Doing the Work.

Yesterday I was mad at the universe because I was convinced that I had started to do the work. I was on my way, I thought, slowly but on my way.  The proof of work I provided was going back to yoga, making food for the person I love twice, going to my Turkish classes, doing the laundry and cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. See? Doesn’t that sound like a person who is trying? I called the last 8 (9? 10? I don’t remember) months of my life “a difficult period.” I was depressed and now I was going to come out of it, by trying really, really hard.

And then this happened. And I felt that just as I had decided to start going to the gym, building up muscle and power,  the universe chopped off my right leg to speed up the process. And that’s stupid and unfair I thought, because it is a lot harder to go to the gym on one leg.

Today I began to do the actual work, work that required me to do open-heart surgery on myself, without painkillers or any idea of what I was actually doing. This actual work is giving me grace. Real, tangible fucking grace. Like the kind that makes you feel grateful even as you think you might actually die from the pain.

I have not been going through a difficult period. I got a year off from my pain because my partner’s light, and our light together blinded me to the truth of my fears, the loneliness I have been running from for twenty years and my complete inability to accept that I am a good human who has done the very best she could under the circumstances. And that she had to fix herself from age 12. And nothing fixed by a twelve year old actually works again. Adults need to do the fixing, plumbing professionals and carpenters and handymen need to do the fixing.

I have read all the books about self-love. And I never got it. I understood with my intellect that you cannot give away what you don’t have. That you can not truly accept another person until you can accept yourself. I understood that it was important but I just did not know how. Affirmations? Bullshit. Going to the mirror and saying I love you? What the fuck is that and how does it work. A day at the spa? A cup of tea? How is a polished bottom and a warm beverage going to erase 20 years of shame and guilt and self-hatred?

Yesterday I looked at myself in the mirror and said “I hate you.” I really did that. Today, before I found my way into the actual work, I stopped by the mirror and said “I don’t love you yet, but I am going to try because that is the only way we are getting out of this alive.” So yeah, I did the stupid mirror thing. And then I did the work. The start of the work, the first steps towards building a foundation within me that can never be shaken. That is strong enough to survive the house burning down. That makes me sure enough of my own house to help put out fires in other houses, maybe even his, once I am strong enough. Because his house is on fire too.  

DISCLAIMER: I reserve the right to disappear back into the dark cesspool of graceless suffering at any moment because I am goddamn heartbroken.

Things I’d Like To Do Again.

It is 8 AM. I have been up since 5.  The last three mornings I have woken up just before the call of prayer. I hear it, and for a second I think that maybe God wants it to soothe me, but right now God can go and fuck right off. The pain is unbearable and I am pacing from room to room, as if I can walk away from it. I both, long to be free from it and can’t stand the thought of the pain ending because it would mean I was able to let him go. How could I let him go? What I can do, is make a list (I love lists) of things that I would like to someday be able to do.

Eat. Guys, food is disgusting and I don’t know why we put that filth in our mouths.

Yoga. First I have to remember how to eat, because yoga is hard.

Teach my writing class on Sundays again.

Dance. This one is extra hard because dancing is how we fell in love. We do it together wonderfully. He does it on his own even better.

Sleep past 5 AM. Or wake up at 5 because I am happy to start a new day.

To not feel like I am dying.

To not be in pain for a full minute and then an hour and then a day.

To remember that this is not all of my fault and that he is the one who left.

Read. I tore up and threw out my books of Rumi and Neruda poetry because that is also how we fell in love.

Give the tiniest of shits about someone else’s day.

See a happy couple and not want to stab them.

Not care where he is every second of every day.

Water my plants. He hates plants.

Wear red lipstick. He hates red lipstick.

Kiss him

Wake up next to him and see his halo of chestnut curls and be completely and utterly happy.

 

I Am Afraid.

My partner, my sweet, kind, gentle partner left me yesterday. In my grief, I didn’t call him sweet or kind or gentle. I called him a liar, a monster and a coward. After he left I howled for hours, my friend holding me, rocking me, stroking my hair as I went around in loops of bargaining with the universe and asking why and how he could do this.

This is it. This moment is the thing I feared more than anything else in the world.  After I ended my marriage I felt that there would be a price to pay. That the grief I caused my husband would have to be answered for. And so I spent two years living in fear, waiting for my punishment. In the meantime, my fear caused me to be unkind to the person I didn’t think I could stand losing. I didn’t trust myself and I didn’t trust him and ultimately, I let fear guide me right to the thing I dreaded with all of my heart.

What I wouldn’t give to go back and love him fiercely rather than cautiously. What I wouldn’t give for all of this to be a dress rehearsal.

The other night when we were still a couple, I got a wave of terror. I was home alone and I couldn’t figure out how to make the feeling stop. I felt trapped with my fear. And then I sat down to write. And I wrote my way through it. And the fear became smaller, uncomfortable at having been found out. So I kept writing and I wrote down everything I am afraid of. What I didn’t write down, because it was too big to name was losing the person I love with all of my heart. Here is the amended list.

I am afraid that this pain will never stop.

I am afraid that I am totally and completely unlovable.

I am afraid that I will miss him for the rest of my life.

I am afraid that he will find someone better than me in every way and be happy, while I spend my life shut off from love.

