Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Pancake

I don't remember how old I was, nor do I remember who all was there besides my family.  I think I was in middle school or late elementary school.  It was a pancake feed.  Small Town, Midwest, USA all the way. Omelet feeds, pancake feeds, potlucks, the church dinner, fish fries.  It was one of those kind of events.

Anyway, this particular pancake feed was in our church hall, and whoever was putting on the event had hired some joker from somewhere that had a big pancake griddle and seemed to think that not only was he a pancake turner, but also some sort of entertainer.  The most entertaining thing (to him) was to try to make people catch their pancakes.  Every so often, he'd flip one up in the air and the person in line would have to scramble to try to catch it on their plate.

Everyone was having fun, whether they caught it or missed it.  But at the time, I could hardly see that.  I was too busy being filled with dread.  What if he makes me try to catch it? What if I fail? What if my pancake falls to the floor while I look like a moron? The line inched closer, and I kept wishing for a normal person that would simply put the pancake on my plate so I could go eat it in peace.

Wouldn't you know it.  It's my turn and he immediately turns to me and tells me to try to catch it.  I said no, I wouldn't. He tries to convince me to just try. I said no, I put my plate down, and I stepped back.  The fool flipped it in the air anyway, and I watched it fall to the floor.  I picked it up, handed it back and he looked shocked.  He was sure that he would goad me into action; little did he know that the more you try to goad or guilt me into something that I don't want to do, the less likely it is to happen.

On the one hand, it is an illustration of just how obstinate I can be.  On the other hand, it is an illustration of my desire not to do anything unless I can do it right and do it without failing.  Notice what happens though?  My fear of failure leads to... failure. I am afraid that if I try to catch it, I'll miss and the pancake will be on the floor. So instead I just watch it land on the floor?  Yeah, that makes sense. The pancake totally did fall on the floor and I definitely looked like a moron.

I lined up my what ifs on the wrong side.  I never once asked myself, what if I catch it? It might have been a different story if I had at least tried.

Okay, this is a really nerdy thing to admit to, but I taught myself how to juggle one year. It took me a lot of time and a lot of dropping of balls, but really the only thing that's needed to juggle is to keep picking them up and trying again until you get it. (Of course, I could do that in my room without a single eyeball on me, but that's another story.) In juggling, a drop is a sign of progress.  If I got to where I could juggle a pattern well, I could do it with few drops.  If I started a new pattern, I dropped a lot, but I learned.

I've recently been trying to learn a little backcountry/crosscountry skiing.  Guess what they tell you? If you don't fall, you're not trying hard enough. If you don't push yourself to the limit, you don't figure out what the limit is, and you don't progress.

Guess what I've found out with rock climbing?  Yep. A fall is a sign of progress.  It means you've pushed yourself to try something that's a little above your skill level, but as you try again, you begin to expand your skill level.  My greatest strides in climbing have come when I am most willing to push myself and to take a fall if need be.

The other thing I've learned? Falling is really not so bad. Laughing with others as you flail in deep powder trying to get your skis beneath you and somehow get your center of gravity over your feet is a good time.  Falling off an overhang and swinging out is a reminder that my playground is a little different now, but climbing on stuff and swinging is still as much fun now as it was when I was a kid (though I definitely get dizzy much more easily now!)

The same holds true with other things as well, like graduating school (especially PT school), figuring out a tough diagnosis of a patient's aches and pains, continuing to hang out with people that I don't immediately connect with, but who eventually become good friends.

So to sum up, if you have to be stubborn, be stubborn about continuing to try even when it's hard.  If you're going to fail, at least fail trying.  If you fall, have fun! (Don't forget that bruises are badges of honor!) And in the end, succeeding when it's hard is WAY more exciting than getting it right the first time.

What about you?  Anything that you didn't think you could do, but kept going until you got it? Do tell! Or what's something that you are currently trying to conquer?


  1. wow, your post hits me where I live right now. I have really felt that God's grace has given me growth in a couple of leaps since January, and I have felt the desire to pray more and try fasting ... well, um, my definition of fasting which is on no account to skip my morning coffee. So I have my coffee or two and a dry toast in the morning, go through the day with no food (though perhaps a hot cup of tea, or maybe coffee again), and then to eat supper (after sun down), but not a particularly simple or restrained supper. And then, yes, I am hungry and I snack before bed time.

    Hm. I don' think that fits the textbook definition, does it?

    And the past week - well my housekeeping is a glaring sign of failure just now. I feel discouraged, especially since I know the solution is so simple. Just get into a routine. Clean up as you go. Don't give in to 'just too tired' and go to bed. the very simplest things on the home keeping front seem beyond my grasp and it adversely affects my quality of life. I am not finding the good side of this failure right now, but I will try. On the good side, I am doing home cooking, and that is a big reason why things are messy????

    I will be pondering your post over the next few days .... though it is hard to see these things (the housework especially, as I feel so lacking here) as progress, learning, badges of honour. They just feel like, well, miserable failure to do something I know I ought to be capable of. They also make me reluctant to invite people over, etc.

    Who knows, you may inspire a post someday soon - though perhaps I should require that the counters are clear before I am allowed to blog again!

  2. It absolutely drives me crazy when someone asks me to do something and I tell them no, only to have them continue to try to get me to do it anyway. One thing I've tried to make my boys understand: when someone says "no", they mean "no".

  3. Love this! And I would have stressed out about the pancake-catching, too, when I was a kid!

  4. I would have been mortified to be the one to catch the pancake too! I was a super-shy kid. It seems like jokers always can pinpoint the "shy one".
    This is a GREAT post! One of my favorite parts is your statement: "I lined up my what ifs on the wrong side. I never once asked myself, what if I catch it? It might have been a different story if I had at least tried." YES! I need to look at things on the flip-side too.