I look down my tiny hallway to see my bookshelf, buckling under the pressure of heavy cookbooks.
All of my shelves are like this.
Hand me down furniture, mixed with a few new things.
I never knew I could get so attached to these odd bits.
I tell people often, when my car lost a tire on the side of a mountain in Colorado, I had to put all my belongings on the side of the road to retrieve my spare. It was a little humbling to see the things I cared so much about.
My pots and pans. Boxes full of cookbooks and an old writer’s shelf where I keep the things that will become my heirlooms.
I live a life that is hard to explain. Why I don’t want certain things or why I might put myself through certain trials, seen or unseen. The truth of the matter is that being alone makes those hard life things a little harder. Not having a person to bounce your thoughts off of, or maybe giggle at because they bumped their head on a wall while trying to understand.
I am an unusual person.
And it is as natural as breathing is to me.
Having to explain why I do things the way I do…or why I am obsessive about particular things is like having to explain why you do things a certain way that no one understands.
It is exhausting to be different people.
I was driving a few days ago and thought, “I wonder if it’s possible to be the same person to everyone…”
I figured it sounded ridiculous, but I thought about it a little more. It might be impossible to be one person unless you’d like to go about your life offending and alienating 30-40% of the world’s population. But we have to be different to different people. I’d like to, somehow, remain mostly me in the midst of it all.
We live in a world where you can’t just be one person. You have to be fierce to own a business and to lead. You have to be gentle and compassionate with those who need extra help. You have to be wise and loving and other worldly-patient with your children. You also have to grow more patient and understanding with your parents, if they are still with you. We grow older and imagine we have seen a thing or two which gives us some power over our lives. And it does. But also, if you value wisdom and age, and like me, are stubborn, it is important to let it in.
And your siblings? Well, I think you can be whoever you want to be with your siblings.
I say all of this because these cookbooks and pots and pans, they mean a lot to me.
I look through them and remember who I was cooking for. Where I was. What it was for. I remember the conversation I had with her which made us both sit across from each other and talk about really difficult things.
I see another that I got for Christmas from my mom. Another from a friend who thought it reminded her of me.
They are more than references to a dish.
They are me, slowly becoming.
And they sit on my wobbly shelves, with stories to tell just as much as any ingredient or dish will allow them to spill.
Sometimes, I think about a stock reducing, becoming more concentrated and flavorful. I see life doing something similar. Things get added, things evaporate, and it gets stronger and stronger with a bit of time. Richer. More full of depth. And what it gets added to, makes it better.
I suddenly find myself thankful for everything, and everyone who makes my life what it is.
While I lean my head over the steam and breathe in deeply,
I see the lines on the side of the pot of where I used to be, to where I am now.
is who I’m supposed to be.