My father yelled at me about the pot on the stove.
“Why is this bubbling away? What kind of a mess are you making?”
I was doing a reduction sauce, waiting for the liquid to tighten up and the bubbles to get bigger. I got used to making them when I was with Christine, who didn’t like the one pot meals I grew up with and resisted gravy. Instead of cornstarch or roux, I reduced the juices to bring more texture and flavour.
I have the sense that I too have been being boiled down, mostly by the relentless loneliness that I endure. I have become intense, leading both to potent thinking which comes out in sharp writing, and also to a kind of bitter burnt essence that comes out in my relationship with other people.
I find that other people tend to move away from me, choosing not to engage what I share. They have their own lives, their own challenges and their own priorities, real, serious and vital to the struggles & joys of their lives. They find me quite intense, find me getting more and more so as I boil away in my own sealed vacuum retort.
There is no point in blaming people for having their own priorities, for wanting me to come into their lives but not having the resource to enter mine. They leave me out of the loop even on topics where they have committed to serve, even legally. Avoiding my experience is just survival to them, a protection of self, a prioritization of their own challenges.
People found my caring for my parents very intense, reflected in the pure trust that they put on me, knowing that I would be there even in the hardest times. Medical staff thanked me for making their job easier, even though that was never, ever my goal, and support groups asked me to leave as what I shared was too intense for the room.
Holding up the trust, the obligation demanded that I find my own discipline, prioritizing service and virtue above self and vitality. This is what we say is a high offering from other people, but in truth it is a choice that challenges and repels us, altogether too intense to be around long.
My life of service was a life of denial, a search for the kind of moral structures that can keep one doing their assigned duty even as the flesh burns from the bones. I knew from a very early age that the call of my own desires was seen as corrupt, so I had to make the very hard choice: do I repel people by showing them my colour & passion, or do I repel people by showing them my mind & discipline?
I suspect that growing up in a kinder, more empathetic and compassionate place I would have been able to find a better balance, but that was not the world I had to grow up in.
I have seen enough pots on the stove to understand the problem, knowing that the line between tasty sauce and burnt crust is right underneath me now.
It is possible for me to serve others by entering their world, but asking them to serve me is just too much. A drop of demi-glace can richen a looser sauce, but demi-glace is often on the point of bitter.
The work I have done is respectable and intense, gifts offered to a world that could use a taste of what I have to offer.
The mess made, though, makes people like my father want to scream, disgusted by a bubbling pan which appears to have gone too far, too strong, too reduced to be useful for anything.
So much has gone into that glaze, so much life taken down to essence, not enjoyed but concentrated, so much so that people avoid the gloop, finding it too rancid to taste alone.
I know that the only way back is to loosen up, to reconstitute a life.
The choice, though, was made a long time ago to subsume my dancing perfumes into intense discipline, boiled down to essence.
Well, I suppose, at least there is that.