A friend of mine just went through a difficult life experience — one of the most difficult — which we were discussing on Twitter (privately). He said his mother probably would have offered her all-purpose motherly wisdom, “It’s all a process.”
My mother’s all-purpose wisdom is “This too shall pass.” (It has come in very handy, thanks Mom.)
Mine was (when my son was 3): “No blood, no Band-Aid.” Later (11-ish): “Mandatory fun.” Later (13-ish): “Deal with it.” Later (16-ish): ”You’re in charge of your own reality.” Later (18-ish): “Follow your bliss.” (Thanks Mr. Campbell.) Later (23-ish): “Life is a bowl of empty that some things fill better than others, and trying to fill your bowl with stuff you buy won’t work at all. Oh, and, you’ll never fill it; you’ll always feel like there’s something missing, but that’s normal. It’s what keeps us trying.”
I was a good mother, as you can see. Anyway, he survived (now 28).
So. “It’s all a process.” Of course it is! I had somehow forgotten The Process, and it only came back to me during that conversation. Forget the goal (not so easy with my American cultural conditioning). There is only the process, and it is all that matters. (Poor Sisyphus. If he’d known this, he might have hated rolling that boulder less.)
(Granted, that’s probably not what my friend’s mom means when she says that, but it’s what I needed to hear.)
I’ve known this forever, but then you get your life in a wad and forget the fundamental things. You do. It happens.
Think about it. Who among you ever wanted the cake as desperately once your mom had let you lick the bowl? (Which mine did, until salmonella became a household word in the 70s, at which point I was no longer allowed to lick the bowl (raw eggs) or have pet turtles anymore.) Maybe you’re younger than me and salmonella was already a thing. Maybe you never licked the bowl! If so, I’m very sorry for you.
The cake was nice, yeah, but nothing like the anticipation, hanging out with Mom while she mixed and beat that batter, smelling it all the while and, at long last, the fingersful of that sweet, (usually) chocolatey and oddly crunchy slime that you were licking off your own arm up to your elbow…
The process was the best part. Because then she stuck it in the oven and told you not to slam any doors and you ran outside to play and forgot about it.
Ben & Jerry, wise, wise men, knew it was never about the cookies…
(I will never, ever, forgive them for burying Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, by the way.)
So here I am having a life experience of my own, and it looks like it’s gonna be another one of those life experiences. Yet, even at my advanced age, and despite all my wisdom, motherly and otherwise, and after having been through so many similar life experiences that some of my friends are starting to call me Liz, I actually let myself believe I was eating the cake.
I had completely forgotten that, in life, the cake simply does not ever happen. There is nothing but the making of the cake. And that is enough, and even better.
So I’ve been raging, grieving, mourning a cake that never was, not going at all gently into that good night without my damn cake.
But after the little conversation my friend and I had, I’m feeling better.
Whatever it was, it was not The Cake. It could never have been The Cake, because there is no such thing as The Cake. But it was a damn good bowl of sweet and oddly crunchy…stuff.
Back to the kitchen now.