In Pursuit of Life

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Last night, I started a tradition. Sunday Night Dinner. It’s really an idea I’ve had for the longest time, long before this year even began. I think a large part of it can be attributed to being raised as an only child, in a family of adults. Dinner was rarely eaten around the table – each person off in their own room, engrossed in a book or the news or silence.

I didn’t discover my love for the kitchen until I left home, and when I fell in love, I fell hard. I love good food – making it, eating it, sharing it. I love the thought that goes into planning a meal and executing it. I love the community that is built and strengthened over food whether at home or out somewhere. I love entertaining people in my space – I feel warm, and maternal, and incredibly joyful when I get to fill people’s bellies with delicacies from my kitchen. It just feels right, like I’m reflecting the image of my Father when I create something cohesive and delicious out of previously unrelated ingredients.

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When I was in New York a few weeks ago, I complained loudly to my best friend about all the things I wasn’t satisfied with back in Denver. The list was embarrassingly long. And then she said something that sounded very much like my old therapist. She said, “Well, just go do stuff by yourself. Or start XYZ and invite other people.” That’s the polite version of “Get off your butt, quit complaining about everything, and go get what you want.”

So I did. Last night, my little apartment was filled with food, people, laughter, and the sounds of Billy Joel filling the empty spaces between our words. We sat on the floor around my coffee table because my dining table wasn’t big enough. I lit candles and danced around my kitchen as I chopped onions and sautéed Italian sausage in a giant skillet. And I thought, man, this is good.  A number of my favorite things – food, conversations, and laughter – were happening in that room all at the same time because I got off my butt and invited people to join me in celebrating life and each other. Who knew it was that easy?

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Amidst all of this, I’m learning to truly accept and own parts of myself that don’t always seem to fit into this Colorado culture. I’m learning to be okay admitting that I’m the girl who’d rather read a book/bake cupcakes/go to a jazz bar and drink scotch/ride bikes for hours, and not the girl who wants to hike a 14-er or go camping or skiing. It’s easy to feel subpar and silly around people who idolize the outdoors. If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked, “You live in Colorado and you don’t [insert some outdoor activity here]? What’s wrong with you?”

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Instead of feeling subpar and consequently complaining about it, I’m taking my best lady’s advice and just doing the things that bring me life. I’m going to spend my summer valuing and loving this quiet heart that prefers a different kind of adventure. So while my friends are out hiking and climbing, I’m going to take myself on a food tour of Denver. I’ll learn Spanish, finally, and then I’ll go salsa dancing and practice the language while I’m breathlessly reacquainting my hips with the rhythms of the merengue. I’ll read lots of grand books, maybe even join a summer book club where we drink wine and talk about our opinions about whatever great literary work we’re reading. I’ll find a band and play music again for the first time in almost two years. I’ll do the hour-long bike ride along the river from my apartment to Downtown Denver. I’ll take little weekend adventures to beautiful places in order to hold on to my sense of wonder and awe. I’ll learn how to brew beer, and I’ll feel so damn proud of myself. And every Sunday at 6pm, my house, my heart, and my belly will be filled with the goodness of God in the form of people and food. Man, this life is a good one. There are no complaints here.

“I live according to my faith when I love a meal that has been prepared carefully, when I notice texture and color and taste, when I let the flavor and scent of something fresh from the ground surprise me and bring me back to life. I demonstrate my theology when I dance all night with people I love, because this life is worth the best celebration we can offer up to it. I thank God every time I eat crusty bread and garlicky olives, and when I smell clean laundry and hear that little squeak of fingers on a guitar. For me, what God said when he made the world is a prayer: It is good. This world, it is good. The beauty of a perfect green apple is good. The first steps of a child are good. Watching my grandparents dance in their kitchen is good. It is good.”
– Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines.