Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm afraid...

It’s said we live in a fearful age.  Not walking to school, not taking candy from strangers (even on Halloween!), and not riding bikes in the early fall dusk are considered normal parental restrictions. In many ways, I was quite ‘ahead of the times’ in my upbringing. My parents were older when they had me, and some of my earliest memories are memories of being told ‘no.’ As in ‘no, you may not go swimming in your friend’s pool,’ ‘no, you may not ride your bike past the driveway,’ ‘no, you may not sell Girl Scout cookies door-to-door, even if I accompany you.’ I recently found a book that my mother used to read to me at bedtime—not a storybook, but a medical book that had illustrations of what you should do in case you accidentally were drowning or trapped in a blazing building. The little dying stick figures were quite funny, I must say!
Although this one REALLY creeps me out as a cyclist
 Flickr: Salim Virji

While it’s good to be prepared, I also remember that whenever I did finally win whatever argument I had about going away to sleep-a-way camp or something like that, I’d always find myself so paralyzed with all of the fears my mother had rehearsed with me—and my own anxieties—I couldn’t enjoy myself. ‘Be careful’ was so internalized that, like cancerous cells, the semi-legitimate fears (abduction and falling off the monkey bars) began to breed other fears. Soon I grew afraid of the dark, of escalators, of walking up and down stairs, of the murderous powers of see-saws…some parents have their children confront such fears. In my family, such caution was seen as an admirable trait, and they simply bought me a nightlight.

The fears my parents had were born from pure love, and a less anxious child might not have been so paralyzed by them. But my parents had grown up in uncertain, frightening environments, and had naturally anxious personalities as well.  You can see how when parents who are scared, and who know the world is a scary place have a naturally scared child…a ‘perfect storm’ of anxiety is the result…

That’s why I cringe every time someone says “be careful,” because I know I am never more at risk when I am careful, when I duck and anticipate something, expecting to get hurt.  That’s when the baseball comes down and cracks me in the face, because I was too afraid to reach out my hands and catch it.

Sometimes I'm so afraid that being fearful has become hard-wired into my body there is no way I can overcome all the experiences I've lost to fear...

Yet as an adult, I’ve done things that on paper make me sound brave. I’ve been to communist countries, moved to cities where I knew no one, and lived in apartments in neighborhoods where the sidewalks were crunchy with discarded condoms and needles. But I know how fragile my persona of bravery really is...

Flickr: DianthusMoon
Of course, taking silly risks with no emotional payoff is just that—silly, like playing in traffic. But taking risks that make life worth living—like running six miles, riding a horse, traveling spontaneously to a strange city, going to a party where you don’t know anyone—for me, at least, seem like an essential part of growing, learning, and changing.  How awful to look back on a day and to think you just spent it at your computer, without changing at all, in your mind, body, or soul!

Life is a bit like Trick-or-Treat—taking a risk, knocking on a strange door, and hoping against hope you get something wonderful and sweet.  And even if you get nothing, rejection isn’t as awful or as scary as you anticipate.

Flickr: elana's pantry
Well, unless you get coconut.  Now, that's scary stuff! But that is the subject of another post!

Happy Halloween!  Have a risky, daring, night and make it home alive and not too nauseous from all of the sugar!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seventies Spice

If my mother was a Spice Girl, she would have been Seventies Spice. Paprika, the universal spice of the 1970s, was one of the few spices in our cupboard. We also had salt, of course (which was cast over her shoulder when she spilled it), black pepper (which we never used), and cinnamon sugar, which was sprinkled on buttered rye or raisin bread for my breakfast as a child.  And garlic salt as well, for meatloaf.
Flickr: ChrisGonzales90

I don’t know why paprika was so popular in the 70s. Perhaps because it was reddish brown and the memories I have from that time are tinted in natural, sepia hues of brown, yellow, orange, and pea-soup green. The brown bell-bottom corduroys I wore, the yellow ribbons on the trees to honor the hostages being held in the Iranian embassy, the orange couch I sat on as I played with my little computerized robot 2XL, and the green Jaguar I sat in, in line, waiting endlessly for gas.

I wonder if there was cookbook in the 70s called: How to cook chicken and fish. Page one must have read: take a piece of white chicken or a fish fillet. Sprinkle with paprika

The End. 

Paprika added color, and make it look like you tried.

I don’t know why spices have fashions, and for a long time, based on my memories of the plain chicken and fish connected to the paprika, I avoided the spice. Now I love paprika and eat it on sweet potatoes all of the time, along with broccoli, deviled eggs, cauliflower, and Vegan Quorn salad (fake meat mixed with yogurt and chopped vegetables). When in a cheesier phase, I liked it on mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese.

