Alone Again Or... + Single-Serving Mediterranean Sheet-Pan Supper
As my professional pursuits take me ever-outward — meeting new people, networking, planning with vendors and partners, co-creating with Brian, and now even to things I never saw myself doing, such as hosting events, speaking in front of crowds, performing and shaking hands — my personal work is taking me deeper and deeper inward.
As I turn in, the work also changes form. I’m spending less time sitting in meditation and more time in a state of active contemplation; of receptivity; of awareness and questioning; of trying to tune into the rhythm of my own heart, and how that aligns with the heartbeat of the universe. I’m trying to actually look at the big questions; the shadows; the things that still stand in my way, keeping me just out of arm’s length from my truest and fullest happiness, joy and bliss, and from manifesting all that I want for my life. I am making an active attempt to avert the “spiritual bypass,” as my man Duncan Trussell calls it, that I feel I have fallen prey to as of late. I want to face my greatest obstacles head on, because the only way out is through — to go deeper, and deeper, fully into them, in order to be birthed anew on the other side, truly free.
At the root of it all is still anger and martyrdom. I am angry at what these men in my life have done to me. Never mind that at a certain point, I started doing it to myself. Keeping myself stuck. First I was physically stuck in places where further harm would be done, and then, once my body got free, I internalized it, becoming my own aggressor. I have kept the tapes of these men playing in my head like a soundtrack, like a metronome, over and over. I made their words my mantras. For many years, this was all happening in the background… but I know better now, and yet it lingers. I am angry about this. I resent the man who started it all for me, who laid the groundwork for unhealthy, unbalanced and unrequited love. I am angry that he led me down so many similar paths with those to whom I would give everything, only to have my heart ripped out, stomped on and tossed aside. I know all of this was my path, my karma, my destiny. I know this was all my path to redemption and healing, and for that I am truly grateful.
But, at the same time, I’m still pretty fucking pissed off about it.
I’m angry that he never loved me the way I needed him to. I’m angry about all the times he said he would show up, and didn’t. I’m angry about every time he left us sitting outside the school, hours after everyone had gone home, the teachers and office workers asking if anyone was coming for us. I’m angry about all his anger; about the fact that we walked on eggshells, flinching at every sound, bracing for an outburst, constantly steeling ourselves against the coming storm. I’m angry that nothing was ever good enough; that I had to be somebody, be famous, do something noteworthy, always be creating; I’m angry at him for teaching me that my worth was measured only by what I produced, and not by who I was. I’m angry that I never looked or dressed or acted the way he wanted me to, and that I don’t like the way I look or dress or act so much of the time today. I’m angry that I didn’t live up to his expectations, that inner-child me didn’t get the positive attention or chance to be a kid or opportunity to be truly joyful and free — that she didn’t get the pure, unconditional love that she so desperately wanted, and that now adult-me doesn’t know how to comfort or console or support or unconditionally love myself.
I’m angry that he destroyed the family I wanted so badly, and that I spent my life trying to cobble some version of that together again, and as a result, that I have never felt whole or satisfied, because nothing could ever fill that void. I’m angry that it takes so much work now just to get right. That I have to actively try to learn what I want, how I feel and how to be OK with what I know in my heart are the right patterns and paths for my soul, my work, my art, my relationships and my family structures.
But what if I didn’t have to try so hard? That’s the question that’s been posed to me lately. What if it all came easily? What if letting go, embracing joy, feeling love, welcoming prosperity, tuning into my own frequency, manifesting success, making my dreams come true, attracting the relationships I wanted into my life, creating a day-to-day and year-to-year that is exactly what I dreamed, having compassion and forgiveness and divine love and understanding for all beings — what if all this just happened? What if I could simply allow it all in? What if I could stop working and fighting and scraping and just let it be, and just be here now with the bliss?
That is the goal, and joy is the mantra now. Cultivate it. Be it. Live it. Accept it. Flow it in and out and all around and over me and to and from everything in this beautiful and broken universe. There is joy everywhere, just as there is sorrow. Light and shadow are one. And true enlightenment means embracing both sides. But cultivating joy from within — now that’s a tall order. Sadness I know how to do. Lightheartedness, carefreeness, silliness, happiness, kicking off my shoes and singing and dancing — none of that feels familiar.
When I think about the things that bring me joy, the big one is travel, but they’re mostly small ones. Cooking a fresh and satisfying meal, obviously. Sharing a great dinner or glass of wine with family or a good friend. Having a truly dialed-in conversation with someone. A really good hug when you didn’t know you needed one. The climactic moment in an artful movie or TV show. That quiet moment in the dawn just before sunrise. Watching animals at the zoo and feeling the interconnectedness of it all. Walking down the main drag at the Market in the morning, before the crowds arrive. Turning the phone on airplane mode. These little things are enough. Joy doesn’t have to mean ecstasy. Step one will be to notice and appreciate the little things; step two will be to cultivate an increasingly more constant sense of joy from these small moments, cobbled together.
