Life, Take Two / Mediterranean Winter Cleanse Bowl
Cut. Let's try this one again, shall we? From the top: Life, take two.
Exterior: Morning. The sequel to our story begins in the city. The sun is just coming up over Lake Union, the light filtering in through our heroine's floor-to-ceiling windows. The home she built, by herself, for herself, becomes illuminated with the soft, blue winter light. The pale pinks, kitten grays, cozy faux furs and kundalini whites that cover her little sanctuary bring a smile to her lips.
This is mine, she whispers. I made this. This is my space, and in here, I am safe. I answer to no one, and I share this square footage only with those who are worthy.
She gets up. She continues to build the nest piece by piece, hanging some pictures here, rearranging some shelves here, figuring it out in bits and spurts. Everything will find its right place in its right time.
She goes outside. She runs, for the first time in years, lighter than air, propelled by possibilities. She runs to the top of the hill at Gasworks Park and stops to take it all in: the sun glinting off the ice-blue water, in brilliant contrast against the starch-white sailboats and the lush jade of the grass. It's a sight she's spent her whole life seeing, and yet, like Dorothy basking in Technicolor for the first time, it's as if it's all brand new.
Was it always this beautiful?
The scenery is the same. Must be the new lens.
Morning used to bring a quietly creeping dread. A cold sweat. A scramble to fill the hours so I didn't have to think about thinking. Now it brings excitement. Infinite paths to do whatever I want. New experiences to have. New people to meet. New places to discover. This is my city, and there is so much life to discover. Magical adventures are only a short walk away, or a drive, or a plane ride.
The world is mine. If I want to seize all that life has to offer, I only have to put one foot in front of the other.
For a while there, I thought I was on the right track. I thought I had this whole life thing figured out. I was going through the motions, anyway. I had the house. I had the job. I had the husband. But it was all for show, mostly. Look inside that nice house and you'd see abuse, pain and chaos. Ask me the right questions on the right day and I'd tell you how my relationship was a constant struggle to maintain sanity, to get through a day without fighting, to find out the truth behind all the things he was lying to me about, to find some shred of identity for myself within the twisted world of two we created. One day, a year and a half ago, it all came crumbling down.
But this is what is necessary in order to rebuild. You have to wipe the slate clean to start over. Rewrite the script. Recast some of the major roles. All this time, I was letting him direct, when it should have been me. I'm the writer/director/star of my own life story, and I get to say how the story ends. Now, for maybe the first time ever, I see that it can have a happy ending, and that there are so many exciting possibilities for where the story can go in the meantime.
I can cast only the perfect people as the leads. We can shoot this thing anywhere in the world. If it starts going off track, I can call "cut" and start again. This is guerilla-style; I make the rules. And it's so much better than I ever thought it could be.
I crawled to that spare room, then hobbled upstairs. I learned to walk again to get to this new home; to start this second act. And now I run. And it feels glorious.
There are still those moments when I stumble. When the doubt creeps in. When the infinite universe of possibilities feels like an empty chasm of loss and lack and loneliness. When I feel my flaws more than my strengths. But there are less of them every day. I try harder all the time to tune in; to listen to what's really going on inside; to comfort myself appropriately, and give myself what I need.
So I took January to reset. I cleansed my body and my mind. I learned. I grew. The challenge will be to carry that spirit forth into the real world. But I will stop and reshoot until I get it right. Sometimes you just need to do another take.
We ain't rolling credits yet.
This recipe is one I made several times when I just needed a big serving of freshness. It's hearty, but not heavy. There are bright flavors and colors and a nice, satisfying balance to bring some sunlight to a cold winter day, or to a heart, mind and body that needs a little light. You could do all kinds of variations on the vegetables and toppings; thick, Greek yogurt would work well in place of hummus; dukkah or toasted pistachios would work well on top; and you can swap the ingredients for anything that's in season, such as eggplant, pattypan squash, romanesco, green beans—the possibilities are endless.
Mediterranean Winter Cleanse Bowl
1 small yam, peeled and cut into thick julienne
1 small zucchini, cut into thick julienne
Handful cherry tomatoes
Large handful pitted kalamata olives
1 cup riced cauliflower
5-6 large kale leaves, de-stemmed
1/3 - 1/2 avocado
Handful of pickled peppers or sauerkraut
Handful of julienned canned or pickled beets
Chunks of high-quality feta cheese (I used sheep's milk feta)
Large dollop hummus of choice (I used Hope Black Garlic Hummus)
1 tbsp Berbere spice mix from World Spice Merchants (or Middle Eastern/Mediterranean spice mixture of choice), divided
3 tbsp olive oil
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Toasted, chopped almonds (or nut of choice)
Preheat the oven to 400º. Prepare the yam and zucchini, add to a large bowl with the tomatoes and olives, then toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 tbsp of the spice mixture. Season with salt and pepper and turn out onto a baking sheet. Toss the cauliflower rice with another 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil and 1/4 tbsp of the spice mixture. Turn out onto another baking sheet or dish and spread it out into a thin, even layer. Put the vegetables on a rack on the top third of the oven and the cauliflower rice on the lower third, and roast for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and tender, switching the baking dishes halfway through.
Meanwhile, chop the kale and prepare your toppings. When the vegetables are almost done, saute the kale in the last 1/2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and 1/4 tablespoon of the spice mixture. When everything is done, assemble your bowl with the cauliflower rice on the bottom, the kale on the side and the vegetables piled in the middle. Squeeze the lemon juice over everything. Top with avocado, pickles, hummus, cheese and nuts—and enjoy!