I've spent the last month doing a little dance with this blog, a dance you might know if I were able to show you my queue of saved and unfinished posts. It's a game of negotiation at times, deciding what to include in this space. I stare at the screen and wonder if it is better to tell the truth, better to indulge myself in the key's click of stresses and worries, of guilt and jealousy, uncertainty and sadness. I wonder in my mind, and in my heart too, if it's appropriate to come to this public space and say what I'm really feeling: that I'm worried I made all the wrong choices, that I don't belong where I am, that I have no idea what I should or want to do with this life I'm living.
I haven't got an answer to those wonders, and really, I may never, but at some point, all negotiations must rest, must holiday in the chill of winter break, must sun themselves in warmth of home, wherever that might be. Because although I am not where I thought I'd be, I am also not sure I remember where that "be" was in the first place. And this route, as misguided as it has sometimes been, has also offered up some pretty amazing gifts. So, maybe what I want to say is that while I have no interest in pretending perfection, I am thankful to have a really lovely life. Currently, it's the hourly sort, a little unsettled, a little frightening at times, but it is also so full of good smells and smiling faces, and love and hugs, and all those things made famous in the summation of after school specials, that I can't for a moment regret the tears I shed in order to balance its reality.
I am always so afraid to look myself in the eyes, pictures leave me twitchy and nervous, worried I'll see a person I don't recognize. While we were in Portland last week (more on that adventure later), I stepped into the photo booth in our hotel alone. Having already used my adorable husband as a shield in a strip, I decided to put myself on the stool and look myself in the eyes and see what's what. I didn't master the art, looking up and around, reading the notes in the booth at all the wrong times, camera snapping away as I glanced through the curtain to Andrew. Regardless, at least twice I stared straight ahead, eye level with myself, eye level with the camera, eye level with the reality of who I currently am. And I could wax on about the insides and what matters and really, chins and round cheeks, but in the end, those little squares are a pretty good representation of where I am right now, in and out. Where I am is not the black and white I seem to be craving, but a rather lovely shade of gray, the areas that blend and blur, the parts of life that resist.
We've been spending these days of our break inside, cuddled under blankets while films present and solve situations more complex than our own, comforting us, making us laugh, making us cry, distracting us in the most fantastic way. We're working our way through piles of books, chaining words together throughout the apartment as we recount favorite lines like garland strung between rooms. The count of finished jigsaw puzzles grows each day, arms pumping the air each time a final piece is placed. I've also, finally, returned to the kitchen, warming the apartment the old fashioned way - armed with butter and a handful of wooden spoons. So, I leave you, only shortly this time, with a little chant of hope, a little warmth for the holiday, a reminder that it doesn't all have to be figured out right now, but it needs to made, and tried, and acknowledged for what it is: a lovely shade of gray.
Creamy caramel frosting sandwiched between buttery chocolate wafer cookies. Roasted potatoes with olive oiled nooks and crannies. Salted caramels wrapped in squares of brown waxy paper. Crispy, salty, sweet caramel corn in glass bowls. Eggs over medium spilling their yolks over sauteed cabbage, toasty bread, potatoes snuggled with onions and peppers, and a bowl of grits cooked slowly in vegetable broth and cream. Orange Pyrex bowls encircled with patterned yellow daisies filled with soft white popcorn and course salt. Mugs shaped like robin's eggs filled to the brim with steamy coffee, emptied, and refilled. Decadent white hot chocolate infused with vanilla and lavender. Late night grilled cheese and pickles when you remember you forgot to have dinner. Soup bubbling in tall, cylindrical steel walls: broccoli cheese, red lentil and spinach, cabbage and kidney bean, kale and orzo with turkey meatballs. Crepes guided by left handed rotation, folded around brown sugar, orange marmalade, butter, and sometimes strawberry preserves. Whipped cream hills sliding off buckwheat pancakes and thinly sliced bananas. Clementine peel confetti.