What I want

I like to hang out at the intersection of Byron Katie (loving what is) and Marie Kondo (does it spark joy) and instead of always asking myself, “Do I have everything I want?” and I ask, “Do I want everything I have?”

Daily life is filled with subtle and not-so-subtle messages to survey our life, find the gaps, and fill those gaps with stuff—food, sex, clothes, technology, etc. We rarely pay attention to how all that stuff makes us feel. Our stuff—emotional, material, interpersonal, and cultural—is drowning many of us in affluent America.

When Byron Katie talks about loving what she’s challenging us to examine each feeling, emotional entanglement, financial decision, core belief and love it. It’s not enough to tolerate it, or make excuses for its presence in our life, or accept it because it can’t be any other way. No, actually look at it, see it for what it is and love it.

What’s the outcome of loving what is? We don’t know. Outcomes, especially those based on human interaction, are by their nature uncertain. So we don’t love what is because it promises a happy outcome but because it is the only path to a happy present.

What does loving what is look like in daily life? Maybe like Marie Kondo holding a well-folded t-shirt to her chest and asking if it sparks joy. In my own life, I’m doing this with the things I say to myself, my beliefs about myself. “Self-criticism,” I ask, “do you spark joy?” “Hell no,” it says. “That’s not my job. My job is to get you to move your ass and get something done.” Well that’s interesting because I notice (finally!) that all that self-loathing is a piss poor motivator and rarely leads to my best work.

Shopping, binge watching tv, sniping, controlling, and limiting beliefs about myself and others—this is stuff in my life that no longer sparks joy. Because I want to cultivate an attitude of loving what is and of self-acceptance I don’t toss these aspects of myself out with the holey underwear and chipped vases. I seek instead to examine this stuff closely, to understand the role it tried to serve in my life. When it tries to take over my psyche, I acknowledge it and, following Tara Brach’s sage advice, I invite it to tea and feel its grip on me loosen.

Day by day, I am coming to want everything I have.

Of tomatoes and entanglements

Life didn’t give me bushels of tomatoes. My partner did. She’s compelled to fill our garden and will never cull a healthy plant. Our neighbor Jim plants by the same rules.

In past years, my amusement at so many tomatoes eventually gave way to frustration at the amount of energy I spent trying to find things to do with them. I didn’t expect this year to be any different.

We started out with cherry tomato and mozzarella salads. We added chard as it came in. When the big plants began to produce we gorged on BLT’s. We made sauce for pasta—ate it for dinner and froze the rest. We made and ate or froze ratatouille adding our homegrown eggplants and peppers. Our neighbor gave us a loaf of tomato basil bread (homegrown basil, of course). By that time we’d made several jars of tomato jam and gave him a one in exchange. The cherry tomatoes just kept coming so we cut them in half, tossed them with salt and pepper, cooked them for several hours, and voilà “sun-ripened” cherry tomatoes. Jim went out of town at the height of the season and begged us to pick his fruit. Now we had bags of them to give the folks attending the local community dinner and our friends down the street. I took several when visiting family in Ohio (they have tomatoes in Ohio but my brothers don’t grow their own). Late in the season, we found a recipe for tomato paste. Simple but time consuming, its virtues include the large number of tomatoes it requires, the ability to freeze it in an ice cube tray, and its fantastic flavor.

The tomato rush has ended and our freezer is full and so is my heart. In other years I’ve asked myself, “Why isn’t it Laura’s problem to figure out what to do with all those tomatoes and why agree to pick Jim’s when we already have too many?” This year I saw myself differently; not a passive observer but a key player in a system of entanglements formed by myself and my partner, our neighbor, our gardens, and our community. I didn’t use my energy to resist and resent reality, so I had as much as I needed for a creative and joyful tomato season.