Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bake Your Heart Out

In general, I'm not one for reality shows. Not because I'm too cultured, but because in an effort to engineer drama, they bring out the worst in people and I just don't enjoy that.  BUT I have found one I love. 

The competitors on The Great British Baking Show are all amateurs. They don't live together in a drama house, they go to work all week, see their families, and practice for the next weekend.  They don't fight over space in an overheated kitchen, they're in a tent set among rolling green hills and gamboling lambs. Really. And they don't have judges shredding them with harsh words, they have two hosts encouraging and sometimes helping them, and two judges giving direct, but not unkind feedback.  Even the music has no ominous bass. It's classical.

If you compare it to the setup for most reality shows, it sounds like a recipe (ha!) for failure. But the show has done well and I am addicted. It's fun to see normal people create extraordinary things...even if I question the British definition of dessert on a regular basis.

Week one, something happens.  Everyone cries. well, not the judges, but almost all, if not all, the competitors cry at some point.  It's interesting for two reasons. One, I didn't think British people did that, like, ever. Two, after seeing other reality shows, the comments or situations that spark tears don't seem that bad.  But when I step back and look at the situation, I get it.

These people are truly good at baking. They're probably the best of anyone they know. But now, everyone is good. It's intimidating. It makes you question if you're actually talented, or if you just thought you were.  And while you're intimidated, two famous experts point out the flaws in your work, which, again, is definitely a first. It feels like confirmation that you're an imposter. You aren't actually good at this, and you're embarrassed that your best isn't good enough. Add to that time limits, and camera people watching you, and I'm pretty sure anyone would shed a few tears.

The other thing about it is I don't look at these people and think, "Suck it up, sissy. You're too sensitive. Get over yourself." I feel for them in that moment, knowing what it's like to put your best foot forward and wonder if it's enough. 

After the first week, no one really cries again (unless they have an absolute disaster, or if they have to go home. And then everyone else cries too because they're going to miss the person.)  It's like, that initial cry is almost necessary to clear the glut of emotions the new, scary situation brings up, and after that, they're fine.

It makes me wonder if sometimes, when I'm working super hard to hold it together, to suck it up, sissy, and not be so sensitive, maybe I need to just have a good cry instead of tamping emotions that just continue to back up like a clogged drain.  And I don't even have to do it on national television, which is awesome because sister is not a pretty crier. But if I clear those emotions, maybe I'll be free to metaphorically bake dessert while lambs gambol around.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Scaredy Cat Vs. The Big Bad Owner

Everything is different in the dark.

While that works on a metaphorical level, the literal meaning led to a little bit of havoc the other night. It started when I put a pan on the stove top to heat and then didn't get back to it in time. Smoke started to build up in the kitchen and crept ever closer to the smoke alarm. I turned off the heat and moved the pan, but it kept smoking. So I took it out back, reminding myself to shut the screen so the cats wouldn't get out. Which of course I forgot to do when I went back inside.

Moments later I heard a semi-panicked meow. Jellybean had taken a half dozen tentative steps and then decided he wasn't sure about this whole "outside in the dark" business.  I called him and he came happily back in for a handful of treats. He's really not a rebel.

Nilly on the other hand... Nilly saw me coming and hurried down the steps.  So, with the screen door now shut so JB wouldn't work up his courage and go outside, I went outside and tried to find a black cat in the dark, while using my most syrupy voice to tell her what a good girl she was (even if she was actually being a brat) all the while frantically praying Nilly would NOT jump the fence.

It didn't take too long to get her back up on the deck, because the dark really isn't that much fun--especially without a brother to pounce on. But once she was up there, she wouldn't let me catch her. She darted out of reach and into the shadows. I sat at the top of the stairs, so she couldn't get back to the yard, and waited. Several times she ran to the screen door to go back inside, but it was closed. I continued to sweet-talk and waited for her to finally come over.

It took longer than it should have. I mean, she wanted inside, and I wanted to take her inside. I've never picked her up and heaved her off a deck or out of the house, so why I was suddenly the boogie man I have no idea. But eventually I nabbed her, and by the time she laid off struggling, we were all back in the house where we belong enjoying cat treats. Well, two of us were. I had wine.

I wonder how often I dart away from God's hand because I want to go in the house...when he's just trying to pick me up and carry me inside for the human equivalent of cat treats.  I don't know. But next time I feel a nudge and I'm tempted to hide behind the grill until I figure out how to get past the screen door, I hope I'll be smarter than a cat and just come to Him already.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Feeling, Better

Last week someone came at me. Not like a bear or crazed dog, a person.  And not even physically--though I really should take a self defense class--but verbally.

I looked for angry photos and this emerged and it
was way too funny NOT to use. Plus, in the heat of
the moment, I'm probably about this sane.
If it had been my work life it still would've sucked, but I get paid to deal with the occasional butthead. But this was in my personal life, so no paycheck to comfort me.  With some distance between me and that moment, I can see it wasn't actually about me at all. It was about fear of change
mostly, and a little about wanting to be in charge, both of which I totally understand.

I've been reading Brene Brown in book club. We're on our second, Rising Strong.  Brene is a shame researcher, who discovered early on that people who are able to deal with that emotion are people who embrace vulnerability. She was as excited about that news as I am. (If you haven't watched her TED talk you totally should. It's fascinating, and also if you want to feel pretentious you can name-drop TED in conversation. Here is the link.)

One of the first steps is identifying what you're feeling, acknowledging that, and trying to get down to the root of it. Am I mad, or am I really sad but mad feels safer? Am I embarrassed, and if so, is it because I failed or because I feel like I've been successfully projecting perfection and that image just face-planted on the sidewalk?

The concept is simple, but the action is not. In that moment I got as far as "I'm feeling angry and defensive. My face is hot, my body tensed, and I want to lash out." Then I stopped processing and just got pissy.

It was a few days before I was like, "Ugh, I should probably try to live wholeheartedly. Bleh." And a few more days before I was like, "Fine, fine. I'll explore the emotion" (said with more snark than eagerness.) And a few more days still before I'm finally doing it. These are the questions we're to ask:

What is the story I'm making up in my head about what that person thinks, how they feel, what they're going to do, and why?
What are my emotions?
What is my body feeling?
What am I thinking?
What beliefs about myself and/or others are driving the story/emotions/feelings/thoughts above?
What am I doing with all of it?

See? Not a fun process, but it gets at what the root of those situations is so those lies, or insecurities, or fears can be faced, maybe with a few safe people, instead of stockpiling hurt that never goes away.

It's super not easy, especially when immersed in a torrent of emotion, but yeah, I'd say its worth it. Because to protect myself from hurt would require I insulate from the good emotions too. You can't deaden one without losing the other.

Though sometimes a glass of wine and a good book are way more fun.