Don’t let me down

Commentary

You won’t often find me admitting to be in the wrong, but I think it’s high-time I face the music. My problem is that I always set the bar too high. Some of you may think that this is surely a good trait: after all, what’s wrong with a little aspiration? And better yet, how great is it when that unachievable task you set on your list is conquered and quite determinedly crossed off your list?

It’s not that great, really. Ask any perfectionist. Any high goal achieved will automatically mean that the next time, the goal should be even higher. The adrenaline of a challenge is unparalleled, the threat of defeat such an ulcer-inducing experience, the fervor of achievement only a punch-drunk second. I fall for it again and again and again.

I first realized this in December. I greeted the 12 days of Christmas with utter anti-consumerist spite and had decided to do something more personal and genuine for our long list of friends for Christmas 2010 (last year). I ended up baking a series of cookies and treats, boxing them up with personalized gingerbread men and adding Dutch stamps and twine in an attempt at a faux-parcel. It was a great surprise for everyone, but mostly for myself, for pulling off 12 boxes filled with at least 5 different baked goods by yours truly. This year, I knew that if anything, I had to exceed expectations, if not meet them. The overachiever in me wanted to go all out, convinced that I couldn’t bake the same goods. What complete shame to deliver the same box of goodies a year later? I scavenged for recipes that would impress, I drafted ideas for a theme, in fact, I spent entirely too much time on something that didn’t really merit it. Testament to this was our friends’ response: 1 second appraisal of box, before ripping it open to begin devouring contents. Who cared about presentation? Who stopped to think, Boy I’ve eaten this before

No one. And that’s normal. Now I know this.

And though I recognize my over-ambition as, perhaps, my biggest flaw, I can’t help but feel disappointed at myself whenever I underperform by my standards. Take the summer, for instance. Come this glorious season of smelly armpits and drones of mosquitoes, I make a list of goals I wish to see through by the end of my two month vacation (the perks of teaching, I’m afraid). And on my list, around the top, float the same words year in, year out: Read a lot of books. I assume that this is on the list of most ordinary people in the summer, with the possible omission of the words “a lot of” for obvious reasons. Now, the problem this year,  is that sometime in December again, I decided to join the online book community Goodreads, which eagerly prompted me to set a reading goal for 2012. At that point I had just received an order by Amazon for 15 books and I was overjoyed and optimistic at my reading capabilities during the year. So I decided to set the goal to what I considered an acceptable, if not essential, target of 50 books in the year. During the two-week Christmas vacation, I read four books and I was in such a high spirit that I thought I had regained my peace of mind and my fast reading pace. That number dwindled to a staggering three books until the next vacation, Easter, during which I managed to trudge through a mere 130 pages of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. What an embarrassment.

To think, that in college, I read at least 25 books per semester and that’s not counting the ones I devoured for pleasure. At the back of my mind, this was my most productive reading time, I assume, and for that I hold on to it with a competitive ardor that even intimidates me on some days. You see, in all honesty, a part of me knows that it doesn’t really matter how many books I read this summer. In fact, I’m doing quite well, I’ve managed to go through 5 books in the last month. But yet another, more empirical side of me, seeks the quantitative data with strong desire to hold it up as a trophy of achievement, so I can look back at my former younger self who is quite surely disappointed at my sluggish reading. And even when I’m trying to not think of anything, there’s still that parenthetical reminder on Goodreads that furtively informs me: “Congratulations! You’ve read 13 books out of 50. (At your current pace you’re 18 books behind).”

It’s a castigation of sorts. It inflames my inner pride. It makes me the wrong kind of reader, too. Immersing myself in a book has nothing to do with numbers, after all. It’s about striking that connection, getting lost, even momentarily, from lists and personal insecurities and entering a world that I’m sure I value more now, in my 29-year-old worrisome head, that I did as a 20-something student.

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The unsuspecting vegetarian

Rants

Courtesy: Jorge-11

Easter: a time of vegetarian solidarity. The much dreaded religious holiday is already well underway and to top it off this year, I have my birthday to crown the greatest of all feasts on Easter Sunday. Oh dear.

I have never been one to hang around the lamb on the spit, gradually roasting its way into mouth-watering decadence (for some). As for the liver wrapped in intestine, I unsuspectingly declined plates of this delicacy falsely believing it was rooster, which was offensive enough to my innocent spirit, let alone the vulgar reality of the aforementioned specific body parts. Indeed, Easter has always been out to get me when I least suspected it.

As a kid, I have fond memories of lighting firesparkles, a ritual that required speed and enthusiasm. The end goal was lighting all the firesparkles in the garden. The reward? A soup of intestines, liver and stomach. I slurped unsuspectingly without really understanding what it was I was forcing myself to digest.

