The Radical Recipe Swap

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An Antidote to Dystopian Hunger

Here’s the thing. I could eat 700 pistachios, cutting up my fingers as I rip apart shells and still be starving hungry. My boredom of all chicken dishes cannot be overstated. And I feel hostage to power greens.

But more than any of this, I feel an insatiable hunger not even my wildest food fantasies could fulfill. Why? The simple truth: I have lost track of my alive self. Like there was some kind of identity traffic accident.

I walked away with my practical, task-executing self fully intact but I suffered some kind of slowly escalating soul amnesia and concussion to my inner voice.

I do all the normal self-sustaining stuff, but get lost when it comes to why.

The beginning of Dante’s The Divine Comedy has been crowding my mind.

Midway upon the journey of our life

I found myself within a forest dark,

For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

These days, there are a hundred ways to medicate out of a dark forest, a thousand apps to set you on the right path. And, with botox, cross-fit and a paleo diet, mid-life is simply a state of mind. And a rather slouchy, given-up one at that.

The idea of stepping off the cultural treadmill to explore what lies within one’s dark forest is a self-indulgent luxury bordering on social suicide.

There’s no time for that. There’s a laundry list of things that need to get done.

Now. Right now. And ways we need to be contributing to the greater good. Let’s not get all-fancy with our need to wander around in our psyche, listen to our precious little inner voice and wonder why we are here or ask what our spirit needs.

Get over it and get on with it! Early bird worm and all that.

There’s just one problem with this approach.

All that inner voice spiritual wellness psyche stuff… that’s what feeds our spirit. What gives us joy, peace and connects us to ourselves. Soul food if you will. Sure, we can still do everything without it. But nothing tastes like love or feels like freedom.

The general fear with following this woo-woo inner voice thing is that we will lose productivity, become less efficient and worse case scenario get sidetracked from our well-thought out, masterfully planned life goals and objectives.

Odds are these fears will all be confirmed.

This used to terrify me, but, I’ve finally come to a point in my life where I’m 97% sure I’m okay with that. This is quite an accomplishment since I’ve existed on a steady diet of maximum productivity for thirty years.

Now, full disclosure, the remaining 3% is not above bribery, blackmail or big carrots. BUT, I’m sick of feeling like I’m missing from my own life… like I’ve lost that fire inside. I’m bored of my predictably exhausting, repetitively futile ‘try harder’ and ‘push through’ tactics.

My list-bearing, to-do checking, higher-ground-reaching, agenda-toting, perfectionist-pushing self has become unbearably boring. I can feel an alternate self hovering nearby.

She is wildly dangerous, socially rebellious, a fiercely fantastic firefly.

I like her, want to be near her, maybe even be her.

In her book, Bird by Bird, Ann Lamott says,

Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and … you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly … or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life… It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen… Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.

If you want to shoot the moon, you have to care less. And more.

Less about that sensible, socially appropriate, politically correct, highly responsible voice of reason… and more about those daring desires and improbably idiosyncratic longings lurking in the margins.

To do this requires a willingness to enter the dark forest. And wait.

I’m always up for a good inner dragon slaying but it’s not that easy. This kind of darkness, you can’t fight your way out of. There is no timeline or Darkness Summit Event Schedule.

There is, as Dante points out, no straightforward path. But the even bigger challenge as a working mom (or human in this century living in the ‘civilized’ world) is that we have to exist in so many simultaneous spheres.

None of which subscribe to the dark forest twitter feed.

Not to get too heavy, but there seems to be a psychic split in the dense transparency of our culture that polarizes the FB-friendly, Trader Joe smiling outer self with the dark wood symbolic inner landscape of our spiritual exile.

We don’t talk about it. We want to be strong, resilient, on top of it, plugged in and ready to roll. We certainly don’t want anyone feeling sorry for us or thinking we don’t have our sh*t together, unless of course, it’s in that witty throwaway sarcastic humility that presents as even closer to perfect.

But the dark forest is essential to our well-being. We must enter it if we want to reclaim that precious spark, call it spirit or soul, or joy that makes us come alive.

So, everyday, for the past two weeks I have been sitting in the darkness, waiting to see what comes out of it instead of pushing my way through it. It is harder than I imagined but there is some crucible of truth that arises out of the stillness I have no other way of finding.

This is the radical recipe swap.

Swap out the old story of who think you should be for the new story of who you are. Leonard Cohen says it like this, “Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Find the crack. Let the light in. By continually trying to be more, I think we need up being less. One more way in…

Clearing by Martha Postlewaite

Do not try to save

the whole world

or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create

a clearing

in the dense forest

of your life

and wait there


until the song

that is your life

falls into your own cupped hands

and you recognize and greet it.

Only then will you know

how to give yourself

to this world

so worthy of rescue.


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