It’s not you, it’s me

Apricot Almond Tart

Apricot Almond Tart

With clammy hands tightly gripping the steering wheel, I gulp pranayama breaths of air, desperately trying to calm down. A cake box filled with my future slides around on the passenger side floor. I am running late.

I’m taking my tarts to the Steakhouse for final judgment. My worst critic, me, appraises the product harshly. A week before, I was a proud cock, crowing about my tarts – the best key lime ever! Today, as I test and decorate them, my confidence crumbles. The key lime is too sweet and its crust is gummy. I re-bake it. The coconut cream is dry, flat and lacking coconut flavor. I re-bake it. The lemon tart is cloudy on the surface and a little undercooked. If I had more filling, I would re-bake it as well. I attempt to cover up its flaws with powdered sugar and whipped cream. The apricot-almond seems overcooked and lacking flavor, I also re-bake it. The hours tick by; my kitchen is a war zone with sheet-pans and counters scattered with the bodies of discarded tarts.

Can’t I call him and cancel, start over and wait until I produce something remarkable?

I can’t endure criticism and my fear of it has only grown with each new plan, scheme and pursuit. Negative comments sear my skin and positive ones bounce off the scars, unable to sink in. It’s a throwback from my youth, I am sure. In our house, crushing another’s confidence was how you buoyed your own worth and superiority. Now, it’s paralyzes me.

I drive the tarts to him and gather courage in the parking lot. He gives me bottles of wine as payment for my work and we chat. He doesn’t fear failure and I admire him for that. We talk about how difficult it is to tell a vendor their product isn’t any good, like breaking up with someone – “It’s not you, it’s me!”

I can’t do it. I can’t watch as my work is judged. I ask him to taste them after I leave, share them with the staff, and call me with his feedback. I cannot bear a breakup, not from him, not now. I wait. My phone is silent and I am deflated.

Fishing upstream from the internal sensor

“My boyfriend…he goes in this trance when he starts to photograph some things.

 What do you mean?

 Well, once we were in New Delhi and we pass a bum, that was lying down the sidewalk…Anyway, like, he looked like he needed help, but his first reaction was to photograph him!  He went, like, really close to his face, fixing his collar, to make it look better. He was like totally detached from the person.

 Yeah, but you have to be like that… to be good at that job.

 Yeah, I mean, I’m not…you know, I’m not…I’m not judging him for it, you know, what he does is essential and incredible. All I’m saying is that I could never do it.”

I did it.  I bought a digital SLR camera today.  I spent over $800 on something I may or may not use (not unlike my laptop, bought six months ago, used exactly twice). I bought the camera on a whim…..well, a whim that’s been in the back of my head for years.  Today, I acted on it.

When I was 18, I loved playing with photography.  I would get lost in the hours I spent in the dark room, nurturing my images, but that passion died somewhere along the way.  I could never find the time to take photos.  I hated lugging my heavy camera bag with me everywhere.  I felt disassociated from the events taking place on the other side of the lens.  I didn’t want to continue being an observer, but a participant.    As the years slipped by, my camera traveled out with me less and less.

These are just excuses.  I stopped taking photos because I didn’t feel I was good enough.  I wasn’t good enough to warrant lugging a huge camera case around.  I wasn’t good enough to feel confident pulling my camera out on a busy urban street to take a photo.  I wasn’t good enough to call myself a photographer. So, I put my camera away and thought to myself, “silly me that I thought I could do this well”.

My boyfriend taught me how to fly fish this weekend.  He took me to a little stream stocked full with blue gill, taught me how to cast, then showed me how to watch and feel for a nibble, then taught me how to bring in a fish and, finally, how to unhook it and release it back into the stream.  Throughout the process, he encouraged and gently corrected and gave me praise when I did something right.  It was a “no lose” situation – I probably could have thrown a rock and got a fish, but the environment he built for me made me want to try.  Sure, I was nervous I would fail or look stupid, but I was willing.  The experience made me want to try again.  It made me want to see what’s possible, where else can I fish, what else can I catch, how much better can I become at fishing.

I need to photograph like I fished – in an environment of nurturing (which may mean not showing a soul), away from my internal censor (who sounds just like my sister) – and pick up my camera like I picked up the fishing rod – without any preconceptions of my abilities and no attachment to the outcome.  Today, I bought a camera.

Of Gauze and Gossamer

It’s not that I don’t want to write, but so much of my time, my thinking, is entangled with him these days.  I no longer feel comfortable telling you about our interactions.  It’s become a bit more serious and it’s not fair to him to share without his knowledge. But, without this sharing, I have nothing left to say.

Strip away our conversations, our dates, our exchange of ideas, and my musings on him and I am a ghostly, diaphanous creature these days.  That’s frightening.  Can I really lose myself so easily – and only after a few months? He called me a “pleaser” last week.  I bristle at that moniker.  To me, a “pleaser” subjugates their wants and needs for another.  On the contrary – I want to share my delight in the world’s pleasures equally, not one-sidedly. I want to please him – and be pleased in return.

Saturday night found me alone – and feeling LONELY.  What new horror is this?  I’ve spent hundreds of Saturdays alone without a second thought – and now the silence is deafening. I finally retreated to P’s house for some company.

Fear is creeping in again. How can he continue to like me if “I” no longer exist?  I’m trying to find myself – especially the part of me who writes here. I spent yesterday in the back garden, cleaning up the mess the winter has left behind – raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting back dead plants.  Four and a half hours of this moving meditation.  Tonight, yoga – the greatest tool I know for reconnecting with myself, grounding myself – and hopefully once again finding my substance.