Once upon a time I did a fair share of cake decorating as a hobby/side job. I enjoyed the challenge, the creative outlet, the moments of feeling deep 'in flow' (where everything and everyone around you disappears while you are totally immersed in the present moment), and the opportunity to put my perfectionist qualities to work. And I especially loved the joy of making something ('edible art,' I liked to call it) that was a part of someone's special day, whether a birthday, anniversary, graduation, retirement, or wedding. I strongly disliked the prep work involved in the process but loved when the time-consuming foundational part of the cake was finished.... cake boards cut and covered, all cakes baked, cut to shape, leveled, crumb coat sealed, final icing coat applied, royal icing accessories made, support posts (if necessary) exactly measured, cut, and inserted, and stacking of cake tiers complete. Why? Because once ALL OF THAT was done, what was before me was a smooth road, which is to say, a 'perfect clean slate' with which to create my masterpiece. It was always a moment to take a deep breath because the 'hard part' was over (usually...hahaha) and I could finally get excited for the 'fun part' -the actual creative endeavor- the decorating itself! The decorating felt like the reward for the hard work.
This isn't to say that every creation went as smoothly as planned once that clean slate was before me (oh, the stories I could tell). And I certainly always learned more from the hard creations than the easy ones, and from the near disasters -whether those near disasters were from over-thinking or under-planning or miscalculations- but I was always able to sit back post creation feeling a certain amount of gratification, and certainly a sense of accomplishment for a job (usually mostly) well done...for planning, effort, problem solving, creative process, quality of work, learning, enjoyment, and end result. Cake decorating, like any art (and much like life) is perfected through trial and error, through practice, through experience.... through jumping headfirst into an unknown territory and thinking, hoping, praying you'll come out on the other side successful, well, and whole, and with happiness all the way around (you, the client, customer, and recipient, and me, the professional, artist, and hiree).
I could ramble on and on about the lessons I learned through that art, but perhaps the biggest one is that no amount of planning, intention, worry, and perfection can overcome the unforeseen accidents and the invariable mistakes that sometimes just seem to 'come with the territory.'
Is it not the same with life? We plan, worry, analyze, study, list out the pros and cons, think through possible scenarios, research, plan some more, worry some more, alter trajectory based on risk and/or fear, compromise, and make calculated moves in one direction or another. We do our best to perfectly plan and to lessen risk. But, still, real life happens when we least expect it, because real life -the challenging, overwhelming, and devastating stuff- is more often the unplanned, unexpected, unforeseeable stuff. It's the things we can't possibly anticipate -the accidents, the mistakes, the natural disasters, death of loved ones, the unimaginable- that teach us the most while simultaneously giving us the most perspective about what true joy and happiness really are. Usually once the dust settles and we slowly recover from whatever curveball or catastrophe was thrown at us, we find ourselves with a newfound sense of the incredible beauty and preciousness of life, and in awe of its remarkable synchronicities and hidden blessings. It's as if the joy that comes after hard times is the sweet reward for having conquered what we didn't know we could conquer - for having survived and made it to the other side.
So, what a gift it is each year at this time to have before us a clean slate with which to work. What if we could think of it as the hard part (last year) being over, and the newly enlightened artist (you and me) with brushes perched in our hands awaiting the creation of our latest masterpiece? What are you going to create? A new chapter has just begun. What do you want to tell the world? What do you want to say, do, contribute, explore, experience, discover, overcome, conquer? Will you be happy with the end result? What you are writing is YOUR story, unique to only you, and you only get a short time to write it! Make it a page turner! "Time is promised to no one (Clint Eastwood)." I'm always amazed at how quickly a year goes by, yet just how much can also truly change in a year's time as well.
Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver)"
Be brave! Take that chance. Don't wait! Worry less. Play harder. Pay attention. Be in the moment. Do what you've been meaning to do but keep putting off (with a gazillion overly-thought-out excuses). Have faith in the unseen forces at work behind the scenes. Make time to still yourself so you are able to tune into the heart whispers (God!) that guide you.
None of this means there won't be bumpy paths to traverse and difficulties to overcome. There will always be unexpected situations that arise in order to teach us, grow us, evolve us. That's life! And it's a beautiful thing to ride the waves of high and low, of triumph and defeat, of joy and sorrow, of risk and conquest, of learning and re-learning!! But remember there is always choice in how you view the unknown and the un-seeable, and in how you live your life knowing that fact. You can live in fear and slowly die from stagnation, restriction, and starvation of all this life has to offer, or you can choose to embrace every opportunity, listen to every inner whisper, learn from every mistake, seize each new day, and flow with the river that is life.
Sometimes during the spring downpours of life, you may feel barely able to keep up with the river's flow, and sometimes during life's drier summer spells you may feel stuck and unable to move. But here's the thing: though we can't always predict or plan for perfect flow, perfect timing, or perfect weather, and we can't always see what's up ahead around the river's bend, isn't it the not knowing (the unpredictability) and the conquering of what we didn't know or are afraid of (the conquest) that makes it the most rewarding in terms of personal growth, and the most exciting in terms of joyful living, and the most fulfilling in terms of accomplishment?
Life has a profound way of supporting you when you allow it to unfold instead of micromanaging it while fighting so hard to plan for every possible misstep. I'm not saying you shouldn't make any plans. I'm just saying to relax a little remembering that, "life is what happens to us while we are making other plans (Alan Saunders)," so be in the moment, live for joy, love as if your life depends on it, and stop worrying so much! God's got you! And, while you’re at it, take that chance, take that next step toward a dream, take that leap of faith, because we too often forget there are no guarantees in life...there's only living your best life while joyfully navigating everything that is happening around you, remembering all the while that the challenging times happen for us and not to us!
Happy New Year! Here's to 2022 with Love and Fearlessness leading the way!