I don’t know why spices go through fashions—now it seems like cilantro is having a Moment.  I think the memories of the tastelessness of paprika came from how old it was…my mother kept spices for ages, and when I Googled paprika to answer the question ‘what the heck have I been eating for all of these years,’ I found out “Paprika deteriorates quickly, so it should be purchased in small quantities and stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.”

Ah, so that explains it. Ironically, around the shelf life of the Spice Girls.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Magical thinking...

I caught myself staring into the refrigerator last night. After a long day, I was too tired to coherently process its contents.

 The freezer, filled with mysterious bags, most of which contain one baked good purchased a month ago.
 And yes, that is indeed dog food in a sealed container in my refrigerator. At least I'm well-stocked up on 9-volt batteries.

Need I say that it's time to go shopping?

I'm very good about shopping for produce--it's a rare day that I don't stop at a supermarket to grab something fresh for dinner.  But I've been swamped with work to the point that I really haven't felt like braving anything longer than the '7 items or less' line.

Because I always eat the fruit and vegetables I have, but the cereals and baked goods can sit in the freezer for months, I always feel like I look like a far less healthy eater than I actually am, based upon the contents of my refrigerator at any given moment. It's because I ate the broccoli that I have so many corn muffins, left, I cry!

So if anything happens to me, dear readers, please let everyone know that I haven't been living on Golden Grahams for the past decade. In fact, those were bought for some cereal bars I made for someone else!

As a child I'd go to the refrigerator hoping that somehow, spontaneously, a cake or a pie or candy would appear between the loaves of chaste rye bread, eggs, lunchmeat, and defrosting steaks my mother had selected.  I'd usually skulk away with a peanut butter sandwich on cinnamon raisin bread with marmalade, the only remotely 'interesting' things that I could find in the 'fridge.

Given that I'm now the one paying the utility bills, I don't know why I stare into the depths of the refrigerator--I know what is in there.  It's not like elves will come late at night and fill it with some mysterious bounty.

But that is how my mind works. I pretend to be a pessimist, but I'm always hoping for good surprises. That I'll wake up more coordinated and beautiful than I was the day before. Or there will be an email in my inbox from an agent I queried saying: "guess what?  we want to publish your book."

I have a similar relationship with my clothes closet.  I blame it all on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe--and The Wizard of Oz. The idea that somehow you'll open a door, and find a new life, a new something, as if by magic.  Instead, I tend to find a fuzzy peach hidden behind the oatmeal silo.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A matter of taste...

It's gotten far too cold for wimpy little me to eat ice cream, so when I saw a list of the top ice cream flavors, I viewed the post with a kind of detached interest.   The top three were as follows:

1. Vanilla, 29%
2. Chocolate, 8.9%
3. Butter pecan, 5.3%

Which got me thinking...of course, these factoids are cute to know and to debate, but really when it comes to a preference for something like ice cream flavors, there is no wrong and a right. There is no moral difference between someone who say, likes the more popular vanilla versus the minority who flavors butter pecan.  But what an awful world it would be if only one taste was correct and allowed.

Imagine if someone, for a complex array of biological, environmental, social, and psychological factors, didn't like vanilla ice cream or chocolate, and really, really liked butter pecan. Only instead of people saying, "okay, that's cool, I like vanilla, you like butter pecan," the butter pecan lover was made to feel somehow 'wrong' for liking butter pecan. Say he had to waste endless hours, brooding as an adolescent asking himself: "what's wrong with my taste buds?  Why do I crave butter pecan?" Instead of spending productive hours, say, learning to play the violin or getting good grades or watching reruns of The Simpsons after school, or finding the best damn butter pecan in the state, let's say the poor kid felt he had to force himself to like vanilla.  What a shame and a waste of valuable time...

And imagine if people who did 'fess up to liking butter pecan and walked around the streets, eating butter pecan ice cream cones were spat upon, harassed, even attacked.

How ridiculous to dislike, reject, or even distrust someone because of a matter of different tastes...

Sometimes I wonder if there is something very strange about the human brain that makes it very, very hard to admit that other people might have a different subjectivity, opinion, or tate.  Hearing that someone has a different taste--even in pizza or ice cream--can make someone confused.  And how much more so with sexuality...

If only we could, as a society, just decide that preference is just that--taste--and there is a reason that there is more than one flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins.
Flickr: iirraa

Well, I am partial to vanilla with peanut butter, but that's another post.