The Right Recipe

I’ve been cooking a lot lately. I bet you have too. Not that I didn’t cook before life as we knew it imploded, but it certainly wasn’t to the tune of three square meals a day, seven days a week, and a generous dishing of snacks in between.

Keeping it somewhat variable has been a challenge; provided that I can find a recipe that I am not so intimidated by, and given that I can then subsequently find the ingredients for said recipe, it’s been a little dicey (lame culinary pun intended). I am not my grandmother’s granddaughter; that woman could always throw a little of this and a little of that together and make magic happen.

I’m not into the imprecise types of recipes that hold a vague sense of direction like “dash” or “sprinkle”. No, I much prefer to be given the specific, to the quarter of a teaspoon, step-by-step directions.

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I’m like this in a lot of ways; I like to know the expectations, the rules, the “how-to” of it all.

I’m apparently much more confident in others’ ability to know the correct answer than in my own.

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was scrolling through Pinterest to find a specific recipe, that I feel as though someone has handed me an ambiguous, nebulous recipe for life. A “dash” of home-schooling with a “sprinkle” of parenting, a “good amount” of working from home and a “pinch” of house-wifery.

On the one hand, I want someone to lay out for me what exactly it is I should be doing, and when I should be doing it. Tell me the schedule for meal times and bedtimes. Tell me how many hours my kids should be working on school work, and not on their screens. When should we work in activities, exercise, family games, arts and crafts. When to focus on the parenting of my kids and when I might be able to make time for myself or my marriage. Give me the formula for that mix that equals success.

But I can no more take that recipe – even if there was one – and create the best stay-at-home, homeschooling, work-from-home mother than I can cook in a three-star Michelin restaurant just by virtue of someone handing me the instructions for the dish. What is working for other people right now would likely not work for me.

Along this journey that I have been on in self-development and personal growth I have stumbled more times trying to follow someone else’s recipe to the letter than I have succeeded. I have tried to emulate other people’s strategies, to the time, to the day, to the activity, and it has never worked quite how they made it appear for me. For awhile I kept searching, though.

Because someone’s gotta have their shit figured out a bit better than me, right? There has to be an adult out there who can point me in the right direction.

Maybe not.

This new world order has shown me that there is a ton of room for improving upon my need and propensity to know the rules and expectations, to understand where the boundary lines fall, and to not question why and even if they should exist in the first place.

We’ve all been given an invitation to undo our own certainties, and release our need for the assurances of others.

Perhaps this might just be the way to find our own best recipe; starting over from scratch, with the ingredients we have, as much or as little as we want to add, and creating something new and wonderful from the basic ingredients. Just like learning the basics of how to perfect a recipe, however, we’ll need time and a fair amount of failure to get a palatable first pass, not to mention to perfect the process. How we can best support our families, our spouses, our friends, ourselves; how we can build our parenting, our marriages, our friendships, our habits in new and better ways.

Good luck in your own kitchens, readers, and remember to throw in a generous amount of grace with each stir of your spoon.

Change

Intentional internal change is not like a lightning bolt or an explosion.

External change, the kind that can alter our lives in an instant, can happen like that, loud and fast. However, when we are trying to create change within ourselves, it is rarely sudden, and is more like a long, slow build. It never really reaches any sort of peak; more accurately, it becomes.

I wanted to type “it simply becomes” there, but it is anything but simple.

Internal change comes from consistency. It comes from developing a pattern of listening to, nourishing and respecting ourselves, our minds and our bodies. It comes from seeking out, encouraging, feeding and creating the right kind of energy, from being aware of our consumption at every level. It comes from changing our inner dialogue; unlearning the patterns created from our past and external influences, and learning how to hold an internal conversation that builds ourselves up rather than allowing the inner critic to step in and tear us down.

Consistency is not an overnight action. It is methodical and practiced. It is based in habits. It usually includes a few starts and stops. It requires patience, perhaps most especially with ourselves, because the little ways in which we stretch ourselves can feel really big and uncomfortable.

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And then, something happens.

It happens quietly. You work towards a thing slowly. You practice. You fumble and start again. However, after some time, you suddenly realize you’re not just working towards that thing, you are a person who does that thing. It may still require effort, but rather than negotiating with yourself, weighing your options, or much internal debate, you now just do the thing.

You can know what you want to change, but without a foundation of what might seem like trivial details, changes made with little to no support can be quick-lived and unsustainable.

If you are looking for true change, identify and work on those small things you can commit to consistently; when building a new default by design, there will be trial and error. If you fail, simply start again. There are times where difficulty and challenge can be an indication that perhaps that particular practice or habit simply wasn’t meant for you. But, if you feel a pull in that direction, it may just mean you need to give yourself a bit of grace and try again.

Small changes really do lead to the big ones; how you do the little things is how you will do the big things.

 

Factory Settings

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What is your default state?

For me, my default state used to be overwhelm. Frustration. Anxiety. Anger. Stress.

As strange as it might sound, I look back and realize I was comfortable there. I knew these states intimately; they were like a cozy, well-worn sweatshirt. I wrapped myself in them, and ironically felt that they protected me. I don’t know that I ever realized I could change what I believed to be my automatic responses and reactions, much less wanted to. I’m quite sure I would have told you I couldn’t change where I was at, even if I tried.

I never recognized that I could improve upon those places I automatically went to.

I believed it was simply part of who I was.

These states of being were a part of my story, something that I never thought to question. I believed they were intrinsically woven into my character, simply the way I was hardwired.

And I was damn proud of who I was.

Thankfully, I learned to ask questions. Through self-development, self-discovery and self-evaluation, and learning from a whole lot of external sources about how to focus on the internal ones, I discovered that unlearning these behaviors might actually serve me, and my family, better.

Now, I am damn proud of who I am, but even more proud of who I am becoming.

Those states of overwhelm, frustration, stress, anger and anxiety still linger around, showing up and knocking on my door from time to time; I haven’t been miraculously cured overnight. Sometimes, those deeply rooted default reactions bypass all the good intentions in a zero-to-sixty flash. I’ve noticed that this is especially true when I haven’t been focusing on myself and my needs first; when I haven’t been filling my cup before filling others.

Yet, there are times where I catch it in time, and that’s where I can see my progress. It’s taken a few years of focusing and committing to a different state of being to move myself beyond these mindsets. It’s a daily practice that I still fail amazingly well at. However, in those moments where I do manage to catch it, I glimpse what is possible and that gives me the fuel to keep working persistently toward new default states, creating my own factory settings.