Burnt Pancakes (or…Go Ahead and Schedule Failure)
There are certain seasons…certain spaces…certain days…ok, certain HOURS…when I can start spiraling into a vortex of crumbling self-worth. Like you, I am sure there are various contributors to this ride into darkness. Children for instance. They are not always great builders of a parent’s self-esteem. It can, at times, seem that critiquing one’s mother is a teenager’s favorite past time.
You don’t have to be a parent to get what I am saying here. There are lots of places we get “beat up” and “knocked down”… places where we have to fight to ENDURE and STAND without slipping into the vortex of self-flagellation. I KNOW you have these spaces and people, too. Be honest. I like to think this is a safe space. 😉 “Game-y Manipulative” colleagues. “Negative Nelly” friends. “Never good enough” family members. We all have them (and have all probably BEEN them, too).
After a while you become EXHAUSTED. Your defenses are down. You have fought and stood and self-soothed and smiled and maintained boundaries and loved and been strong…and then something little goes wrong that is obviously the PROOF of what you have suspected all along.
I really and truly just SUCK.
It can be anything.
Such as making pancakes.
As God is my witness there is a law of life, some rule of the cosmos that I will ALWAYS burn the first pancake.
Always. Always. Always.
For years, I would make pancakes on Saturday mornings for my hungry humans. These tiny, ravenous people would be darting around while I made the batter, turn on the stove and started cooking the cakes on the griddle. Every Saturday morning I would think that THIS would be the Saturday when I did NOT burn the first pancake. I just knew I could keep it from happening.
I thought through the possible contributors to my regular demise at creating the first perfect pancake. Perhaps, I started the burner out too hot. Or, too cold. Or, maybe I kept the cake on too long. I would get busy with slicing strawberries and pouring orange juice and making coffee and locating the chocolate chips for three kids, peanut butter for one, pecans or granola and blueberries for me. Maple syrup (for me). Regular syrup (for everyone else).
Oh! The pancake! I run over to the stove and quickly flip it.
Usually, it is black on the other side.
Other times, I’m not late at all. I’m early. As I flip the pancake, batter runs out, the pancake splits and I am left with a mess.
I really and truly SUCK!
My burnt pancake and edgy, hungry kids are proof.
Last week I sat on the floor and played “Connect 4” with my youngest daughter. It quickly became clear that she did not really know how to play so I started teaching her basic strategy. I explained that she needed to do two things at the same time: watch my pieces to see where she needs to block me and watch her pieces so she could know where she wanted place her pieces in order to win.
I gave her lots of tips and directions. I “let” her win the first game.
Not the second.
She started to whimper and I could sense a cry coming on.
“Sweetheart” I heard myself say. “Sometimes, you have to lose to learn. That’s just part of the process. You HAVE to lose to learn.”
She wins the next game.
When my oldest daughters were young children, we loved watching the American Girl movies. We so enjoyed the historical films. We also loved the yearly movie that came out about the “Girl of the Year”, a doll that was released yearly. The annual reveal of this doll, her name, and her unique storyline was greatly anticipated.
Around the same time my oldest daughter seemed to be going through athletic and other extracurricular activities rapid fire style. She did not want to stick with anything. At some point, we had a conversation in which it became clear that she wanted to do something that she made her feel accomplished…where she could be the best. In that conversation, the American Girl movies came to the surface. Those girls were always the BEST at whatever it was that they were doing. As much as we loved these movies, I realized that they communicated an idea that everyone has a “thing” and everyone will be a star at that “thing”. My daughter was trying to find that “thing”…her star power.
What was difficult to communicate to a young child was that the road to stardom is paved with lots of epic fails and hard work.
Most people burn their first pancake. Or ten.
It doesn’t mean you aren’t or won’t ever be a “star” if you walk out onto the softball field and struggle to throw for the first time.
And, it certainly doesn’t mean you suck.
We just all usually throw bad pitches in the beginning.
We usually have to lose to learn.
After a few hundred burnt pancakes over the years, I decided on a new approach.
Wait for it.
I decided I was going to plan on burning the first pancake. I never made a first pancake with anything special in it. No pecans. No chocolate chips.
Just a plain, boring, inevitably burnt pancake.
I PLANNED on burning the first pancake and that change in my approach completely altered my experience of the “failing”.
I would burn that first pancake and say to myself: “There you are! Good morning, little burnt pancake! Thanks for getting this part out of the way this morning.” I would then give that burnt pancake a special place of honor on a plate. A child might see it and make fun of my pancake making skills and I would laugh and keep going. I would keep making pancakes.
I have heard from so many people struggling to step out and actually try something new…something that they think they would enjoy…all because they are so terrified of burning that first pancake.
So, plan on it. Plan on losing to learn. Schedule it into the process.
Burn that first pancake with flair.
I had a conversation with another therapist recently about the clinical idea of “rupture and repair”. The gist of this concept is that all relationships will experience a rupture, even a therapeutic one. Therapists will, at some point, say something wrong and hurt or anger their client. Therapists are not perfect. The key is what happens after the rupture. The therapist can approach the rupture in a way in which the repair of the rupture actually strengthens the therapeutic relationship. Same goes for any other relationship. It can be a powerfully healing experience.
The big “however” in this explanation is that the person in power or the offender MUST approach the repair in the right way. There must be sincerity. Complete acknowledge of the wrong doing. No qualifications. Recognition of feelings. Permission given to the other person to stay or walk away. Humility. Respect. Gentleness.
Sometimes, I think we need to learn how to navigate the “rupture” and “repair” with ourselves, too. We are going to let ourselves down. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to burn lots and lots of first pancakes.
You are going to face ruptures, friend. You will burn first pancakes. Maybe the first ten. You will lose and fall down and sometimes when you experience these misteps you will already be exhausted and you will be tempted to see these happenings as proof.
I really and truly just suck.
You don’t suck, friend. You might be exhausted and worn down, but you don’t suck. You might burn your first pancake every single day of the week for the next 15 years, but you don’t suck.
Try it, friend. See what it feels like to PLAN on the burnt pancakes. EXPECT the ruptures. Greet them. Here you are! Good morning, little burnt pancake! Thanks for getting this part out of the journey out of the way this morning.”
The super big and important thing here is how the person with power responds.
Guess what, friend.
YOU are the person with the power.
Sincerity. Acknowledgment. No qualifications. Recognitions of feelings. Permission to stay or walk away. Humility. Respect. Gentleness.
I hope you have the courage to burn some pancakes this week, friend. Get dangerous. Take some risks. Throw some chocolate chips into that inevitable fail.
I can’t WAIT to see what happens next.
Photo credit: http://chefjulieyoon.com/2012/05/pancakes-with-balsamic-strawberries/