I had a challenging time of it today because I wanted to write something that would please someone I was desirous to please, rather than being true to myself. The topic was chosen with this in mind; the words were lengthy enough and impressive enough that I thought I was working on a real show piece. That’s the problem. It was a show piece— a piece for show!
Have you ever invited guests to dinner that you thought you needed to impress? You may not have seen them in quite a long time and you thought “Hey! This better be good! I don’t want them to think I can’t cook!” ? Maybe you are like me, and you have had lots of occasions to prepare meals for people that you have invited over to your home in the past. Your intent may have always been to make them happy, to fill them up with your best dishes, made unself-consciously, rather than to impress them with your talent. Your inner motives may have, without exception, been simply to be kind, loving, and hospitable, and that’s great! If the focus was on the friendship rather than on your finesse with food, then the meal may have only been Chili and buns, with a bowl of ice cream for dessert. It’s a sure bet that they still left happy!
If you were determined that you wanted to show off, if you stressed and struggled over your menu choices, or if you said to yourself even once, in one way or another, at the completion of the preparation of some key dish “Wow! I think they’ll be blown away by this!” then you can identify with this confession. That is what I was doing as I prepared today’s post for my blog—the draft copy that is. I hit the Delete button on that “show piece” last night. By the way, I’m not suggesting, if you coincidentally have got a really fussy kind of meal on the go right now, that you just run it all through the garbage disposal in favour of something simpler. It just that may be you need to evaluate your attitude as you move on with it.
Oh! And if you have a garbage disposal. then you might also want to think about a little greener option, if that’s a possibility. A bag of beautiful black compost, hand-made with love by you, from coffee grounds, lettuce leaves, potato peelings and the like, makes a wonderful gift to the right kind of person. Careful discernment is key, however, with this type of gift. Bringing it to your future mother-in-law’s home as a hostess gift might be wrongly interpreted— not much more likely to be appreciated than a bag of sheep manure— especially if she has no garden!
The draft of the post that I trashed earlier is one that I worked long and hard on yesterday in order to post early today. I had heard through the grapevine that someone I hadn’t seen in a long time might be reading my blog now, so I wanted it to be really good. Ladies will identify well with this when I say that it’s a little like running out to buy Spanx to wear under that really great dress you just bought for your high school reunion. You don’t want any of your flaws showing through when you reconnect with people you haven’t seen in a long time. Even people who post photos on Facebook that are blurred a wee bit to camouflage their wrinkles, do the same sort of thing. No comments had appeared on my posts to date to indicate that this person from my past was actually reading them, but still I felt intimidated by the recurring thought that I might be being evaluated. That’s not quite the word I want, but I’m sure you all get the picture— I wanted to show off!
I was pressured by the thought that kept recurring—“Hey! This better be good!” I kept altering it and embellishing it until it was ready to be presented. All it lacked was the big silver platter with the polished dome cover to present it in —my perfect serving of literary perfection! I left it to rest for an hour and then I came back to it. I opened it up to just do a little “taste test” to carry on with my food analogy. It had “gone off”; it left a bad taste in my mouth, like a cream soup that has been left on the counter to cool, instead of being chilled right away.The problem was that I wasn’t giving from my heart; I wasn’t giving anything with sincerity. I was trying too hard to impress and to show off, and the end result was a disaster—as insincere a delivery as the plate of appetizers delivered to my “middle aged”* sisters and I with a “How are you young ladies tonight?” The young male waiter at our table side that evening, was either legally blind or so over eager for tips that he had tried too hard. His attempt at flattery failed; his line had been too overworked. Like an over- beaten meringue it just fell flat!
How would you feel if you were invited over to my house for the first time and I emerged from the kitchen, placed a flaming cheese in the middle of the table, and said “Help yourself!” and then ran back into the kitchen without another word, reappearing only before Act two of my edible performance? If the fire alarm didn’t go off, you might be undistracted enough to make note of the fact that “Wow! That Yvonne can sure make a flaming cheese!” But that’s about all you would know.
Then I come racing into the living room again, and with a “Here you go!” I toss salad plates arranged with a beautiful kaleidoscopic collage of violets, clover blossoms, nasturtium, chrysanthemum and rose petals, and a crowning intertwining drizzle of blueberry and raspberry coulis in front of each of you. You might be thinking “She sure is creative, but when are we going to learn anything about who she really is?”
Supposing the performance goes on for quite some time, and all of it is quite impressive, but on no occasion do you feel like you are getting to know me at all. Right down to the flaming brandied coffee (a good chef, like a good writer will always try to tie in the introduction with the conclusion by some common thread) you unfortunately never get much more than a glimpse of “Real Yvonne” at all.
If I invite you to my home but I don’t share anything at all about the real me, because the real me is hidden by all the flash and flaming cheese, then that’s all it is— a performance!
That’s what I came within a few hours of attempting to pull off earlier, and I would apologize for this crust of bread that you’re getting today, but in reality it’s the last piece of a good honest loaf made by my own hands to fill you up. Not to impress you. And in the end, I feel so much better about it.
* The last time I referred to myself as middle-aged my beloved said to me “What? Do you think that you’re going to live to one hundred and twenty?” Needless to say, he got no dessert that night!