Some days feel a little off-kilter. Nothing you can put your finger on. The shower doesn’t get hot fast enough. It’s cloudy when you’re wishing for sun. You look at the clock too often, acutely aware of how long it takes to get from 2:30 to 2:40.
Other days are the opposite. You catch the subway seconds before the doors close, every time. You feel buoyant and chatty: The cashiers all smile at you. Your coffee tastes better than yesterday. The pear sitting on your kitchen counter has ripened perfectly, dripping juice down your fingers when you eat it outside in the sun.
Lots of days fall somewhere in the middle. They don’t swell with the heady rush of newness. They aren’t full of surprises, or very high highs. But they’re good, nonetheless. And those rare, golden, brilliant, bubbling-over-with-joy days wouldn’t feel nearly as good without a counterpoint. Not a low, per se, but instead a string of solid days: content, busy, full.
Here’s something you should know. It takes an unusual set of circumstances to summon those golden days—a brand new job offer, a first kiss, a handwritten letter arriving in your mailbox, the first day of a week-long vacation—and those aren’t often in our control (entirely). But you are very much able to create those simple, well-lived days in between. You can’t stop hard things from happening (life!), but you can prepare yourself to confront them calmly. You make yourself the strongest version of yourself, for this very reason. You have your own methods, don’t you?
Maybe one of these: Take a run every other morning, even when you’re tired. Go to yoga. Meditate, even if it feels frustratingly impossible to clear your buzzing mind. Read a newspaper front to back, even the dull sections, just to stay connected. And to get better at cocktail party conversation. Read the front section of the Economist too, because it’s probably good to know the names of more world leaders (seriously, name the president of Chile. Go.).
You practice the little things. Send handwritten letters, so you’ll get them in return. (Side note: Is there anything nicer than real mail? Can we all revive this together? Write me a letter.) Plant pink geraniums in your flower pots. Inadvertently spill potting soil onto your neighbor’s patio four flights down – sorry, tenants of 1R! Paint your nails the same electric pink as your geraniums. Make tea with extra honey. Make a smoothie with extra kale, because your sister does and she’s smart.
As the afternoon fades into evening, sit outside in the dusky air and listen to people coming home from work. Don’t just order, out of tiredness, from the tiny hummus restaurant downstairs, even though you love walking down the crumbling stairs and pushing through the door into the warm, cumin-scented kitchen. Make something; use your hands; rescue the nearly wilted kale in your crisper.
Don’t overthink it. Start with the base: Peel and dice a sweet potato into little pieces. Do this not for looks, but because it cooks faster and you are impatient. Swirl coconut oil into a hot pan, slide the potatoes in in one deft motion. Okay, you spilled one. Okay, a few. Shit. That didn’t work the way it was going to in your head. Carry on.
Season the potatoes and keep the heat high, so the edges crisp and brown and the insides stay creamy and soft.
Transfer them to a plate. Survey the contents of your refrigerator. Wait, wait. Turn on some music first. Put on the song “Weak” by Wet, because you like the lyrics immensely. More importantly, you actually know the lyrics and you will be singing out loud momentarily.
Brown some garlic and chopped zucchini in olive oil until they soften slightly. Add a large pinch (a teaspoon? Who’s counting?) of ras el hanout and a few spoonfuls of tomato paste. Cook, standing at the stove in your bare feet to stir, until the tomato sauce darkens from bright red into a brownish crimson. Add ground lamb and chopped kale. More stirring. Put the song on repeat. Are you feeling creative yet? Like the confident domestic goddess you (almost) certainly are? Good. Then go ahead and add some chopped dates to the pan, and a cup of water, and keep cooking until it gets saucy (that’s a word you like).
It’s ready, and you could just eat it with a spoon standing over the pan. But you won’t. You’ll take out your favorite dish, the one that can’t decide if it wants to be a bowl or a plate. Mix thick strained yogurt with lemon juice and swipe it cleanly across half the plate. Add the potatoes and the lamb. A handful of torn mint leaves on top because damn you are fancy. You can have a glass of wine too, see previous sentence.