“That’s the third time this morning you’ve complained about having to make soup from leftovers. Don’t do it if it’s that much work.”
Ouch. Phillip was right. It was only 6:30 and I hadn’t begun the day with a very positive attitude. I wasn’t feeling particularly grateful for having it pointed out to me, either.
Frustrating, too, because I’ve always been “Soup Girl.” My family used to tease me when we went out to eat and, scanning the many options from a varied menu, I’d inevitably choose soup. I have three cookbooks dedicated solely to soup recipes…so why was I complaining? I love making soup!
One of the many benefits Phillip and I sought when we decided to consciously live a “slow life” was to bring our energy into better balance; there were aspects of our daily round that received too little energy and others that demanded too much. And it’s been working well; our nights and weekends are much more relaxed and the 4-leggeds are enjoying greater attention and presence.
The holidays, though, present a challenge to balanced energy, fueled as they are by the excitement of anticipation, the rush of the actual celebrations, and the aftershocks of exhaustion and a kind of body-mind-spirit deflation. It all passes so quickly, and our precious time with loved ones is over for another year.
The word “holiday” is derived from “holy day,” and “holy” is etymologically grounded in “health” and “wholeness.” We humans have always intuited the fundamental sacredness of life and created ways to celebrate this, but it seems we’re increasingly losing our connection with the sacred and replacing it with an ever greater need to consume: food, goods, time, relationships, money, and the environment at an accelerated pace. Imbalanced energy is often a sign of addiction, and addictions are indicative of spiritual distress, illness, or disconnection.
Observe the choices made without reflection and the results yielded by a people with diseased and neglected spirits: 60-hour (or more) work-weeks, credit card debt, broken families, obesity, diabetic and cardio-compromised bodies, homes filled with plastic, and the earth stuffed with ecologically-disastrous landfills. And still we pursue mind-numbing consumption—pepper spray in hand—because it makes us less anxious than being still and present with our feelings and creating the style, pace, and choices of a uniquely-lived and designed life rather than one mass-produced by marketing gurus and underpaid Chinese workers.
So we tried to sustain our focus on balance this Thanksgiving, and on the sacred connections and relationships in our lives. The meals were healthy, and our time with family included long walks and deep conversations. (Walking together seems to elicit more authentic and heart-driven sharing, I’ve noticed.) The days leading up to Thanksgiving and our time together felt peaceful, lacking past spikes and dips in our energy.
After our guests had left on Sunday, though, I felt the predictable fatigue and sadness that our time together had passed. It’s natural to feel these things, and I honored those feelings and tended my spirit. But this morning, faced with the extremely anticlimactic residual “leftovers” from Thanksgiving, I complained. I didn’t want to accept that the time I’d so happily anticipated had passed, and I resisted the drudgery of dealing with its remnants.
Not living from the spirit level, and not characteristic of Soup Girl.
After a strenuous session of Ashtanga body-knots and then meditation, I decided to create “Gratitude Soup.”
I was thinking about the wonderful story of Stone Soup (naturally one of Soup Girl’s childhood favorites), and how the stranger/outsider initiates relationship and collaboration by cajoling a village community to contribute what they can and so create a delicious meal all can share. It inspired me to stop complaining about leftovers and instead celebrate gratitude for the family Thanksgiving we were able to enjoy this year and the people we love who made it so wonderful.
As I chopped vegetables, added spices, and combined ingredients, I reflected on my time with family and recalled our conversations. I savored the memories and felt my emotional responses. I pondered how our time together revealed what our goals and gifts and spirits are now, and what they are becoming. I thought about phone conversations that put us in touch with friends and family who weren’t here with us this Thanksgiving. I offered blessings for our paths and prayers for our peace and joy in the coming year.
The leftovers were transformed into a soup of sweet memories and again made holy through gratitude for the people I love.
For me, making “Gratitude Soup” created a new and lovely form of meditation, a way to extend the joy of Thanksgiving and to steady my energy so I can head into the Christmas season balanced and peaceful.
The “slow life” we’ve chosen isn’t always easy, but it permits a deeper integration of experience, creation of meaning, and present-focused spiritual poise than our former lifestyle allowed us. Every day is a holy day; I’m grateful we have the time and energy to celebrate them together.
Soup Girl is back!
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