Mikey Perillo died this week. I didn’t know him, nor did hundreds of others taking part in honouring him in the way his wife, Jennie, requested on her blog. Tonight, the Internet is filled with pictures of peanut butter cream pie accompanied by personal stories of lives celebrated and loves lost, of marriages and dates with loved ones. A young couple from Brooklyn managed to touch so many, and it’s been incredible to see the outpouring of love and support for these people. The Internet, often accused of bringing isolation and loneliness has, in this instance at least, done the opposite (if you're interested, check out #apieformikey on twitter)
As a result of Jennifer and Mikey Perillo’s story I did two things:
The first is that I made a Picky Foodie version of Peanut Butter Pie (non-bake, vegan, gluten-free with homemade raw chocolate and jungle peanuts), which DW and I ate together sitting in the garden, having taken a rare moment to be just the two of us.
The second is that it gave me the courage to make a decision I have been afraid of for a very long time. It’s kind of a long story, so bear with me.
This post has been building up for a while. I have flirted with it all summer but haven’t been ready or willing to commit. Commitment is a big deal to me. It requires allowing myself to be vulnerable, opening up, letting go of fears or at least admitting that I’m scared.
Commitment takes guts. Even now, writing these words, suddenly the kitchen beckons – the raw chocolate cups I made are calling, I suddenly feel I should be making Vida Lev’s dinner for tonight – I need to check my email and respond, or what about that phone call I should really return… Anything to avoid even thinking of what I’m in the process of typing.
(yup, checked my email. Nothing new.)
Commitment scares me. So much so that I fled to Thailand when DW and I got engaged, and then to Brooklyn after we got married. Commitment means giving your all, jumping in head first or simply showing up.
This morning, I kept upping the speed on the treadmill until I could barely breathe. Part of me thought I would end up getting thrown at the wall. Part of me was hoping for it. I ran like a maniac, my arms tightly in place, my knees jolting, my feet pounding until I was sweating, breathing loudly and still unwilling to stop. Running is where I feel comfortable, what I know; it’s what I do best, what I’ve done for most of my adult life.
At some point, however, you need to catch your breath. Luckily for me, every time I’ve fled from him, DW has waited patiently until I stopped, at which point he has enveloped me in his arms and let me cry or laugh or make him dinner. Slowly, through the years, as our lives have been through ups and downs and he has shown me that I can trust him, I have learned to commit to my husband in a way that not even the rings we exchanged made me feel comfortable enough to do.
I realize now that it’s relatively easy to commit to someone else. I can always find something else that our life together demands of me, something that needs to get done or alternatively, I can find something wrong with it, something to correct or improve.
Ironically, the one it’s hardest to take that plunge with is myself and although my to-do list is constantly growing, the last thing on it remains the same: me.
Earlier this week, I was reading this post by Orangette about procrastination. In it, she reveals the painful admission by her partner that he went so far as to open a restaurant in order to avoid tackling his true love, which is composing music. Though my first reaction was slightly condescending, when I thought about it more, I had to admit that the post, and especially his honesty, unsettled me deeply. The thing is that I understood exactly what he was talking about. Most of my life has been a similar exercise in avoidance and procrastination closely followed by blame and self-recrimination.
(cue that phone call to the realtors)
But seeing as I am committing to changing things, I am first and foremost committing to complete transparency. So here it is: the ultimate irony is that I studied holistic health in order to help others much in the same way as Orangette’s Brandon opened their restaurant. I did it to avoid doing what I love most, which is writing fiction.
While I have been counselling others on how to make time for themselves, teaching them how to listen to their innermost desires, I have not been making time for myself. Worst of all, I have been trying to quiet my own dreams.
Often, I have told my clients (as well as written on this blog) that health is about much more than what is on your plate, that nutrition comes in many forms, with food being only one of them.
Luckily or unluckily – depending on how I’m feeling -- life has a way of bringing to the forefront that which you do your best to push as far into forgotten corners as possible.
2011 has been a year of taking stock. These last eight months have been filled with reminders that life is only borrowed, and health is delicate, and especially that neither of them is to be taken for granted.
