The bowl of muesli, yogurt and fruit couldn’t have been more beautiful. A pinwheel of banana ovals atop silky white yogurt. Between the layers, almond slices, oat flakes and sunflower seeds salted just slightly. In the center, a pinnacle of apple shavings topped by one perfect raspberry.
It couldn’t have been more beautiful and it was just breakfast, 7 a.m., the sun rising in thick humidity, a lazy orange ball in the sky outside the restaurant window.
“When you eat alone, you still cook for yourself?” Her voice was incredulous. Why would I expend the energy, why would I pour effort into making something delicious and beautiful and more-than-satisfying for just myself?
But aren’t I worth it, I wondered? Last night, I poured a glass of Four Graces pinot from Dundee, Oregon (one bottle that the airport security jerks didn’t steal), tossed pinto beans with anchovies, olive oil, purple scallions from the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, and thick chunks of smooth avocado and spooned some roasted cauliflower florets onto my plate. Robin Thicke sang on CD. I sipped my wine and lingered, alone.
I ate pedestrian foods last night and this morning, but they were colorful to me, nearly poetic. And being alone – sometimes I revel in the silence and the freedom and sometimes I cringe.
Beside my computer, I’ve propped two pictures from my trip to Oregon. One, the view from Dog Mountain: a blue ribbon of the Columbia River cutting between the foothills of Mt. Hood, so many trees rooted in the dirt, softening the landscape.
The other, the overlook at the lighthouse in Newport: the rich blue of the Pacific swirling into white around rocky cutouts, vibrant yellow wildflowers and harsh grasses directly below my perch.
Both soothe me and invigorate me when I am hard at work all day. With an eye toward the future, guided by what didn’t work in the past, I am stringing a necklace of incredible moments.
Isn’t that what it’s all about? Living in the moments until you’ve amassed a veritable collection of happiness that sinks into your skin?
Today I heard a story about a woman who was born to a Jewish mother and adopted by a Jewish couple. The Orthodox rabbis are telling her, without verification from unopenable adoption records, she can’t be considered authentically Jewish.
The woman observes the Sabbath meticulously – doesn’t flip her lights on and off or cook from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, attends synagogue with enthusiasm.
They’ve told her she must convert their way – or her children will have problems getting married under Jewish Law. One rabbi said he’ll only convert her if she lives separately from her husband for several months – so it’s as if their marriage never existed. Another rabbi would do the conversion – if the woman never wears pants again (skirts are considered more modest in some Orthodox circles).
What about how she lives every day? What about her self- identity and feelings inside? What about the meaning she has crafted from the mundane, the choices she has made, the virtues she follows?
I can’t get too caught up. We all pick the rules and systems we want to follow or fit in with. If she cares enough to go along with their mishegoss (Yiddish for craziness), that’s her choice.
But I’ve had it with fitting in. If my divorce has taught me anything, it’s that at the end of each day, I have only to look at myself in the mirror and decide whether I like what I see. It’s only my voice that echoes in the night.
My moments are mine and mine alone. I may share them with others, but I take them with me when I go on my way and hold them like wildflowers late at night.
At breakfast this morning, my friend said it wasn’t until she stopped sleeping on one side of the bed she’d shared with her lover of 12 years that she fell in love with someone new. She had to flail her arms out and sprawl across the invisible divide between her side and where he used to sleep.
I still curl up with my pillow on the right side of the king-size bed. But it’s only been two months. That’s a drop in the bucket of relationship time. An eye-blink. Not even a full season.
I’ll take the metaphor and live with it. Only by letting go – of a former life, of the belief that if we follow this one more rule set by someone else we will finally fit in – can we truly become who we are meant to be.