Saturday, September 29, 2007

Setting yourself up

I have a wonderful friend who does cake decorating. She did my wedding cake fourteen years ago and has done hundreds since. She recently related to me how she'd made a cake for her granddaughter's birthday. She'd decided to use butter cream frosting because it tastes so much better than shortening based frosting. However, it doesn't hold the decorative shapes as well as the trans-fat-laden-alternative so by the time she went to the party the frosting was blobby and drippy. She then spent the party trying not to be embarrassed and annoyed with herself--knowing that she should have used Crisco.

I don't decorate cakes, but there are so many other things in my life where I face this same thing. I hurry to get all the dishes in the dishwasher before I leave the house so that I'll have clean dishes when I get home, but getting it all done makes me late for my appointment. I--totally hypothetical here--agree to participate in a Book In A Month Challenge before reading the project I'll be working on. I haven't read it for a year and realize I need to cut 4,000 words. Not to mention that I have another book I'm editing for someone else, I am buying bookshelves that have to be put together, and between my own presentations and my kid's stuff I have 3 evenings in a two week period of time that I'm even home. I know I won't have time, but I commit anything. Sometimes it seems as if I have masochistic tendencies.

I could go on and on and on and on, but then we'd all wonder what was wrong with me.

The point is, why do we do it? Why do we set ourselves up for failure?

I think I figured it out. Because we have to fail. We simply CAN NOT do everything. My friend chose butter cream because it tastes better, she wanted a cake that tasted good. Shortening is beautiful but most people scrape it onto the plate. She had to choose between presentation and enjoyment of product. Who's to say she didn't make the right choice? If it were my cake--butter cream all the way.

Yes, I'm late for an appointment, but when I get home with half an hour to get dinner on the table, I'm sure glad the dishes got done (now, had I chosen not to spend 2 hours on the computer before I did the dishes. . . ) And as for the BIAM, well, I AM making progress that I don't think I'd be making if I didn't have a goal.

In my own life, I know that it is through my failures that I grow. It is through sin that I've come to understand the Atonement and through weaknesses that I've found the desire to do better. I still hate that I'm not perfect, hate that I can't do it all the way I see it in my head, but if I can look at life as a journey, at which I am slowly improving myself bit by bit, screw-up by screw-up, well, it's not so dang depressing.

And then I hear my friends butter cream vs. shortening story and remember that I'm not alone. We all set ourselves up in some way or another--so, what's your poison? And yes, I'm asking for purely selfish reasons.


An Ordinary Mom said...

What an insightful and thought provoking post. It makes me want to take the time to make better choices in my life!

Anonymous said...

hi josi:
great post.
i especially love how you said that paragraph that started with it is through failures that we learn.

have experienced a very hard adversity during this summer and we are on the upside now, but this experience has taught me so much and brought to our lives some rich blessings, too. i will take the adversities any day for the outcome of the blessings that have come as a result of this and during this time ... are too good and important to me.

in answer to your question, somehow you can say no to more things. you don't have to commit to as much as you are. you know this. when you are more choosy about what you say yes to, you can devote your energies to a doing a few very well (than doing a lot spread too thin).

kathleen :)

Luisa Perkins said...

Josi, I so needed this today. If you could see my yard, you would know one of the ways I set myself up. In order to realize the garden of my dreams, I really need a staff of gardeners, or at least one crusty but dedicated old gent like the Ben Weatherstaff at Misselthwaite Manor.

Instead, I have two willing-but-overzealous older boys who need strict supervision, a busy husband, and my always overcommitted self. I went out the other day and looked at all the weeds taking over my rose beds, perennial border, and fruit plantings and fell into the Pit of Despair.

I don't know what the answer is (my husband suggests AstroTurf). ;)

Kasie @ ~The Art of Life~ said...

I just recently found your blog and I truly enjoy reading it!
What a wonderful post, and one that I needed to hear. I'm an artist, and also a busy Mom. I set myself up for failure by expecting every art piece that I do to be perfect instead of enjoying the process. I have honestly found that I learn the most through my mistakes and yet I never want to make them, lol. Thanks for the reminder that mistakes are part of the journey that makes us better.

Momo Fali said...

I have a hilarious picture of my son crying hysterically in front of one of his birthday cakes that I baked. It's become a running joke! They taste good, but they're never pretty. Amen to learning lessons from our mistakes. You can't learn how to ride a bike until you've learned how to fall correctly.

Jenna said...

Man, sign me up for this club. It's a common thread, especially among women, I fear. Great post!

Autumn Ables said...

Perfect take on the juggling of life. Sometimes a great anology really puts things into perspective-such as this. Thanks Josi. YOU ROCK!

Janette Rallison said...

This is exactly the reason that I leave the dishes in the sink. (but wait, I'm still late for stuff anyway . . .)

Avery Gray said...

This is so true! It's so easy to get down when we make mistakes, but if we'd just look at them as opportunities to learn, life wouldn't be so overwhelming. Thanks so much for sharing!

Anna Maria Junus said...

I think in some ways our ancestors had it better. They didn't have pictures of perfect cakes, gardens, and homes. They just did what had to be done and didn't know what perfection was.

Curse Martha Stewart because you know she would have figured out a way to make the cake taste and look perfect.

Maybe we could think of perfect ways of torturing her.

Julie Wright said...

what a great lesson! Failures aren't so bad when thought about like that. Thanks for the reminder.