My day had started at 6 a.m and continued as a whirlwind of frantic motions and looming PMS-like symptoms. Breakfast was so long ago I can barely remember it. When I had my first break at 5, I ate dinner alone, as usual. I had french fries and mayo for dinner with a side of crudités. I scanned through emails with my right hand while eating with my left. I sipped on an Old Fashioned I had made myself using a special ingredient.
With ten minutues to spare, I zipped across the street to the Arts and Hertiage Centre, where the event was being held. I was asked to bring a cake. I made it yesterday, knowing today would be non-stop. Yesterday, I garnished the cake with some orange slices I cut finely using the mandolin (that is, I lay the slices down on parchment at the bottom of the cake pan with the intention to un-mould and flip it over to serve). I had extra slices so I put them in a pot with water and sugar. I thought: maybe they'll be marmalade or maybe an orange-infused simple syrup. Then I made the cake batter. Meanwhile, as the simple syrup bubbled, the slices maintained their shape and became vibrant and so I changed the plan.
After they had simmered a while and the pith began looking translucent, I pulled the slices out. One by one with a fork, I sieved off the excess liquid and lay them on a cooling rack. I put the rack in the oven after the cake came out. I turned the oven off immediately.
The next morning (this morning) after I ran about a while, I came home quickly to check on the oranges. I had dared not open the oven lest some residual heat be let out. Still a bit soft. I turned the oven to the lowest it would go and checked on them every half hour until it had been about 2 hours. I cooled them as I went out to do more errands. They became beautiful crispy orange 'chips'. By evening, they were bitter and slightly sweet and just lovely with my Old Fashioned.
I finished my cocktail and headed back out. I arrived at the sound bath and put the goodies aside. I found a space on the floor in the dark room, where 15 others lay on their yoga mats and covering themselves with blankets. I sat against the wall, on the wood floor, with no blanket.
The instructor began to make sounds using her quartz crystal bowls - though I could't be sure how (my eyes were closed). With the first note she made, I imagined the colour red. The sound changed and I felt intuitively it was yellow. We were asked to think of a word and we were gently reminded this is the time of year for making goals. I had had a hard day working with my mother. It was my fault things didn't go smoothly. The word "gentle" came to my mind. It was a purple word. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), I have a strong aversion to purple.
I am not gentle. I would like to think I am full of love. I'd like to think I am graceful. I am intuitive. I see beauty where others don't. I am in awe of the world often. I am caring.
But I am not gentle.
I spent a long time trying to clear my mind and work on my breathing and I did try to be "present". Instead, I fought with my racing mind. By the end, I just wanted to go home and eat chips in bed.
What made my head spin was thinking: treat others how you want to be treated. I know that my aggressiveness stems from working in kitchens for over 15 years. I realized most people (e.g. my mom) want and need to be treated gently. I realized I have a difficult time remembering that because I do not want to be treated gently.
What problem do I have with being gentle? I realized tonight that I look down on those I think are "soft". Where does this hostility come from? It would be easy if I could blame genetics; I am so much like my dead Grandmother, or so I've been told. (She was cold, mean and firm and I always got along with her swimmingly.) I'd rather be told, "Sweep that area at 5pm" rather than, "If you could, if you wouldn't mind, would you please sweep at some point in the evening?". I don't see one as more kind than the other, but my mother would.
Ironically, I feel like I am being censored when I have to use more words to say something that I would feel more comfortable saying in fewer. Maybe it 's that I feel gentleness is: false, a lie, deceitful, phoney and a waste of time. It skirts around the issue. It isn't clear or to the point. It is just padding for the truth. It implies shame in asking for something.
My mother would probably call me terse and imply it as something I should be ashamed of. It means clear and neat. Those are things I would take pride in. In busy kitchens, it's necessary to demand a number of things that need to happen without wasting time explaining them. In an interview, I would call my way of working efficient.
I've often wondered if I have a slightly autistic brain, or in other words, if I'm "on the spectrum". I have a hard time following social norms and I often misunderstand body language and misread facial cues. I hurt other people, including my mother, with my sharp attitude. I'm not a flowery person. I'm full of spurs.
So this new year, 2018, my word is : Gentle.
Don't treat me gently, I don't like it. It confuses me and irritates me. However, I don't have to treat other people as I want to be treated. I should treat other people how THEY want to be treated. I will try my hardest to remember that other people feel more comfortable when I smile as I talk; when I speak slowly and end my sentences with a higher intonation; I will be aware of my facial expressions and try not to furrow my brow or clench my jaw. I will stand with open body language and rest my face while listening even if I think there is no time for human behaviour I can't wrap my head around. I will try to be gentle.
I will continue to feed people. Food is a language I do speak. Try an orange chip: They are bitter , brittle and delicious.