Last night, a friend told me to be more selfish sometimes and I guess I really have needed to hear that and actually do it. Running this blog on my own (which is not meant to sound boastful) feels pretty selfish sometimes - I write about my life, I create recipes from my own kitchen, and aside from my partner in the cookbook project and the companies I occasionally partner with, I'm the one doing all of what you see here. But, rarely am I the sole topic of my thoughts. I'm thinking of what others would want to see. I'm thinking of what kind of and how many posts need to go out in the next two weeks. I'm thinking of local companies I want to work with and highlight here. And the list goes on, but all of this is to say that this morning I took time to be selfish and sort through a couple of the million thoughts running through my mind this week (so, being selfish in what feels like a productive way?), which brings us here.
I walked out the door to a big gray sky, the sun attempting to peek out from behind a few clouds on one side, and a faint but noticeable-enough rainbow on the other. That rainbow got me thinking about the things - the many things - I don't understand. Like, how does a rainbow form? I know it comes about when the sun shines after a period of rainfall, but actually how does it happen? I don't know, and I bet Google would tell me, but I don't think I want it to. There's something to be said about the mystery of rainbows, and that mysteriousness is what allows us to appreciate them that much more.
Another example (and a personal favorite): chewy chocolate chip cookies. The combination of sugar, butter or oil, egg, flour, and baking soda is what yields that crisp-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside texture, but how? I've taken five chemistry classes and none of them have explained this phenomenon. Then again, none of those classes had much to do with food, which is a whole 'nother class and at this point, I highly doubt you could pay me enough to add four more units of science to my schedule. And that's fine - maybe I don't need and don't want to know exactly what happens during the 12 minutes the cookies spend heating up in that oven because I would hate for that to diminish any of the joy I've found in biting into a warm chocolate-chip-studded cookie. The same goes for fluffy, hearty loaves of whole-grain bread - I don't know if I'll ever be able to master one on my own. Have you ever tried? Good Lord. Mine came out looking and tasting like a football. To the bakers who have mastered the art (it really is an art) of whole-grain bread-making, I salute you. I don't understand how you do it, and I appreciate you all the more because of that.
But, what about the things we don't understand that aren't so easy to appreciate?
What about the job opportunity you seem precisely cut out for that had the potential to bring profound success and then is given to someone else. What about the C (or maybe D) you see written in red ink at the top of an exam you spent weeks studying for and, for once, felt confident in your knowledge of the topic. What about being in the midst of wrestling through a however-many-years-long broken relationship with food and body image that takes more work than you'll ever feel prepared for, that you didn't even ask for (who would??). What about the relationship that just feels like... like an indescribable jumble of joy and this-has-got-to-be-right feelings that, for whatever the reason(s), can't work out right now.
Raise your hand if you understand those. Raise your hand if you've ever experienced one or something similar. If you're hand went up on the second question, mine did, too, and if you asked me if I have gained an understanding now because I'm writing this post, the answer is "no". But I think I can help.
Appreciating a chocolate chip cookie and a rainbow and a sunset and whatever else falls into that category feels easy because these things bring joy and awe and those help distract us from our inability to understand. On the other hand, appreciating a missed job opportunity, a failed test, a broken relationship with oneself, and a relationship that just won't work feels difficult because... well, where's the joy in those? We seek answers to the questions we have about these situations and when we can't find them, we're left in the unknown and that can be terrifying. "Can be"? IS.
In that unknown is where you might not find the answer you'd hoped for, but continued pursuit of joy and some necessary selfishness can open your eyes to an answer even better than what you'd imagined. Purpose, newfound or simply remembered. Clarity. Self-love. Passions. Likes and dislikes. Relationships already flourishing, and those in need of some TLC.
My walk began with a rainbow and ended with more rain. Weird - aren't thing supposed to happen the other way around? Come to think of it, in terms of my own emotions, this whole week has felt a little rainy, so some sunshine this morning would've been much appreciated. But, as I took my last couple steps around the block - hair, jacket, leggings soaked from what originally seemed like it might just be light sprinkle - I realized that I had smiled because of it. I didn't complain about feeling soggy and I didn't turn around when I felt droplets on my forehead. An hour later, I felt a smile spread across my face and though I still don't understand why I'm struggling to find a job and why this relationship won't work and why I can't ace my exams and blahblahblah and though I don't appreciate the mystery of those challenges (yet), I'm smiling.
I'm still me. I'm still functioning. I'm still walking and laughing and thinking and blogging and living. And maybe that's the answer I didn't even know I wanted/needed all along.