about bliss

Friday, May 27, 2011

daily bliss: bridesmaids

Last Friday, to celebrate the end of the semester and a god-awful academic year, Gregg and I ate pizza at my favorite restaurant and then watched Bridesmaids in the theater.

Ahead of us, a row of female friends in their mid-late 40s munched popcorn and shared laughs before the movie began. Their talk had that familiar flow of light gossip and quotidian detail. I smiled, and felt sad. I missed my female friends.

The movie began, and I was sucked into the story until it ended--minus one disgusting scene of physical comedy and bodily eruptions. The film hits so many notes spot-on--the lethargy of hitting almost rock bottom (and then hitting said bottom), the act of putting on a happy, supportive face when someone you love is getting all that you don't have, the competition between women for friends and closeness and status, and the sadness of moving on different tracks than your once closest friends.

When we left the theater, I thought of a column my friend N had written, in which she described the particular forms of female-female bullying. Those nearly imperceptible slights, those carefully aimed barbs, those manipulations of emotions. N offered up as an alternative the practice of the female vampire bats, who adopt and feed young females outside of their natal groups when they're on their own. This supportive systems helps all the female vampire bats thrive.

I thought of this juxtaposition in the film--the movement between competition and collaboration.

And I thought that so much of this has to do with removing the "frames" from our lives and being honest. So often we share the framed photo version of our lives with others, when under the surface there's a mess of anxiety, uncertainty, messiness, hope, love, disappointment, disconnect. Though our lives may be on different tracks, I'm fairly certain we have similar core concerns about our very existence.

I cried during the movie because I could relate to the characters, and mostly to the sense of loss and feeling of sorrow that comes from growing apart from your closest female friends. Though I am friends with amazing women, of many ages and stages of life, many of them are scattered around the country and keeping in touch seems to ebb and flow. Our lives change and we seem strange to one another. Emails can't convey the depth of a late night chat over a bowl of Doritos and bottle of wine. Phone calls are difficult to arrange around busy work and family schedules. Even face to face visits are challenging, as we spend so much time within that framed photo.

And so much is lost, then.

I long to talk about loneliness and disappointment, about joy and dreams, about aging bodies and anxious minds. About relationships and kids and parents and friends and work and weight and spirit and food and ...

...about finding ourselves again through friendship. I want to nourish and nurture one another like the female vampire bats. And to reject those framed photos and revel in the surprise snapshots that capture a moment--mussed hair, spinach-flecked teeth, smudged mascara, exposed tummy, tired exhilaration: real.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

daily bliss: delayed gratification or scientific research

A year or two ago, all my baking blogging buddies were in a chocolate chip cookie frenzy. The New York Times recipe was the hip version to make.

Not always a trendsetter, but often a trendfollower, I finally made the recipe.

Now, the secret to this recipe is curing the dough for 24-36 hours in the refrigerator. (the high quality chocolate and sea salt sprinkle help, too).

This is a fantastic lesson in patience. A great practice of delayed gratification.

OR, a delicious scientific research project.

Let's say you want to make the cookies after they chill for 6-8 hours. Maybe bake two cookies, one for you and your co-taster. Verdict: yummy.

Then, you wait the requisite 24 hours. You bake four cookies, each eating one. Verdict: delicious.

And, on a cool, wet Wednesday morning, you bake five more. Verdict: yummy, delicious, and satisfying.

These cookies baked flat and tender crisp, the rich chocolate melting and hardening into pockets of messy goodness. They're a lovely counterpoint to my favorite "Mrs. Field's" cookies that bake up taller, thicker, and more solid. The sea salt is a perfect garnish. I even used part whole wheat flour, which was undetectable (and makes these cookies a health food, yes?).

Monday, May 23, 2011

daily bliss: spring awakening

Yesterday afternoon I curled on the couch with a stack of cookbooks, flipping through asparagus recipes and cold salads and then the rest of The New York Times Cookbook, suddenly hungry for everything.

"What are you looking for?" Gregg wondered, as he watched Finding Forrester.

"Oh, salads, asparagus, you know."

But really, I was looking for my hunger, my craving, my passion, my self.

And I could feel it in those pages, but more so in the simple act of browsing through recipes without a clear purpose other than interest, inspiration, and possibility.

This morning I walked along the lake, buffeted by brisk winds--the kind that whip up waves as they blow warm air across Lake Michigan's chilly expanse. I pushed up my sweatshirt sleeves and removed my fleece headband. Even as daffodils dot swaths of grass, I still dread the possibility of heavy, wet snowflakes.

The winter was long, precipitous, and mostly, hard.

Between increased responsibility and stress at work, political turmoil involving said work, minor medical issues, ailing family members, and my usual seasonal affective disorder, this winter replaced my passion and bliss with incessant anxiety and low level depression. I was functional, going to work, connecting to a small circle of family and friends, cooking and eating meals. I was not, however, thriving. My creativity and passion plummeted. My activity decreased; my weight increased. Bereft in April, I wondered where I was, who I was.

And so today, I slept late. I ate light. I walked long. I engaged my senses: damp marine scent, chipper bird song, the light touch of my hair blowing on my face, the sweetness of last summer's strawberries in a smoothie, the cycles of sun and clouds against grey and blue sky. Mostly, I sensed the feeling of recovery.

As I walked the familiar trail, I found these words to share this story, a common one, I'm sure, but one that needs telling just the same. How bliss can disappear when we forget the greater sacredness above the daily tumult. How fear can overwhelm when we forget that life's beauty is in its transience. How love and quiet and solitude and compassion and companionship and music and ritual and incense and movement and kindness can lead us back to our bliss, back to ourselves, and then, back, more fully, to the world.