Years later, no longer the soup sucker that I was as a kid, I was pretty much against most food on the table, simply because it didn’t agree with my palate. On Saturday night after church, after gathering at an aunt’s house for the traditional soup (thanks, I’ll pass), meat (no, I’m fine thanks) and potatoes (do I have to eat this at 12:30 a..m? Really?) I scanned the dining table for a sign of something barely edible so late in the night. There was hardly anything worth noting: the usual suspects were there, as was the gelatin with private body parts, ears and whatnot floating in a see-through volume of a globe. Then I noticed a plate of spaghetti and eggs, a newcomer and a rather unusual recipe altogether. I hurried to add a serving; given that I was always criticized for the lack of food in my plate, I was more than elated that the spaghetti took up a considerable portion. But of course, there was a catch. As I forked a bunch of spaghetti and egg and raised it to mouth, my uncle across me asked calmly: Since when do you eat intestines? Since, omg I’m going to faint. I barely smiled politely.

That was a close one.

And then here we are now, not so many years later. Am I traumatized? Hell yeah! Every Easter I dread all the food on the table, all the jokes on my eating habits and all that meat that’s trying to make its way into my mouth, one way or another. But this year, , let the whole world rejoice with souvla on my birthday. I will feel happy to mouth a bit of green and a slice of cake — I’ve got my 29th to chew on.

Note: soon something you can chew on. More in coming entries.

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Musings

I always carry a notebook in my bag: for thoughts and ideas, for my ever-growing lists, poems, doodles – you name it. Snugly fit next to it is my pencil case (what kind of teacher would I be, after all?) ready for all kinds of writing emergencies.

Monday night, was one such emergency — namely a list emergency. I had so many things to do and I knew if I tried to rely on memory, most of them would not get done. So out came my notebook and pen and I started jotting down to-dos.

Quick! Before I forget!

Quick! Before I forget!

We had been out on a photographic walk and spontaneously decided to have a quick meze at a tavern in the Old Town. Soon after the above photo, the waiter came with the menus. I did what any other list-compulsive person would do: opened the catalogue and inserted my notebook and continued making notes while my boyfriend pondered over our choices. I was pretty much in my own world after the waiter came to take our order, and as soon as he left, my boyfriend looked at me triumphantly and congratulated me with a spirited “BRAVO!” (capitals truly necessary).

I looked in confusion. I was after all still scribbling.

Reason for such warm applause? I had apparently looked quite the food critic with my notebook open. For a brief moment, our eyes met and it was clear that we both thought the same thing: Great food, great service – we sure fooled them!

Inside the restaurant - our view

Inside the restaurant - our view

As we waited for the food, I couldn’t help but get into character. I really started thinking like I was there to review, and began taking in the general atmosphere. It pretty much aced all the star ratings (whatever those may be). Romantic dinner? Of course, with these dry yet colorfully sweet flowers:

I want some!

I want some!

Excellent ambience, warm colors, and the food? Oh let me tell you about the food. It was an abundance of mediocrity. It was the epitome of staleness. It was royally bland and quite simply nothing to write home about. So much for our foolproof plan.

After I attempted to eat a little of each dish, I promptly called it a night because there was no way I was putting my stomach through any of that. My boyfriend, however, has the ability to eat pretty much anything, and though he concurred on the taste, he felt bad not eating anything at all. But even he gave up soon enough, much to the clear dismay of the waiter who came by our table to reprimand us for not eating any of the food. He jocularly asked us if the food wasn’t any good, and we were so utterly paralyzed by notions of politeness, that we vehemently said everything was quite alright.

Great liars, we are. And fools too.

In the fear of getting the whole interrogation again, my boyfriend devised a plan to fool the waiter. It involved piling food upon food so that it looked like we had eaten more than we had in reality. We almost ate all of the salad, see?

In fact we had barely touched it

In fact we had barely touched it

I don’t know if it worked, but we weren’t told off a second time. We paid the bill dutifully and I really do wish I could have left a business card on the table along with the receipt, saying: You blew it, mister.

And that’s being polite about it.

Bedridden

Musings

The pathetic sum of my vacation thus far:

  • Tissues: On box number 3 currently.
  • Pills: A great variety. Have had Ponstan for fever, Panadol extra, some basic flu-related ones and the mandatory sore throat lozenges.
  • Thermometer: A useless one that keeps pointing out I have hypothermia when I don’t.
  • Sleep: I have forgotten state of wakefulness.
  • Tea: I sleep too much to drink it.
  • Food: What is food again?
  • Dreary English weather: Non-existent. Like a bad joke, it’s sunny every goddamn day.
  • Farnham: I know the way to Sainsbury’s, but otherwise since I’m home all day I might as well be anywhere.
  • Beads: 0

A visit to the doctor today is inevitable. Would you believe that I’m actually looking forward to that?