2021, I want my money back

a week that's felt like a year, and then some

January always leaves me in a funk. The grayness of days sets in and no amount of vitamin D helps. There’s a push to resolutions, “better” habits, mindful eating, and whatever else defines “turning over a new page”. After a year like 2020 (not that I have anything to compare it to), I don’t want to strive for outward improvement. Instead, I want to work on self-acceptance. On being enough. For this moment.

I wrote a whole draft below, but had to scrap it because of what happened this past Wednesday just a few miles away from our house. By comparison, everything else seems trivial. All my colleagues and I could do on that day was watch the news coverage and pray that our colleagues, trapped and hiding in the Capitol, were going to be okay.

Watching the mob break historic glass and deface a historic building, the People’s House, was heartbreaking, terrifying, and infuriating. More terrifying was the fear for the lives of others. Everything that happened was 4 years in the making. If you didn’t anticipate it, you weren’t paying attention.

For awhile now, but particularly in the last 4 years, it’s felt like we have Earth 1 and Earth 2. On Earth 1, people adhere to facts and science. They might not always agree with one another, but they stick to reality, actual events, scientific proof. Meanwhile, on Earth 2, the inhabitants traffic in conspiracy theories, conflate fact with opinion, and challenge basic scientific facts. Copernicus may have had it easier.

I console myself with endless cups of hot water with lemon during the day, glasses of wine at night, bowls of soup whenever I can get my hands on some. Soup is a lifestyle, if I may be so bold, and in our household soup is an ever-present (nearly) food. Incidentally, our team devoted this week to soup, and dare I say there’s a soup for everyone. A vegan soup with a kick; a hefty soup rich with meat; an any-vegetable soup suitable to whatever your crave or have on hand to be made quickly in your Instant Pot; a split-pea soup with leeks and dill; a loaded baked potato soup that allows you to eat your feelings (thank you very much).

I wrote about my favorite chicken soup (which is our family’s favorite chicken soup) inspired by a breakfast chicken and rice soup from the “Elizabeth Street Cafe” cookbook that I was lucky to edit. It’s fragrant, it’s brothy, it’s downright restorative and nourishing. We half-jokingly call this soup our “corpse reviver” because it has brought us back to life.

And while we’re over a week into 2021, I kind of want my money back, don’t you? I realize things weren’t going to change overnight, but the past week has felt like a year to me. All I can hope for is that slowly, little by little, things will get better. That change is coming.

I don’t remember the exact situation, but recently, Avi and I were talking about something, and he made a grumpy observation about how much he hated change in and of itself. And I didn’t want to toy with him, even though he’s not even 6 yet, but I wanted to plant this idea that change is the only thing that remains constant, that “balance”, however you define it, is only there for a moment, and then things change, and the passing of time is to be certain.

I wanted him to start wrapping his head around how the world is always moving, evolving, and nothing remains static. Today a plant may have ten leaves, but tomorrow, it may have a small eleventh one or a flower bud. There is progress, there is decay, there is movement in all things.

This morning, en route to school, he said, you know mom, life is a cycle. People are born, they’re babies, then kids, then teenagers, then adults, then they’re old and then they die, eventually. And the cycle keeps going and going — it doesn’t end.

He leaves me speechless sometimes.

In other news, I’ve recently relocated my office to the top of the house — I realized that as my work pile grows, I need to be in a quiet, simple space that’s all my own. And so, I’ve plunked a few dollars to outfit this new, peaceful space. I bought a desk. And a small printer. And a desk lamp. But the thing that brings me the most joy is a tiny brass pencil sharpener.

I’ve returned to reading fiction after a few years of sticking with nonfiction books. I tore through Conversations with Friends and am about to start Normal People. I’m hypnotized by the way Rooney writes; her prose is surgically precise and tidy. I’m knitting a sweater. And I continue to think on ways to have a less cluttered existence: Using what I have, wasting less, needing less, looking for products with a kinder-to-earth footprint.

In the kitchen, I am relying on an old roster of cozy recipes. There is so much to do these days (I hope to talk about that soon), I try to streamline my time there. Lots of tomato-butter pasta, soups (of course), a thing I’ve dubbed a Greek salad roast (it’s exactly what it sounds like), tortellini, beans and such. I’ve a leg of lamb in the refrigerator and some ground turkey, and I’m thinking, for the latter, a nice turkey meatloaf à la Ina. As for the lamb, I’m going to poke around my cookbooks and see what inspires.

I hope the next few weeks are kinder, gentler, quieter for all of us. I think we could all use it. Hope to be back soon.