remembering to breathe

remembering to breathe | the merry gourmet

My mother, brother, and me.

In January, I gave myself the gift of trying a barre class. The studio offers one week of unlimited classes free when you first sign up, and after my first class, I immediately signed up for another. After the first week, I’d taken three classes and felt sore in places I didn’t think possible. I remember getting up in the middle of the night to pee and wishing that my bathroom had rails along the walls so that I could hold on as I gingerly eased myself down and then up again, holding my breath with the pain. The soreness reminded me of the existence of so many individual muscles, but I liked knowing they were there. There was potential in that pain.

This morning, I took another barre class. It was my 141st class since the year began. Toward the end of class, during the final stretching period when the lights were dimmed and the music slowed down, I found my thoughts drifting to a place outside that room. I inhaled deeply, exhaled, and brought myself back. I understood again – because I’ve known this all year, but I love when I remember it – what a true gift barre has been and how necessary it has become to me. For a solid hour of class, I have allowed myself to focus only on myself, on remembering to breathe (especially through the pain), on becoming stronger than I was when I walked in the door.

Barre has been therapy for me. I mean that figuratively, of course, but also literally. In January, I was faced with a choice of what to do with two or three spare hours of my time each week. I could either continue seeing the therapist I’d begun seeing while trying to come to terms with my mother’s alcoholism and my brother’s mental illness and drug addiction, or, I could take barre classes. For that first week, I did both – a few barre classes and a therapy session. After that week, I realized that I felt physically better, but also mentally better, after a barre class. After a therapy session, I mostly just cried. The decision was an easy one.

where i have been

where i have been | the merry gourmet

I’ve been missing from this space for so long now that when I sit down to write, it feels foreign and almost uncomfortable. It feels like I don’t know it any more, this blog that once felt like my best friend. Now, she’s like that friend from college who, as it turns out, I really don’t have much in common with these days, but I know that once, long ago, we had lots of great times together and shared all of our secrets. The conversation is now slow to start and we can’t get past the awkward silences and talking about the weather. I really want to hang out with her again, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to confide in her as openly and trustingly as I used to.

I’ve intended to write so many things over so many of these past two years, but I freaked myself out a bit. I began to think about those of you who may still be reading here (when there is something to read). I know many of you may be strangers, some of you are old friends from food blogging and social media, some of you may be friends or colleagues from my real life (as opposed to this online one), a handful of you are family or friends of the family, and a small number of you (or maybe more?) may be patients or friends of patients. I questioned whether it was good for me to be so honest and open and raw. I began to wonder whether what I share here could hurt me in any way. Or whether it could hurt someone I love.

cooking again

tortellini with italian sausage, fennel, and mushrooms | the merry gourmet

I cooked dinner for my family last night, and it feels like a major accomplishment. Other than holiday cooking and the rare episode of baking with the kids, I’ve spent more time watching my husband cook over these past several months than I’ve actually done myself. I used to call myself a weekend cook, but really, I’m not even that anymore.

I love cooking, but I’ve been in such a rut lately. I have stacks of food magazines overflowing in my living room, mostly just gathering dust and serving as unstable perches for sleeping cats. I’ve always been a devoted reader of Saveur, Food and Wine, and Fine Cooking, but when I cleaned out a stack of magazines to donate to the waiting room at work, I found unread issues from months ago. It’s embarrassing.

But yesterday, I took a copy of Saveur – the May France issue – to my kids’ tennis lessons. We’re heading to London and Paris this summer, so this issue caught my attention more than any others have lately. I split my attention between watching my kids thwack the tennis ball across the court and the glossy pages filled with recipes from Provence, Lyon, and Bordeaux. I bookmarked some pages – one of them highlighting a bakery in the Marais neighborhood we’re renting an apartment in later this summer – and imagined how wonderful it must be to be the food writer writing those essays.