Carolyn Wing Greenlee

Reading Your Life

It was hard for me to decide what to post today. I have so many stories clamoring that they’re like a bunch of noisy, impatient, pushy people all trying to squeeze out a narrow doorway at the same time. What keeps coming up most, however, is food. These days I’m not cooking comfort foods; I’m not even cooking familiar foods. I’m tossing ingredients together in daring combinations. I’ve been pondering the reason for this. Maybe now that my husband and my father are happily in Heaven and I don’t have to worry about them anymore, I have creative energy to spare. Or maybe I’m working out a different approach to life—one which is not afraid of daring combinations. This website is one of the latest offerings I’ve cooked up.

When I was writing Steady Hedy, I chose to include the trip to Monterey that my friend Stephanie and I made after many years of talking about it. I wanted to show how the training in orientation and mobility I was getting from Blind Services was translating into a sense of adventure and enablement.

When I found myself mentioning the restaurants, I almost cut it out of the story, but I knew those nice meals were really important to me, though I didn’t know why. Here’s where the book goes past the retelling of events into the significance of them. I call it “reading your life.” When something comes up in your writing (or you find yourself back in the kitchen again) what does it really mean? It isn’t always readily apparent, but if you’re willing to sink into the subject—observing without imposing preconceived ideas of its significance, letting it interpret itself—you’ll know. That’s when the writing helps you understand the meaning of events in your life. That’s why I find writing so therapeutic.

Here’s the excerpt from Chapter 2 of Steady Hedy:

Later in the week we visited art galleries and found terrific restaurants. Both filled our souls. There’s something about a really good meal that lifts the spirits faster and higher than just about any other daily necessity. Why is that? When my mom could still eat solid food, my dad would take her to Hometown Buffet twice a week on the days they had the barbecued ribs. Those ribs pleased her so much that even if she was in a very bad mood the taste of those ribs changed her. In a matter of minutes she’d go from depressed and frustrated to cheerful and hopeful. I had theories about the effects of food on Mom’s mood based on the vagus nerve—sort of a neurological reset—but it was different for me. When I was small, my parents had taken the family to many Five Star restaurants and ethnic holes-in-the wall so my sister and I could experience all manner of great food, know how to deport ourselves, be open minded to unfamiliar cuisine, and be comfortable in all manner of places. So when Stephanie and I sat down to fabulous food, I remembered that my world was not small. I saw the truth in what God had whispered to me on several occasions—“It’s not a box. It only looks like a box.” The walls of my future had been closing in on me. Now, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the blindness, I was going and doing, seeing and tasting the unfamiliar. Instead of being trapped in crushing reduction I was breathing in the fresh air of possibilities.

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