The month of January has been a difficult one. A really difficult one.
Not only did the flu wiggle itself into our vacation, but gut-wrenching soul searching was at play for the better part of the month.
We are all flawed, aren't we? Boy, did I have to take a deep breath and confront my shortcomings this month...as well of those around me.
I don't know what made me recently think of this incident that I remember from middle school. We were all at assembly one morning. I had long waist length dark hair and two girls loved brushing it while we listened to morning announcements.
A third girl commented, "Why do you get your hair brushed so much? Don't you know it will become ugly and greasy?"
I was stunned. I had no idea that this behavior was being considered rather annoying to anyone. I had no idea that I had created a perception of myself that was irritating to someone else. All of a sudden, I felt vain. And, I was intensely aware this third girl did not like me.
It's an odd memory but it was one of the first times that I realized that I would most certainly not be liked by people in my life.
The two girls never brushed my hair again. I was hurt. I knew that other classmate certainly did not like me (or my hair) very much and I carried this hurt every time I looked at her.
I don't know why this memory surfaced. I guess its because it was one of the first times that I had to reflect not only about myself, my behaviors, but acknowledge that relationships can sometimes be shocking, insightful, and hurtful.
I seem to be struggling again with this realization this month. I recognize that I am a personality that seeks approval from others and desperately wants people to like me.
Over the years and in the future, there will be people who will basically...not like me. It's easy to shrug my shoulders and just accept this as a chance of circumstance.
But, I don't think this is the most self-improving approach. I think I've been taking the easy way out. Digging deeper, much deeper, I think some potentially painful soul-searching...might be in order.
I am out-spoken...for starters. I speak first...think later. I've worked on this trait for several years now and see that my efforts are truly a change for the good. I take deep breaths, focus, and try very hard to listen first before plunging into situations with my passionate opinions. It's been a really good change.
But, when you've led a pretty good portion of your life with this feisty characteristic and then work diligently to alter that character "flaw", it is sometimes...too late in certain relationships. Who you are, might just be a forever perception among some people. Not their fault, really, just human nature I suppose.
Reacting to the "old" me is something I so desperately hope to change. To be acknowledged for the intense work I've done to improve as a person and diminish the "alpha-female" in me may happen with some...but I'm having to accept may not happen with others.
Sometimes our life span seems so long...sometimes it feels never-ending. Other times, it doesn't seem like there is enough time to maneuver through each stage of self-awareness and bring change to fruition.
I'm in my '40's. I'm happier than ever in my life. I often grimace at the train-wreck of a person that I tracked along through my '20's and '30's, chugging along and spewing billows of smoke on this side and that side of my life.
I'm a work in progress. That is one fact, for sure. We all are, I suppose. But, when that self-realization reveals to me that changes must be made, apologies must be said, and hope must be aimed for the future...it's a rough patch of life to get through.
So January has been about much-needed "soul searching". It has been certainly painful as memories of all of the people that I've irritated or frustrated flow through my mind.
Long walks, deep breaths, and self-evaluation are key. I also choose to disappear into my kitchen and escape to countries that often reflect my mood.
I needed to disappear into the moors and fields of England this month. I need food that reflects a brooding landscape full of loveliness and loneliness at the same time.
Roast Beef. Yorkshire Pudding. Roasted Potatoes with thyme. This is the hearty fare that I crave that soothes my soul and comforts my pain.
I spent half the day, quietly preparing this meal. It is for "Sunday Supper". I wish I could share it with the people that have either brought me pain or that I have brought pain to in my life.
Food is a soothing tool. Cooking is an escape of the most wonderful kind. I spend lots of time in my kitchen in deep thought while I prepare meals.
I have also found that I get great joy slipping out of the house in the early morning to immerse myself in quiet drives, walks, and explorations of the countryside.
I can collect my thoughts, examine my behaviors, and try to put the world right again.
When I hear a rooster crowing in a country farmhouse or see a hawk swooping over the road, all of the pieces of life rearrange themselves and seem to become clearer to me.
We are who we are, I suppose. I am who I am I must accept. But, whereas I didn't have the maturity in my 20's and 30's to cope with those in my life who just didn't like me, I am gaining this maturity...in my '40's.
A little late? Perhaps.
Better than never? Certainly.
This morning it was a deliciously foggy morning. I knew I was being drawn right out the door to continue doing my much-needed soul-searching.
The air was crisp, the smells were clean, and the sounds were still and quiet. I felt like I was the only person in all of Houston who was up at that hour.
My time spent was something I wouldn't think of granting to myself earlier in my life. The rejuvenating and self-reflecting power of spending precious time only with myself is something I absolutely treasure now.
I do have work to do. I do have changes that need to be made. But even as I turn over my new leaf...it is still a leaf...and to some eyes, it will still look the same.
I know that now. I accept that now. But, I'll keep moving forward. It's painful to acknowledge all that isn't good about myself...but freeing at the same time.
Is change possible in people? I'm not sure if its possible in everyone. I'm not even sure if its as possible in me as I would like it to be.
But beautiful food sure does help. A beautiful and delicious meal sure can do some positive and lovely things.
Reflection, Contemplation, Rumination...all embody this month of January.
It's hard. I'm sad. But, I know that I am very much...hopeful.
Roast beef and Red Wine Gravy:
1-1.2 kg/ 2-2.5 pounds beef filet
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
5 cloves of garlic (3 whole, 2 sliced)
1 coarsely chopped onion
1 chopped carrot
1 branch celery
Coarse sea salt & pepper for seasoning
Preheat oven to 200°C/ 400°F
Rub beef with olive oil, salt and pepper. Make about 10 small incisions with a sharp knife (careful not cut all the way through the roast) and insert fine slices of garlic. Tuck in the thyme sprig on top of the beef – under the string. Place chopped onion, carrots and celery in a roasting pan along with the beef. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes, lower heat to 180°C/ 350°C and cook for a further 30 minutes (less or more depending on how you like your beef). Place the roast beef on a plate and set aside for 15 minutes.
Keep the roasting pan with all the beef drippings. Put it directly on the stove on a low heat, add 200 ml red wine and stir. Let the sauce reduce for a few minutes, then add 500 ml beef (or vegetable) stock. Further reduce for 5 more minutes. Add one tsp of flour (I used corn starch) and mix well until gravy is thick and juicy. Pour sauce through a separator and serve immediately.
Roast Potatoes with Thyme:
Preheat oven 180°C/350°F
20 small red potatoes
Sprigs of fresh thyme (or dried thyme)
Coarse sea salt
60 ml/ 1/4 cup olive oil
Rinse potatoes, slice them in half or quarters depending on size. Place in roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprigs of thyme and coarse sea salt. Mix well and bake for 35-45 minutes. Halfway during cooking time, shake the pan to cook potatoes on all sides.
Yorkshire Pudding: (makes approx 12)
250 g/ 2 cups plain white flour
250 ml/ 1 cup whole milk (cold)
2 tbsp cold water
1/2 tsp fine salt
2 tbsp olive oil or beef dripping
Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F
In a large bowl, whisk together the sifted flour, cold milk and water. Add the eggs and whisk till blended. Whisk until batter is smooth. Place a bit of olive oil or beef dripping in each tin and place in oven for 5 minutes or until sizzling hot. Take out from the oven and pour batter in each tin , approx 3/4 high. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until well-risen and golden. Serve immediately.