Replacing The Bad With the Good

One of the exercises I’m really liking from Keiko Zoll’s The You Project (the best $7.50 I’ve spent in AGES, by the way) is writing down the negative things I think about myself during the day.

There are a lot of them.

Most fall within a specific pattern: I tend to feel I let others down, then I feel guilty about it.

Darcy had a birthday and we make a big deal about birthdays around here. I spent 4 1/2 hours baking him a homemade chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. In a way, cake-making might be the biggest nightmare out there for perfectionists who are hard on themselves. (Remember how baking a cake caused one character to have a nervous breakdown in “The Hours?”) The cake tasted incredible, but it looked in a word: WONKY. I didn’t make enough of the buttercream frosting so it wasn’t covered completely. The buttercream recipe was completely fussy and required me to add very small amounts of confectioner’s sugar over the period of an hour to the butter. Again it tasted incredible. Darcy (who never holds back his words and whose opinion I care most about) loved it.

It didn’t look picture perfect.

So I was simultaneously annoyed with myself for not DOING IT RIGHT then I beat myself up because I didn’t include my kids in the baking of this cake like the French do, then I thought, why do I care so much about making things the best?

That’s a bad wormhole to go down.

In addition, I have a friend who has the worst timing in the world, at least when it comes to our friendship. She calls at the worst possible moments, shows up when I’m in the MIDDLE of something or when the house is a total wreck. I’m always explaining, it’s not me, it’s you, I’m tired, I’m sick. It’s happened enough to strain our entire friendship.

Today I woke up with the feeling that someone was sticking a dull, cheap Ikea Allen wrench deep into my left ear every 15-20 seconds. It hurt a lot. I was able to make it to a doctor’s appointment, and he quickly told me I had a nasty ear infection and I needed antibiotics.

Poor Darcy took the day off for Yom Kippur and went to services without me, drove me to the Doctor with the kids, dropped us off then went to pick up the meds.

During the doctor’s visit, my friend called. I didn’t answer. Then as soon as I got into bed, trying to amuse the kids while still feeling the dull pain of the Allen wrench, she texted me and said she was around the corner with her daughter visiting her dad.

I did not answer her text.

Readers, I hid the phone behind my pillow.

Darcy got home and said he had seen my friend at the drugstore while he was picking up my antibiotics. She was really upset and wanted to hang out. She was sick of my excuses, he could tell. He felt badly for her.

I let down a friend today. I didn’t value her friendship enough to put away my own suffering and blithely serve her the leftover chocolate cake. Which is what I should have done.

I don’t really know how to atone for this.

Keiko Zoll tells me that for each negative self-thought, I need to show myself one kindness.

So right now I write this entry, because what I love to do is write. And tomorrow, I will call my friend (even though I hate talking on the phone) and try to make it up to her.


Do you have negative self-thoughts? How do you ignore them/get past them?


Filed under cooking?!?, Family

17 responses to “Replacing The Bad With the Good

  1. I have negative thoughts all the time, especially at work and especially this year. I’m pretty sure I’m letting all my students down each and every day.

    But honestly, I don’t feel like I have the time to even beat myself up about it that much. I have my teary moment of “god I SUCK at this.” and then I just move on, because what else can I do?

    Not really a great answer but it’s the truth.

  2. How do I get past them? Oh sweet baby jesus, if I knew *that* . . . I usually just try and ignore them and move on to something else. Its so insiduous though.

    I have, when I’ve got time and inclination, spent time with them writing them out and going through them, but I’m inclined not to give them the energy and attention doing this so much.

    If its any consolation, re your friend earlier, I probably would have done the same thing, feeling that grotty. Would it really have been quality time with her if she had come round that afternoon? Is there a way you could have a chat with her, acknowledging that its been consistently really shoddy timing when she’s contacted you in the past for some inexplicable reason, and maybe if its you that contacts her in the future . . . you know, addressing it, talking about it and finding a way forward? Sounds a bit controlfreak maybe, but could work?

