August 26th, 2009:
In the past week, I've completed two major milestones on my project plan. This may sound a bit corporate, but knowing how to organize tasks is a skill that I learned in the workplace, and I'm happy that it serves me. The first effort was hosting the party for some 21 people at Maitri, catered by the chefs at Boulette's Larder. The second big completion was shooting the video of my final words to all my friends. Both events brought me new challenges and the resulting excitement of getting the job done.
To organize the dinner, I first needed to present my concept to the owner's of Boulette's. Part of their business model includes hosting private dinners at the restaurant for up to 24 people. This is the only time they serve dinner. I wanted them to do the cooking, but I didn't want to invite all my guests to the Ferry Plaza, much as I love the restaurant's location. A big part of my agenda was to get people who had never been to Maitri across the threshold. So, I made my presentation and explained that I'd be moving in to Maitri for my final days of health care. They responded. They understood my agenda. They agreed to bring their expertise across town and cook on site.
Then, I sat down with Amaryll, the resident genius of Boulette's cuisine to plan the menu. Doing my best to channel the dining spirit if not the food knowledge of my friend Margaret Hess, we started at the center of the meal. "What would you like for the entrees?" Amaryll asked. Scanning back through my palate's Rolodex of wonderful lunches, my first request was ivory Alaska King salmon. That brightened her up considerably. "Good! It's light, delicious and perfect for a summer menu. Plus I should be able to get it although it's the end of the season." Crossing my fingers that I wouldn't have to explain to my guests that the ivory salmon wasn't available, we moved forward. This time, Amaryll sang praises of the Becker Lane pork loin that she had access to along with Chez Panisse in Northern California. I'd been wow-ed by how savory this meat was in a salad not more than a week prior. Good, we had our foundation food. Moving to the beginning of the meal, we agreed to start with the best heirloom tomatoes topped with buratta so fresh it virtually drooped off the fork. Then the supporting vegetables and sauces for the entrees followed by citrus meringue tarts for dessert. A meal of intense summer flavors but without undue weight. Menu planning done in under 20 minutes.
The other part of the preparation involved meeting Amaryll at Maitri so that she could look at the kitchen and know that the space would work for her. She is such a pro. I walked her back to the Maitri kitchen and as she approached, she announced, "Oh, sure! This will be just fine." When I asked her how she knew that, she smiled and said, "Great stove, good prep areas. That's all I need. Plus someone to wash the dishes." And that was the bulk of the effort that I expended for organizing the dinner.
With the video project, my labor involved writing the script and then translating it for voice. Once the camera was rolling, I needed to read text on the teleprompter while translating my voice into a conversational tone. Amazingly, all of these learning curves were absorbed and accomplished.
Now, I look forward to a pause in big tasks for a while. One of the things that's been true of me for many years is that I identify with the work I do. Work has given me purpose, meaning and validity. However, I am more than the tasks I sign on for. And one of the best ways for me to explore and experience my non-work self is to lighten up on all my doing. I was talking with my therapist about this yesterday. I told her how much I wanted to steer clear of big projects for a while. There's still plenty of effort and organization that I bring to everyday life. I continue to go to work (for two more weeks!!), I still brush my teeth, cook, clean, etc. I'm not walking away from from the maintenance tasks that can be so detailed and worthwhile. But there has been a lot of creative effort recently, and I'm ready for a break.