Wednesday, 22 January 2014 | 38 comments

A cup of kindness, yet

After Christmas, we packaged up the remains of the rib roast with horseradish cream, the mashed potato casserole, the creamed kale; stuck the house keys and car keys in someone else’s hand (along with instructions for chicken and duck care and keeping); and got on a plane.

On New Year’s Eve, we stepped off a train with a cheering crowd of people ten minutes til midnight, got swept along to the base of the Eiffel Tower and then I pulled the bottle of bubbly I’d been carrying around all night out of my purse. I almost got hit in the eye with the cork because, um, I’d been carrying it around all night in my purse. Everything was sparkly, there were boats sounding horns in the Seine, I drank champagne with Ben, and then I danced with a bunch of Egyptians having a drum circle at 12:06 on New Year’s Day. I ended up walking shoeless in the streets by the end of the night, stockings in shreds, but that’s another story.

And then it seemed like vacation should be over, but we were on to London, visiting our wonderful friend (hi, Dai!), and enjoying another city that we both know, but have never been to together. It’s nice to avoid tick-box sightseeing and instead to just walk around and eat and drink and see, and that’s what we did. So I suppose I should be coming home with some Franco- or Anglo-inspired recipe for a crêpe complete or bubble and squeak, but instead, all I wanted to cook was spaghetti and meatballs, and I did, and it was great.
2014 looms with possible changes ahead. Now is the part where I should write something about how travelling for a few weeks gave me some needed distance from those decisions, a different perspective, a new lens through which to view my life. And it didn’t, really. My smart little sister says that people are wrong when they talk about how you need to be brave to get out of your comfort zone, travel, and see things. The travel and perspective–the escapism, really–are a privilege. The real courage is needed at home, where the ordinary things don’t change unless you work to make them so, where you face old demons and new challenges, and where you can’t just get on a plane to the next destination.

I over-plan, over-analyze, over-resolve, so no resolutions for me this year. I’m settling in on the home front, ready to work for what comes next. Happy (belated) 2014.

§ 38 responses to A cup of kindness, yet

  • ‘The real courage is needed at home, where the ordinary things don’t change unless you work to make them so, where you face old demons and new challenges, and where you can’t just get on a plane to the next destination.’ – yes yes yes! That was a sentence I needed to hear tonight. Thank you.

  • Your sister would enjoy this Slate article, if she hasn’t seen it already. Similar point, different context.

    • It’s funny that you mention that article, Michelle. I had just read it before I wrote this post; it’s likely that it was in the back of my mind. I actually wish I wrote that article. It’s something I think about a lot (I bet you do too, being in the same sort of work-space I am…) –S

    • Lou

      thanks, I love it!

  • We’re struggling with “real life” right now and you’re right, it’s tough, running away seems like the easy way out.

  • Sounds like the stuff of good life and looks like you had great weather there. What a great launch of a new year.

  • Karen

    I spent my honeymoon in Paris over New Year and once again when my son was small and both times were magical. Lovely pictures, and glad you enjoyed my hometown (London) too even if you didn’t come home having solved all of life’s questions. Your sister is right btw. Happy New Year!

  • David Bowen

    Lovely to see in London. Are you convinced by English champagne? Dai

  • A beautiful post!

  • Sarah, I’m in New Hampshire, then CT, then NYC till the end of Feb. Any chance you will be in any of these states? If not, I will come to DC soon, eventually, soon, and track you down, you wise, wonderful person. Also, I loved that Slate article, wished I had written it, too.

  • When I read your posts, I often find myself nodding my head in total agreement. This time was no exception. I am glad that you got the chance to get away, but also that being away made you realize that we always talk about zooming out when really what we need to do is zoom in.

    Happy New Year to you!

    And also, I loved your egg frying technique so much that I had to write about it myself.

  • “The real courage is needed at home, where the ordinary things don’t change unless you work to make them so.” I can’t tell you how profoundly perfect this post was. It’s exactly what I needed to read today. Exactly. Also, we share cravings. Whenever I travel, the first thing I long to make after returning home is spaghetti. Bolognese, meatballs, marinara, it doesn’t matter, but that’s my comfort food every single time.

  • Adrienne

    Sarah, I just love your blog, and had to tell you. For the recipes, of course. But mostly for the small bits of wisdom sprinkled throughout your posts. There is always something to chew on, to resonate with, and I’m thankful to read every installment.

    Today’s wisdom from your sister is so simply correct. I’ve often thought about the fierce, quiet type of courage it takes to stay and endure rather than run. Sometimes the ambivalence towards the’known’ place can be more paralyzing than the fear of the ‘unknown’ place. How much harder it is to face your old demons over and over, and how much courage it takes! Thank you for yet another excellent post.

  • Yep – travel becomes weary rather quickly. And life on the road is too different from the everyday to really make the changes needed to change. That said, it also gets you out of the mundane, if only for a little while, and that gives you more space for dreaming. Whether that dreaming gets put to good use when you come back… well. That seems like the hard work you mention. Wonderful post, as usual!

  • I totally agree with your sister! We travel a LOT for (self-employed) work, especially in the summer, and it’s easy to get caught up because it can feel like you’re accomplishing things just by moving to the next destination. But all those challenges I left at home are not gone, they’re waiting for me by the door, and I do much better if I try to keep working on them as we are wandering.

  • I’m going to keep coming back to your last couple of paragraphs over and over again this year. Thank you, as ever, for the though provoking post and I’m so glad you enjoyed your time in London.

  • Margot Van Schaick

    So true, so beautifully said.

  • Sarah you are so thoughtful about the world, and I love how it comes through in your words and pics. I read that Slate piece too (it has been zinging around the Bay Area) – what it made me think of was how the “do what you love” thing has sort of taken the place of the old idea of vocation. (And how “love” seems to mean “enjoy rather selfishly” here, more than anything else.) True vocation is about the value working brings to both worker and community, and so perhaps transcends class and “creativity” – I’m babbling but anyway, your ending lines make me think of that old idea of vocation, of being home and focused on the changes at hand, the real work of the world. Happy new year to you and yours — and keep us posted, will you, as the new forms emerge? :)

  • Word to the courage at home, sister! Happy New Year and all ze best weeshes from this country corner of France.

  • jacquie

    whoah. I don’t know what else to say. your sister is really smart as you said. I’m still taking it in – thanks.

  • Looks like you had a blast, and your photographs are beautiful!

  • You did what I’ve always wanted to do on new year’s eve. And your last paragraphs are a string of spot on thoughts Sarah. Happy 2014!

  • oh I love that perspective from your sister, so true. We just bought a home and will not be leaving town for quite some time. At first I thought it was sad. Is it a poor choice to spend all your savings to the point you can’t travel and explore? But we’ll find a way – build back up and for now, enjoy home and making it just as exciting and enjoyable as we need. Hope all is well, lovely.

  • I’ve found myself quoting you to my friends. Now I’m quoting your sister. Wisdom must run in your family.

  • hvb

    Your photogaphs are very good. I’m shopping for a new camera – which one do you use?

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