mmmm . . . mmmm . . . marscapone!

a few thoughts on marscapone cheese and contentment . . .

several weeks ago, i wrote a tongue in cheek post
about "cheery, peppy people"
and my life-long
love-hate relationship with them.

i remember the girl that was my co-counselor
back at summer camp in college.
her nick-name was panda bear.
i even found that annoying.

she was so perky and perfect that i often did things
(such as, but certainly not limited to)
subtly removing my pants
and displaying my backside.

i wanted to disrupt the perfection.
because i believed there was more
below the surface.

there has always been something about people
who always seem to have it all together
that leaves me
a little jealous,
and often feeling quite prideful.

prideful, because i feel that living a
life is more

i know that the people who appear to
have it all together are just as broken
as me,
but they hide it well.
(or maybe not so well)
and maybe all of that hiding is part of
their individual brokenness.

but in my brokennes,
even the implication of their perfection
leaves me feeling even more broken.
that is where the jealousy comes in.
and then the anger.

and yet,
i would give up all of the
authenticity in the world
just to live in blind denial
of the pain and confusion
that life seems to breed.

i revisit this because i received a comment
after i posted about the bubbly, cheery conundrum.
it has been on my mind for over a month.

i have hesitated responding to it, up to this point,
because it was written anonymously.

my dad always taught us that if you
believe something enough to say it
that you should never be afraid
to attach your name to it.
part of me felt that, for that reason,
it should not be acknowledged.

so, this post is for anonymous.
but not just for anonymous.
it is for me.
it is for you.

the idea was,
could it be possible,
that from some perspectives,
that i AM the cheery, bubbly people?
that i AM the one who has the life
that people want?
that, perhaps the hardest one to think about,
i AM the one who is inauthentic and dishonest?
living in a candy-coated world?

blogs are such a funny thing.

i think for me,
over the past year or so,
mine has been a place i have been able
to just focus on the beautiful,
the hopeful,
the silly.

it is the place i have gone to
post pictures of my (herb's) garden
and scrapbook pages
and recipes.

it is the place i have used to feel
normal and human.
the place i have gone to remind me
that it is not all dark and bad and scary
and that the sun will come up tomorrow.

i have used my blog as such because
the past year or two have been so
and difficult.
i have been struggling
with my health
and facing a really difficult
reality check about myself
and about marriage.
i have been fighting
for my health
and for my marriage.

i have doubted
and cried
and yelled
like never before.

i have lived a life i never wanted.
i have struggled to have a life
that i can live with.
that i can enjoy and delight in, even.

and yet, i concur with anonymous
that i have posted a life
that many people would want.
i think that is why i post the things i do.
as a reminder
that there is much in my life
that i want.
that is good.
that i like.

i this in authentic?
i am not sure.
and perhaps not.
i suppose it depends on what the purpose of blogs are.
and that is probably another story
for another day.

over the past month,
in thinking about this,
i am not so sure that the question
to be asked here is
whether or not
i am authentic and honest.

i think that the question is,
"cara are you really living the life that were given?
are you grateful?"

and THAT is a question i have been pondering.

shortly after anonymous posed this question,
i attended a wedding out of state.
as a bridesmaid, i spent a lot of time with
the other girls in the wedding party.
this is always a funny thing
because you don't always know these women
that you have flown out of state
to spend time with.

after a comment i made about
visiting with my neighbors
after they get home from school,
one of the bridesmaids had her interest peaked.
school, after all gets out around 3:30.
she asked me how often i work.
i replied that i work part time
and that i spend a lot of time
taking care of the house,
our responsibilities,
and my health.
she thought that sounded nice.
inside, i agreed, and reminded myself
that it is, indeed nice.
i reminded myself to remember that
more often.

later, as we were getting our make-up done,
she asserted, a little more passionately this time,
that she wished she had my life.

i assured her that it is indeed, not perfect.

i felt uncomfortable.

she was missing the point.
it is not about my circumstances.
it is not about her circumstances.

she, apparently, felt quite comfortable.

she wanted proof.
she wanted proof that my life is not perfect.

at this point, i could not believe
that we were having this conversation.

i feel that anyone with a christian theology KNOWS
that nobody's life is perfect.
that by nature of her very belief system,
the world, the people, the earth . . .
it is all wounded.
none of it or us functions perfectly -
the way we were created to function.

