Focus on the Good: An Amazing Evening of Food and Inspiration

Good morning, and TGIF! I have to say: this has been the sort of week that leaves me thanking not just God that it’s Friday, but just about every religious figure in the world. It’s more of a “thank God, Moses, Mohammed, Shiva, Buddha, Zoroaster, the goddess Freya (for whom Friday was named), the Dalai Lama, and the new Pope it’s Friday,” if you will.

Yesterday was a particularly rough day. I spent the morning on the brink of tears because of stuff happening at work — embarrassingly, one of my closest calls in the “I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry” department came when I was leaving a voicemail for a colleague, so he was treated to a message in which my voice was cracking and I was sniffling — and I spent the bulk of the day being really upset.

When I have days like that, I try to focus on the good things that are going on in my life. I find that dwelling on the bad things just makes me more miserable; while ignoring and repressing those emotions is a baaaaaad idea, I try to keep them at bay until I get home. Granted, it means I basically fall apart as soon as I walk in the door of my apartment, but still. Strong emotions are better out than in, and it’s better if they come out when I’m not at work.

One of the ways I try to keep from brooding (as opposed to getting home, bursting into tears, and then venting to Brandon, my mom, or my friends) is to focus on the good things happening either in my life generally, or that day specifically. Luckily for me, I had awesome plans last night, and looking forward to them was what kept me going yesterday.

First of all, I met up with my friend Holly — I met her through our studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition — for dinner at Zaytinya, a phenomenal mezze restaurant in DC. I’ve been wanting to try Zaytinya for years, and I was super excited to finally have dinner there.

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Before we even met up, Holly made the executive decision to go gluten-free for the evening to help accommodate me; similarly, I’d made the executive decision to go vegetarian for the evening to help accommodate her. Win-win!

Sure enough, the food was absolutely phenomenal. I loved every dish we ordered: the hummus with veggies, the roasted red peppers with feta and thyme, the cabbage dolmasi, the fava beans with kale and dill…I even fell asleep thinking about it last night. It was that good.

The thing that made me happiest, though, was the fact that they were willing to specially prepare some Halloumi cheese for me, even though it wasn’t on the gluten-free menu. Halloumi cheese is one of my favorite things in the entire world. I discovered it when I was living in Jerusalem, and I became totally enamored by it.  It’s made from sheep’s milk, it maintains its shape when grilled or pan-seared (no joke — it doesn’t get melty, it gets crispy), and it’s absolutely, mind-bogglingly delicious. The good folks at Zaytinya were willing to accommodate my love of Halloumi, and I kind of adore them for it.

However, our phenomenal dinner was just the prelude to the main event: seeing NPR correspondent Michele Norris interview Sheryl Sandberg (the COO of Facebook) about her new book, Lean In, at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

This was a combination of some of the things I love most: Michele Norris is my favorite NPR correspondent, one of my role models, and a woman whom I greatly admire. The Sixth & I synagogue is one of the coolest buildings in DC — I went there once for Rosh Hashanah services a few years ago, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. And, of course, Sheryl Sandberg’s book is a big, big deal — and getting to hear her talk about it was fantastic.

Lean InThere were more amazing points during the talk than I can possibly recount here, but I can tell you that I probably almost gave myself a concussion from nodding my head so emphatically throughout the entire interview.

Some great quotes:

“Life has a way of making you a feminist.” Preach it, sister!

“You speak up by speaking up. You sit at the table by sitting at the table.” In other words, walk your talk when it comes to advancing women’s equality.

“Issues of balancing work and life are not just problems for people with kids.” Can I get an amen?! This is a huge issue for everyone I know, whether they’re single and married, parents or childless. Living in DC, where the expectation is that you’ll devote your whole life to your career, presents a serious challenge for those of us who want more out of life than our jobs. (*Raises hand*)

“Done is better than perfect.” YES. I’m going to make posters out of this and put them up all over the place.

One of my favorite quotes from the evening was when she said that during one of her first performance reviews with Mark Zuckerberg, he told her that the number-one thing holding her back in life was her persistent need to make everyone happy.

This really resonated with me: about a week ago, I realized that, having done considerable work to overcome my perfectionist ways (and I’m proud to say that, by and large, I’ve made great strides in that department), my biggest challenge is my feeling that I need to make everyone happy. I’ve been trying to come up with ways to push past that need, and Sheryl Sandberg’s statement on this (ok, more accurately, her recounting of Mark Zuckerberg’s statement on this) hit me like a ton of bricks:

If you try to make everyone happy, you’ll never say anything that matters.

Holy epiphany, Batman. It’s absolutely true: when I dilute my thoughts and opinions in order to avoid upsetting people, it sucks out their relevance, power, and potential for impact. This had never occurred to me before, but I gasped audibly when I realized it. As it turns out, this was exactly what I needed to hear.

So, although my day was really rough, it was more than redeemed by the good things that happened after I left work. To Sheryl Sandberg, Michele Norris, NPR, Sixth & I, and Zaytinya: thank you for an amazing evening of delicious food, inspiration, and life lessons!

5 thoughts on “Focus on the Good: An Amazing Evening of Food and Inspiration

  1. cjoye7 March 15, 2013 / 1:54 pm

    I was following along on Twitter last night and it sounded like an AWESOME event! Zaytinya is amazing too!!

  2. chasingchels March 15, 2013 / 2:21 pm

    How do you always manage to write something (read: many things) that i need to hear at the EXACT moment i need to hear them? Seriously, it’s getting freaky 😛 i’m glad that you had such a great night after a crappy few days with work…i hope your weekend is even better 🙂

  3. Alex @ therunwithin March 15, 2013 / 3:10 pm

    I have never heard of that cheese, now you have me intrigued. I am sorry work has been rough, I hate when you are on the verge of tears but just have to stay stable. Hopefully this weekend has a lot of rest for you

  4. Trish March 15, 2013 / 11:10 pm

    “If you try to make everyone happy, you’ll never say anything that matters.” Oh my goodness, such an epiphany on that one and SO true!! Thank you for sharing her words of wisdom!!

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