Kimchee and catnip. What a strange combination. It could just as easily have been sushi and cream cheese, since both I and the cats like them both. Kimchee and catnip has a nice alliteration, though, and they are both somewhat unique comestibles. While cats often need and want greens, catnip serves as far more than a digestive aid, as even non-cat people know. For me kimchee is also more than mere food. It carries with it memories that tke me back decades. Memories of living happily and successfully in a culture that was not my own but infused me with it’s outlook and values in ways only the passage of time has revealed. I still sleep on the floor. When I go to hotels I never sleep as well as I do on the all cotton yo/futon hybrid I bought. I still take my shoes off at the door. I still occasionlly make my own kimchee, although I am fortunate I have places to buy it ready made.
Kimchee and catnip are ingredients for a special kind of recipe, a recipe for a better life, an optimal life. I have catnip because I have cats, cats that fill my life with joy and laughter, aggravation and annoyance, companionship and comfort and unfortunately also pain and sorrow. Those I have lost still gave me much more that was good than any pain I felt and certainly would have preferred to remain, in good health and loved. Part of an optimal life, at least to me, is a breadth of experience, which you cannot have without some discomfort. To achieve breadth of experience you must interact with people, you must travel outside of your comfort zone, you must learn to be flexible and adapt. Some people do this more easily than others. They possess a sense of adventure. I thank my grandparents for their gift to me of the sense of adventure. Thanks to them I traveled and found that foreign culture where I felt so at home.
As a small child they taught me how to travel the world through reading. Stacks of National Geographic magazines and classic literarure were the kinds of presents I got from my grandparents. I was read to and encouraged to read. My mother’s father would sit with me and the atlas that was part of his set of the Encyclopedia Britannica and show me how the maps changed over time and explain what caused the changes. All this developed in me the desire to see for myself, to travel, to explore and as I did so my comfort zone expanded over time. I still read to expand my horizons. Books and reading are another necessary ingredient for my optimal life.
Building the optimal life is not easy. Like anything else woth acheiving it takes work and discipline and focus. I think, however, the most difficult part is the self-knowledge necessary to make the right choices. People often ask one another “What ould make you happy?”. Often the answer is “I don’t know.” What is even more frustrating is working hard to acheive a goal that the person thinks will make them happy or fulfilled only to find that is not the case. To complicate matters the world changes around us while we are trying to find our way. I was fortunate to be given some of the skills and encouragement to help me in this lifelong process. My comfort zone has expanded over time as has my adaptability to change. This makes life much easier for me. The recipe is still not perfected, but I have learned some of the ingredients that are necessary. What ingredients would go into your recipe?