it upset me.

somebody walked between us.
i broke eye contact.
i hoped it was over.

she asked again.
this time, with anger behind her voice.
(come to think of it,
not suprisingly, she asked most things,
most of the weekend,
with anger behind it.
even her face looked angry.)

she wanted an answer.
and she wanted it now.
proof that my life is not perfect.
proof of why she would not trade her life
in for mine if given the opportunity.

all of this from a woman, whose beautiful body
was carrying a huge, lovely baby inside.
she was angry with me
because i work part-time.

for all she knows,
heck, for all i know,
my body might not be able to do that!
to carry a big, beautiful baby inside.
but she was mad at me
and probably her husband
and her life
and god
because i work part-time.

whoa. something was out of sorts.

angry is a good word for it.
angry is how i feel when i see people
who don't seem to be plagued by
angst and tendencies towards depression.
they have what i think want.
and i, apparently, have what
angry bridesmaid thinks she wants.

the reality is,
she did not want what i have.
the reality is,
i think,
that she is not content with what she has.

like the anonymous comment left
a few weeks prior to this experience,
it left me feeling rattled
and thoughtful.

rattled and thoughtful are good.

rattled disrupts the current system.

and thoughtful implies that you give a shit
about what you are discovering
as you are being rattled.

and my current system
to be

since then,
i have been thinking about
living the life you actually have.
not just going through the motions,
but actually living it.

i have been floating through
the structure of a "really great life".
but i have not been living it.
i have not been enjoying it.
i have not been appreciating it.

and i don't just mean appreciating
in the way your mom meant when
she used to say,
"you don't appreciate anything around here!"

although, i suppose that could apply too.

what i mean, is really paying attention
to the life i lead
to the gifts i have
to the people
to my neighborhood
to the trees in my front yard
and the pretty pillows on my couch.

paying attention
and then really digging in
and LIVING it.

taking a nap on the pillows
and smiling as i watch the trees change
from green to golden to gone
day after day.

and here is the kicker.
i don't think that there is anything
special about my life today
that makes this lesson more
or less pertinent.

i might work less than some people.
i might have pretty pillows on my couch.

but i faced the same delima
that i face now
when i worked 50 hours a week
and had a hand-me-down couch.

i did not appreciate life.
i did not live the life i have.
the one that is right in front of me.

the problem,
i think,
is not with my circumstances
or calendar
or paycheck.

the problem,
i think,
is with my,
with our,

the problem is with our hearts.

when i say, i am not living life,
i mean this:
when i am on my couch
or with my husband
or at my job
or painting at my orange table,

i am often somewhere else
in my mind.

i don't want to be where i am.
it is not perfect.
so i don't indulge in it.
i don't sink my teeth into it.
i don't live it.

everyone has pleasures
that are in front of them.
while i have more free time
that i can choose to waste
or really revel in,
some people have children
that they can choose to waste
or to really revel in.

the circumstance is sort of not the point.

but that is where anonymous
and angry bridesmaid got stuck.
that is where i have often gotten stuck.

the "if only . . . " lie.
if only i had what she or he has.
then i would be happy.
and not only that,
but she or he does not deserve what they have.
i do.
i deserve that.
i would really enjoy that
so much more than them.
i want what they have.
and i am beside myself that they have it.

i am here to say, it is only an illusion.

i have lived a busy, hectic, under-paid life, single life.
i currently have a slow-paced, part-time-working, financially comfortable, married life.

and in both i have experienced discontent and lonliness.
and in both i have strived for peace and for joy.
and in both, sometimes, when i have settled myself enough,
i have found peace and joy.
in both circumstances,
peace and joy are what i crave the most.
and in both circumstances,
they were available to me.

if you have traveled to a third world country,
you have probably been overwhelmed
by the peace and joy
that flows forth
from some people
seem to
have nothing.
whose circumstances are desperate.
it depends upon, not their circumstances,
but rather,
i think,
the state of their hearts.

when i am feeling most sane,
and i think about the lives of others
that i would like to lead,
they have nothing to do
with the person's circumstances.
but rather,
their hearts.

and i am not talking about those times
when i would trade it all in for ignorance.
i am talking about the times when i am
a bit more in touch with god
and the kind of life he designed us to live.
when i am craving THAT life.
when i am craving TRUTH.
and not an easier outlook,
or better health,
or more free time,
or a newer car
or a magical debt fairy to come and give me
financial freedom . . . or
or . . . or . . . or . . . .

