Living in Your Head, Treasures, and Whisky.

12017735_10206386075224410_8004759255465897283_oHas this ever happened to you? You’re in a group and someone asks you a question. You answer. The person looks at you like you’re insane. Or you’ve grown three heads. They just look confused. So you take a deep breath and answer again, slower this time. Drawing out the answer with lots of description so there can be absolutely no misunderstanding.

Maybe it’s just me. Happens more often than not. Usually in large group situations where someone hurls a question at me I’m not prepared for. It could be anything. Not necessarily something deeply profound and philosophical. It could be something as simple as, “What did you do over the weekend?” I answer and what I say sounds perfectly reasonable in my own head, I can hear the words coming out of my mouth, but I can see on the other person’s face this is definitely NOT the case. So I back up and try again. It’s only on the second answer they seem to get it and move on.

What is this? I used to blame the person. In my insecurity I’d acquire a shield of arrogance and superiority, a cloak of cool. I’d rationalize in my own head they must be stupid. An idiot. My answer sounded perfectly okay and fine to me. What’s wrong with them? But lately I’ve come to realize this inability to communicate lies solely with me. It’s because I live in my own head too much. Instead of being out in the thick of things I’m cowering behind my brain in fear. In a social situation with conversation involved instead of living in the moment and listening to the folks around me, I’m deep in the folds of my cerebral cortex saying things to myself like, “Does my breath smell bad? Why is she looking at me like that? Did I wear the right top? Is it okay to just stand here or should I mingle more? Oh crap, did that woman just ask me a question? Let me answer right away or she’ll think I’m rude. And shit, what was her name? Sigh. . .”

This is me. This is who I am. At least I have the self-awareness to know it’s something I should probably work on. Living so much in my head is the equivalent of standing at the shore and worrying about all the stuff that could happen to you if you jumped in the water. Instead of just jumping in with all the other folks who seem to be having such a good time swimming. Moments are treasures, and if you spend too much time thinking about them, they pass you by.

Speaking of treasures, had another thought occur to me as I was editing Episode 21, my conversation with Chef Travis Milton. He talks about his jar of heirloom seeds being worth more than gold, something that could never be replaced. The week prior to that I talked with Amy Cameron Evans and her work with painting treasures, found objects like a ceramic statuette or a Bundt pan, or a piece of lace, heirlooms passed down from generation to generation that really mean something. It made me think on the nature of treasures and what is valuable.

What makes an object special? It’s provenance and history? It’s backstory? Or just its appealing shape and texture? I happen to have my grandmother’s lipstick and eyeglasses, beautiful gold cateye frames in a coral leather case. They are valuable to me because of both. Muddy wore them so they are valuable, and every time I pass the antique dresser atop which they live I have to touch the case, stroking the leather with my thumb. Because it feels nice. It’s a talisman. I have other objects, a set of white plastic clowns I picked up at a flea market, all in different poses. If one falls over I have to fix it or it’s bad luck. A tiny ceramic bull I collected because I’m a Taurus. An Occupied Japan ceramic cat I bought for twenty-five cents when I was in college. A picture of my parents right before their marriage went to shit. They look young, thin, happy. All of these are treasures and valuable to me even though they aren’t to anyone else. They make me feel a part of the world. They make me feel grounded. Every time I look at them and cherish them I’m reminded of other times and other days when I wasn’t so worried or anxious or living in my head. They remind me I am loved.

Kendra Bailey Morris, writer, cookbook author, and my guest on tomorrow’s podcast is loved as well. Her grandmother lived to be 100 and shared her love of food with Kendra from an early age. Kendra has over 300 of her recipes and I knew even before I asked these slips of paper are more valuable than anything you’d find at Tiffany’s. They’re not only her history, her legacy, they are her strength and poetry. When I spoke with her at the recent Appalachian Food Summit she had just come from her grandmother’s funeral so I was very aware and careful of not bringing up anything too painful, but Kendra would have none of it. She generously shared many stories of her granny, and the ensuing conversation was a treasure itself. We talk about her native West Virginia’s pepperoni rolls, black walnut coconut cake, Kendra’s work with AFS, and her new role as Public Relations Manager for the Virginia Distillery Company. So of course there was whisky. Episode 22 appears tomorrow and it’s great. I hope you’ll join us.

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