I am not perfect. I have no pretences that I am, but people tend to expect perfection from me so that I often end up disappointing even though I do things that are beyond what anyone else might attempt. Though I fail, I still succeed. Sadly, I am in a situation wherein I need to leave Prince Edward Island early, and I just do not have enough time left to see everyone I need or want to. Obligations are difficult to maneuver, but I do what I can. I know that tonight I failed two very special girls, and while it breaks my heart, I could only do so much with the time I have here. Given a few miscommunications, tonight ended up being about my mother and creme brûlée.
For the past twenty years I have made my mother creme brûlée. I could easily teach her how to make it herself, but it is the one dessert that she loves because I make it for her whenever I come home. She runs out to the store a week before my arrival to buy vanilla beans, eggs, 35% cream and sugar. I always need to find the time to make her this sacred gift. If I fail in all else, I will not fail in this simple obligation.
Creme brûlée is a funny thing. I first heard of it while watching an Edward Albee play, Counting the Ways. During the play a long-married couple banter back and forth in a brutal manner about their obviously failed marriage. The main motif in the play, however is the wife’s repetition of the phrase: “But there’s no creme brûlée.” Creme brûlée comes to represent the successes and the failure of their marriage. Perhaps that is why to this day, if there is one thing that shall never fail, then it is this dessert.
I found this recipe from a brochure put out by Emile Henri, and mom keeps the recipe in a little tin above the stove. I roughly measure out the ingredients and away we go. The dessert takes about 2 hours to come to fruition, and there are nights when I get the ratio off, but overall it is one of the few desserts that I feel I can make well enough to cook whenever I am asked for it…and I am often asked for it.
In my life, I have responsibilities. I have had to attempt to balance my responsibilities to everyone with what I can actually accomplish, and when I live on my own and I live this crazy life it can become difficult. My number one responsibility on a daily basis has been to my dogs. Poor little India needs me; the tiny muffin cannot live on her own, and perhaps I chose her because she needed me and I desperately needed to be needed. There is nothing like a man with his yorkie poo to make the world shiver with his machismo; maybe not.
My second obligation has been to my family and my friends.I have struggled for my entire life to live up to their expectations, and frankly, I fail them fairly consistently because, after my dogs, my career, my travels, my photography, and my daily errands there is not enough time to get it all done. I always hope that these people understand how much pressure is placed on my shoulders simply because I can carry more than my fair share. I can carry more than them. I have carried far more than they have, no matter what they believe. But hey…so it goes.
But things have changed…I am reworking my obligations and finding a new balance in my life. My first obligation needs to be to myself. For the first time in my life I realize that I am only as good as I can be for others when I make myself a priority; a drowning man cannot save others. There is a difference between being greedy or selfish and taking care of one’s health and most important relationships first. Over the past three months I have worked towards improving my body, my heart and my soul. I have taken my needs into account and finally asked myself what I need and want. I know what it is that I want, and I am pursuing it to the very end because without doing so I would not be true to myself.
So yes, I have been running, eating dandelion and kale greens, practicing yoga, singing, dancing, laughing and crying for three months. I look and feel great. I feel like I could post a hilarious shot my mom took in my running outfit and not be embarrassed of my body. I can take care of my dogs without killing myself or feeling guilty. I can see my friends as much as possible while not abandoning those who matter most. I can balance my career demands with my personal relationship responsibilities, and I can be happy.
Yes, I will fail people, but I will choose who I must fail because that is what a strong, respectful man does. It is not easy to fail another’s expectations and the commitments that we make, but it is better to make the hard choices than live with the push-pull of failing no one but yourself. Perhaps the lesson to learn is that there are a few people who matter more than your own life that you never want to fail, and you never will: the creme brûlée will always be made and “Landslide” will always be played.
“Rave on, walt whitman, nose down in wet grass
Rave on fill the senses
On nature’s bright green shady path.”