I am reflecting upon the phone conversation I had with a colleague, on speaker phone while I drove from campus to my neighborhood this afternoon. I had asked him to call me because I have been quite distressed – profoundly distressed, actually – about an ongoing difficult situation in my professional life which has recently intensified. Part of the intensity is that I really care about the outcome of the situation, I care about the people involved, I am attached to my role in the situation (which has been a long-term role), and though I should know better than to take anything personally, even when something is indeed personal, I still feel it in my gut, which is twisting, and my heart, which actually hurts. Life has taught me that I think better with others, I need to talk through complicated situations, even if I find direct communication very painful sometimes, even if I’ve spent many years of my life trying to avoid such communication. I know how important it is, life keeps teaching me this, and because I believe we humans can learn new things, can change our minds (and thus our feelings and actions), I’ve worked in a very intentional, focused way in the past couple of years to learn new ways of being when it comes to communication and facing up to things (which is not to say I have learned all that there is to learn….there’s so much more to learn!). So, I reached out to my colleague (and this reaching out can be a challenge for me, too!).
Any way--My colleague really helped me because he listened, he commiserated, he answered my questions with what felt to me to be honesty and compassion, and when he couldn’t advise me because he didn’t know what on earth to say let alone think about the situation, he told me so. And toward the end of the conversation, when I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of my neighborhood market, when I told him I had to get off the phone and go into the store to buy supplies for supper, he said something that stopped me in my tracks and reminded me to be here, now, and not self-absorbed, but other-focused. What he said wasn’t the kind of something I’m used to him saying, so it jarred me even more so. He said something along the lines of, “Cook the food you buy with love in your heart, so the food really nourishes you and your daughter.” Wow, I thought. Wow! And to him I said, “thank you,” about three times; I was so grateful. And he said back to me three times “you are welcome”.
My daughter and I are having left-overs tonight for supper, but I decided to take my colleague’s advice. So I bought some yellow corn-meal and some sweet cream unsalted butter. And some beautiful deep orange carrots. Right now, I’m roasting carrots in the oven to serve along-side our left-overs. And the minute I arrived home, about thirty minutes ahead of my daughter, I made a corn-meal cake and got it into the oven so the quite unbelievable scent, a combination of nuttiness and honey-sweetness, would be floating through the house when she walked in the door.
When you are in pain and distracted and worried, bake a cake, I reasoned. And it was a really great decision, because the minute Isobel walked in the door, she wanted to know what the scent was, what I was doing home early at 4:00 in the afternoon, wearing an apron and baking, and whether or not I’d had a good day. I told her I had absolutely not had a good day, but... I had baked a really great cake.
The cake came out of the oven about a half hour ago, and Isobel has already had a little, hot piece of it. Cake-success has been declared! And I’ve been given several bonus hugs!
I just now pulled the roasted carrots out—little pointy orange gems. And I’ve collected some tender autumn lettuce from Fred’s garden, which I’ll dress with lemon, olive oil, chives and crème fresh, if there’s any left.
When in pain, when in doubt, bake a cake (or carrots)!