And so my soul journey, for now, is largely a solo one. I go outward in work. I go inward in life. I no longer am resigned to being alone — I want it. I crave it. There is much to contemplate. There are things that I need the quiet, the downtime, the boredom even, in order to truly reveal. This work requires slowing down. There will still be moments of connection, sure, and I don’t want every friendship to fall away. But I am feeling less and less of a need for other people right now, and I think for this recovering codependent, that’s good. To fall in love with myself, I need to spend time with myself. I need to be with myself. In the quiet. In the liminal. In the space between realities, between forms of consciousness, between worlds, between interactions. There is a two-week time out beginning now. Let me truly utilize it, and let me enjoy and grow from this time with me. For once, I actually enjoy being with her most of the time, and I want to get to know her better, without all the noise.
I do, however, notice that I tend to fill my quiet moments with lots of noise. The need to create, to produce, to learn, to Use the Time Constructively is ever-present, and the only way to escape that nagging feeling is either with a substance of some kind, or by working, or by forcing myself to make things even when the inspiration isn’t there, or by running errands that don’t really need to be run all over town because I want to avoid staring down the barrel of that space and time, and feeling the pressure to Do Something. The ability to just relax, to be quiet, is something I feel almost incapable of doing. At least now I don’t distract myself with a million social activities, but I’m still running; still hiding; still doing just about anything to distract from Unstructured Time.
Let me learn to live in the quiet. Let me learn to love the liminal. Let me learn to just be with me and my thoughts, without being in production mode, or student mode, or working until I drop. Let me learn to fucking relax, already.
And here’s another conundrum. Do I really love being alone, or am I just running from the feelings there, too? Does little child me still crave some kind of partnership, home and family so badly that that’s part of what all the avoidance is about — in the quiet, she might speak up about it? I’m truly not sure. One thing I do feel is that I don’t want a family in the traditional sense. For once, I don’t even know if I want a romantic partnership. I feel no real need or desire for that. I have my ever-present nostalgia and occasional wistful longings for things past, but I’m not sure if I will ever go down that road in the way I once saw myself walking it. And, sure, maybe the right person or people just haven’t come along yet, I know. And I do miss having a partner to share the little things in life with — as a wise friend once said, what I really miss about my exes is the chance to just “bro down” with them, and that’s very true. So, maybe there is a “bro” out there for me, and maybe there is more than that.
But maybe, just maybe, the right person is already here, and she’s been here the whole time. She’s pretty awesome, from what I know of her. Maybe she’s enough.
One thing is for certain: I will have to start by truly, madly and deeply loving her. I will be alone again. Or. I will attract a love that is as pure and mad and deep from that place. Or. I will create a new kind of partnership and family that fits my own definitions. And any option, quite honestly, is a winning one.
And so, I give you this Mediterranean sheet-pan dinner, cobbled together from a day full of avoidant errands, and inspired by my excitement at my upcoming travels to Greece. I hope it brings you the joy it brought me in making it. xxx
Single-Serving Mediterranean Sheet-Pan Supper
1 /2 fennel bulb, sliced
1/2 bell pepper, sliced
1 baby eggplant, diced, salted and drained in a colander for at least 30 minutes
1 spring or sweet onion, sliced
Handful of kalamata olives, pitted
1 baby cucumber, diced
1 small tomato, diced
Handful of spinach or arugula leaves
Several slices Halloumi cheese, grilled or pan-fried until golden brown
Lots of fresh, chopped herbs (I used rosemary, mint, basil, chives and fennel fronds)
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste
Hummus of choice (I used Black Garlic hummus from Hope Foods)
Pickled shallots, sauerkraut or any favorite fermented topping
Flaked salt to finish (I used Rosemary Pyramid Salt Flakes from Spice Mountain)
Preheat the oven to 400 F while you chop your veggies and herbs. Toss the veggies and olives, apart from the cucumber and tomato, with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and about 1/3 of the herbs. Roast on a sheet pan for 20-30 minutes, checking partway through. Put the rest of the veggies and the greens in a bowl with more herbs, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. When the veggies are almost done, grill or pan-fry your halloumi. Remove veggies from the oven; toss with the greens, cucumber and tomato; and top with halloumi, hummus, flaked salt and the rest of the herbs.
That’s it! Joy in simplicity.