasons for my desire to cook at this juncture of my life. Or are they mere intellectual reasoning?!

Why do you cook?

~ FlorenceT

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It is done.

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It is done. I opened them.

I found two boxes in my garage a few weeks ago, brought them into my bedroom and there they sat. Gut instinct said “this is important”. Yet I could not open them. Until I was compelled to on the eve of the review date.

The review date for an application which if it went as planned, I would be on the final step to officially ending a 20-year marriage. After months of waiting, the court would finally get round to reviewing the joint application and hopefully the paperwork would be in order (I am a lawyer after all?). With this, the final countdown of “a month and a day” would begin, culminating in a decree being issued dissolving the marriage.

So… the boxes. They contain years of letters and cards between my ex-husband and I. Now some may think I am a masochist for even venturing to open them. It had been suggested that I should merely…erm…burn them. That wouldn’t be so difficult except it would also mean eradicating a past, a history of 20 years. That I could not do.

He and I did not leave the marriage on bad terms, albeit sad. There were disagreements and mismatched values and priorities. I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for the lessons learned, the overcoming and the achievement. Now, this could be a good thing or a bad one 🙂 though I am not making judgments now.

Opening the boxes and reading through some of the correspondence was enlightening in its own way. Girding my loins, so to speak, to be an observer of the past – of who or what each of us used to be, how we felt and did… and the interactions and navigation of our lives with each other. A reminder that despite that which plagued the marriage, there were indeed good times worthy of remembering and passing on to our children.

The alone time going through the memories served as a ritual.

This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising, fixing your own broken-down emotional systems with all the do-it-yourself resourcefulness of a generous plumber/poet.

~ Elizabeth Gilbert, “Eat, Pray, Love”

I grew up in a culture with many rituals and symbols. Rituals for the coming of age, in preparation of a marriage, in celebration of birth, to mourn the passing of life. Most cultures do. And with these rituals are the symbols used – from mandarins to rice buns in the shape of flowers, the colours of white, red and black… I am not aware of a ritual to see the ending of a marital relationship, at least not through positive lens. I do not engage with nor wish to perpetuate the narrative of necessary anger and hurt, prolonged bitterness and blame. I do not wear victimhood well, as my culture (or dare I say, most normative cultures) would wish to foist upon a woman post-divorce.

The opening of these two boxes was my ritual of re-membering into this body the parts which I still wish to be attached to, and of removing the parts which no longer serve me; a psychological and emotional letting go, if you like. It was a ritual to mark a significant event in my life, to not let it pass unnoticed.

Ritual is necessary for us to know anything. ~ Ken Kesey

For as I now realise, there were still lessons to be learned. As I explored paper and ink, I saw a Me which I had forgotten; I marvelled at the transformation and of what is maintained despite the passing of time with its many celebrations and challenges.

My intuition or gut instinct spoke true. This needed doing, and it was good. As has been said of musical rituals, [r]itual instructs not only at the level of intellect…but also at the level of the soul.

I believe the same is true for any type of ritual, as a rite of passage between worlds and arriving firm in one’s own self-identity and prepared for a new role.

And so it is done.

A poem from one of my favourite poets…

FINISTERRE

The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken,
into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you
as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way
to your future now but the way your shadow could take,
walking before you across water, going where shadows go,
no way to make sense of a world that wouldn’t let you pass
except to call an end to the way you had come,
to take out each frayed letter you had brought
and light their illumined corners; and to read
them as they drifted on the late western light;
to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that;
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.

– David Whyte

 

What rituals do you have in your life? To what purpose do they serve? What is your arriving?

 

~ FlorenceT

 

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Test of love

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Love is love is love, so it is said.

Love is a feeling I hope we experience throughout our life for people who come into and out of our life, people who are forever tied to us through their presence or our memory of them, and places that leave indelible impressions in our life.

Love is a feeling that ebbs and flows; this is inevitable as change occurs and love diminishes or reinvigorates.

Love is not just a noun; it is not just a “thing” that we have or do not have. Love cannot persists without conscious attention. How will we know love unless we know love by noticing what it inspires?

The feeling of love cannot sustain, not for long anyway, the practical reality of living with or being with a loved one. We are attracted to the supportive words, kind gestures and quiet presence that we know to be love. And we are not immune or blind to the socks left lying on the wet bathroom floor, the promises not kept, the lies told… and what then?

Therefore, love is also a verb. “To love” as well as “to have love”.

Whether a romantic relationship, or a parent-child relationship, or friendship, doing love is an imperative. Love is a precondition, and loving becomes the act to preserve love. It means doing for another at times by denying our self. I am not referring to the martyr parent or companion; this can be as simple as shortening time out with friends in order to collect your child, getting out of bed on the weekend after a long work week to make breakfast for your spouse, listening and supporting a friend even as she repeats the same mistake – the “little” but significant attention offered willingly and lovingly.

To cease doing love is when we take love for granted.

The test of love can thus be this – Are we consciously attending to our loved ones, to their physical, psychological and emotional needs? Are they to us?

