I used to think I knew everything. I thought I was blessed with an innate knowledge of the truth of all things and spot-on opinions. You could disagree with me if you wanted to, but, well, you’d be wrong. I have always known that I had something to say. What took me years to realize, however, was that I should learn to shut up in order to say it.
My poor first husband. Backed into every imaginable corner by my expertise. I really meant well. I loved him with all my soul, at least with all of my available soul. I admired him, respected him, and stood by his side with loyalty, as long as his "side" was my side. What I wish now, looking back, was that I had shut up long enough to listen to him. And actually hear him. He was trying to tell me. He loved me, but he needed me to shut up. He couldn't even whole-heartedly leave me, but still I wouldn’t close my mouth. I was too busy telling him how wrong he was and exactly what he should do.
My Italian grandmother visited with me several days before I was to get married for the second time. She taught me how to make the most incredible marinara sauce. "The most important ingredients for the deep, rich flavor of the sauce," she taught me, "are the ones you can’t see." First, we browned several beef ribs in olive oil, and then added the chopped garlic, onion, paste, tomatoes, and Italian herbs. Throw in a bay leaf. Let them simmer together for hours, even all day long. Take out the ribs and the bay leaf. Their flavors will be there. The best sauce has all of the flavors perfectly seasoned by time and low heat. If you sample the sauce and taste garlic, it’s not done. If the oregano jumps out on your tongue, it needs more time.
Well, wasn’t I undercooked! I was definitely under-seasoned. Not enough time, definitely too much heat. Trying to make the best "sauce" in my life like some sort of train wreck through everyone else’s. Hopefully the passing years and the lessons from heartbreak have taught me well. Thank goodness for second chances.
It was my father who told me, "You know, you don’t always have to say something. Don’t waste your words." I have come to observe that the wisest people realize with deep humility just how un-wise they really are. They know that they will learn more from listening than from talking. That’s what I’m learning now. Thankfully, I have been blessed with people around me who are forgiving and who see that my heart really is in the right place. They are the wise ones, leaving me to simmer a bit longer so that my flavors could mellow out and not be so overpowering. I like to believe that they saw the combination of raw ingredients in me and felt sure that they would turn out palatable with enough experience and enough heat. People don’t want just oregano screaming at them from their spaghetti. And you don’t have to announce that the beef ribs were in there; the rich flavor they left behind is evidence enough to satisfy even the amateur tongue.
I am finding great satisfaction in simmering over low heat in my life. Opening my ears and eyes, and shutting my mouth. The ironic thing is that we say so much more by the way we live our lives than by what comes out of our mouth. The other ironic thing is that the less we say the more others listen, and the greater chance we then have to say that which we were born to say.