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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
Do the scary things. 
14th-Aug-2011 10:08 pm
Tonight, I baked bread.

I've been avoiding baking bread. I bought a bread machine. I have gluten-free bread-machine cookbooks, I have recipes bookmarked, I have lists of ingredients. And I have been Not Baking Bread.

As I've mentioned here before, I am the product of a severely-Type-A upbringing, the kind of upbringing that results in "You got a 98% on the test? Well, what happened to the other two points?" and spelling bee championships or else and hardcore precision ballet, all before the age of 12. (Yeah, ask me about the upbringing my daughter isn't getting.) As I've mentioned here before, one of the most enduring lessons of my childhood is that Failure Is Unacceptable.

You can imagine what the ensuing years have been like, as my body and brain began to fail epically on me. There have been adjustments. I'm just saying.

I ended up in tears last night talking about writing - about Cicatrix mostly, but not about the story itself, about how terrified I am to write it. Because writing, the way I do it, involves a certain loss of control. With Cicatrix more than most, even. I have to surrender utterly and let the story happen. Or I'll get in my own way and fuck it up. And I am scared to do scary things. I am scared of failing, but I'm also scared of loss of control. I'm a lot more scared of that now than I was before I started having seizures. I mean, these days I require chemical intervention to loosen my iron grip on consciousness so I can get any sleep at all. So sitting down at the computer and sending my conscious mind away for a while is a difficult and scary thing.

But I have to do the scary things.

I have been Not Baking Bread. Because gluten-free baking is notoriously difficult, and I have a hard time attempting things that I know I'm likely to fail at, because Failure Is Unacceptable. But for stuff like this, failure has to be acceptable. It has to be a learning experience. I'm not going to not bake bread because my bread might suck.

(I have the same thing with knitting. Knitting is still sometimes very difficult for me! Part of my brain damage is re: spatial relations. Oftentimes patterns don't make sense to me at all, and sometimes I can sort them out by brute force and attempts at patience, and sometimes emilytheslayer has to grab my hands and move them for me so I can figure out what they're supposed to be doing. But I keep doing it, because I refuse to be defeated and I am desperately hoping to build new neural pathways.)

So tonight I was knitting and watching Tony Bourdain with Elayna and thinking dammit, I want my guys to come home so they can help me bake bread. Because it helps to have help, even if they're just standing there in case I need help interpreting something. But they were helping friends move, and I was getting sick of thinking "dammit, I need to get around to baking bread," and so. I baked bread.

I baked bread for the first time ever.

It was a mix. In a bread machine. I know that doesn't sound like much. The part that's significant is not that I followed a recipe and figured out how to work a bread machine.

It's that I was able to give myself permission to fail.

So at this point, it doesn't even really matter whether the bread is good, just that I made it. But it *is* good. It's a dense pumpernickley/rye-y loaf with lots of seeds, and it feels like bread (almost entirely). It is not a brick or a sponge, it is a loaf of bread, and it's pretty, even, and it's tasty. And my daughter, as it turns out, loves the smell of baking bread. And I will be doing this again.
15th-Aug-2011 02:15 am (UTC)

I'm glad you gave yourself the permission to fail, and I'm glad that it wasn't a failure.


15th-Aug-2011 02:28 am (UTC)
Glad the bread-baking was a success! I love the smell of baking bread too, but I never have time to bake anything more complex than biscuits from a can :-/
15th-Aug-2011 02:31 am (UTC)
I identify with so much of this, up to the "where are the extra two points?" Even though I've been aware of my resistance to trying new things (aka potential failure) and its sources for a long time, it's still something I wrestle with all the time. I send you many nods of understanding and empathy.
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15th-Aug-2011 02:52 am (UTC)
I understand the perfectionism bug. Oh dear, how I understand it. Watching you give yourself permission to fail gives me a little courage to try it myself.

Thank you.
15th-Aug-2011 04:44 am (UTC)
That's what I HATED about the end of Shawshank Redemption. That they didn't need to show them meeting up on the beach, because the courage to get on the bus was the ending that really mattered, and anything after that was more than the story needed. But this time I really was interested in how the bread turned out. Because, y'know, it's BREAD. And that matters. And I'd hate to think you had to do without that.

So congratulations on the courage to take the risk. And I'm glad you got good bread out of it as well.
15th-Aug-2011 10:59 am (UTC)

Why is it [some] parents do such a good job of screwing us up...?

Mine, they pretty much expected me to fail at everything, mostly because I'm dyslexic and thus academically disadvantaged, so to speak. [and anything else didn't count]. They were all;
"Just try your hardest, but we won't be too disappointed in you when you fail."
Usually followed by;
"Oh didn't you do well..98%! Well, next time try harder and see if you can get those last two!"

Pretty toxic...

Anyway, I understand the reluctance to try in case of failure, even if I am coming at it from the other direction. sometimes one just has to say 'f**k it!' and go for it anyway...
15th-Aug-2011 11:36 am (UTC)
I always feel nervous after I grab your hands. It *seems* like it's the right thing to do when I'm doing it, but after the fact I'm always like "I probably should have asked." So I'm glad it helps, at least.
15th-Aug-2011 01:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, not only is it totally fine, but sometimes it's the only way I *get* it! I'd've Said Something if it wasn't the right thing. :)
15th-Aug-2011 01:33 pm (UTC)
I mean I *figured*, but still. :)
15th-Aug-2011 12:10 pm (UTC)
I need to teach myself how to overcome that same issue. Whenever I do the slightest thing wrong, I (sometimes literally) beat myself up about it. Even if it was an impossible task. :-/
15th-Aug-2011 12:52 pm (UTC)

The nice thing about bread fail is you can generally feed it to ducks. So it's rarely a complete failure. Not that that makes you feel any better.

I go through stages where I can't bring myself to cook. Because what I make might suck and then I'd throw it out and that's wasting food and wasting food is bad. I suspect I might be a bit more willing to be adventurous once I have the compost bin set up. The nice thing about vegetarian cooking is if it sucks, you can generally compost it.
15th-Aug-2011 12:54 pm (UTC)
That's wonderful. Now that you've broken the intimidation barrier, you're free to make it again and again! Lucky family ^_^
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15th-Aug-2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! I didn't have quite the same upbringing as you (overly critical, yes, but not achievement-focused) - but I have a similar, ingrained unwillingness to try if there's a chance I might fail. So yeah, you did a good thing, and I'm glad it worked out :-)
15th-Aug-2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
I just figured out that I can comment here again!

I wound up in tears last night because of writing. I just *can't* do it. And of course, that hurts.

Making bread, making mistakes. It's lovely that you are giving yourself permission. Either way. :)
19th-Aug-2011 05:08 pm (UTC)
Yay Phoe!

Have you seen this Ira Glass quote?

" Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.

But there is this gap.

For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through."
4th-Nov-2011 01:52 pm (UTC)
I have. I believe I have that pinned so I can read it every time I need the reminder. :)
15th-Aug-2011 09:04 pm (UTC)
What did happen to the other two points? Were they eaten by bears?
19th-Aug-2011 05:08 pm (UTC)
Gators, actually.
21st-Aug-2011 08:47 am (UTC)
Ah. A southern, rather than biblical, thing, then. :)
17th-Aug-2011 02:33 am (UTC)
Good for you! :)
18th-Aug-2011 02:54 am (UTC)
Baking bread is hugely satisfying once one gets over the fear of failure.

And- sometimes it fails... but the rest of the time? it's GLORIOUS!
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