Ever have a food craving? Hard-core, have to have it right this second, drool spilling from the corner of your mouth kind of craving? Today was one of those days. Kefta was callin’ m’name.
The craving started while driving home from a marathon of weekend recitals: I couldn’t find anything to listen to on the radio, and if I heard one more art song, pop song or musical theater song, road rage was sure to take over. So, in the spirit of goodwill toward my fellow road warriors, I opted for the iPod and pulled up some Amr Diab, Egyptian pop star. Perfect.
If you’re unfamiliar with this gloriously spicy Middle Eastern meat magnificence, let me be the first to invite you to try them. Immediately. Ground beef and/or lamb mixed with copious amounts of onions and fresh parsley, a myriad of spices, then formed, sausage-like sans casing, onto a skewer and grilled to juicy perfection. I wanted them so badly that I decided today would be my foray into homemade kefta. My house smells divine, thanks for asking.
As I was preparing dinner, I started thinking, as cooking generally causes me to do: first, about my Egyptian friend who turned me on to Amr Diab in the first place; then, about the last time I was at Alhambra Palace in Chicago’s West Loop, where I stunned my friends by knowing all the words to Nour El Ain, enjoyed intricate Moorish artwork, ate more Lebanese and Moroccan food than should be socially acceptable, and got giggly when the belly dancers came out onto the floor; and finally, about two relationships that were obliterated by poor judgement, stubbornness and a façade more brilliant than a politician’s on the campaign trail.
HOLD THE FALAFEL…. whaaaaat was that last part?!
As I mentioned, cooking makes me think. More precisely, it causes me to reminisce. I think this is true for quite a lot of people. The act of preparing a dish sparks memories of dinner prep with family members or friends, or the smells bring us back to a place when we first had the meal we’re now making. Whatever causes the correlation, it smacked me upside the head tonight like… well, like a smack upside the head.
It’s been my goal to share with you the trials I’ve endured and how I’ve come through them, as many of you have gone, or are going, through similar situations. It’s only fitting that I finally get to this topic: dating too soon post-divorce.
“When is too soon?” you are certainly asking. Well, it’s different for everyone, isn’t it? Some folks get divorced and have someone waiting in the wings. Others shy away from relationships of any substance altogether for months or even years. Then there are the poor shlubs who are neither here nor there, who think they’re doing alright, getting along fairly well, dating and being social like all the other adults do.
But are they really alright? And exactly how well are they getting along?
With hind-sight being 20/20 and all, my night of kefta-making turned into the realization that I am one of those poor shlubs. Reality is harsh. I got to thinking about two relationships I had in the first two years after the divorce. Both men were wonderful, fun, intelligent, goofy, and prettier than I could ever hope to be. They were both similar and starkly different, and yet somehow I made the exact same mistakes with them both: I hadn’t done the hard work of making myself a better and more whole version of me before getting involved with either of them. I pawned myself off as Little Miss Laissez-faire, or, better still, Miss Happy Go-Lucky, lesser known, irresponsible sister of Holly Golightly.
After I cleaned up the kitchen (dinner was a success, but more attempts are needed to make it perfect), I went through the photos on my laptop in search of said fellows. Finding them was bittersweet; I am fortunate to still call one of them my dear friend; the other, however, I’ve not spoken to in five years. It was hard to look at pictures of us when we were “happy,” knowing how they both would end. I could hear logical-Nicki in my mind, raising the eyebrow and asking who was the common denominator.
It would be very easy to say the relationships weren’t a good fit, that we were the wrong people, that one didn’t understand me, or the other was too much like my ex-husband. Though all those things may be true, the real truth lies in accepting that I was the one who was not in a stable enough emotional state to venture into these relationships in the first place. I broke three hearts during those two years: those of two darling men, and my own… twice. Way to go, Pinocchio.
When we have made an abrupt change in our lives, it is our responsibility to take the time to assess our own part in what caused that change, and ask ourselves “was I irrational, did I blame others, am I being stubborn, do I have a lack of self-control, or a lack of love of self, or did it boil down to fear?”
For me, fear was the catalyst which led to all the others in that list above. I was afraid to be myself because I wasn’t sure who that woman was. I couldn’t admit to myself that I needed to be alone to figure it out. Most importantly, I was stubbornly fearful to face my own part in the divorce and how that translated into who I was, am, and would become, especially in the context of the success or failure of future relationships.
This evening, I sent a brief email to the man with whom I’ve not spoken. It was an apology, five years in the making. Though it will not be enough (when is it ever?), I needed to take responsibility for my part in the tragic end of our relationship, as it was directly related to my not having taken enough responsibility in the ending of the last one.
Catharsis is a good thing: it can build character, and if done for the right reasons, it can build humility. Our need to appear fixed, fine, happy, content is much like one of our crazy food cravings. It causes us to forego self-control, and instead, opt for the quick pay-off. Isn’t it funny how we always feel guilty afterward? Hmmm…
The next time I have a kefta craving, I’ll still be thinking about Alhambra, and listening to Habibi Ya Nour El Ain, but I’ll also be thinking about this post, how writing it down made the truth tangible, causing me to own my mistakes, and apologize accordingly. And then, I’ll have my feast!