When I was little, my family and I lived in a teepee on my parent’s land in New Mexico while they built our family home. It was a slow process because it was only the two of them building and they both worked, so they put love and sweat into it bit by bit in the evenings and on the weekends until it was done.
When I was two, we moved into the first structure they had built; a beautiful adobe room with huge windows and a fireplace to keep us warm. My mom, my dad, my older brother and sister and I all lived in this room while they built the rest of the house.
One night, two years after we moved into our cozy adobe shelter, I woke up to a startling sight. It was dark and cold and I could see what was going on, but I couldn’t piece together what it meant. It was not computing. My mom was sitting on the edge of her and my dad’s bed in her white cotton nightgown. My dad was behind her and she was leaned up against his chest and her head kept flopping over. My brother had a big metal pitcher of water and he was pouring it over her head, shouting “Mom! Wake up! Wake up, Mom!”.
Before I knew it, my dad got up, wrapped a blanket around my mom and effortlessly swooped her up into his arms and rushed her out of the house and into our old blue Ford pickup truck. My brother threw me my pink puffy coat, grabbed my hand and quickly led me outside into the cold night air. He lifted me up into the back of the pickup, where he and I would ride huddled together, while dad sped to the emergency room, 15 minutes away. Calling 911 wasn’t an option because we had no phone.
I kept asking what was wrong with mom, but there were no answers. This was confusing because adults always had answers. The back window of our truck had a portion that could be opened and closed. My dad opened it so that I could see my mom and touch her shoulder. I cried to her, but she did not respond or look at me. Her head was flopped back and her body was jerking in all directions. I had no idea what to make of it, but I knew it wasn’t good. The pit of my stomach ached and my heart raced.
There is a gap in my memory of that night. I remember getting to the ER and my brother helping me out of the truck. I remember my dad opening the passenger door and my mom almost falling out. After that, my memory is blank until hours later when my dad brought me to mom’s hospital room. I was nervous to go inside the room and see her because I was scared she would be in the same state as the last time I saw her.
But no. I walked into her room, she took one look at me and her eyes lit up and sparkled. She smiled her huge beautiful smile and put her arms out to me. I took her cue and slowly crawled up onto her bed, careful to avoid the IV’s in her arms and various wires she was hooked up to. I laid down next to her and she hugged me tight and kissed my head. I closed my eyes and smelled the familiar smell of her long thick brown hair as the feeling of pure love and relief washed over me.
It turned out that my mom had suffered a grand mal seizure that night. She had slipped on ice and hit her head on the frozen hard ground a few months prior when she was walking to our outhouse. The blow to her head triggered a seizure months later.
I thought my worry was over after we left the hospital that day, but it was only the beginning.
Although mom was fine after her seizure, I became extremely protective and attached to her.
I wouldn’t let her out of my sight.
I followed her around the house.
I would wake up and check on her in the middle of the night by quietly standing over her bed and watching for the rise and fall of her breath. As soon as I saw that she was breathing I would crawl back in bed.
I would go everywhere with her.
I would shout out to her in panic if I didn’t see her within one minute of looking for her.
I would not go to sleepovers.
If I was apart from her I would be nervous until I saw her.
I would protest when she dropped me off at school in the mornings and beg her to take me with her to work.
If I heard a siren while I was at school, a full on panic attack would set in and I would beg my teacher to let me use the phone to call mom’s office. If she didn’t pick up I would sneak out of school and walk 5 blocks to the college where she taught and I would look for her on campus until I found her, usually teaching one of her English classes. My heart would race and I couldn’t think about anything else until I found her and saw for myself that she was safe.
This was the start of my relationship with worry.
Not just worry about my mom, but worry about everything. And my worry was never garden variety, run of the mill standard worry.
I worried about gravity suddenly going away.
I worried about waking up in a parallel universe and everything was the same, but no one knew who I was.
I worried about my head spontaneously combusting.
I worried that when we die we all live in solitary darkness for eternity.
I worried that I would open my eyes one morning and everything would be in black and white, but only for me.
When I got older, this was the shit that made it all too easy for me to drink, just so I could momentarily get out of my head.
My shoulders grew super strong from the weight and it was fucking exhausting.
I spent decades wondering how to stop worrying. Maybe yoga was the answer. Maybe journaling was the answer. Maybe therapy was the answer. Maybe meditation was the answer. I did all of these things, but my shoulders were still heavy and weighed down with worry.
And then one morning this past August, I simply decided that I was done with it. I did not want to carry worry with me anymore.
So I let it go.
I released my grip and I let it fly free.
And in an instant, my shoulders felt lighter and there was only peace where worry once lived.
There are times when my old sidekick, worry, tries to creep back in, and when it does, I take note. I acknowledge it. I don’t judge. And I remind myself that I’m done with that, and I let it go again. I do that as many times as I have to.
After years of searching for relief from worry, all I had to do was make the decision to unzip and let it slip off and fall to the ground.
It was anti-climactic. It was beautiful. I was free.
What are you ready to let go of, my love?
Whatever it is, it’s ready to be set free.
Today’s recipe is simple and unexpectedly yummy and satisfying.
Lemon-Tarragon Root Veggies
3 medium-sized beets, root end cut off and then cut in half
1 large celery root, peeled and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 large dates or 4 small dates, pitted and simmered in water for 10 minutes
1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon tahini
2 teaspoons dried tarragon or 2 tablespoons fresh minced tarragon
1/4 cup water (60ml)
1/4 teaspoon salt
A few turns of black peppercorns
First you want to steam your beets and your celery root:
Stove top steaming directions:
- Add a couple of inches of water to a medium-sized pot and place over medium heat.
- Set a steamer basket in the pot and place the beets and the celery root into the basket.
- Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until they are tender and can be easily pierced with a fork.
- Transfer the veggies to a strainer and allow to strain and cool.
Instant Pot steaming directions:
- Place your Instant Pot trivet on the bottom of the pot and add one cup of water (235ml). Place the beets and the celery root on the trivet and lock the IP lid into place, making sure the nozzle is in the sealing position.
- Use the manual setting and set the timer for 15 minutes. Use the quick release method when the timer is up.
- When all the pressure is out, transfer the veggies to a strainer and allow to strain and cool.
While vegetable are steaming, make the sauce:
Place all of the sauce ingredients into your blender (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, dates – add the dates only, not the cooking water -, garlic, Dijon mustard, tahini, tarragon, water, salt and pepper) and blend until smooth.
Assemble the dish:
- Cut the cooked beets and celery root into bite-sized pieces and place into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the sauce and the parsley and gently stir until well combined.
- Store in the fridge when completely cool.
Wishing you a happy week and a magical new year. May it be filled with unzipping and making your load lighter.
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Food photography by Christine June