When I started this post, a week or more ago, I was sitting in a hotel somewhere near Los Angeles, while pokershaman was off doing his 52-card magic. I'd been listening to all kinds of good music -- from Vivaldi guitar concertos to Laura Nyro. I'd done some useful work. Dinner would be homemade chili: as I wrote, I was caramelizing purple Spanish onions. (Brought my own Calphalon everyday pan -- the pots and pans in these extended-stay places are flimsy.) Then the chili simmered to blend its flavors: onions and garlic, red and yellow peppers, cinnamon and chipotle, beef and beans. It was excellent, and the leftovers made great tortillas.
Lately I've been getting my kitchen mojo back: not just the courage and desire to cook anything other than ramen (and sometimes not even that), but the ability to taste a new recipe in my mind, to cook on the fly, to put together a week's worth of menus, to run a kitchen. Those are skills I learned when I was a child, and I never thought I'd lose them. Then for a long time I never thought I'd get them back. I'd broken where I was strongest.
Now I have a batch of whole-wheat challah in the oven for Thanksgiving dinner. In the morning I'll make stuffing, while housepet prepares the turkey and mashed potatoes. gramina already made mashed squash and cranberries in port. I'll probably make the green beans as well -- steamed or sauteed, probably. Maybe with slivered almonds.
The ability just to do something -- to have an effect in the world -- makes me rejoice. I haven't always felt that power, been able to exert that will. I'm so grateful I've found that again despite all the difficulties of this past year or two: my family has been through arrests, imprisonment, rehab, suicide attempts, natural deaths, serious illness, and unemployment. As for me, I've broken through some of the oldest, deepest illusions I had about my life. When I realized that the story I'd always told myself wasn't true, that I'd dreamed up the alliance that gave all my misery a higher purpose, that in fact my childhood was worse, lonelier, more dreadful than I'd ever let myself know, I suffered through months of despair bad enough I wasn't sure I would survive. My life lost its meaning; I was like a puppet with the puppeteer's arm withdrawn. No more purpose.
Somehow I am going on. Defiantly making meaning where there is none. Refusing suicide, since I've seen the damage wreaked by even an unsuccessful attempt. Building joy a stone at a time, not by waiting until I feel better to do things, but by doing things whether I feel like it or not.
The election news is also a cause for rejoicing. I feel like I can breathe now. I was pretty badly triggered by the GOP war on women. It's one thing to have reasoned political disagreements or even impassioned political disagreements. This was so much worse: a bunch of lawmakers acting like fraternity boys topping each other on how misogynistic they could be. The constant news of rape-happy politicians coincided with the trial of Jerry Sandusky and the stalking at Readercon. Now that the electorate has rejected those policies, I can breathe a lot more freely.
So I am thankful that 53% of the country isn't as insanely conservative as most members of my family. Thankful that I have friends and chosen family, as well as my blood kin. Thankful that I'm coming out of this long dark tunnel. Thankful for love, life, challah dough.
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