It’s coming up on a month in my new career as an editor, and while I feel like I’ve won the jackpot as far as jobs go, I still have this nagging feeling some days that I’m not keeping up. How will I handle the laundry and dishes, the emotional needs of my children, and stay a valuable employee? What if I can’t find the time to maintain the relationships most important to me? How will I ever find time to write?
I’m not the first working mother to ask these questions, and I certainly won’t be the last. But what I’m discovering fast is that I can either be overwhelmed by the things that need doing, or I can practice a bit of surrender. When something is pressing and necessary (“necessary” is a word I’m thinking a lot about as I edit manuscripts), I have to prioritize, find a creative way to let it in.
This occurred to me on Sunday, when I finally took on the task that had been pestering me all week: making banana muffins. (I know what you’re thinking. Banana muffin-making is an enormous feat.) We had too many ripe bananas, and I knew that making a batch would help breakfast go more smoothly each morning. I have always been able to “whip” up a batch in a few minutes and tap into my inner domestic goddess (she doesn’t come around much). Not only that, but baking muffins makes me feel satisfied that we’re eating something fresh and homemade and not wasting a bunch of fruit. (We’re prone to do that in this house. Fruit goes bad. Chocolate doesn’t. Thus, we have a lot of chocolate.).
On Sunday, I woke up and finally started mixing the muffins. But because I’m rarely at the supermarket anymore, I realized too late that we didn’t have many of the items the recipe called for. Since I’m not much of a cook, I have always tried to follow recipes exactly. On this day, I had to improvise. We were out of all-purpose flour, so I used wheat. We had no cooking spray to grease the pan, so I used butter. We had no unsalted butter, so I used salted. The bananas were so overripe that it looked like there could be insects living inside. Still, I worked with what I had, figuring that if anything, they would be kind of salty-healthy. I refused to be intimidated by the Joy of Cooking authors. Even I know that muffins are one of the easiest things to make.
A half hour later, I put them on the table, and to my surprise, the kids ate not only one, but two. The muffins were delicious (especially when I added some of that creamy butter on top). We went through so many muffins, in fact, that I made another batch the following morning.
Those muffins taught me something, and not just about salt. It’s something I’ve been noticing over and over again. There is no perfect out there, existing in some foreign ecosystem, somewhere else. Perfect already exists, and you have to find it. What no one tells perfectionists like me (who are only really anxiety hags) is that it’s more rewarding to see what you find in your kitchen cabinets than to have go searching. Perfect is inside.
That means all of my worries already have a solution. I was worried about not spending enough time with my kids now that I have a full time job, but I realized that I’d feel a lot better if we just had breakfast together every morning, the same way we have dinner at night. I was worried about not keeping up with my writing, but I decided to use paper and pen on the train in the morning, and I find that I’m being more creative, taking greater risks with my fiction. I was worried about not exercising, but I decided just to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. The only thing I end up missing out on is a little TV. And almost everyone could do with less of that.
So what does all this mean? I’m doing a lot less dusting and laundry. Thankfully, no one gets hurt from dirty clothes. Instead, I’m taking time each day to feel grateful for what I already have, all the fulfilling and exciting things I have left to do.
And if you’re wondering how I wrote this post, I’ll tell you. It took about four days, intermittently, on the train. Public transportation really is good for something.
Image: “Peanut Butter and Banana Muffins” by Justin and Elise via Flickr.