(ok, checked email again. No, I will not buy your “at cost” supplements no matter how desperate I am to procrastinate)
Bad news hits me differently now. It cuts much deeper when juxtaposed with my daughter who has grown into a toddler way too quickly. Alongside death, riots, earthquakes and heart attacks, my baby girl – so aptly named after Life – is taking her first steps.
We went out for a walk yesterday morning in the quiet hours before the streets of our London neighbourhood woke up. Vida teetered along, shooting forward and then lurching back as she learns to balance on her own two feet. She held on to my one finger – the last remnant of her total dependence on me. My heart breaks as much as it soars at the thought that she will soon -- way too soon – be striding out on her own.
There are so many thrills mixed in with my sadness, excitement coupled with worries. It is the end of an era in her life, one that lasted forever and passed too quickly, before I truly had time to appreciate it.
Motherhood is soaked in cliché: the mixed emotions, the constant fears and incredible joys. Who knew a person could feel so many conflicting emotions at the same time? In the past few months, and especially the last few days, one thought has been coming back over and over: if I died tomorrow, not only would Vida Lev not remember me, I would have accomplished nothing in terms of the things I would really, truly like to before my life ends. If I die tomorrow, I will do so without having accomplished any of my personal goals.
I remember the first time I told someone that if I didn’t write fiction, no matter what else I achieved, I would feel like a failure. Hearing the words, I was shocked. It was as if someone else had said them, and yet I knew they were true.
When I look at the people who are successful in the food allergy / healthy living world – the inimitable Kriss Carr, the talented Meghan Telpner, the genuine Shauna Ahern to name a few – while I admire them, I don’t aspire to do what they do.
In fact, they say writing isn’t something you do, it’s who you are. But if you don’t do it, you are simply not honouring your self. And so the paradox of my situation is almost too blatant: how can I counsel others on how to live their most authentic lives if I’m not doing the same? How can I help people face their most terrifying fears if I’m avoiding looking my own in the eye?
(Dinner is made. Tried to call my mother, but she wasn’t home. Vida’s going to need a nap soon. Maybe I shouldn’t post this?)
My writing is often the last place I allow myself to go. And when I do get to it, it’s with a side-order of guilt because I should be spending my time finding new clients or taking care of my family. I have been working on the same novel for eight years now, in a constant battle over whether I have the right to devote time to it, whether anyone will ever read it, whether I even have the talent. The truth is that once my critical voice hushes, once I allow myself total immersion, nothing in the world makes me happier than to be writing. Every single professional decision I have ever made has been based on “having time to write.” Not that I ever do, because I don’t make that time.
Instead, I focus on trying to be the perfect mother, wife, on eating perfectly, on living perfectly and then I wonder why I’m not as happy as I could be.
No one enjoys walking around feeling like a failure – which is what I feel like when I’m not writing. So when healthy people die suddenly, it makes me wonder what I’m doing, why I’m wasting what precious little time I have feeling disappointed in myself.
With that in mind, I have decided to start living more honestly, devote myself to my writing and see what happens. There is no what if here, no agents, no publishers, just a woman wanting to really explore what it means to live my dream.
(photo: Catherine Farquharson)
When I counsel my clients on how to make changes, we set a time limit so it’ll feel less scary. Forever is a big word, and so we start with two weeks and then take it from there. This experiment is going to take a little longer: I have decided to give myself a year, 12 months starting from my 35th birthday on October 12th.
For the duration of the year, I will be taking a Sabbatical from The Picky Foodie counselling and workshop services although I will continue blogging, so please keep checking here.
When I heard that Jennifer Perillo had lost her husband, I immediately thought she would be taking a long break from her blog. After all, didn’t she have other things to worry about? But instead she posted almost immediately. Because she loves what she does, she feels connected. And in reaching out, so many reached back and held her, hugged her, blogged about her and made pie. That is what happens when you live truly, honestly, courageously.
And so, as scary as it is to me, I am going to give my own version a shot. After all, nothing is worse than feeling like a failure for what you’re not doing. Better to fail because you gave it your all, in which case, ironically, failure is impossible.