I’ve been taking a deep, long look at myself lately. Trying to figure out who I really am and if that is who I still want to be. This type of introspection makes me look at specific moments and compare them to past moments. This is the way I do things now but 10 years ago, 25 years ago or 40 years ago I might have done the same thing differently.
Take cooking, for example.
People who know me today have heard of my many cooking and baking fails. I have set fire to many foods like garlic bread, steak, and chicken. The smoke from one particular Fathe’s Day barbecue was so bad that someone called the fire department. It was out by the time they arrived. And no, I did not go out and greet them to tell them it was my fault. My first recollection of setting food on fire was in high school when I was cooking a frozen hamburger in a pan on the stove top. The flames touched the ceiling. Safety Alert: Grease fires and water do not mix.
Baking has its own share of stories like the angel food cake that caught fire or the peanut butter cookies that called for a yellow cake mix. Lemon cake is yellow, right? I don’t suggest you try it. Successful baking usually included some kind of burn somewhere on my body. While I used oven mitts to take a pan out of the oven, when it hit my bare leg I still got burnt.
These are funny stories but they became THE story. I was not a good cook and an even worse baker. I failed at both. When I look back at other kitchen moments in my life, I enjoyed being in the kitchen with my mom and grandmom. The kitchen was where I heard family stories and attempted to learn family recipes. It’s a place of warmth and happiness in my memories. I’ve cooked hundreds, maybe thousands, of meals in my lifetime so far. And the successes outweigh the failures exponentially.
So why and how did this become MY story? So I failed a few times. The definition of fail says “to fall short.” It doesn’t say that you can’t do it. It just says that it didn’t work out THIS TIME. In this case, I allowed someone else to make my failures permanent. Why would I do that? Two reasons. First, he needed to be better than me. Second, when you hear something enough times, you begin to believe it. Until you don’t.
I’m taking back the things that I am good at. In the future, I will remember that failing at something is not the end. Any cook has stories of failures and they all end with “I’ll never ______ again!” For example, I will never in my life use lemon cake to make peanut butter cookies again. And neither should you.
Heartbreak. We all experience it at some point in our lives. It could be the death of a pet, moving away from everything you know, your closest friend betrays you, someone you love dies, or your relationship is ripped apart. Whatever the cause, true heartbreak is physical. The feeling of your heart being ripped out while still beating in your chest. The reaction to that kind of shock is to curl up in a ball and howl in pain. It’s a visceral acknowledgment of loss.
Nearly a year later, I can still physically feel that moment of genuine heartbreak when I choose to revisit that night. It’s as if the wounds to my heart haven’t completely healed and may reopen at any moment. I’ve spent these months walking through my life with a palpable pain that has become noticeably less, but not gone. It still strikes with such ferocity that I am, again, brought to my knees.
This was, and is, not something I could navigate on my own. My immediate reaction was to call my mother but she was on vacation. So I called a friend and drove an hour hoping she could magically make sense of it all. It’s actually a funny story for another time.
I reached for the people closest to me to share my shock and the burden of my agony. I called health services at work to find a therapist NOW. I met her within days of the event. I discovered for myself that the most amazing things happen in the midst of horrific pain. Some will refer to the people that love and support them as their village, their tribe, or their support network. I call them my basket because they support each other even as they are supporting me. I am suspended in their love.
The one year milestone is rushing at me. I have discovered so much about what I thought I had versus what I might have actually had. I’m reflecting on who I was and who I want to be. I have begun to expose those things about myself that I had hidden away in the name of compromise that may have actually been submission.
This kind of anguish grants the opportunity to look inward. And I do.
It seems to me as I get older that truth is a matter of opinion. Some truths really are fact based but others are based on a person’s point of view. What I see as truth in a given situation may not be the same as the other three people involved. Especially if it concerns anyone’s feelings. Add emotion into the mix and all bets on finding a single truth are gone.
Why am I musing on such things? I started this blog in order to begin writing again. In the past, much of my writing was “secret.” Secret in the sense that only a select few would get to read it. As a teenager, I would leave poetry, notes, stories, etc. around the house as a way of communicating indirectly with my mother. I wrote for classes and myself. Precious few bits of my writing would end up in public for anyone to see. I still have in my possession several notebooks of things I wrote. They range from silly broken-hearted teenager stuff to very raw emotional rants. Each one held a bit of me from the moment it was written.
Today I struggle with writing because it’s very public – if you can find me. I’ve been posting erratically but I have several drafts saved. The last one I started is the one that led to this particular post because I want to understand my hesitation. My conclusion is that this hesitation is caused by fear. FEAR. Fear? Really?
Yes, really. If I let go of my tightly controlled hold on things and just put out there what is rolling around my head then things could change. People may not like what I write. What if my mother doesn’t like it? What if my 13-year-old daughter reads it? (We are heading into that “I hate my mother” phase.) What if my husband, who is no longer in love with me, reads it and it’s different from his truth? What if, what if, what if…
Never in my life have I spent so much time in the land of What If. I’m used to spending my time at the corner of What the Hell and Who Cares What They Think.
So, what if I decide to write my truth, my way and in my own time and not worry about “people” or fear? Maybe I’ll become a better writer. Maybe something I write will help and/or touch someone else. Maybe I’ll grow back into my own confidence. Hmmm…