when i am craving a life that is based on TRUTH,
i look to my friend who does not have
the easiest circumstances.
she has a lot of good stuff in her life
but also some struggles
and even more mere inconveniences.

but she is over-flowing with love and peace and joy.
she loves life.
she loves her job.
she loves sex with her husband.
she loves the people she works with.
she loves getting a macaroon cookie from dean & delucas
on any given tuesday
for no reason at all
and she savors every last damn shred of coconut.

and here is what makes her differnt than
the peppy bubbly people:
she really feels this way.
she is sincere.

and she can live this way,
not because she has the perfect
or job
or coworkers.
not because she has a better lover for a husband.
not because she goes to a magical dean & delucas
or that she was somehow blessed with superior
taste buds which allow her to enjoy coconut
more than the rest of us are permitted.

but sometimes i believe all of that.
sometimes i loose total perspective
on her peace and joy.

she enjoys and loves and lives in peace,
i believe,
because she believes that god loves her.

that is it.

and she believes it down to the core of her
very being.

and she lives her entire life
looking at
and car payments,
and her husband,
and macaroon cookies
through the lens of god's love for her.

and when she knows she is loved,
she can love her life and the people in it.

and that is what i want.

and that, is what, at the end of the day,
i believe anonymous expressed that he wants.

and i hope, that is what
angry, sad bridesmaid wants too.

now, take this delicious recipe
and cook it for a friend.
pour a nice glass of wine
and put on some good music
and feel the knife in your hand,
as you slice through the shallots
and mushrooms.

then sit down
and give your friend some marscapone and mushroom risotto
and remind them that regardless of whether you are sitting on the floor
and eating off of a cardboard box,
or dining at the white house off of gold-plated plates,
that you are loved
and that is
the only
reason why you were able to
enjoy your wine
and your music

and then
tell them that they are loved
and that you really want them to enjoy every last bite
of their risotto
and their life.

1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce)
1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth
Cooking spray
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
3/4 cup chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine boiling water and mushrooms; let stand 10 minutes or until soft. Drain through a colander over a bowl. Reserve 1 1/4 cups soaking liquid, and chop mushrooms.
Bring soaking liquid and broth to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat.

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add rice, shallots, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine, and cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).

Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Add mushrooms, cheeses, thyme, salt, and pepper; stir gently just until the cheese melts. Serve warm.

4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 198(28% from fat); FAT 6.1g (sat 3.2g,mono 1g,poly 0.3g); PROTEIN 8.9g; CHOLESTEROL 15mg; CALCIUM 113mg; SODIUM 449mg; FIBER 1.2g; IRON 1.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 27g

Kathleen Kanen , Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2005


Blogger kelli said...

I want to stand up and applaud!
Thanks Cara, for your honesty and for a reminder that drives right through my heart.

1:07 PM, December 06, 2007  
Blogger stacymac said...

i miss you...you offer a wonderful, refreshing friendship.

8:12 AM, December 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cara,

Katie here... I liked this post because it's all something I've thought about off and on - authenticity vs. a cheerful attempt at something better than what I feel at the moment, time off vs. working, the value of time, the value of money, what we do with our efforts, our time, our money. There's a Ben Folds song with the line "Being poor was not such a drag in hindsight", and I think that's true. When we can easily say that we don't have enough money, time, friends, dates, whatever - we can easily convince ourselves that this is the source of our discomfort. There's a simplicity to our goals: making enough money to pay the rent will make me happier! Having someone to spend Saturday night dancing with will make me happier! Whatever. But when you fill in the blanks and still find a hole in yourself, that's a different animal. The hole is there whether the other things are or not... we can do something about it or try to ignore it from any circumstances. I definitely applaud your efforts to look at it honestly. We can all learn from each other as we do this.

love 'n hello from Albuquerque!


10:05 AM, December 07, 2007  
Blogger Melanie said...

there are no words.

i love you, cara.

you are a beautiful person.

9:29 AM, December 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cara,
It sounds like you really enjoyed this recipe! I had fun creating it. It has been a while since I made it so I'm going to try it tonight. The weather here in Birmingham is turning cooler now- perfect for heartier fare. I enjoyed your blog.

Take care,

2:12 PM, October 17, 2008  

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