This weekend, I was excited to learn of, and attend, the Seattle Food and Wine Experience at Seattle Center. Over 100 wineries and 21 restaurants were on hand to share their creations. For the food-obsessed, like me, it was like going to fantasy baseball camp. Except, you know, no sports.
In most matters food-related, I've found myself incredibly pleased and humbled to find that Seattle is truly a first-class city and Sunday's event was no exception. I was just thrilled to be able to try dishes from restaurants I've always been intimidated by, and better yet, to speak with the chefs whose job it is to create the art that brings me such joy. I've been told by a few people that my passion for food should make me a restaurant critic, not a doctor, but how could I? I'd be hard-pressed to find a food I don't like, a recipe without some redeeming value, or a chef who doesn't enjoy what he or she does or is unable to translate that joy into a tangible creation.
Now, today is the birthday of one of my dear friends, someone who always has a positive attitude, who always seems to be just leaving for, or getting back from, some party or event and is continually updating his status on Facebook to remind us of what wonderful things he's done that he is grateful for.
I'm going to interrupt myself for a minute here. I understand that sometimes the "Pollyanna" act gets a little tiring for those around me. My closest friends know that my gratitude and the positive outlook haven't always been in evidence. I'm not irrationally idealistic. I do have a grasp on reality and am not a big fan of "manifestation" as it has evolved from some layperson's application of quantum physics to the latest feel-good craze of the self-helpers. And yes, I have mini-freakouts over things that I can't change and that my closest friends endure with grace. The subjects of these "freakouts"? Some are a product of not meeting social expectations of a woman "my age", others are too personal to go into here. I'm sure everyone has them and it's not just my own personal brand of crazy. Mostly.
That said, I've been wondering lately why I'm so happy with my life, why things seem to be going the right way (mostly, with switchbacks, dead ends, and occasional misdirection impeding the direct forward progress at times), and where this all leaves me as a pragmatic atheistic idealist. What have I done to myself that makes me wake up every morning with the first thought generally being "Today, I'm grateful for..."?Which can be a real bitch when you wake up wanting to be grumpy.
I've come to the conclusion that, for myself, I got really TIRED of feeling sorry for myself. It got boring (and probably did so a long time ago for those people with whom I shared my self-pity). I've been through a number of different classes looking for THE way to be successful, THE way to be positive and THE way to get what I wanted out of my life. I traveled all over the world, mostly by myself, to varying cultures where people had so much less than me but so much more to offer in terms of new experiences, wonderful shared meals and also, sadly, opportunites for me to see how much better off I was than some and how grateful I "should" be for the gifts in my life of family, friends, health, and having my basic human needs met. I mean, getting TIRED of something because how many times can you hear your mind tell itself the same sob story over and over again. An exercise I did in one of my classes: to write down something that had happened to you, something you were feeling sorry about, and reading it over and over again to a nonjudgmental partner until you couldn't bear to read it anymore. Mine took three recitations. Others took one, or fifteen recitations before they were done.
I have friends who see the reasons to be sad and angry, perceive slights and insults at every turn, and turn their disappointment inward toward themselves in self-destructive and painful behaviors. I wish that there were a way to share what I've learned about myself with them, but I don't know how and I don't want them to see it as another person putting them down, or confirming what they feel about themselves. But I will say that, even if I can't open their eyes to how wonderful they are, how much they have to be grateful for (which truly includes the talents and gifts that they themselves have and how much they mean to the people close to them), I'm still glad that I can continue to be grateful for them in my life. Maybe at some point, they'll realize that I'm pretty damn smart and if I see something great, maybe something great is there.
So, today, I think about how grateful I am that there are places like Perche No, Campagne, Andaluca, the Palace Kitchen, Pearl, and other amazing places where artists can share their creations with me. I'm grateful for friends who understand what I mean when I talk about food as art and as one of my preferred methods of communication. And, at the risk of sounding proud, I'm grateful that I'm a hard worker and dedicated to what I do so I am able to visit them when I can. I'm grateful for the ability to taste.