Failure & Phoning It In
I’ve been phoning it in.
The last pie I took serious interest in was the Orange Dreamsicle Chiffon or maybe the Sour Cherry. The ones since then have all been less than stellar. There've even been a few I baked and didn't bother writing up. I haven’t been committed to putting the time in.
Am I bored with Year of Pie? Hell no. More important things have come up, and I’ve relied on luck to get the pies made. Working the pie dough, seasoning and sugaring the fruit, paying attention to what’s going on, I haven’t been present.
Partially its a natural part of learning a skill. You apply yourself early on, when you aren’t proficient, and hence you have early successes. As your skills progress, you loosen up, grow a little over-confident, and make more mistakes. At this point, you have to buckle back down and recommit to paying attention.
And the failures? Too much fruit in pies. Ignoring my gut. Not tasting fillings for enough sugar. Failing to properly research or remind myself of methods. Picking up inferior fruit. The mistakes have been edible (mostly) but serious let downs.
Why haven't I been present? Wrapping up a divorce. Getting a house ready to put on the market. Moving. For two years, I've been borrowing couches and beds. I paired life down the essentials while my belongings spread out over four or five different places. Launching this project with life in the middle of a major transition was stubbornness. I mean, life finds ways of interfering no matter when you take on something like this, so why not do it in middle of a great stretch of crap???
But getting knocked on your ass? Having it handed to you? It's demoralizing. A mentor gave me hard choice once. After a long, hard day, when I seriously fucked up, she said "You need to decide if this is what you want to do." Quitting is an option. People quit all the time. Jobs, relationships, hobbies. LIFE. (Quitting isn't always the easiest option, as it took years to leave an unhealthy marriage.)
My other serious past time is mountain ultra-running. It's a big, welcoming family of people who push their limits by going out into nature and traveling stupid distances on foot. Most everyone I know acknowledges the stupidity of it. But we do it because pushing yourself and quitting go hand-in-hand with finding limits. When you quit, that sets your limit—your current limit. (To a person, all the runners I know have found their limits are 10, 50, 100 times what they thought they were.) You have a shitty run, you learn something. Maybe you didn't eat when you felt that first hunger pain. Maybe you pushed too hard, too early, wasting yourself for the last five miles. We don't learn from success. No one learns from perfect performance. We learn by making mistakes, assuming you step back and look at what went wrong.
And that's where I've wound up, looking at a bleh slice of strawberry pie, thinking about what went wrong in the pie and in myself that I'd let such simple mistakes occur.