Good Intentions don’t always mean good outcomes! At least that’s what I found out this past week.
It turns out that when it comes to writing I can merge dialogue with text, explain a story in 200 words when I only had 50 to draw from, and people seem to feel comfortable enough with me to share specific details of their lives. I’m living creatively, doing what I enjoy and not seeing my job, as a job. I’m exploring my passion for putting words together and having people read them.
One thing I’m not doing however, is writing without that nasty bugger, fear, sitting on my keyboard hovering over every key stroke.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a book called Big Magic, Creative Living Without Fear. I bought it looking for a how-to, on how to not be afraid every time I submitted a story. How I could embrace my job and let it loose on the world without fear of rejection, censorship or the worst, neglect.
I realized that creative living equals fear. It can’t be given free reign without that gut-wrench and sweaty-palms-feeling. It’s what drives the creative mind to create works of art like the Mona Lisa, the Lord of the Rings, or Beethoven’s Fifth. Every brush stroke, musical note or carefully placed word carries with it the potential to be a priceless piece of work or a monumental failure. That kind of pressure cohabits with fear.
Gilbert shares her own story, about walking hand in hand with her fear. Me? I like to envision myself embracing it, absorbing it into every word I write. Not to elicit fear in my readers, but to demonstrate my truth and honesty.
Sharing my journey to no food waste seemed simple enough and honest! Especially when I thought to focus on the successes and dishes that turned out beautifully and meals that came together effortlessly. But to be honest that isn’t how it always works out. For weeks, my house and every piece of clothing in it smelled of burnt protein from chicken stock I left boiling on the stove. It reduced down to bones and meat and was just on the verge of catching fire when I woke up and found the house heavy with smoke. And don’t get me started on the stains in my stainless steel pots from burnt rice.
Last week, my first week sharing my journey to no food waste, I had one of those monumental fails. I had planned on having lamb stew on Wednesday night, but changed my mind and thought I’d save electricity and cook up a roast lamb in the wood stove. I thawed it in a bit of water in the cast iron Dutch oven on top of the wood stove, then added carrots, Jerusalem artichoke (I had bought about a month ago) and some Chinese Yams. I carefully moved the coals to the back of the wood stove box and put the cast iron inside.
I gave it an hour and a half. That might have been too long. As I pulled it carefully out of the box I burnt my quilted pot holder, my arm and a dish towel, lifted it to the counter and took off the lid. I had a hint of the catastrophe as I carried it to the kitchen, the smell of burnt fat tickling my nose. When I lifted up the lid, my first thought was how do I write about this failure? I wanted people to see how easy things are when you plan your meals, how you can minimize waste by carefully considering what you will eat each week and then purchasing just what you need. And here I was looking at the ultimate waste of money, food and time. What’s the lesson here?
Years ago, I started a book of insights I planned on giving my children when they became parents. I thought of it in lofty terms as Insights for Successful ChildRearing, but after reading about Gretchen Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood, I realized they were similar and very much generic to any adult or soon to be adult.
I don’t see them as secrets though, so much as truisms that we see only when we are ready to see them. Our parents tried to teach them to us, sometimes being blatantly obvious with what they are, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” “Don’t hang your dirty laundry outside.” To name a few. I heard them over and over again, but did I follow them? I either chose not to, or they weren’t relevant enough for me at the time.
One of my Insights in Adulting is that things can get hard before they get easy, kind of like taking a homeopathic remedy, you might get sicker before feeling better. Getting started on doing something new, or beginning a new way of life has its inherent growing pains, that’s how we learn what works and what doesn’t. But we need to pay attention in order to make those discoveries. I realized that I put all the coals at the back of the stove when I should have put them all around the Dutch oven. I’ve stored that information away for next time and hopefully will draw on that wisdom.
A friend’s daughter, who attends college in another city, called her one night in tears.
“Adulting is hard,” she said.
“Why,” her mom asked.
“I have to do my taxes and I just realized that I don’t have all my receipts and T4s.”
My friend reassuringly told her daughter that now that she knows what is needed before doing her taxes, next year she’ll make sure to have all the right documents ready. This year is hard, but next year will be easier because of the lesson hopefully learned.
Of course, sometimes we aren’t ready to hear that! We just want to feel the pain and get some sympathy.
Looking at that lovely burnt lamb roast I just wanted to get rid of the evidence and start over. The smell alone wouldn’t let me do that, but also I had made a commitment to create no food waste and share my journey.
With a heavy sigh, I dug out the parts of the carrots, artichoke and yams that weren’t burnt (there was a little bit salvageable). The lamb, though very dry, almost jerky-like on the outside, did have parts that weren’t excessively crispy. Picking off all those crispy bits I was left with enough meat to feed John. I ate the crispy bits (which to be honest I quite enjoyed). It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The roast wasn’t as blackened as the vegetables were and it just took a bit of extra chewing time and sips of water to masticate it enough to swallow! The dogs got the added treat of chewing out the rest of the pot.
My new Insight for Adulting is that being flexible makes you stronger. My plan included a lovely no energy, no waste meal, and, though there was little to no waste, it didn’t turn out how I envisioned. I adapted, added a salad and raw carrots and still came out with a lesson learned and a new insight.
With my menu plan, I have to build in a level of flexibility and ease, otherwise it is too easy to raise my hands in the air and say forget it, its too difficult. I must remember that it will get easier, that’s what habits are for, making things we need to do no brainers, so they not only get done, but get done quicker and easier.
With that said, here’s my menu plan for next week. If things go south this week, I have six cooked chicken breasts and a bag of yam fries in the freezer and a fully charged fire extinguisher in the broom closet, right next to the kitchen!
Menu Plan Week January 16
Florence Beth, John
Soup (Thai Coconut Freezer Veggie Soup)
Florence: Poached Egg on Toast
John and Beth:(Thai Coconut Freezer Veggie Soup)
The makings of Thai Coconut Refrigerator CleanOut Soup
Turkey(Meatloaf?) Sandwich with Cranberry Chutney and Spinach Salad
John: Soup from freezer
Chicken and salad
Beth:Mushroom and Tofu StirFry
Florence, John: Salmon Casserole
Beth:Corn Salad, Humus and Crackers
Florence:Ham Sandwich with peppers and lettuce
Beth:Quinoa Salad with Feta Cheese
Beth and John: Roast Chicken, yams, carrots, squash
John and Beth: Naked Natural lunch
Florence and John:Pork in Sauce
Florence, John, Beth: Chow Fun using all veggies in fridge.