I am afraid of dying. And more than the fear of being dead, I am terrified of  my death causing pain to my loved ones.

I am afraid that I won’t be able to ask them for forgiveness for causing them such suffering because of the being dead part.

I am afraid that someday, just when I think I have conquered my snake phobia I will find a python curled up in my toilet.

I am scared that this mangled limb of grief I carry makes me unacceptable.

I am scared that someday I will have to say goodbye to everyone I love for good.

I am scared that there is no afterlife

I am scared of an afterlife where I won’t be able to taste chocolate, feel my mom’s well-moisturized  hands and say “wow, your hands are so soft! What are you using?”

I am scared that someday I won’t be able to hear her laugh through her tears, as I know she is doing as she reads this.

I am scared that I will never fully know what service my existence provides and how users would rate this service on a scale of one to ten.

I am afraid that I will never be strong enough for this life.

I am afraid of torture.

I am afraid of sleeping alone in my apartment.

I am afraid of growing old.

I am afraid of losing my beauty.

I am afraid that I will never be able to open up to anyone again.

I am afraid of flying.

I am afraid of drowning.

I am afraid of my cat dying, and now I am afraid that if I leave Istanbul, I’ll have to leave him too.

I am afraid of staying in this city where everything is a reminder of him.

I am afraid of leaving this city and never seeing him again.

I am deathly afraid that I will never feel safe alone. And now I have to find out if I can.

Making Vegan Panna Cotta. Sort of.

Tonight I made Vegan Panna Cotta.

At least I feel like I made panna cotta. I only finished the cooking part five minutes ago and panna cotta needs hours to cool off, so only time will tell. Also, the strawberries for the coulis or whatever are still defrosting in a saucepan.

Nevertheless, I am triumphant and proud of the effort and ingenuity it took to get here. This was a hero’s journey and I would like to share it with you, step by step.

 

Dissolve 2 teaspoons agar agar powder in 4 tablespoons of cold water. Set aside

What is this again? Something about seaweed maybe? Doesn’t matter. All I need to know is that this is the thing that makes panna cotta wobbly and vegan.  

Istanbul is not the easiest place to find agar agar powder because veganism is not something Istanbul has embraced, unlike fidget spinners and man buns. Luckily, this means that there are only five shops to check in a city of 15 million people. I went to three of them asking  “Do you have agar agar?” in Turkish. I left “powder” out of the description because I don’t know how to say powder in Turkish. The shopkeepers first looked confused and then hopeful, waiting for me to expand on what agar agar is so that perhaps they could offer an alternative.

“A vegan substitute for gelatin to make wobbly desserts” is what I could have said if I did my Turkish homework consistently. If it isn’t clear, I don’t do my homework at all, so I just ran out of each shop.

My happiest moment today was walking into a shop saying “agar agar,” and watching the shopkeeper silently move towards the glass jars of spices and herbs, and apparently agar agar powder, without demanding any linguistic displays from me.

 

In a saucepan combine 15 oz. coconut milk and 15 oz. coconut cream

There is no way I am putting the entirety of my coconut cream contraband, smuggled in from Russia into a stupid Panna Cotta that I’ll probably fuck up anyway. I’ll give you 7.5 ounces, Vegan Panna Cotta, 7.5 and no more.

 

Add 1 fresh vanilla pod

Nope. Syrian vanilla sugar is what this Panna Cotta is getting. How much of it? I dunno, I started with half a small paper packet. Then got nervous and sprinkled some more. Then got even more nervous and threw in a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup. And then I licked the spoon. Why did I carefully measure out an ingredient that is not even in the recipe? You tell me.

 

Add zest of one lemon

Alternatively, add all the lemon zest you were able to zest before you got bored with the zesting.

 

Bring everything to a boil before stirring in the agar agar/water mixture

I can do that.

 

Strain the mixture into a bowl

I don’t have a strainer. Aren’t you glad I didn’t zest the whole lemon?

 

Carefully ladle out the remaining mixture into porcelain tea cups

Glazed terra cotta pots okay?

 

Let cool for an hour and meanwhile make the fresh strawberry coulis

First of all, my fresh strawberries are frozen. Second of all, following (hahahaha!) the panna cotta recipe depleted my attention span, so I have no idea what else is supposed to be in the coulis. Also, isn’t coulis just a fancy jam? And is’t jam essentially sugar, berries and water?

I do have one secret ingredient to add- it’s dried basil.

“Hey Masha, you don’t seem like the kind of person who would have dried basil on hand!”

You’re so right!

Two weeks ago I went to Russia and left my boyfriend alone with my healthy plants, including one fine looking basil.

My soon to be ex-boyfriend “forgot the plants were even here.” It’s not like he looked at all the plants and said “you’re all going to die now.” He just forgot that they existed. In the office, the bedroom, the living room, the balcony and literally eye level above the kitchen sink right next to the dishwashing liquid, which judging by the clean dishes, he obviously used.

Tonight, while the panna cotta was bringing itself to a boil, I picked up the carcass of the basil plant, tossed it in the garbage and felt the fragrance of their dying leaves. And then I thought, vegan panna cotta with bits of lemon zest, topped with frozen strawberry coulis and dried basil dished out of the trash sounded quite lovely.

 

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