reading and writing.
like peanut butter and jelly (or other pairs from my youth: bert and ernie, tube socks and vans, bangs and over-grown eyebrows), these two school subjects were always joined at the hip. and maybe that’s why i’ve always just equated them with each other. i suppose while they can stand alone, just like that creamy peanut concoction (sorry, b) and saccharine [insert berry flavor of choice here] fruit spread, as well as that catchy jack johnson song, some things are just better together.
but for as much as i love the latter, aside from the occasional poolside commitment to the latest brainchild of nicholas sparks or the current issue of instyle magazine, i have all but neglected the former; my only real excuse being that i just simply didn’t have the time. and maybe that’s just something i told myself to make me feel better about my lack of reading habits, because after eighteen years of reading requirements in stark text books or “classic” novels (i’m sorry charles dickens, but sometimes i just didn’t get it), i had all but fallen out of love with reading. which is completely absurd, i realize, but no less true despite the fact.
what i failed to recognize then was the fact that reading could only serve to strengthen my writing (so there was a reason why they had always been paired together!). in consuming the thoughts, words, and stories of my fellow writer, i would not only be challenged to improve upon my own style (iron sharpens iron), but inspired to continue chasing those pipe dreams of one day become a novelist, myself. a win win, in my opinion. so why was it so difficult to find the time and/or motivation?
the only reasoning i can deduce is the fact that i didn’t know where to start. should i bite the bullet and give in to the twilight franchise (never!)? or perhaps just go with an author i already had familiarity with -had emily giffin (of something borrowed fame) written a new installment in her collection of chick lit that i could simply pick up on my next visit to barnes and noble?
but somehow in the interim, my trip to the bookstore would be forgotten amongst the errand runs to trader joe’s (naturally) and anthropologie (yes, that can count as an “errand”) and well, i would be in the same exact position as i was before the literary epiphany.
maybe it’s the non-risk-taker in me. when a book comes so highly recommended, there’s little room for disappointment and therefore, the risk becomes miniscule, or all but disappears. but when it comes to choosing a read at random -one whose contents are foreign to the those whose advice you regularly seek, well, therein lies that risk. what did i just devote my $24.95 to? because if this book isn’t great, i definitely could have put that money to a better cause. a cause whose logo may or may not be a green mermaid…and i know i’m making quite the mountain out of a mole hill with regards to choosing a simple book of which to donate a spare sunday afternoon or tuesday lunch break to, but i suppose like actual food, i only desire to consume literary food that is wholesome and delicious (which i have completely negated by reading any and all issues of us weekly, whoopsies).
which is why i cherish the book-taste-testers in my life. the gals (or guys, but usually gals) whose opinion i uphold in highest regard and well, whose book recommendations i have yet to find fault. the ones who i attribute both my quick completion and utter enjoyment of katherine stockett’s the help, tina fey’s bossypants, mindy kaling’s is everyone hanging out without me and other concerns and most recently, molly wizenburg’s, (of orangette blog fame) a homemade life. and while the three former were probably, no definitely, some of the most memorable reads to ever make their way into my reading repertoire, molly’s collections of “stories and recipes from [her] kitchen table” might be my new favorite novel to date.
no, not for the fact that it talks mostly about food (although that certainly helped), but for the fact that in reading her simple stories -mornings spent devouring her father’s waffles, the trip to paris that changed her life, the day she met the man of her dreams –i saw a part of myself (ok, so maybe not the meeting the man of my dreams part, but you get what i mean). she was a girl who grew up with a deep love affair for her family (check), who abhorred change (check), who embraced the world (and experiences) she discovered by a stint abroad (check), and who one day on a whim, started a blog.
and similarities aside (did i mention she’s a ginge, too?), i think what i fell in love with most in reading a homemade life was the fact that she writes in a way that i only hope to convey to my own readership. it’s vulnerable and raw and completely on point. it’s witty, but without trying too hard. it’s honest and sincere and full of emotion (the kind of emotion worn i tend to wear right there on my sleeves). and above all else, it’s beautiful. though the novel itself is void of photographs (a travesty in my opinion), molly’s ability to describe in detail the nuances of every story as it relates to the corresponding recipe allows the reader to instead formulate a mental picture just as worthy as its physical counterpart. the sight of the parisian lights on her first visit to france. the smell of prunes stewing in her childhood home. the sound of her heart breaking upon the realization that her father wasn’t as invincible as she always though him to be. the taste of her renowned “winning hearts and minds” chocolate cake. the touch of her husband’s curly tendrils tickling her cheek as they shared their first kiss as man and wife. every word a treat to the senses. every story a feast for the soul.
she writes in a way that, upon consumption, you only wish you had written it yourself. that as your eyes gaze left to right across the page, your head can’t help but nod in agreement; almost subconsciously. you connect so much with the words before you that you swear the author herself probed you while you were sleeping and stole the sentiments right out of your head. and that’s exactly what happened when i read the chapter entitled, “the change thing.” i read it on a tuesday. during my lunch break and on a particular day whose happenings had me in a mood of equal parts anxiousness and overwhelment (it’s a word, i googled it). it was exactly what i needed to hear in the exact means of which to hear it. because in that moment it hadn’t been molly writing those words, but me. a love letter to myself. to no longer fear change, but to embrace it. to realize that with change comes growth, and well, growth is what life is all about, isn’t it?
