In the early 2000s, David became obsessed with cooking. After identifying as a mostly vegetarian for most of my adult life, I feel down deep in his hole of braised pork and grilled mahi-mahi, chocolate trifles, and pasta puttanesca.
Teaching yoga and meditation was just a side-hustle at the time; I threw every cent I earned from those endeavors into a travel bottle. A travel bottle is used specifically to save money for travel. Once you slide cash down the neck of a travel bottle, you cannot retrieve it without breaking the bottle.
In 2001, Ouita Michel, the sister of one of our college friends, opened the now-legendary Holly Hill Inn in Midway, so we made a reservation. That night, I drank a pinot noir that taught me the difference between exceptional and just mediocre wine. That bottle was rinsed out and given a prime spot on our bookshelf where, each week, we would roll bills to shove down the neck into the cylindrical body, gleeful as it slowly filled with cash.
We planned to use that money to go to Napa Valley, with vague ideas about touring wineries and tasting olive oil. Our favorite show at the time was Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour, a show where the notorious “bad boy of food” visited game-changing restaurants around the world. In one particular episode, Bourdain traveled to Napa’s famed French Laundry for a 20-course tasting menu (accompanied by seven bottles of wine), all curated and cooked by award-winning chef Thomas Keller.
We were sold. The consommés. The truffles. The tagliatelle. The pana cotta. The oysters. The sorbets. Each course looked more tantalizing than the last, intricate and creative recipes that treated ingredients like pre-ordained memories.
So we had our plan. The travel bottle would take us not only to Napa but to the French Laundry for a culinary experience we would never forget. We hadn’t either the time or money for a honeymoon when we got married, so we would spare no expense on this journey. We estimated that it would take two years to save enough money to cover the trip with reservations at the renowned eatery.
No matter. Month after month, any extra cash that we could pick up went in the bottle. We bought the French Laundry Cookbook, salivated over so-called food porn years before it would become standard issue to photograph and post every meal you eat on Instagram. I added pictures of grapes and glasses of wine to my vision board. David learned when to order merlot and when to order moscato; I practiced pronouncing things like “ris de veau poêles” so that I wouldn’t sound like a rube when I sat down. God love our sweet hearts, we even memorized the layout of a 16-piece formal dinner setting so that we wouldn’t use the wrong silverware. We chose our hotel, picked the wineries we wanted to visit, and found a flight that wouldn’t leave us too jet-lagged.
And then I found out I was pregnant. After being on the pill for sixteen years. The thought of watching David drink the perfect California chardonnay with his fish course while I sipped water was infuriating. The trip was canceled, and the bottle broken to start a college savings account for our unborn child.
When we pray for something, the universe answers in one of three ways:
Something else is coming.
Yes is easy. We set an intention and manifest it, often congratulating ourselves on being so aligned with cosmic energy. Not yet teaches us patience and makes us all the more grateful when our wish is granted. But something else is coming can be a kick in the pants. It often feels like a hard pass, an unheard or unanswered prayer. It’s easy to forget that what we think we need isn’t all there is.
It comes down to attachments and expectations, those harbingers of suffering and torment. It’s easy to say that we trust the universe in its intelligent design, but putting it into practice is another thing altogether. How do we trust that all the setbacks around what we want are really setting us up for the exact experiences we need?
It asks us to stay present, to keep curiously asking what we might learn from our current situation, offers us an opportunity to find joy and peace in every moment and not only in the ones where everything is seemingly going our way.
Obviously, I have learned more as a parent in the last 17 years about how to be a decent human being than any single meal could have shown me. Parenting a daughter is a master class in becoming a more patient and compassionate human.
I asked to travel the world. The Universe answered by placing the world in my arms.
And, if you’re reading this on Monday, June 13, 2022, I’m currently in the air on my way to California’s wine country. Older, wiser, and more grateful for this trip. Cheers!