How Grief Became My New Vocation
I am a food writer by trade. I shaped my culinary career path in my mid-20s. During and after college I had been working as a model in Manhattan doing live shows, photography, and catalogue work, but was totally unfulfilled. After a four-year college education, I knew that I needed to use my brain, not my bod. On a whim, I attended a “conscious raising” course at a local YWCA and was asked what I wanted to do with my life. The instructor asked me to write down 20 things I looked forward to doing daily. I listed: “sauté, braise, poach, stir-fry…” You get the picture? I most certainly wanted to cook, but more importantly, I wanted to write about cooking as well as become a restaurant critic. I had studied cooking for years but up until this awakening, I didn’t know I could do it professionally. I was told by the teacher to softly interview a local newspaper editor, tell her about my skills, and describe how I could help the local paper expand its food department. Within nine months, I was free-lancing for several publications, including The Village Voice. I enjoyed spending my time writing and it allowed me to cook, write, and be a wife and mother without stress. By the time Peter and I moved to Los Angeles in 1977, I was writing for Bon Appétit and then tried my hand at cooking on television. I loved my career. It was not just a job for me, it was a vocation.
I was truly lucky. Many a job doesn’t align with one’s core values. Often the hours of a job are difficult and don’t fit with child care. Most jobs are not challenging and don’t bring out your best qualities, but you must perform them to survive. I was incredibly fortunate that I loved my job. I adored cooking. I loved writing about cooking. I loved teaching cooking on television. I adored testing recipes and writing cookbooks. It was a happy period in our lives. When I got letter after letter asking how I cooked and still stayed so thin, I ventured into healthful cooking, just at the time that light cooking was catching on. Peter wasn’t happy that my cooking had to be healthy. The man loved his meat and potatoes, and anything nutritious made him cringe but because my books were selling, he kept his mouth shut. I didn’t have a job, I had a vocation that I loved.
When Peter died, the only thing that kept me sane was writing about grief. Blogging about grief morphed into my new vocation. I recognized that by spewing out my emotions with honesty, I was helping others which meant it was work that made me satisfied. This was my new vocation. This was my new calling and it didn’t feel like a vocation at first, it was what I had to do to get through the day. Putting my thoughts on paper significantly reduced the intensity of my loss.
When I examined the word vocation, I realized it is something you want to do all the time. A vocation is something you enjoy on weekdays and weekends. A vocation is authentic work. There are no performance reviews or job ladders to climb. I know that my family and friends are proud of my writing and know that it makes me happy. They know that the creativity I expound in my blogs will help me find my way to my new normal. But especially, my heart tells me that Peter would have been bursting with pride and would have been vociferously bragging about me to all who would lend an ear.
I have truly come to look forward to putting my thoughts into the computer. I love researching quotes. Writing is my form of mediation. I still can’t meditate without sobbing but I can write, with a few tears hitting the keyboard. I can blog about my pain in the hope that the words will give me some release, and more importantly, they might resonate with others.
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” ― Graham Greene