The creamy dessert like sauce of cardamom and almond sweep my tongue and I am sitting at my mom’s dinning table plastic table cloth and all. So reminiscent of her Kheer, I dove in moaning with greed. Lamb Rajasthani. A meal I’d yet to have as an Indian girl. I ate in silence unsure how I’d ever leave this heavenly place and this celestial dish in front of me. It was new and confusing. Indian food with subtle flavors that aren’t homemade? I didn’t know it existed. Could I, a girl who prides herself in knowing her heritage inside out, be tasting a new flavor combination for the first time at 35? We were at Rasika celebrating my birthday. I’d waited four years for this meal assuming it would be the same type of food I ate at every other Indian restaurant, just over priced. I was wrong. It was easy. It was soft. It was sharp and subtle in one bite. It got me reconsidering my whole value system.
Does easy and subtle have the same impact as complicated and busy?
When I was in college, my favorite item to purchase each fall was a sparkly planner. It had to show a little piece of my personality and some inspiration on the pages. A few ones I remember were: A Hello Kitty one, a New York City one, and a Van Gogh Paintings one. Each September I’d open the blank pages eager to fill them with assignments and endless, unrealistic to-do lists. First I’d write in a crazy daily dance schedule: Monday- Hip-hop, Tuesday- Ballet, Wednesday: Afro Jazz, Thursday- Floor Barre, Friday- Hip-hop, Saturday- Ballet, Sunday- Hip-hop. In my mind, I was training to be a Janet Jackson backup dancer. Then I’d think of all the chores to accomplish and add those: groceries, laundry, organize closet, etc. Content that I clearly was an adult with a purpose, I’d flip through the pages feeling perfect.
Then, after a week’s attempt at the unrealistic schedule of events, I’d settle into a routine of one week on and one week off or sometimes it turned into one week on and two weeks off. Slowly, I’d slide back towards my true nature of feeling the pressure and need to be productive but binging on Northern Exposure episodes anyway. Once, if I’m being really honest, it turned into a semester off. This cycle continued into my first job out of grad school. I’d grade everything I see like crazy for a few days and then let it pile to the ceiling for several.
Busy. I loved the feeling and needed it, I used to believe. I wanted to experience everything, not ever wanting to miss out–not a dance class, not a party, not on a friend’s illness, not a phone call, not anything. However, when you keep yourself insanely busy, you eventually have to crash. Enter the off switch. After climbing to the top of the pointy peaks of the Himalayas, I eventually tipped over and slid face first to the bottom. A few episodes of hitting that bottom include: weekly cries during grad school in the middle of my studio apartment, my dishes piling into a tower that resembled a smelly game of Jinga, purchasing new underwear instead of doing laundry.
Nowadays summers are the crash due to the 10 months out of the year that I am trying to be the most perfect teacher. My calendar bursting at its seams. My to-do list a scroll the length of the Atlantic. I go, go, go–with little rest and have mini crash episodes–none giving me the rest I actually need. I get sick; I try to take mental health days monthly; I take mini holidays. The real crash, however, doesn’t arrive till summer.
At the start of this summer, a retired teacher friend and I chatted to reflect and set some new goals. She read me a quote to start me off right: “Stop glorifying busy.” I heard it and like arriving at a train station after a long journey, my brakes squeaked jerking into my next phase.
Don’t. Glorify. Busy. Suddenly I stood in front of the one commandment in awe. How do I change the cycle? Do I want to change? Does this give me permission of have an off year? I tried to understand the glory of not being busy. The Lamb Rajasthani was not busy. An example of perfection that came from a slow simmer. Could I be on a slow simmer instead of the fast boil that I’d been running on for so many decades? I wanted it is all I knew. From the moment A. read the quote, I knew I wanted it.