This I know, loving inspires love.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Capricious #Haiku Challenge 157 @RonovanWrites

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RonovanWrites Haiku Challenge 157 with prompt words – Amuse, Irate

 capricious antics
irate I cease to be, so
amused I look on.
~ FlorenceT

 

And here’s a song to go with the haiku 😉 :

 

 

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

Apocalyptic movie or documentary?

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The promise of a movie night, with a simple dinner and a little sugar-filled treat we had bought for later. All seemed in place. She picked an apocalyptic movie – humanity’s only survivors from a climate disaster on a train to nowhere under the control of the greedy in power.

Twenty minutes in and I’d had enough. The portrayal of violent, selfish and evil people causing pain and suffering was too much for me to handle. She said I was ‘soft’. I laughed. “I don’t need to see the horrors humans can inflict on other humans”, I said.

If he had been here, I would have been mocked for the ‘loss’ of movie night. He wasn’t, and there was no loss. We decided to watch David Attenborough’s “Planet Earth”, again.

And what a pleasant gratifying experience that was!  To be reminded that
• our vast world still sustains us, even as we humans continue to test its limits;
• the natural world still holds many mysteries and wonders so let’s be humble;
• we ought not lose sight of or interest in this world we inhabit for it has much to teach us;
• we and the world beyond the boundaries of human-made structures are inter-dependent, and the survival of one is reliant on the other.

Sitting with her on the couch watching this documentary felt right. I had moved away years before from “indulging” in pain and suffering, the overcoming of which is worn as a badge of honour. No. There is more to my life than that. And no, I was not avoiding the reality of life.

I am aware of the trauma that can be life. I have experienced some of that. I am also privileged not to have experienced the worst of it. But as was told to me by a wise woman those years ago, “where you expend your energy, that is what you feed”. The media creation of need to consume the worst of humanity, the normalising of voyeuristic, and perhaps narcissistic, tendency to feed upon the plight of others – not where I intend to be.

As James Redfield said, “[E]nergy flows where attention goes.” And so where I can help, I do. Where I can’t, I choose not to energize.

But I told her none of this, only relaxing into the moment of a Saturday evening at home. We discussed natural history and geography, theory of evolution, the behaviour of the male species in the animal kingdom (humans included)… 🙂 and much more.

I was content that we were not expending our energy on a movie focussed on the darker side of the human condition, which propagated the narrative that fighting is the way to success and freedom, and being physically tough and psychically hard were the only ways to be. She wasn’t, not in that moment, further indoctrinated into the cynicism and distrust that can fuelled our existence.

Granted “Planet Earth” had its gory scenes of predator and prey, life and death. I was fine for her to see the cycle of life, the natural order of things if you like. To appreciate the black, white and grey areas of living. It gave me great comfort that nature knows what to do to survive, so long as we humans do not impose our will on it.

I was not ‘soft’, not in the sense of being weak and scared. I was perhaps just tired of the perpetual narrative of fight, dominance, ‘toughness’, and pessimism on the inevitable plight of the human experience. I have no wish to spend more minutes on negativity and pain. “Be like water” comes to mind. Flow and leave your mark.

Maybe I was over-thinking it, putting words to the experience. The feeling of my body constricting during twenty minutes of the movie, in contrast to the sense of peace and inspiration of the documentary, the choice was clear.

So I am soft, in choosing to be positive, to expend my energy on matters which lift and on creatures of beauty, to contribute to a positive consciousness.

What would you do?

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

Turning home #Haiku Challenge 156 @RonovanWrites

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RonovanWrites Haiku Challenge 156 with prompt words – Ocean, Shore

 

On your shore, it calls
Oceans apart, waves carry
Echoes’ crescendo.
~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

We touch lives…

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It was masked in righteous indignation and criticism because they were easier to tap into. The holier-than-thou feeling of ‘how could people not see this’, and ‘how could they be so mean’… The suppositions that everyone ought to see or be, and when they don’t, their actions were intentionally hurtful…

I noticed moments after they arose what IT actually was, this surge of aggression that welled up.

A mentee contacted me seeking help to address a bureaucratic process which compelled her to “prove” she was financially unable to meet a required fee. This fee would impact on whether she could pursue her career or not. Now, providing documentation in support is no big deal, guess we are all so used to supplying proof that we would hardly blink.

The reply she had received was a template email reply, which failed to respond to her request and the reasons she provided. The reasons for her financial hardship told of an estranged relationship, a proud family getting by, a neglectful father, the indignities of abandonment and much more. How does one provide proof of these? Do we require bank statements showing minimal balance? Do we require proof of the anxious feelings of insecurity and sorrow? Do we put a fellow human being through greater indignity and embarrassment? If someone had taken the time to make a phone call, her voice over the line spoke volumes, as I found out.

I needed to know ‘why’ for the impersonal reply and was told it was sent because she could have been lying and that she might be taking advantage of the system. Thus, by implication she was required to overcome this baseline by “proving her case”.

