“When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
When I started this blog all I wanted was to write. But I’m gradually realising that what I also want to communicate is the idea that everything’s imperfect, and that everything’s already complete. I think it’s important people are writing this publicly because almost everything else out there seems designed to tell us we’re not enough. That we need to be more widely read, or wear a new mascara, or present a cleaner house, or have a more impressive sounding career, or drive a Porsche, or date George Clooney.
I have a fragility sitting just behind my heart this week. It’s not consuming me, but it is whispering dark vulnerability into my days. The catch cry of the perennially lonely, ‘not good enough’, is cranking up to subsume the ease of my mind and I can feel my old childhood panic rising up against it, begging me to fight using techniques that never worked, but still feel oddly safe.
It’s the grain of sand in my pearlescent mind, this ‘not good enough’. The faulty belief around which all my attempts to hide from the world began. It’s living proof, for me, that the mind isn’t a single entity but a disparate collection of conflicting senses, each seeking power over the other. I joke sometimes that I don’t have an inner child, I have an inner playgroup. But behind the humour is a struggle that has, at times, taken over my grasp of tangible senses and turned the universe inwards.
At least one child in my mind’s playground is filled with vicious hatred towards itself and the world around. Another is whiny, pompous and self-pitying. A particularly powerful one is without physical form but instead, like a black hole, only visible by becoming aware of which parts of me are blacked-out. Sometimes it sits over empathy, or kindness, or the ability to engage with the outside world. In particularly bad periods it seems to block everything that sits behind my skin.
If I’m not careful and actively mindful, these are the only parts I see. The ones that demand rigorous and devastated attention from the moment my grinding jaw wakes me, until my clenched hands finally succumb to sleep.
It took time in meditation and conversation to find the other parts of my mind. They’re introverted and peaceful, never demand my attention, but instead wait patiently and lovingly for me to discover and nurture them. I didn’t for many years, I didn’t even know they were there. I honestly believed it was just me and the horrors in there.
The first time someone told me that I was doing the best I could, and that whether I believed it or not, it was absolutely good enough, I ranted and railed at them in furious denial. The hundredth time they said it, I wept without breath. These days, thousands upon thousands of tellings in the future, I can acknowledge the words; although, on bad days, the loss of fighting-to-be-more can still be enough to make me bow my head in momentary anguish.
The truth, as I see it on this day, is that it’s simple for anyone to write about finding eternal happiness and mining undiscovered potential and splashing in perfect romance and all that guff. So many bloody articles and books are written about it, the undertones of which hiss, “You’re not good enough. You’ll never be happy enough. You aren’t living up to your potential. You’re not loveable enough.” — Marketing relies entirely on the premise that deep down inside we’re afraid that we’re screwing this up; and they promise us a way to be a better version of who we already are, the clearly implied message being, “You’re right, you’re not enough… Yet… but just buy this new thing and you will be enough… Promise… Oh, I’m sorry, did we say that new thing? We meant this new thing… No, this new thing…No, this one…”
So, let me tell you, as you sit reading this, either flicking through from photo to photo with your eyes just skimming the paragraphs, or actively engaging with each word
You are already complete.
Everything you’re doing and everything you are and everything you’re feeling and all you get done or not done today is enough. And if you feel you’re not enough, it’s not because you’re not enough. It’s because the playgroup in your head has tipped into the darkness. Our path to ease in life is not to fix a life that never needed fixing in the first place. Our path is to see our life as complete, exactly as it is in this moment. And in this moment. And in this.
With the darker personalities of my playgroup in force, I messed up the final version of this week’s recipe. I was thoughtlessly balancing the raspberries inside a slippery sieve, on a rickety rack, on top of a porcelain bowl, in the bottom of the fridge. Suddenly, the whole thing tipped sideways and juices poured into the already completed bottom layers. I flung vicious swear words into the fridge alongside the mess of food and had to literally bite my tongue to not shout my son awake. With the biscuit base smashed and the creamy layer afloat in raspberry juice, I tidied up the mess and took some time to breathe before starting the layers again. And what luck I did, as after reading The Family Meal’s delicious Lemon Panna Cotta and Gingerbread with Blueberries and Thyme recipe, I swapped out the standard oat biscuits in the base for a ginger nut version, which lifted the recipe to a whole new level of silent completeness while licking our fingers clean.
- 500g caster (superfine) sugar
- Juice from 3 lemons (sieved to remove any pulp)
- Juice of 1 orange (sieved to remove any pulp)
- 1l cold water
- 750g raspberries (fresh if you can get them, otherwise frozen is fine)
- 250g ginger nut (ginger snap) biscuits
- 175g unsalted butter
- ¼ tsp ginger, ground
- 250g cream cheese
- 1 cans (395g) condensed milk
- 1 vanilla bean
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 125ml cream
- ¼ cup water
- 6 titanium-strength gelatine leaves
Start the topping by combining sugar, juice of 1 lemon, orange juice and 1 litre of cold water in a large saucepan, stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil, then add raspberries
Simmer until raspberries are pulpy (4-5 minutes), remove from heat and stand until cooled, then refrigerate for flavours to develop (overnight)
Transfer to a muslin-lined sieve placed over a large bowl and refrigerate until liquid has drained (4-6 hours; discard solids)
Start making the base by crushing the biscuits until they’re the texture of coarse sand (I either use my food processor, or I place them in a plastic sandwich bag and hit them with a rolling pin)
Melt the butter slowly in a medium saucepan
Add the crushed biscuits and ground ginger to the butter and stir until the biscuits are well coated
Tip the mixture into a slice tray lined with baking paper and press the mixture firmly and evenly into the tray
Place in the fridge to set
For the filling, beat the cream cheese in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add the condensed milk, lemon zest and cream. Continue to beat until smooth.
Soak 2 gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until soft (5 minutes) before squeezing out the excess water
Pour the remaining lemon juice into a small saucepan with the remaining water, bring to a low simmer over a medium heat, then remove from the heat. Add the soaked gelatine and stir until dissolved
Stir the lemon juice into the condensed milk mixture until completely combined
Pour over the top of the biscuit base and place back in the fridge until set
Returning to your topping that’s been draining, measure out 1 litre of the raspberry liquid (reserve any remaining for another use)
Soak the remaining gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until soft (5 minutes) before squeezing out the excess water
Transfer 250ml raspberry liquid to a small saucepan, bring to a low simmer over a medium heat, then remove from the heat. Add the remaining gelatine to the saucepan and stir until dissolved
Stir the gelatine mixture through the remaining cold raspberry liquid
Pour over the slice and carefully (!) place in the fridge to set
Once set, cut this slice using a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wipe the blade between cuts — this will give you the cleanest cut
Enjoy with all the happiest voices of your inner playgroup