When anxiety keeps me from sleeping, the only thing I can think of to distract myself from having a breakdown is reorganizing my herbs and spices. This distraction has never failed to calm me down. Head bowed, body curving over the cutting board, left hand gripping the edge of the counter, my right hand holding a jar of something that never fails to remind me of home.
Orlando, my mother’s kitchen, both of us trying (and failing) to make cookies out of the book of recipes she brought to the US from her home more than twenty years ago; we argued and laughed the entire time – and although the batch didn’t turn out well, the batter was so, so good. In Oviedo, my dad’s kitchen, making a mixture of herbs and zests for the first time. Buchs Switzerland, my grandmother’s garden, where everything has its place; her soft, sing-song voice instructing me on the types of vegetables she has and how to take care of them. Jacksonville, with my aunt, picking out fresh herbs and vegetables, discussing our meal plans, barely containing our eagerness to eat.
This month has not been kind to me; this morning was the fifth time I could be found re-organizing my herbs and spices. Today I chose to organize them by my cooking style – since I primarily make pastas and rice dishes, those spices – whole, ground and blended – are displayed beautifully on the far right corner of the counter. I rarely bake, so my extracts, sweet, and nutty spices are shelved with my cake pans and sugars.
With each spice being put in their new place, my worries and negative thoughts are being replaced by assurance and love. My right hand stops shaking by the time I slide turmeric next to the ground rosemary; there’s no need to worry on whether or not a potential employer will ignore my disability and give me a chance to prove myself, it has happened twice before, it will happen again – I am intelligent, passionate and will be a credit to any company. My left hand unclenches, feeling slowly coming back, as I slide ground thyme next to the red pepper flakes; there’s no need to worry about money, I will have a job soon, then not only will I be able to help myself, but my mom as well. The tension in my shoulders relax as I slide ground basil next to the dill weed; my friend won’t have to leave the country she has found so much freedom in, she’ll find a job, be sponsored and will be able to finally relax. My head is raised when I slide bay Leaves next to the oregano; soon I will find a doctor who will prescribe the right medicine for my tension headaches – medicine that won’t have side effects that are worse than the pain of the headaches. My breathing is uninterrupted and regular when I slide the ground ginger next to the creole seasoning; I am okay and I will be okay.
“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” –Ernestine Ulmer
“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” –Lewis Grizzard
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” –Virginia Woolf