It was my last frontier in the kitchen, The Instant Pot. My toaster caught on fire once this year and almost anything I have ever cooked on my stove or in my oven has been a disaster. I could always tell when Jay did not like my cooking because he would ask if we had any Peanut Sauce. Peanut sauce makes almost anything taste good and we usually had a good supply of it.
A year of not cooking must have erased Zoe’s memory of my challenges in the kitchen because a few weeks ago she told me she missed my cooking. So I decided it was time to give it a try again after a year of not exactly being sure what we ate for dinner but knowing many were provided by families that so generously donated to my two favorite cooks in town (click there for the link to their good food).
I read good reviews of the Instant Pot so decided to give it a try and it felt like an instant hit. I am really not sure how it works because Jay was the one who read the manual for appliances. If I asked him how to do something he would say ("RFB baby" - Read the F'ing Book) but I never listened. So I just pushed a bunch of buttons unknowing of their function and it was working great until last night.
Last night was my third night of not having a voice which has been much harder than it might sound to you. I have been communicating with my kids on a white board most of the week and I was desperate to have it back. Simon was getting ready for a school trip to Atlanta and making slime instead of packing. Zoe was in her room not doing homework and everyone was asking for different food for dinner.
Communicating anything felt like so much effort so I just decided the best self-care was to make everyone as happy as instantly as possible and get to bed. I was making a milkshake and mac and cheese for Simon, salmon for Zoe and since I was feeling bored without a voice, and had a little extra energy from being on steroids for my throat, I decided to make something in the Instant Pot.
I usually have to follow recipes word for word but with a little success behind me, I just started bravely throwing in ingredients because I had always wanted to be that kind of cook. I threw in some carrots, lentils, onions, quinoa and then I added four cups of broth. I should have noticed that when I poured in the broth it leaked through the Instant Pot all over the counter top but I was too distracted by cleaning up slime.
When I went to grab a pot to fill with water to de-thaw the salmon, I noticed the pot I grabbed was the one that you put the ingredients into that then go into the stoneware base of the Instant Pot. And then I wondered where I had put the ingredients I had just so confidently thrown into the Instant Pot? And then I realized the concoction in the Instant Pot that had been cooking for awhile was in the actual stoneware base and not in the pot that I was about to fill with water. And just like that, my last frontier was gone. I knew I bragged too soon about it.
The golf ball that felt lodged in my throat this week reminded me of the feeling Junebug had of not being able to swallow in the weeks after her loud and sudden loss. As many times as I had wanted to cry this week out of frustration and sadness, I held back because I was afraid the golf ball in my throat would get so big I would not be able to breathe or talk again.
But the tears came last night when I saw the mess I had made with my last frontier. “Wimp” Simon said as he rolled his eyes at me because it makes him uncomfortable to see me sad, and then he asked me why I was sad. What I did not want to tell him is that I was feeling so sad because I really wanted to be able to at least talk to him before he left for Atlanta the next day amongst many other feelings that are too much for an eleven-year-old, but instead I said with a lot of effort in a very raspy voice, I just don’t feel good, Simon. My throat hurts and it's hard being sick without Dad.
I do not think of grief as being in five stages. Rather I think of it like the layers upon layers made up of memories and feelings you might find tossed into an instant pot. Sometimes I take off the lid and I am sad. Other times, I am angry or overwhelmed or happy or afraid or hopeful or hopeless or distracted or disappointed or grateful or tired or numb or confident or insecure or a little of everything. I also find myself adding to it change after change since life ripples for awhile. Some of the changes are hard and some are deep, healthy changes happening within me like when you simmer chicken bones in their own juices to make homemade broth (which for the record, I have never done #kitchendisaster).
Unlike the Instant Pot, the process is not quick. It takes time and over time the warmth that fed our soul in the darkest hours can be harder to sense and in moments, it feels scary to not know who is going to kindle the fire that will keep us going. Even though I may have lost faith in my frontier in the kitchen last night, I believe in the light in me and the light in you and no matter how small mine feels or how far away yours feel, somehow there is always enough to find our way through to another day.
Jay & Zoe in our kitchen. Song is Hold On by Man Man.