When failure won't f*ck off
And your Hollandaise is broken forevermore
In my last post I talked about ruining something that I knew very well I was capable of succeeding at. It is the typical, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, figure out where it all went wrong, and correct it. Simple enough, and for those of you that want it, the tortilla soup recipe will be in a future post, but I have to write it up, so patience please.
Now, what happens when you find something that you just can’t do. No matter what you try, you can’t get it done. This will happen, more often than we would like it to. What matters here is how you handle it.
I have failed at things many times. I have found there are things that I will never be able to accomplish, or the act of accomplishing it is more than I am willing to invest. I could talk about drawing here. I did try to learn it over a year’s time, and found that it wasn’t something that I can manage. That part of communication in my brain doesn’t work. A neuroscientist theorized the reason my brain cannot do this was due to “limited visuospatial deficit suggesting a delayed regional maturation”. Lots of complex words to say;
“Athena, you can’t draw. Just drop it an move on.”
So I did. However, that is not the only thing I have failed at, and in the kitchen the failures are numerous, but probably none so stubborn as Hollandaise sauce. You know it, you love it, and it’s a pain in the ass to make. However, I am a very persistent (read stubborn beyond all reason), and I was going to make this sauce. I had never done so, but I had never poached an egg either, and after four or five failures, and several not so great results visually, but technically successful, I poached a damn egg. Then I poached a lot of them, so I could do this.
Nope. No. I could not. And I don’t mean failure after a dozen eggs, I mean failure after a trip to the store, a very messy kitchen, and no closer to success. I spent hours trying to get this done, and like I said, I am really stubborn. Enough so that my Significant Other had to refuse to take me back to the store for more eggs for me to take a step back and question myself.
What was I doing exactly? What did accomplishing making a Hollandaise actually mean? Frankly, I thought to myself looking around my messy kitchen, this is a lot of work, and I can just have eggs benedict at pretty much any breakfast place. There was a place five minutes away that made super tasty Hollandaise, so really… what was the point?
I like challenges, and sometimes I can get so focused on the challenge itself, that I forget what I am trying to accomplish, or why. Sure, learning to make a mother sauce is important when you are cooking, but I’m not trying to be a chef, so it doesn’t have an impact on my life. I don’t have a problem with not being able to do something, so it wasn’t an ego thing. So, what was it?
I didn’t see the forest but for the trees. I was so focused on “I can do this”, that I didn’t bother asking if doing it was really going to be of value to me. I had to really consider if me being so stubborn, and so singularly focused was actually wasting my time, and my efforts. When it came down to it, I wasn’t going to be having Hollandaise every day, or even more than a couple of times a year. Was all this mess, all this time, the money for the eggs as well as the other ingredients, and all the focus worth being able to create this sauce?
It wasn’t, and it gave me perspective on my stubbornness.
When you are looking to do something, and you are no longer enjoying the process, when it is something you don’t actually need to do, stop and ask yourself why you are working so hard against your own interests. What are you seeking to accomplish. If it’s to prove that you can do something, I get that, but sometimes, really… you can’t. Just like I can’t make a Hollandaise sauce.
For whatever reason, that sauce and I are not meant to come together and make beautiful food, and I am fine with that. I wasn’t at the time, but that was because I was being stubborn, and not seeing that there are things that are better suited for my efforts, and my time. I was caught in a moment of a challenge, not seeing the value of the results not matching up with the work involved.
When you are doggedly pursuing something, and everything appears to be working against you, stop and try to see if this is because it is meant to be hard, and the difficulty is worth it, or if you are creating your own obstacles and are acting as your own worst enemy. If you are killing yourself trying to accomplish something that will never be in your reach, are you working that hard because the process itself is rewarding, because you are like me and stubborn, or because the fear of that mark of failure is too great to bear?
Sometimes we fail, and sometimes no matter what you do you are meant to fail. You have something to learn from that failure. I learned that I am stubborn to a fault, but this was just one of many times I have had to have that lesson beaten into me. If we cannot look at the things that we learn and utilize them to make us better, then we are selling ourselves short. I had to see the whole picture to understand the outcome. It wasn’t to make Hollandaise, it was to understand that even in failure that cannot be avoided, there is value that, unless looked for, is missed.
I’m still stubborn. I will always be so, and I don’t have an interest in shifting my way of being overall. I just am more selective as to where I allow that stubborn mentality to take me. The ends do justify the means, but sometimes it is the process that holds the valuable endgame lesson, not the results of the activity, or in my case, the lack thereof. Be mindful in your process, and you might find that you aren’t meant to accomplish exactly what you set out to do. There was a path to a lesson there, if you are paying attention.