Once upon a wine

About five years ago, after not having any alcohol for over 10 years, I started to drink again.  The truth is, I really missed wine, but in my younger days I did not really develop a palette for wine.  I remember wild nights during uni when I would drink copious amounts of wine indiscriminately and get trashed only to wake up with a severe hangover the next day. Since I was not alone in committing those sacrilegious acts, I am assuming or hoping this is something others can relate to as well. I do cringe when I think of those days as a poor student, only drinking cheap house wines because there were not many options and I could not stand the smell of beer.

So this time, being older and wiser, I could really tell the difference between wine worth drinking and wine worth binning.  I guess like fine wine, I needed to age as well in order to appreciate this heavenly elixir.

It was not all smooth sailing though.  At first I was not sure if I enjoyed white wine better than red. I could not tell which wine was complex and which wine was flat, I could not tell why I disliked chardonnay and why some moscato’s tasted like lolly water.  Over time I developed a special liking for red with the occasional rosè on a hot summer afternoon.  I was fortunate to be surrounded by people who appreciated wine, more so red than white, and taught me a lot about what qualities made a good wine and those that made a great one.

It did not take me long to become, what can only be classified as, a wine snob. I started to try wines at restaurants before paying for the bottle and was not afraid to send a sub-optimal drop back.  I would ask for the region and the year of wine before I ordered it. I am sure my food has been spat in many times, but that is a small price to pay for enjoying a wine that is actually enjoyable. The fact is you can either choose to be a wine lover and savour this l’eau des anges shamelessly, or have shame – you can’t have both.

Last few years have been a wine appreciation bootcamp for me.  From going to the Barossa couple of years ago with a friend spending some time making our own blends in a vineyard ‘lab’ to often visiting the Hunter Valley cellar doors discovering unique drops, it has been an interesting journey. Driving through the vineyards is a surreal experience in itself that can only be outdone by an unassuming lunch at a vineyard made from fresh produce coupled with the salubrious serenity of the region. It has always been the ultimate revival of the soul and senses.

I guess I have come a long way since my early drinking days.  I am that oenophile that pontificates on the length, depth and complexity of wine in the most insufferable manner.  From a once naive wine drinker (yes I committed the crime of drinking cask wine in my younger days), I now feel blessed to have developed a palette and a nose for wine. I know I sound pretentious, but may be I am too old to compromise, which is a shortcoming in some situations I admit.  However, I am prepared to be vilified for having good taste and I will pay good money for great wine …. because I can.

The Irish Stew Encounter

WARNING: This blog may have disturbing information if you are in a new relationship and have just consumed the Irish Stew.

This is a story about a food event in the winter of 2010 that I will never forget in a hurry.

I was in a brand new relationship, full of limerence and a fantastical expectation of eternal happiness.  I had also just started a new job that I hated and pretended to like because it paid well, and also just started my MBA.  It was a brand new world.

At the start of a new term I met my new MBA syndicate group. After initial ‘getting to know each other’ small talk, I decided this was a very nice group to be a part of. I just wanted to extract all I could from the brains of these really smart people who spoke big corporate words since I have very limited knowledge of corporate vernacular at that time. 

My new boyfriend, however, was not supportive of my MBA and wanted me to spend every waking moment with him – joys of a new relationship. Me, being a push over, did often oblige. I had severe self-esteem issues then.

One day Ryan, one of the group members who had move to Sydney from Ireland, asked us all to join him for dinner at his house.  He promised to make an Irish Stew, which sounded like a perfect winter dish and it was the middle of winter. So we all agreed to meeting up at his place to discuss our group project over dinner.  What better way to study then over a nice hearty stew….yum.

My boyfriend was feeling a little insecure as usual that night so he offered to drop me and pick me from Ryan’s place, just in case I was going there to study him.  I took a bottle of wine.  I think I was the first one there in anticipation of that stew.  It was a cosy little place and the stew smelt delicious.  

Everyone arrived slowly and we discussed our group work and ate the stew with some fancy bread.  The stew and bread were so good I shamelessly got myself an extra helping.    

As my obsessive boyfriend came to pick me up after our dinner meeting was over, I was interrogated by him over who was there, why was I the only girl etc etc.  That was not the worst of it though.  I went to bed that night and realised that I was extremely bloated.  What was going on? I lied down in bed hoping to go to sleep peacefully after that amazing food, but all I wanted to do was let out some of that build up.  How could I possibly do that in a new relationship?  How could I just send out shock waves – I mean Sydney is not even on a fault line so I could not even point the finger at a minor earthquake.  Besides what was the guarantee that once I had explained my way out of one tremour, there would be no more aftershocks?  My boyfriend was a light sleeper so even the slighted vibration in bed would have woken him.  It was agonising.

That was the longest night of my life, or so it seemed.  I could not sleep all night trying to hold it in.  At one point I dozed off and I slipped.  It woke me up and I realised I was almost sweating with shame.  I heard my boyfriend stir in bed and I played dead – even if he heard me I was not going to let him know I was awake and airy and deny it all in the morning.

The next morning, my alarm went off at 5.30 am and I could not get out of bed fast enough to get changed and go for my run.  I could not wait to get out of the house in the open air where I could just let it all out.  All that build up overnight actually helped me run a little faster that morning.  What on earth did I eat?

The following week at the lecture, we were all praising Ryan’s cooking and asking for the recipe of the delicious Irish stew.  Ryan promised he would email us all the recipe and followed with a word of warning that it had a tendency to give people a lot of gas.  I stood there in complete shock and stared at Ryan.  He looked at me with a cheeky look in his eyes and asked if I was OK after eating it.  ‘Well, excuse me’, I thought.  I was not about to tell this man that I had gas!  I was a lady and ladies don’t get gas, thank you very much. That was just way too much personal information, but I cannot believe he did not warn us before we ate it.  What’s worse is that I had an extra helping too. I could have killed him.  I kept my composure and just denied that I ever got gas or bloating.

