Green Eyed

I have an actress friend who had a really good year in 2013. She was cast in role after role, she was celebrated and nominated for awards, and has been asked back by directors and theaters to work with them again. While all of this was going on, her wife was carrying their baby. It was perfect timing after her booming year of show business for her to nest and be really present for her family.  We got to chat last week after dance class and she was glowing from motherhood as well as glowing from her favorite creative outlet –dance class! As we were catching up, she confessed that one of her theatre peers from Conservatory (i.e. her competition/nemesis) was opening her second Broadway show and that her jealousy was getting the best of her. Don’t we all know that feeling? You have the perfect thing sitting in front of you and your neighbor has another perfect thing and you can’t help but want their thing too.

We had a long conversation about mirrors and where we are looking, what we actually see versus what we want to see. Really good stuff. My mind hasn’t quite sorted out how I will write all of that and share, but look for it in the coming weeks. I am so grateful for that conversation with my friend because it made me look at my own jealousy and resentments. Jealousy might as well be up there with death and taxes. Envy is something within all of us. And I don’t think it is a bad thing at all.

It is human nature to compare our selves to others and feel a little despair. Wallow in it if you must, but for me, the green-eyed monster is my little ass kicker. Ultimately, it makes me aware that I am admiring someone else's work; otherwise why would I want what they have? Coveting the success of another is evidence that (fill in the blank) is possible. If it is possible for them, it is possible for me.

I mine my jealousy for ways I can improve. Before I begin the story in my head of ‘they don’t deserve that,’ lately I have been trying to say, ‘wow, they must have been doing their best!’ I then look at myself and check in to see if I am doing MY best. Am I pushing the limits of my best? If the answer is no – good news! I have work to do and my reward is on its way! If the answer is yes – good news! Doing my best is truly as good as it gets. Nothing more can be asked of me. Even better news: continuing to do my best will only make my best get better.

This last week I was in St. Louis, Missouri and staying with one of my favorite families on the planet. We went to their 8-year-old son’s double-header soccer games and I think I learned my greatest lesson about this subject. The first game, goal after goal was scored against his team and they came up with nothing. The second game things were reversed a bit and his team won. There were some really great balls being played, perfect shots, even some assists by our little guy. As we were in the car driving home, I asked him which game was more fun to play, the first or the second? I was truly schooled by his answer. He said he enjoyed both games equally because the point of playing was to work together as a team. It didn’t matter how many points were scored, he said it was fun to be on a team both times. They did their best both games. I mean, come on! Our children are the wisest teachers.

When I am feeling like someone else has outshined me, I make a soufflé. What?! Yep. They look difficult but are super easy, they are impressive, and even if they fall, they have done their job. They are meant to collapse. Soufflé means ‘to blow up, to puff up.’ That is exactly what I do to my confidence. I give it a little puff. I remind myself that I am shiny too.

Spinach and Cheddar Soufflé

 adapted from Ina Garten

  •      3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dishes
  •      ¼ Cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
  •      3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •      1 Cup scalded milk
  •      ¼ Teaspoon nutmeg
  •      Pinch of cayenne pepper
  •      Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •      4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  •     ½ Cup grated Cheddar cheese
  •      1 Pound blanched fresh spinach, drained and squeezed dry
  •      5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  •     1/8 Teaspoon cream of tartar
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter the inside of 8 ramekins and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  2. Melt the butter in a amall saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, the nutmeg, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.
  3. Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the yolks, one at a time. Stir in the cheddar, 1/4 cup of Parmesan,  and the spinach. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  4. Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attatchment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.
  5. Whisk one quarter of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the ramekins, smoothing the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.