But moving onto what's really on my mind: Is it just me, or is life – more often than not – really messy? I clean and clean and clean and clean and yet - voila! - the mess creeps back in when my back is turned. Despite my realization that there will always be a mess to clean, this really rubs me the wrong way. Somehow, in my "perfect" vision of how life should be, it involves a clutter-free home with wide expanses of wood floors, big windows, and sparsely-spaced, scratch-free furniture. A place where you'd walk in and feel inclined to grab a yoga mat. My vision also includes a kitchen with crumb-free counter-tops, a big island, and open shelves stacked neatly with vintage white porcelain platters and plates. Oh, and a pantry with rows of mason jars full of grains, beans, flours, sugars, and nuts (i.e. the items that currently sit stacked on top of each other in rubber-banded bags in my not-at-all tidy pantry).
The problem with my reality (messy) and my vision (perfect), is that the two are irreconcilable. In order to live fully – to love deeply, to pursue dreams, to take risks, to create things - messes are unavoidable. And trying to avoid them just makes us crazy. I mean, think about cooking. With all the peeling, slicing, dicing, sautéeing, puréeing - there are bound to be some splatters on the stovetop and some scraps that hit the floor. (If you involve a child in the cooking process - and you absolutely should - go ahead and triple the mess estimation.) But that's half the fun. Kitchens should be places for creation and discovery and fun. A place to spend time with those you love, to try new recipes, taste new flavors, and to enjoy a glass of wine – not sterile laboratories or gleaming (never-been-used) show kitchens.
(A quick note: I'm not advocating a slovenly or unsanitary kitchen. I also realize that restaurant chefs are forbidden to make messes as they must execute with the precision of a drill sergeant. I'm just talking about the home cook in the home kitchen, and the fact that a little mess is inevitable. So go with it and have fun.)
Despite my daily tug-of-war between wanting a clutter-free apartment (and especially, a spacious, clutter-free kitchen) and accepting the cozy, cluttered apartment and kitchen I actually have, there is something really beautiful in the mess. It shows that real life is happening. When my sink is full of dishes, I am at least happy that the dishes are being used. I'm happy that I'm cooking, that I'm feeding friends and family, and that I'm working towards my dream of doing this cookbook.
It all boils down to acceptance. Accepting that messes are a part of a full life. Accepting that no matter how much we clean, they'll come back. And the bigger lesson in all of this is learning how to accept ourselves - messy parts and all. I wrote a blog post awhile back called "Why Perfect is Boring" and every once in awhile I go back and reread it - because I'm not there yet. It's far easier for me to accept others than it is to accept myself.
When I looked at these behind-the-scenes shots from last week's photo shoot (taken by our lovely intern Elise), my first two thoughts were: 'Gosh, the apartment looks messy,' and 'Wow, I look awful!' (Sad to admit, but true!). After taking a second look, I decided to shift my perspective to: 'It's amazing that we are able to create a cookbook in this small space, up five flights of stairs. I'm so grateful we can make this work.' And (re: my appearance): 'This is real life. There's no makeup artist or hair stylist around. I'm just cooking and styling food and doing what I love. So I can be proud of that, regardless of how I look!'
Do any of you all struggle with the reality of a messy life and the unattainable dream of having everything in "perfect order?" (I can't even imagine how much harder this gets after having kids!!) I'm trying to learn to love and accept myself a little bit more each day, but it's a process. I'd love to hear your thoughts...!
(Behind-the-scenes photos by Elise Inman; lentil soup photo by Signe Birck)