It is no secret I love to bake. I started to learn to bake as a child when I would help my mom with cookies and cakes. My grandfather taught how to make pies. About ten years ago I ventured into bread making and I was instantly in love. I joke about baking being my therapy…. I traditional stick with breads because it is more important what they taste like than look like. A lumpy yeast roll is valued on taste not it being perfectly round. Each time I bake I am in a small way connected back to my mom and grandfather.
I have tried my best to stay away from beautiful sugar cookies. One year my sister talked me into trying royal icing with her. For me it was a royal mess and caused way more anxiety than it was worth. I am a perfectionist and to have a horrible looking iced cookie was not going to work for me. Last year I decided to make circle sugar cookies and coat half of each cookie with chocolate and add some festive sprinkles. They looked festive and were so easy to decorate! My coworkers loved them. I will admit my baking is a great source of pride.
Last week I was feeling on top of things because I was baking cookies two weeks ahead. I picked my ginger cookies and sugar cookies to make that day because I knew they would freeze well until I needed them. I spent four hours rolling dough and cutting out cookies. My four-year old helped at times and it was a great day of baking. After letting the cookies cool completely, I bagged them up to place in our deep freeze. About 150 cookies divided into four bags. As I started to walk to the garage, the bags slipped out of my hands. I could instantly tell the sugar cookies were destroyed… at least half of them were in pieces. I walked to the freezer and put them down. I didn’t have the energy to look at them or decide what to do with the broken pieces.
I consider myself a recovering perfectionist. My entire life has consisted of trying to be the best at everything I do and not wanting to settle for anything less of perfection. Thanks to a wonderful counselor ten years ago, I have slowly started to let go of my perfectionist tendencies, but at times they remerge. As a perfectionist you have this illusion your life will be perfect if you try hard enough. You think if you work hard enough your life will look like that perfect royal icing sugar cookie.
When my mom died by suicide 19 years ago, my life crumbled to the floor just like my sugar cookies. I wanted to put my life in the freezer and not look at it. Even though I kept putting one foot in front of the other, I kept holding onto the idea of my perfect life being broken and knowing it could never go back to like it was. For years I focused on what was lost and how the dreams I had were not going to happen. I struggled with ever seeing my life more than a pile of broken pieces.
Three days after the great cookie crumble, I decided I needed to do something about the situation. I asked coworkers for suggestions and my family offered thoughts. In the end I decided to make a bark out of them. I slowly melted chocolate, covered the cookie pieces and put crushed candy canes on top. Once it dried we did a taste test and it was YUMMY. I would never have thought to do it, but this was so good I will “purposefully” make it again. While my cookies weren’t beautiful works of art, they were tasty and pretty in their own way.
Somewhere along the journey of my life I decided instead of just surviving, I wanted to pick up the broken pieces of my life and put them together. Over the years I learned to live a life that was true to myself instead of some fictitious idea of “perfectionism.” I realized the perfect life I always imagined was never a realistic expectation and my mom killing herself did not have to stop me from making something new out of my life. My husband always reminds me that life does work out. I completely agree with him, but at times we have to pick up the broken pieces and move on, realizing life working out will look different than what we expected… and sometimes if we let it, life will turn out to be better than we ever could have imagined.