Something’s Cooking

Days 34-41: Imagine that life is like a big restaurant, and the
meals it serves to each person are symbollic of elements such as their career, relationships, family, living situation… Two people sit down at a table in the restaurant of life. The first is extremely hungry and doesn’t bother to look at a menu, instead asking the waiter to bring whatever they recommend. The second person spends a long time looking over the menu, asking questions about each dish and then requesting certain ingredients be added or removed so it is exactly to their liking.

The waiter returns with a meal for the first person that is quite tasty, but not completely satisfying. (This is like being delivered a partner, a job, an apartment that is perfectly acceptable, but somehow not quite right for you.) The second friend recieves a meal that is almost perfect but slightly undercooked, and sends it back. When the dish is returned the second person is very happy, having recieved just what they wanted and they rave about how delicious it is. The first friend wonders if they should have sent their food back and ordered something they really want, but not wanting to be difficult decides to simply smile and pretend to enjoy it.

Are you the first or second person?

Over the last year I have sent back a lot of dishes, from quitting a job that was making me miserable to cutting ties with people who are all give and no take. But while I know what I don’t want, I still often find it very difficult to ask for what it is I do want. However, I’m getting better and I’ve even realised that sometimes you can do one better than asking. Sometimes you can simply walk into the kitchen and cook up your own meal.

This week the kindness project has had me donating money to Wires, baking brownies for my extended family, buying a takeaway pizza for a guy working at 7/11 who was starving and unable to leave the shop, sending a bunch of flowers to my Mum at work for her birthday, baking a cheesecake for a friend who is going through a hard time, buying a big box of organic fruit and vegetables and attending Red Cross volunteering. Undertaking this project has allowed me to cook up something I really want – that is, for each day of my life to be surprising, challenging, inspiring, and full of kindness. Yum.

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Embracing My Inner Hippie

 

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.” ~ Hal Borland

Days 17-19: There is something incredibly appealing to me about the hippie movement of the 1960s. Its not just about the music or the clothes but more importantly the peace-and-love ideology in a time of chaos and upheaval all over the world. Over the last few days, I have been happily embracing my innner hippie, slowing life down to cook with love and get reacquainted with Mother Nature.

On Thursday I had a hot cross bun baking day, making three different types (traditional, mocha and white chocolate with cranberries). I then played Easter Bunny and made deliveries to very appreciative friends and family.  This process took up almost the whole day and it would certainly have been far quicker and easier to go out and buy the buns. However, I think it precisely because we live in a culture obsessed with convenience that there is something wonderfully nurturing – for both cook and recipient -about slow food cooked with patience and love.

Friday was Earth Day and in acknowledgement of this I decided to be kind to the enviroment any way I could. I used green bags at the supermarket, took my own eco cup to the coffee shop, did not turn on lights unless absolutely necessary, read a book instead of watching television and even put a timer on to ensure I didn’t spend more than five minutes in the shower. I also made sure I took the time to appreciate the lovely little offerings Mother Earth presented:

Going for a bush walk early in the morning I noticed the crisp Autumn air and crunchiness of newly-fallen leaves beneath my feet. I was reminded how lucky I am to live in a city surrounded by beautiful little pockets of nature. In the middle of the day was thankful for sunshine (as I always am!) and t-shirt level warmth outside of Summertime. Later I took a few minutes to appreciate a stunning pale pink and burnt orange sunset bursting through gathering storm clouds. And then, as I was walking home through a clear starry night – the clouds had gone to visit some other part of the world – I recieved a message from a friend telling me to look at the moon. And it was gorgeous; a mammoth full circle resting lazily on the horizon.

All this nature loving made me think about something else I had been procrastinating about for quite a while. So on Saturday I signed up for Bushcare, a community volunteer program helping to regenerate and preserve bushland. They have an under-35s group in my local area that meets up once a month to work on a specific project. Though this is a very small stone in a very large pond of enviromental issues, it feels good to have committed myself to positive action on a regular basis. Sometimes the problems we have created for our earth can seem overwhelming and impossible to fix, particularly when there are still so many people who refuse to even acknowledge there is a problem, let alone do anything about it. But just like spreading kindness to people, I think its important to take little steps towards being kinder to the environment, in any way we can.

Living in a world of ‘peace-and-love’ is in many ways an absurd and impossible notion, and yet I think it will always be something we strive for. Just as any Star Wars fan will tell you, there will always be a balance of good and evil. Cooking slow food does not stop fast food, being kind does not stop rudeness, turning off one light does not stop global warming, and placing flowers in guns doesn’t stop wars. But each of these things provides a powerfully positive counterpoint to the other, reminding us that while we may not have the power to take away the bad in the world, we most certainly can contribute to the good.

Say Yes

Days 13-16: There is an idea that luck is something that finds us. That when good things happen – meeting an amazing partner, landing a dream job, having great friends – it’s just plain lucky. There is another perspective that you make your own luck through hard work and applying yourself. There is probably an element of truth to each of these theories. However, today I begun to consider whether one of the most important factors in luck is simply being open to accepting it when it comes our way. But more on that later, first to my other recent kindnesses which were all revolving around food in some form:

On Sunday I cooked a nice meal for my Mum, did the washing up, made her a cup of tea and watched a political documentary with her (without complaining or requesting a channel change once!) It’s the little things, afterall …

Continuing on the cooking theme, on Monday I made hot cross buns from scratch with the two-year-old I nanny for. He adores cooking, although amusingly he is generally so excited by the idea of it that he can barely stand still long enough to actually cook anything. I have just recently entered into the big bad baking world and I must say in hindsight hot cross buns are possibly one of the most ambitious things to make. And one of the slowest, taking over two hours! Nevertheless, the time and effort only made it seem extra kind and the end result was quite delicious.

Tuesday I shouted lunch for my gorgeous cousin O. Also, upon hearing that she was looking for a good book to read on her upcoming trip overseas, I bought her a pre-loved copy of one of my all-time favourite novels ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger. Please note, in my opinion passing on a good book is not a voluntary kindness, but an absolute duty. As those who know me well can testify, I never ignore an opportunity to spread the literary love.

Then today I decided it was time to cheer up a stranger’s day. Extending on my positive affirmation post-it notes from a few weeks ago, I added some instant scratchies* to make it a really happy surprise for whoever happened to find it. I stuck positive post-its along with a scratchy in public places such as an elevator and a parking pay station. Interestingly, as I left I noticed a lady leaving the elevator empty-handed. Had she failed to see the scratchy or simply chosen not to take it? I imagined myself in the elevator, seeing the scratchie. Of course I would take it … wouldn’t I? It made me think about the idea of luck itself. Maybe there was really something to the idea that we make our own luck, simply by being open to the opportunities all around us and grabbing them with both hands. I thought of the lady who had run away when I tried to give her the flowers. Although I had been upset by her reaction, it was really her who was missing out. Her reaction of distrust and fear, her desire to ensure she was not inconvenienced in any way, meant that she denied herself of a positive experience. Perhaps flowers weren’t the only thing she was missing out on in life. In order to invite more positivity into the world, I’m starting to get that it’s important to be open to recieving as well as giving. Take the flowers, scratch the scratchie. When luck asks you a question, say yes.

* NB: Apologies to my American readers for not translating, apparently its just called a “lottery ticket” for you guys!