I'm making risotto tonight, though I know no one but me will enjoy it for dinner tonight. It's a butternut squash version that I'm kind of winging it on, leaving out leeks called for in the recipe I'm using, one I found on my phone, bc I don't have any, and adding some rotisserie chicken. Hoping it tastes just a little like the risotto I love from the Brio lunch menu, but I doubt it, because I am never brave enough to use as much salt (and probably butter) as a restaurant cook would. Plus, I think the Brio one has bacon in it. Not sure why I'd be too hard on myself about its success or failure, because the cooks on Top Chef can't perfect risotto either. I think the only dish that sends more people home on that show would be scallops. I had some risotto with grape tomatoes and way too much cheese recently at a really good restaurant, and it was pretty blah on the flavor. Something I told myself I could totally cook at home. And it turns out, I can.
Anyway, it's the kind of meal that requires you to stay close to the stove, but not actually think too much or have that much hands on interaction with the dish. Perfect dish for mind wandering, percolate about the writing I'd like to be doing kind of dish. Good for me, because every time I sit down to write, there is that darn blank screen staring back at me. Or that darn blank page in the notebook, if I can even find the notebook.
It's not that I don't have ideas to share, or even thoughts and issues that consume a great deal of my time and energy. But I've reached a strange season of life where my kids need me less physically, but still take up the bulk of my emotional and actual time. They need more protection from what I might write and share and discuss about their struggles and challenges and even victories than they used to, which makes writing for an audience, however fictional and minuscule, problematic. So even though things are happening here, I have a hard time figuring out what and how to say them.
I read articles online and in the newspaper, and I have things I want to say about them, about my dismay about how life just seems to be getting harder and harder and harder. Not to mention lonelier and lonelier, despite all our "connections" and sharing. But then I read another essay and think "oh, that person already wrote pretty much what I wanted to say about that." So I just share that essay on my Facebook wall. There are moments in my day when I'm so revved up about some injustice or ridiculous moment of idiocy that I feel ready to write a letter to the editor, or email the person in charge (is anyone really in charge around here? where are the adults who can take care of crap when it goes wrong, anyway? Oh, that's me now? Darn.) or maybe even run for school board or city council or at least form some sort of committee.
I am at times so filled up by the blessings of my life, and so thankful for all the moments of wonder and sweetness and just plain goodness that the people I have figured out how to keep around me offer that I want to write it all down before I lose it all all all.
But then the kids get off the bus and we're doing homework and we're doing dinner and I'm putting away laundry and I'm emptying the dishwasher and someone has to go to gymnastics or Tae Kwon Do or basketball and we're playing legos again. And then the glass of wine and the blank screen await, and I'm all out of anger and irritation and even enthusiasm. All the moments of sweetness have faded in detail, leaving just their echoes to carry me on into the next day.
I've written all of these ideas before, and have even written it better before. This is the stuff that gets in the way of the writing that I really feel like I want to be doing.
So, instead, I make a pot of risotto. Or I chop some vegetables for a soup. Or I roll some chicken in some breadcrumbs. And I feed my family and the best parts of me the best way I know for right now. The making of the food is sometimes enough to absorb the worst grumbly lonely parts of the day. It's almost always enough to let the sweet people who come through my home know that I will keep trying to care for them in all the best ways I can. Occasionally, the simmering and the stirring and the chopping are even enough to get a few thoughts going and write a few lines. Something to come back to later when there is more of me to give.