Monday, July 16, 2007

Disappointment, and its opposite

John and I had a great meal on Saturday at Chola. We had considered going back to Amma (the bhindi is awesome) but when John told me that Chola billed itself as Martha Stewart's favorite Indian restaurant, it was decided.

It was our second night in a row of Indian. I had a couple appointments Friday, and when I finally got a chance to eat lunch, I was craving Indian. Still, Indian is dinner food to me, so I called John and we made plans to do Indian later.

Now, the Indian in our neighborhood is okay, but the atmosphere of the restaurants is lacking (not just Indian, but a lot of the restaurants on 9th Avenue) so we decided to order in and watch a movie. We opted for Baluchi's, a New York chain, and ordered from the outpost on 56th Street, where we have eaten before. Our expectations weren't particularly high, but we thought we knew what to expect.

I am no connoisseur of Indian cuisine, but I know this much: chicken korma does not have canned fruit salad in it. No mushy bits of pear or faded maraschino cherries. Are you kidding me? John did okay with his lamb vindaloo; he expects heat, and that's what he always gets. We didn't have high expectations for the movie either (Reno 911), but we fared better on that account.

So lounging around Saturday morning, considering dinner options on OpenTable, I was glad that John did not object to our trying to get the Indian food "right." We did, in spades. Chola has its own great bhindi, and John had a lamb phaal that knocked his sweat-soaked socks off. My chicken korma was just right: nutty with roasted cashews and sweet with golden sultanas. Across the small room from us, a dozen twenty-something Indian-Americans celebrated one friend's birthday and admired another's nifty new iPhone, bubbly and joyous in way that isn't often publicly displayed in New York. Expectations exceeded.

We talked about expectations while we ate. And productivity, success, distractions. It's not as though I ever forget why I married John, but I am always happy to be reminded that such a resource is close at hand. For the most part, he doesn't waste energy on things that 1) aren't his business or 2) are out of his control. I used to think he was oblivious, as we walked down the street and he failed to notice the offenses to etiquette all around us. It turns out he's just focused on the the things that matter.

Yesterday was weird on the expectation front as well. I lit out early to attend a workshop at the Center for Book Arts. My four classmates and I waited an hour before word came through that the instructor had been told the class was cancelled. (The students had most definitely not been told.) In the interim, I got to talking with another young woman. She graduated from the same undergraduate program that I did, and is preparing for the same extremely competitive graduate work. Small world. One might say, mind-numbingly so. Claustrophobic, even.

What is the opposite of disappointment? I thought about it as I warmed up some leftover chicken korma (the good one) last night. Whatever its opposite is, that is what I have felt missing from my life lately, for the past few years, and that is what I want to pursue. My first thought was satisfaction. But satisfaction, like disappointment, is an "after," and the opposite of an "after" should be a "before".

My thesaurus lists hope as an antonym for disappointment. I bristled when I read it. My problem with hope has always been the way that it flies in the face of experience. If it is the antidote to disappointment, I don't expect it works alone. To be effective, it requires that focus John is so good at, and patience, which he is not bad at either.

I'm thinking about my graduate school plans. I made up a semester-by-semester chart. It looks so daunting. One to two years of preparation before applying: chemistry, more art history, French, German, the GRE, internships, self-study. The slim chances of earning one of eight positions. Four expensive years of study before facing the narrow odds of finding a job in a rarefied field.

I'm pulling the chart out of my desk drawer, and a magenta Sharpie. Across the top I'm writing: HOPE - PATIENCE - FOCUS.

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