Two days of emotional processing later (subconsciously it would seem as the matter resolved that day and I didn’t think much of it after), I realised over and above the anger, I was sad.

I was sad that we have been “programmed” to expect the worse of another, to have a baseline from which we had to prove we are good and worthy.

I was sad that we are “programmed” to see our work as isolated from our environment, as a means to an end of just making a living, and to not see that our actions however small they may be and wherever we may be located, impact on another person.

When did we learn to disassociate our humanness from the industrious machine we call ‘work’?

As Maya Angelou said,

Your legacy is what you do every day. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped, that’s your legacy.

If we had taken time to put ourselves in another’s shoes and to mindfully exercise the empathy we are all capable of, we would realise few would create a family story such as that told to me. If we had stopped to have a real conversation, we would not have assumed the worse and prejudged the situation.

And in the failure to attend to the interactions and the relationships, we lose the opportunity to stay true to our humanness.

So in spite my anger and sadness, I believe we are not inherently mean nor are we intentionally hurtful, few are. Yet our unthinking and not-mindful actions can hurt.

We can choose to engage with and to make a positive difference to another’s life.

  1. Pay attention.

Behind every letter, email, text message, and in every conversation… there is a person and a story. Pay attention to it.

Listen, truly listen with a compassionate heart and an open mind. In that moment, be prepared and seek to understand.

  1. Be mindful.

Let go of judgment of another or what they may think of us. Attend to the person, not your idea of the person. Choose to be mindful to every word, every gesture, every pause, … they are meaningful.

Let go of time as the arbiter of our actions, there is always more time. Easier said than done, I agree though it is not undo-able. Perhaps we’ll be inspired by what’s next.

  1. Stop, know this.

What we do is not just about us, our efficiency, our productivity, our task completion. What we do impacts on another person, what we do influences the culture in which we work and how we live.

Kindness shown is always felt, and more likely to inspire kindness.

 

Not everyone has to do “great things” to make a difference; every one of us can do small things with love and that makes a difference to those we come in contact with.

 

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.

 

 

Trust kept knocking…

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I set out to write about trust and ended up with a post on hope. That was a week ago.

These thoughts crossed my mind as I attempted to begin. Do you need trust to hope? Can hope be sustained without trust? And this line of enquiry got me to the hope post.

Hope is spiritual. It is an innate sense which has propelled human behaviour and societal changes. It is the “there must be something better”, the “we can improve on this” and ultimately “there is a tomorrow” to which humankind anticipates.

But it seems trust is not about to leave until I deal with it. So here it is.

 

Trust is the glue of life. … It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.   ~ Stephen Covey

Trust comes from the human experience of being with each other. Trust is relational. We are not born with an innate sense of trust. Trust is cultivated over a series of words and actions between people – parents and children, sibling to sibling, romantic partners, friends and colleagues… etc.

Because it is relational, trust is perhaps harder to access and maintain. We are working with someone else’ expression of trust, someone who carries with him or her a different worldview or lifestyle from ours. To understand this of each other and to create a trust relationship is tough indeed.

We often look to another’s words and actions as guidance to our sense of trust. The lawyer in me puts it this way. What has he done to prove I can trust him? What did she say which proved she cannot be trusted? And how much of this “feeling” can I trust of myself?

The reality is we will never know for certain. What holds a relationship of trust is the set of “norms and rules” that you and I have created around this relationship. It is the authenticity of us with each other that builds trust. Consider your relationships – the sibling you would trust to have your back no matter what but not when it comes to choosing your wedding dress; the friend whom you will call upon in times of material need but not for emotional support. It is circumstantial. An inherent element of reliability is required for any relationship of trust.

Let’s not however jump to judgment. To cultivate trust requires time. It requires patience, and the desire and the curiosity to explore what makes another tick. And if their tick matches our tock, then we are heading in the same direction.

 

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.”   ~ Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

It is worthwhile asking – how often do we examine our own words and behaviours, to assess if we are worthy of another’s trust? If authenticity in relating is required, how authentic, genuine, real have we been?

I have written about my friendships and the notion that every friend knows something about me, but not every friend knows everything about me. A thought – if every friend gets together, will they collectively know all there is to know of me? 🙂  I digress.

Being authentic does not mean wearing our heart on our sleeve or baring our soul to all asunder at all times. We get to choose when, how much and how soon. It means when we choose to do, we do so with truth and integrity. We are not faking it for reciprocity or to achieve an end.

To be trustworthy is to be real. To be open, vulnerable on our road to connect with another. Sometimes, it may backfire. Disappointment and betrayal are possible. Yet at least one of us has to be bold, to dare to risk the pain… one of us has to have the strength of character to trust one more time…again and again.

When our real-ness through our values in action meets another in their real-ness, we see the beginning of a trust relationship.

 

“Don’t wait for them to prove themselves to you. Trust them.”   ~ Karl Eikenberry

~ FlorenceT

 

© 2017 FlorenceT Copyright reserved. The author asserts her moral and legal rights over this work.