I made a promise to someone and I broke it. I told my tenant, Scott, that I would alter the hem on his pants. I started on it and realized that it was much harder than I thought it would be. I put it down for a day when I would have more time, but every day there seemed to be something else to do. The difficulty factor began to compound in my head. Those pants lay on the table day after day, intimidating me. I started to become a little embarrassed about it when I would see Scott. A bit of discomfort began to grow between us until one day he broke.
“K – I’m disappointed. You made a promise to me and I think it’s crappy for you to break it. If there are true circumstances that keep you from it, I would understand. But lame excuses don’t fly with me.” I could tell he was angry by the way his mass of strawberry blond curls puffed up like my kitty’s when he’s pissed. “Just fucking tell me if you don’t want to do them, it’s fine. I will take them somewhere else.” There was a little kitty growl to his voice that was even more intimidating than the pants on the table. I began to feel angry at his anger. ‘He’s an adult,’ I thought. ‘He should be discussing this differently. It’s just a pair of pants.’ But I knew it wasn’t about the pants at all and I am an adult too.
I took a deep breath and in the calmest, strongest voice I could muster I said, “You’re right.” No tears of embarrassment, no meek, cracking voice, no reaction to his anger.
He stared at me and I stared at him.
“You are right. I said I would do something and I didn’t. That’s shitty. You have every right to be upset and disappointed.”
“That’s not what I expected you to say.”
“Me neither, but it’s the truth. I’m not going to make lame excuses. I said I would do them because I wanted to when you asked. I will set aside time right now and get it done for you.” Those words felt good. I was suddenly very free from all of my embarrassment and the pants now lay quiet on the table. “That is if you have time now, because I would like to fit them on you to make sure I get it right.” I felt…powerful, comfortable, like the person I always hope I can rise up to be.
“Sure,” he said.”Thank you.” His voice was soft and purry.
We’ve all faced those moments where something small and silly threatens to become something big and ugly. Moments of embarrassment where our first inclination is to defend ourselves, when we hate to admit that we allowed feelings about other parts of our lives bring us to behave badly toward someone else, when we started something that became more difficult than we thought and we chose to run away from it instead of addressing our own feelings of inadequacy or fear of failure. And there are moments when our behavior is just plain shitty.
But of course, pants are easy and it’s easier to nip these issues in the bud before a build up of history and hurt. JJ always has disingenuous excuses and an inclination to run when things get hard or turn out to be different than he first imagined. I doubt he even knows what he’s doing or how to do anything differently. And it was not just with me, it’s probably the way he has learned to save feelings and save face. The problem is, it really doesn’t in the end. It feeds the monster of mis-understandings. It causes more anxiety and more hurt until it seems the only way to relieve it is to push someone away or not let anyone get close at all. In retrospect, I should have gone to Scott and said those words, not waited for him to come to me, disappointed and angry. Will JJ ever come to me and lay claim to his shortcomings? Will he stop making the excuses that keep him caught in a cycle that creates mountains out of mole-hills until the problems seem insurmountable? Will he choose to do something different with me, a makeover rather than a makeup? I don’t know. He is a kind, beautiful and smart boy, but still just a boy.
Then there are the truly mean and terrible things, like the husband who dropped me at the front door of the hospital, looked me in the eye and said, “I’m going to take Kai to the park. I think this will be too scary for him.” He drove off with out a hug or a kiss or even a mention of hope for my well-being and my little son waved “bye-bye” to me out the window. As I lay there in the MRI machine, listening to it clicking away, scanning my head to see if there was something terrible growing in there that might take me from my family and from my life, I felt very afraid and very alone. I threw up when I found out later that they did indeed go to the park…to visit his girlfriend. What an amazing feat it would be for him to come to me and say, “You are right, my behavior was beyond shitty. Whether I love you or not, I am going to treat you with respect from now on.” Instead he throws salvos of blame and anger at me, probably wishing the divorce would have made me go away so he doesn’t have to ever look me in the eye again. Do I think he will ever come to me and lay claim to his shortcomings? Not in my lifetime.
Risotto with Squash and Sage (GF, VG), This is off the BBC’s Good Food site, from a series called ‘The Ultimate Makeover’
- Piece of butternut squash
- 3½ pint low-salt vegetable stock
- 4 slices dried porcini mushroom
- 2½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 6 sage leaves, finely chopped (plus extra leaves to garnish)
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 12 oz carnaroli rice (or arborio rice)
- 3½ fl oz dry white wine
- handful flatleaf parsley , chopped
- 2 oz Parmesan, grated
- 2 tbsp light mascarpone
- Halve the squash lengthways, then scoop out the seeds. Peel, then cut the flesh into about 2.5cm pieces. Pour the stock into a pan, add the porcini, then bring to a gentle simmer.
- Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a heavy, wide pan. Add the onion, garlic, sage, thyme and squash, then gently fry for about 10 mins until the squash is almost tender, stirring occasionally, so it doesn’t stick or burn. With the heat on medium, tip the rice into the squash. Keep stirring for 3-4 mins to toast it without colouring. Pour in the wine and stir everything for 1 min.
- Start to add the hot stock (leaving the porcini behind) – this process should take 18-20 mins, so put a timer on if it helps. Stir in 1O ladles and adjust the heat so it simmers. Keep stirring and scraping down the sides. Once the first lot of stock has been absorbed, add another ladleful, continuing to stir to keep the risotto creamy. Continue adding and stirring in a ladleful of stock as each previous one is absorbed (it’s ready for more when you drag the spoon across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a clear line).
- As the last of the stock goes in (keep a little back) check if the rice is ready – it should be soft with a bit of chew in the middle – and the consistency fluid. Season with pepper.
- Take the pan off the heat. Add a splash of the stock to keep the risotto moist, scatter over the parsley and half the Parmesan, then spoon on the mascarpone. With the lid on, let the risotto sit for 3-4 mins to rest.
- Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a small frying pan. Add the sage leaves, then fry for a few secs until starting to colour. Transfer to kitchen paper with a slotted spoon to drain. Spoon the risotto into bowls, then scatter over the rest of the Parmesan and the crisp sage leaves.
‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ – Gandhi