What I learned in 2016

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The talk around town is that 2016 was pretty awful but I refuse to overlook that moving forward or backwards still means you are moving; movement is half the battle. Moving with intention and effort is life. 

I have been summarizing the past few years with these little reflections and I have learned to find comfort in this annual recall.  

I learned that marriage is a privilege but not a cake walk. Everyone says when you find the right person, marriage is effortless. But I don't buy it. Coexisting with another person with a different set of needs and quirks does take work. Anything formative and worthwhile does. We celebrated our first anniversary in October and our year was filled with both elation and dissapointment. I learned that when it comes to relationships, it is ok to dislike a moment and not dislike a person. Hell, you can even hate a moment. I welcome that rise and fury in my belly. It means I still care. Hate isn't the worst thing.  Apathy is.   

I learned how to be matronly as my sister married her Mikey.  I learned I could sing Ave Maria at her wedding and not throw up all over myself with nerves. I always did have stage fright. I learned gladiator sandals are the way to go for wedding footwear and everyone loves a dessert bar. 

I learned a boat load about food thanks to immersion in gorgeous books by Molly Yeh and Sarah Kieffer. I started using tahini and marzipan and made coffee, yes coffee buttercream.  

People come into your life. And some will leave. If they are meant to be there, they will find their way back. If they don't resurface, you are probably better off. 

My nana's cat was very sick and I thought he would die in my arms. I learned I had the courage to hold him and encourage him to breathe and drink water despite being very afraid. My pal Adrianna, a veterinarian, helped me over the phone all the way from the Cayman Islands. 

I learned a man with no political experience could mobilize enough people in this country to get elected to the highest office in the land. Politics aside, it made me wonder if perhaps I should try something far away from my comfort zone or area of prowess. Bird calling, carpentry, maybe join the Police Academy? I'll table this.  

I spent an hour in the car with three colleagues, all women of faith and women of color. I learned more about race, tolerance and empathy from this dialogue then I could have bargained for. They heard me. And I heard them. I have faith we as a people can and will make progress over time, together. We belong to one another. There is simply no other way. 

I learned intolerance is ugly. Truly ugly. I learned that hurt people, hurt people. I learned a smile can change the course of your day, maybe even your life.  

I have learned an exorbitant amount of patience as my husband teaches himself guitar.  

I learned from others how I am perceived. Some of the realizations hurt me, but they were food for this journey. I also learned I am not living for them or their approval. I am living for me.  

I learned I need to develop a more firm resolve and sense of self assurance. I need to trust my judgments and have faith in my choices. To loosen up and laugh a little when I want to retreat, clam up or cry.  

My dad taught me the world isn't made of just circles and squares. It takes all kinds of shapes. 

I learned friends that are dear to you need not be at your side for you to feel their warmth and their love. Days, weeks even month may pass, and the kinetic ties that bound you still remain firm.  

I learned you cannot please everyone. It's exhausting to try. You can care about someone deeply and not have the ability to improve their mood or status. But you can still show up anyway. 

I saw James turn his dream of teaching into a reality and then exceed that goal as he stands today the Director of a culinary school. I learned his commitment to taking progressively lower paying jobs in pursuit of his dream, working too many hours, and shouldering many responsibilities can and did amount to the realization of his sincerest aspiration. 

I am still learning how to say no without guilt.  

I am hoping we as a people continue to learn and exercise empathy.  

I learned moving with intention, even if you land in a place other than you envisioned,  is life.  

#Blessed

I'll be the first to say I read too deeply into things. I over analyze with the very best of them. I painstakingly try to even out the dissonance in my brain, to account for unspoken intentions and hidden truths. Within the confines of a concrete way of looking at situations, there is little room for overlap, for the gray. Angry feelings percolate in my belly, anxiety creeps up my spine and I make a sweeping conclusion. But these polarizing opinions are provocative, and well nothing considerable was ever accomplished from being too neutral… So let's delve into being #blessed.

 What we share with the world.

What we share with the world.

 What really goes on...

What really goes on...

Social media likely originated with the purpose of connecting people. By that connectedness meaningful dialogue might be born, relationships nurtured, and useful information shared. That or some really bright people were just bored and wanted to stir up the social fabric of our society as we know it. Since then though social media has deviated from this once noble path. It's become a playground for airing what is wonderful and discarding what is fallible. We carefully curate a version of ourselves that is deemed acceptable for others to witness, and we discard or conceal the elements that make us most human. Affirmation is sought from people we may not even know mindlessly scrolling and tapping, scrolling and tapping.  

Enter the blessings and the squad goals. This concept of being #blessed is tossed around, and a set of criteria exists to alert the general population when you have been inducted into this desirable club. Some conditions for admission include a house in the Hamptons, a healthy, beautiful child, a prestigious career, a storybook romance. Do not misunderstand me, these are swell things to have and likely many people covet them. I do in one way or another, but not even because I want to. I feel like I should, because it is desirable in the social sphere's collective eye. I admire from afar the little family that appears to have it all together. I tell others who have what seems to be a fruitful, happy life that they are so blessed. When my own family is gathered around the table, and things are going right, then I feel like we are blessed.  I might even envy others who make it look easy. I post manicured images of food such that people might find them beautiful and think me capable, and talented. Dear world, tell me I am worthwhile, confirm for me that I am #blessed. I promise I will work diligently to maintain the illusion of togetherness. 

But it is all nonsense, plain and simple. Straight bullshit. 

(from atop my soapbox)

Is not our mere existence a blessing? Is the child in the inner city who struggles to learn and lacks any familial support not blessed?  How about the individual who cannot verbalize his or her preferences? The refugee, the single parent, the victim of abuse or bullying. The person who conceals his or her innermost self so as not to alienate loved ones. The child with visible differences who is not represented in mainstream media. The rejected, the cast aside, those whose bodies have betrayed them, riddled with illness. 

We yearn to be deserving of the status of being blessed, of being the chosen ones. In a book I read recently this entire line of reasoning was debunked in that from the moment we are conceived of we are already enough, without ever having to prove anything. With this in mind can we collectively find the courage to share what is not likable, or pretty? Can we acknowledge that the suffering that marks our human condition is itself a blessing albeit wrought with struggle and pain? What will it take to cast feelings of resentment and inadequacy aside?

Here is where the seas part. Some of you will say  what is this chick even talking about? She should just scroll and like yet another picture like the rest of us, and then cast judgment the next moment, or start dieting, or talk behind that girl's back. 

The others among you might acknowledge that deep down you feel something like what I feel. Not necessarily the exact same sentiment because I take introspection to a devastating level. Or maybe this vulnerability is more common than I envision but it's the world's best kept secret. People are hesitant to share what is realistic about their lives unless it is to garner attention or pity as the spectrum in the social sphere spans between narcissism and self loathing.  If gloating serves to erect a fortress around this exclusive club that not everyone can join, then pity is not helpful either. Progress and connectedness happen somewhere in the middle. To me that would be a place void of overt #blessings and #goals. 

If I have offended you, I encourage you to get back to a routine that is comfortable. I would not want to disrupt anything you have grown accustomed to. This discussion is not meant to shame or judge either although I admit this reasoning gets close to feeling like a judgment. We are all susceptible to the desire to be perceived as noble, or somehow enlightened it seems. 

But if somewhere in the pit of your stomach you feel the same way, I hope you might know that you are as blessed as the next person. I promise to do my part by thinking twice before concealing my burnt scones and dirty dishes. I will try to encourage and empower others. I will use discomfort as an opportunity for personal growth. I will try not to judge for fear of being judged equally harshly. 

#blessed