Dizziness and Unconscious Habits
Let me start by explaining the cover image shown here on the right; it is, of course, a Ferris wheel, a form of 'entertainment' that I simply don't 'get'. To me, it's a terrifying amalgam of height, spinning and rocking motion that does more than make me dizzy. They make me sick.
My Favourite Playground
The kitchen has always been one of my favourite rooms in a home. It’s a place where I love to play, nurturing myself and those I care for. Preparing a meal, even for just me, is creating a piece of art. The kitchen is my studio, and the appliances are my easel. Bowls, pots, and pans are the palettes, and food, herbs, spices, and essences are paint. An array of utensils, wooden spoons, spatulas whisks, and knives are my palette knives and brushes. Serving dishes, dinnerware, cutlery, glasses, and serviettes, all are critical elements to the canvas, the table is my gallery, where what’s made with love is shown and served. The moment I walked into my Marbella atelier, light embraced my being, streaming in from the ceiling, walls, and windows. The only emotional glitch was its small galley kitchen and the oven I literally need a small stool to even look into.
Yesterday I was fixing dinner and turned to get a knife only to experience a serious moment of dizziness. Stopping, I was forced to deal with the fact that this wasn’t the first time it had happened. Deciding it was time to step outside my fear, I did something I often do to shift perspective: I mentally became an impartial ‘observer’ and asked my body the logical question “What’s making you dizzy?
My eyes landed on the wooden block that holds my most prized kitchen tools, my knives. Instantaneously, the cause of the dizziness was revealed as was the solution. However, what was far more important —and surprising— was that I understood the root cause.
First, my kitchen. It is to me what a sandbox is to a kid --a place to imagine and play. Frankly, this is almost the smallest I’ve had to learn to work in. One would think that having lived here two years I’d have it figured out. Not. In this kitchen the refrigerator and stove are on the east, separated by an infinitesimal amount of counter space that faces a wall. This side is ruled by hot, cold and chopping. The countertop stove is stuck in the corner, with knives, silicon utensils and food processors between it and the refrigerator. Under the stove are three drawers, staggered in size: the top one is smallest and holds potholders, matches, candles, and other miscellaneous things; the middle drawer is very organised, filled spices and dry goods; and the bottom drawer is home to pots, pans, lids, and assorted cutting boards. Under the countertop is an identical set of drawers: the top holds cutlery, utensils, and more knives; the middle is the domain of coffee cups, saucers, mugs, and glassware; and the bottom one is where I keep mixing bowls, baking dishes, and small hand-held appliances.
My contemplation took place while facing the other side, this area governed by water, the freezer and one end, the dishwasher at the other, with the sink in between. Looking at the fruit and veg, appreciating my favourite cork bowl to my right, my gaze turned to my Gaggia espresso machine, the queen on the left and suddenly it was crystal clear why I keep getting dizzy!
The western side is where I love to work, looking to the mountains north and west as the glass ceiling illuminates the space. What I realised is that I’m constantly spinning because the refrigerated food and the tools I need to prepare a meal are behind me! When the dizziness hit, I was preparing to cut vegetables, and I’d already turned once to get a cutting board, and it was the second spin that almost knocked me off my feet when I spun too fast to get a knife! It then dawned on me how I'd unconsciously set up my kitchen in Spain exactly the way I’d set up my kitchen in Switzerland! In all this time I’d not taken into account that while similar they were totally different in terms of functionality.
It was a joy to spend the last hour rearranging my kitchen, appreciating anew the importance of environment and the seasonal nature of how I use space. Knives and two cutting boards made a move that made perfect sense! Next, my beautiful Swiss tea kettle, seldom used in Marbella, went under the counter, and in its place down went the juicer I use every day, no longer in the hard to reach cupboard over the too high oven! I was stunned by how memories and habits kept me from thinking! Playing in the kitchen and sitting here writing it became clear that while the experience of dizziness was real, but once I stopped, a new understanding opened about how important it is to recognise all manner of unnecessary spinning. Doing so revealed a deeper truth about the consequences of living by habit.