I had a lovely apple and walnut green salad and fresh burrata and basil pizza and just water please, with a slice of lemon lunch last Monday with 2 friends from high school. Lunching with my 58 or 59 and above friends is so much more meaningful now. On different stages of our lives, both of them already grandmas — one just widowed, but already picking herself up and getting back on track with her projects. The other (the good news first is that she only recently got engaged and already making plans to wed next year) is in town for a visit, to be with her in-his-80s father who just finished a round of chemotherapy. And I am just settling down in a new home – about time, my friends say. We are happy to be where we are now. We agree on One Day At A Time (hey, can that be a mantra? “Odaat…..” ) and while we are smarter now to not dwell on the seemingly world-ending episodes of our lives, we still acknowledge the presence of uninvited frequent twin guests, Duty and Guilt. We have spent most of our years, being the Dutiful daughter, the Dutiful wife, the Dutiful mother and still, we wrestle with self fault-finding Guilt for not having done enough when, in fact, we know in our heart of hearts, that we have indeed done the best we could. And, “So,” I ask my visiting friend while waiting for someone to come take our order, “what do we do with this GUILT thing?” I secretly want to play the blame game and she gives me an answer, an acceptable solution. “GUILT. When you feel it coming, say ‘Oh hello, Guilt.’” She pats the empty space next to her, inviting, “Have a seat. But …,” she says something like “I have other things to do or think about and so, really, you can’t stay.” Now, why didn’t I think of that? There is no blame, no rush to resolve, no martyr-like, chest-beating drama. I am almost tempted to say it’s very ZEN. Well, there, I said it. I thank her, or did I just exclaim a winning “YES!” for this compassionate technique. She smiles and cocks her head and I read in her eyes that she must have done this more than a few times to know that Guilt doesn’t really go away for good and, like all things we think that are troubling us, it just comes and goes. We make peace with our Guilt for not doing more, at least for now.
The salad and pizza are served at the same time, and my just-widowed friend says a prayer of thanks for the friendship, and blessings for the hands the prepared our meal. The salad does not need a lot of tossing as the dressing has been carefully drizzled on the greens, fresh tomatoes and onions, sliced apples, slivers of cheese and no, I did not imagine the sprinkle of roasted walnuts. We help ourselves, and I think to myself how strange that “Salad days” is a time of joyful youth and wild imagination and indiscretion when today, our order of fresh salad, no longer represents a life without experience and youthful folly but rather a bowlful of carefully thought out mix of vegetables and nuts, and some protein; each ingredient helping bring out the best flavor of the other. That, for me now, is a Salad day.
The lunch does not go over an hour and a half (because we each had something else to do at 2pm) and between bites of our pizza with fresh burrata and basil leaves, we remind each other to TRUST in the goodness that is to come, never mind the short visits of our sense of Duty and Guilt. We first agree on this second chance to live our lives, this time to go on the next part of our journey with Purpose and Joy. What? My widowed friend laughs, I am on my third chance! And we laugh with her.
We split the bill, give each other hugs and go on our separate ways, for now. So much care, love and wisdom and sweetness served at lunch. No wonder we forgot to order dessert.
- delish salad photo by Inky Dario; follow him on Instagram 🙂 ink.stagram