Needless to say that I have never, to this day, made the Irish stew.  Just the very thought of Irish stew brings back horrible memories of that night and the next morning when I ran along Balmoral beach leaving my carbon footprint.

Letting Go Of Crap

I am going through a strange life experience at the moment, kicking and screaming.  I call it ‘change’.  And I don’t like change. Change pisses me off.

I finished a very lucrative contract at the end of 2014 with a Silicon Valley company and although I was very confident I would get another contract or another job very soon, I found myself struggling to find another role at the beginning of 2015.

Life has a strange way of leading you to a door you are too bloody scared to open, because it forces you to take a chance and step into the unknown.  That unknown could be good or bad, but it is still a chance you need to take and a chance you cannot prepare for.

I have been waiting outside this door for a few weeks now, too scared to open it, holding on to a pattern my life has followed so far; get up, go to the gym, get dressed, go to work (from the home office in most of my jobs), play corporate politics, drink copious amounts of coffee, earn a living, finish work, bitch about your work to your kids and partner, cook, eat, stress about what needs to be done the next day and then try to get a bit of sleep – rinse, repeat.

While that pattern served a purpose when it was needed to provide me financial security and nurture my need to feel successful, it now seems redundant.  Some residue of that pattern still exists in my life as a gentle reminder that I had am fundamentally programmed to enjoy stress and spare time is a term foreign to me.  However, these days, I am really enjoying being able write from a random restaurant while enjoying a glass of wine at lunch time, catching up with my friends when ever I want and actually engaging with my kids and helping them with homework.

So here’s the thing.  I worked hard and earned a good living when I needed it.  I re-built my life successfully after my divorce without any help from anyone because it had to be done.  Every emotion, every event, every person in my life has been there to serve a purpose at a time when it was relevant.  Letting go of something that has served its purpose should not be an unsavoury or negative experience, but should be perceived as a gift that life gave me to move from one stage to the next.

Therefore, I need to let go of crap.  I am not trivialising the experiences, patterns and people from my past by calling them crap, but I need to declutter and make a fresh start and hence the word ‘crap’.  Just like cleaning my cupboard and finding all this ‘crap’ i-e., shoes and clothes I forgot I had (some still with labels on) and simply putting them in a bag and giving them away to charity – even the ones with the Armani label on them.

So here’s to sipping wine at lunch time and doing what I love…..being creative, writing what ever I want from where ever I want.

The quest to find me begins with a coffee

I have been writing on and off about relationships and my observations of the world after my divorce over four years ago.  The reason I started writing after my divorce was because suddenly I found myself in a new world outside of my picket fence and my European SUV.  Having been married to a semi-dictator who cared for very little, but himself and money, I missed out on living my life to the fullest.  For twelve years I observed life like a prisoner, where the world was a one dimensional movie only to be enjoyed through a sheet of glass.

When my status changed from ‘married’ to ‘single’, it was like shackles had been taken off my feet and I could run any where, any time at any speed for as long as I wanted.  I was no longer watching the movie, but I was starring in it.  Freedom is, indeed, priceless.

I was under the impression that I had come out of my marriage unscathed and with my sanity intact. What I did not realise was that there was a void in my soul that could now be filled (without my knowledge) with meaningless debris of useless people and activities. This is one of the reasons I walked straight into a relationship with a semi-deranged and insanely jealous man within a few months of my separation, and walked away from that over a year later thanking my lucky stars that I still had the strength to do so.

I stayed reluctantly single for two years after that disaster and immersed myself in my new found group of friends.  I partied hard, worked hard and studied hard to gain an MBA.  However, the void was still there and I had an intense need to fill it.  I met another man after I finished my MBA, who was older and seemed much saner than my previous sub-optimal choices.  This guy had a good job, lived not too far from me and seemed to really like me – on paper this was perfection to the core.  Despite not being attracted to him on the first date because I found him boring, I forced myself to give him a chance.  Well, there now is the first sign that I was still a desperate and needy mess.  Ten months later, that relationship also failed when that man decided that he wanted a ‘fresh start’ overseas, clearly without me.

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At that time I made myself a coffee, sat down with myself and asked myself the question, ‘why?’  Why was I never able to find the right guy?  Why did all my relationships fail?  I reasoned with myself for a few days before I mapped out my patterns and realised….I was trying to get to know others before I even gave myself a chance to get to know the new me.  I never cried when I ended that relationship, although my heart felt heavy and my feet felt weighed down.  To me this was a sign of sadness, not because yet another relationship had failed, but because I had not trusted myself with my instincts when they stood in front on me and screamed in my face.

The upside of this breakup was that the weight I was trying to lose for five months was lost in five days.  The nauseous feeling in my gut prevented me from stomaching anything but coffee and I would occasionally supplement coffee with water.  But that was it.  However, standing on the scales and finding that I was five kilos lighter definitely put a smile on my face.  Coffee had given me a reason to smile and made me realise that while I was still shallow with skewed priorities, at least I was not obese and shallow with skewed priorities.

I think getting to know and understand myself is going to take some time.  The key is to let myself breathe in this open expanse of freedom that lies ahead of me.  This is my time to grow, to set some parameters, to speak up, to build my life and travel the world without the guilt of leaving a man behind.  I have realised that I don’t need to go looking for answers, but while I sit and sip on my coffee, the answers will come and find me.