M was out of town this past week and it was the first time since being married that I had the apartment to myself for more than a few days. Granted, one week isn’t so much, but suddenly every second spent at home felt like extra lagging hours tagged onto each day.
It is quite the contrast to before married life, when I lived comfortably on my own for years. Roommates and flatmates would come and go, but in general, I was used to my own space. I was quite content in solitude and unintimidated by coming home to an empty apartment.
It is funny how quickly we adapt, sometimes without realizing it. Since moving in with M, I have become so accustomed to shared space. Another energy mingling into meals and routines on a daily basis in a wonderful way. Suddenly, when that presence is gone, I am not sure what to do with myself anymore in the hours we usually would spend catching up on our days together, preparing dinner, or just lounging around the house.
How do I fill all of this extra space? I found myself making more to do lists, filled with forgotten details and extraneous things that I keep meaning to complete- things like cleaning or organizing corners of the apartment or trying that new yoga pose I saw in a book. Yet as soon as the list runs out, emails are responded to, and my body is too sore for more yoga or dance, a state of uneasiness starts to set in. Now what?
I realized that my initial instinct is often to open my phone or computer, reach out to a friend on facebook, watch endless instagram stories, send an email to someone or just browse around my favorite blogs. It is so easy to make yourself not feel alone anymore. Even in solitude, we have the ability to be surrounded by other people’s energies and outputs through technology. After becoming so accustomed to this, even people like myself who were once so content with being alone can become uncomfortable in empty silence, without any distractions or interruptions. I don’t mean just physical quiet, but silence from screens, from chatter in your head, from the noisy anticipation of the next item on your to do list for the day.
What if we just allowed the emptiness to exist?
Krista Tippett wrote in Speaking of Faith,
“Silence is an endangered quantity in our time… embraced, [it] stuns with its presence, its pregnant reality— a reality that does not negate reason and argument, but puts them in their place.”
I suppose that initial unease I feel in the presence of empty silence is akin to the stunning sense that Tippett describes. I have been trying this week to ignore my impulse to pick up a screen and connect, and instead just sit with myself in the quiet of home. Feel the settling of things into their places- the settling of thoughts in my mind. Feel that strong desire to do something, and try to let it go. When I pull myself out of the little bubble of my phone and acknowledge the silent space around me, it is like waking up and feeling my feet on the ground again. I come back into my own skin, in my own space.
I suppose we are constantly learning and relearning to be with ourselves, by ourselves. Obviously there are so many amazing benefits to being able to connect with friends and acquaintances with the easy touch of a finger, but in moments when we are forced to be alone, sometimes it is good to rediscover that sense of real silence in our own bodies and minds. You never know what you may find, sitting there, just waiting for you to come back.
While on the rare occasion (and with the right person) I enjoy baking with company, I usually find that cooking and baking are things I prefer to do on my own as a sort of active meditation, plus with total creative control over the result. Last week, armed with the desire to make something and no concrete ideas, I allowed myself to simply be inspired by the ingredients in my kitchen. Drawn to tahini, sesame seeds, and a bottle of orange blossom water sitting at the back of the cupboard, I came up with this deliciously crunchy and clumpy granola for solo afternoon snacking or for breakfast.
Homemade granola has been my recent obsession since making it back home in Minneapolis in July and getting my parents hooked as well. I had The Bojon Gourmet’s peanut butter and dark chocolate granola on repeat, until I started experimenting with my own flavors. This recipe uses the amounts of Alanna’s granola as a base, and then switches it up with some nutty tahini and fragrant orange blossom. The flavor is delicate, toasty and floral, perfectly paired with some unsweetened yogurt and whatever fresh fruit you have on hand.
Tahini Orange Blossom Granola
Gluten-free + w/ vegan option
Makes about 3 cups of granola, adapted from the base of a recipe from The Bojon Gourmet
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 3 tbsp honey (or maple syrup for vegan option)
- 2 tbsp tahini (better if it’s runny)
- 1 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 1/2 cup oats (gluten-free)
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
Preheat your oven to 400ºF (200ºC) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut oil. honey, tahini, orange blossom water and brown sugar until smooth. Add in the oats, sesame seeds, cinnamon and salt and mix thoroughly to combine. Dump out the mixture onto your baking sheet and using a spatula, press it down firmly into an even, thin layer. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Let it cool completely before breaking it up into clumps- as big or small as you like- and store in an airtight jar.