I have mentioned before that I’m an introvert. That’s understating things. I’m painfully introverted. I was reminded of it twice this past week. Once, as I walked alone into a networking event a friend was hosting, took one look at the drinking and mingling and did all I could not to flee. The second was over lunch with a group of 10 or so from my office. Saying introverts are terrible at small talk is spot on. I am a mess. I ended up at the very far corner of the long banquet table and poked at my fries. And I tried to chime in. Weather! Weddings! Buying houses! Over the years, I’ve become better. I work a boardroom okay. I speak up in meetings. I love being in front of a room, teaching people and sharing stories. But put me in a place that I have to solo-navigate: a bar, a cocktail party, the hallways of a conference, a long banquet table, and I’d better have someone to cheer me on.
Here’s something I have learned: I like people and being with people more than I once admitted. I’ve taken shelter behind my introversion for many years. It’s a sturdy excuse. I don’t want to go to dinner. I want to spend a weekend bumbling around the house. It’s been a people-filled week. I need alone time. We do grow older and – a little – wiser. Here’s what time has taught me: introversion is a selfish excuse for solitude. Being alone is okay. But it’s not okay for me to use a tidy label to hide from others.
Because time has taught me one other thing: sometimes, other people are kind of magical, if we take time to see them.
Like this weekend. On Friday I bolted home from a late night at the office and met Sameer for my first patio dinner of the year (aside: if you’re in Toronto, and you don’t visit House on Parliament often, you are missing some tasty food and service). We walked back to my place for tea. Andrew was in town for the first week of baseball season, and we met him for drinks at the Cobourg – a place that feels like my grandma’s living room, only very dark, with Daft Punk pulsing from someone’s laptop speakers. Nevermind that I doused the three of us in red wine with an overenthusiastic embrace. Friday was lovely. And Saturday, too. Max’s parents invited me for a concert at Koerner Hall, with its dramatic swirling wood ceilings to stare at. And so I put on a pretty silk dress and had an impromptu dinner with his brother and sister-and-law. I listened to some jazz with a generous family, who aren’t mine, but make me feel welcome. On Sunday, that same housemate and I had a late brunch and meandered over to High Park, to experience its few days of cherry blossoms in bloom. We rode through the park on a little red trolley, and we shared banana-chocolate-almond trail mix.
All this isn’t to annotate my weekend. It’s to illustrate something. I didn’t spend my alone time alone as usual, with my books and thoughts and pots and pans and cups of tea. I found, in others, something else to fill me up. Maybe it’s spring and that trees are blooming makes me more open, too – to change, to togetherness, to good people whose company I choose to keep.
Lentil salad with carrot and orange
Very loosely inspired by Light of Lucia‘s lentils – recipe updated Sept. 19, 2010 with a few tweaks – I make this so often!
After a weekend of pub dinners, this spring salad is something special. In my experience lentils can taste kind of muddy, but here they’re perked up gently with orange, coriander and long ribbons of lightly-fried carrot. The salad tastes even nicer as it ages and all its parts mellow. All the better to make ahead and share with others for lunch.
2c dry French green lentils (often labeled as Puy)
3Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2tsp grated fresh ginger
3-4 large carrots, shaved into ribbons
zest of one medium orange, rasped (reserve a slice for the lentil water)
juice of one medium orange
coriander leaves, to taste, for serving
salt and pepper, to taste
Simmer the lentils in salted water with reserved slice of orange rind until cooked through, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile in a shallow pan, heat the olive oil with the ground cumin and onions over medium heat until it gives off fragrance and onions are translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant. All the while, taste and salt the mixture. Add the orange juice and carrot ribbons and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add orange zest, stirring well to incorporate.
Drain the cooked lentils and combine with the carrot mixture, tasting for seasoning. Add the coriander leaves and serve. This tastes great with a dollop of thick Greek yogurt served over top.
Makes 6 one-cup servings.
“All this to say. There are rainbows. Reminders … With rainbows we weather rough storms, I realize.”
“Thank you for letting me be your rainbow when you need one. Sorry if my colors fade from time to time, but I’ll be your rainbow any time, because you are my sunshine, and rainbows are nothing but reflections of their sunshine through the rain.”
It’s always the simplest shared words with a dear friend that make things okay.