“i love the concept of routines. for some people, like skydivers and storm chasers, it may sound like torture, but to me, it’s reassuring. i love having a routine, even if it’s just the order in which i wash my face and brush my teeth at night. it makes me feel human. it’s a reminder that i’m still alive and still me, because depending on the day, it can hard to keep track. anyway, there are enough things to think about in this world. the beauty of having routines and habits lies in letting my hands and feet think for me, and in giving my brain a break. my predilection for routine may make me a little boring, but it does keep my teeth nice and clean!
i’ve never been very good at change. just ask my mother. during college, i called her at the beginning of every quarter, crying, whimpering incoherently about my new schedule, my new classes, and the end of life as i knew it. each time, she’d remind me, with the sort of patience that only saints and mothers have, that this happened every quarter, and the quarter before it, and that it was just ‘the change thing, moll. you’ll find a new routine.’ i’d nod and blow my nose and feel much better for approximately three months, until the next quarter came around.
i’m also the girl who took the same thing to lunch to school every single day for the first fourteen years of her life. every single day. the contents of the brown bag were as follows: carrots sticks, two cookies, and peter pan creamy peanut butter on whole wheat bread. there was no jam, no jelly, no crunchy peanut butter, no natural peanut butter, no white bread, no seeded bread, and no change. sometimes i think my taste buds may be the eighth wonder of the world. how they survived much monotony is one of the greatest mysteries of our time. someday, after i’m gone, people will gather to study my tongue. they’ll peer hopefully into my mouth, the way i look under the bed when i’ve lost something, and they’ll cluck approvingly, noting that my teeth were indeed very clean.
i am happy to report, though, that in recent years, i’ve been working on getting friendlier with change, and with its cousin, flexibility. growing up has helped a lot. plus, all of that crying got kind of exhausting. it’s more fun this way. no one ever got laid because they wrote it in their day planner.
which, i guess, brings me to a larger, more serious point: that it’s hard to love someone, i’ve found, when you’re preoccupied with holding your entire world firmly in place. loving someone requires a certain amount of malleability, a willingness to be pulled along, at least occasionally, by another person’s will. when lucas and i lived together, i was so uptight that when i came home from grocery shopping, i would sit down with the calculator and make an itemized list of what he owed me, every last cent. it seemed very important at the time, although i have since thought about sending him a thank-you note for not killing me.
when i met brandon, i didn’t want to be that person anymore. i didn’t want to mistake accountability for intimacy. i wanted things to be easier. which meant, i knew, that i had to be easier -about everything. it has taken some practice, admittedly, but i am making progress. just the other day, for example, i didn’t even flinch when he used the last of my peanut butter for one of his soba noodle salads. that’s how i know we’re going to be all right. because being the person i want to be feels easier when he is around.
but i still do love my routines. i’m not an entirely new person. and i’m not ashamed to admit that i often put my tastebuds to the test of boredom. i can’t help it. when i like something, i want to eat it all the time. nearly every morning, i sit down for the same breakfast -some whole grain cereal, a few spoonfuls of granola, and either plain yogurt or milk -in the same red glass bowl, and nearly every morning, it makes me irrationally happy. that carries me through to lunch, when i sit down, usually, to a bowl of soup, a hunk of bread, and a few slices of cheese. the formula changes with seasons, but as a general principle, it holds true for most weekdays, if not the occasional saturday, too. sometimes brandon even joins me…” (pages 253-255).
and yes, there are a few items, well maybe more than a few, that don’t coincide with the life of molly wizenburg and that of yours truly (replace the carrots sticks and cookies for a fuji apple and her daily breakfast of whole-grain cereal and milk with oatmeal, and nevermind the fact i don’t currently have a “brandon” in my life) but aside from those minor details, it’s pretty much like looking in a mirror. and that’s of course, why it resonated with me so dang much.
change. and its cousin flexibility. (brilliant analogy, by the way). something when read, i only wished i had penned first.
which is, in my humble opinion, the mark of a great writer. the type of writer you’d like to fashion yourself to be. the type of writer whose praises you all but shout from the rooftops, or as was the case with me, exclaim in the caption of an instagram photo.
the type of writer that makes you fall in love with reading all over again.
(a big thank you to miss L for her original recommendation and for loaning me the book itself. to say that i loved it might just be the understatement of the year, and we’re only five days in, so i can say that confidently.)