  3. Oh my gosh, cake baking is the absolute worst thing for perfectionists. I have had NUMEROUS breakdowns while trying to bake cakes. My icing is always a disaster and the cake never fails to look like Mr. Magoo assembled it. I have decided that while I am talented at many things in the kitchen, icing is not one of them. I now make cakes that require zero icing and save myself a lot of drama 🙂

    As for negative thoughts about myself – I sadly know this well, too, and still have not found a way to constructively deal with them. I do like Stinky’s idea of writing them out. We are writers. We process good and bad emotions through writing. It only makes sense that we could better process these self deprecating emotions through writing.

  4. Oh, and for what it’s worth, that cake looks incredible and I would like to trade in my bowl of oatmeal for a slice, please!!

  5. I do not think you need to apologize to your friend at all. So stop beating yourself up about that. I do think you need to be honest with her, and explain that while you do like to see her, it just doesn’t work for her to show up on short notice. You hate that you can never really devote your fulll attention to her when she’s around, so you think the best option would be if she calls/emails/texts a few days in advance to pick a day/time that works for both of you. I think that’s totally reasonable. You haven’t done anything wrong.

  6. Nice cake 🙂
    If she is really your friend she’ll forgive you and understand.

  7. Negative thoughts? who me? no, never….oh wait..negative thoughts about myself…yeah that’s pretty much all I think of my self. I beat myself up all the time for not being good at this, or doing this as well as so and so. And then of course there is the whole letting my husband down failing to get pregnant for 4 years and then failing once again. I don’t know how to get past my negativity. I’m in therapy, I do gratitude lists, I hope and pray someday I can find some good in me. But for now…well, I just suck it up and try to get through the day.

    As far as the cake goes, it was made with love so if it was only half baked it would still be the best cake ever. And for what it’s worth, that cake looks amazing to me!

    And the friend, well she’ll get over it. Sometimes people’s lives get busy and things take precedence over other things. One of my BFF’s is so busy with life she barely has time to breathe. So even though it takes me a month to get a hold of her, I realize she has a lot of stuff going on and we’ll connect soon enough. I hope she is that kind of friend.

    Good luck, and don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re doing an amazing job and I hope you are feeling better!

  8. SRB

    I was caught in an endless cycle of negative (even dangerous) thoughts for several months last year, to the point of not being able to leave my house. In addition to medication, my social worker suggested a weekly mindful meditation program for anxiety and depression. It was run by a psychiatrist who is also a yoga and meditation teacher. It saved my life. (I also found the book “The Mindful Way Through Anxiety” to be very helpful in structuring journal-keeping during this time – will check out Keiko’s book after hearing the review on the podcast).

    In addition to the practice of mindfulness and teaching us various forms of meditation (to find what suited us best), some of the program focused on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to deal with, rather than push away negative thoughts. This also involved writing down negative thoughts (and giving them a rating as to how anxious they make you in the moment) and then assessing the reality, evidence, and alternatives for this thought. It did involve a LOT of journaling at first, and then gradually I began to do it in my head. It dove-tailed nicely with the mindfulness program in that when you feel yourself beginning to go up the hill on the rollercoaster, you focus on the breathe and think “Okay – what I am doing? What am I thinking?” and then sit with the negative thought and go through the process. It doesn’t (and really, cannot) stop the negative thoughts, but it did teach me me to think about them, rather than let them control me. One of the most powerful things the teacher said that really sticks with me is “Allow yourself to use your memories, rather than allowing them to use you.”

    Be gentle with yourself. 🙂

  9. Jessica, I’m glad you’re finding such value in this book 🙂

    Abandon the word “should” from your vocabulary.

    It’s something I’ve really, REALLY been working on in my own internal monologue and it’s made a huge difference already.

  10. I would love a peace of that cake! I agree with Deborah, that you have done nothing wrong towards your friend. Some periods in life you are just busy or sick or have less energy to hang out just like that. Maybe you could try to explain it without putting guilt on either of you.
    As for the negative thoughts, I would be surprised if there’s anyone who doesn’t have them, more or less. But just like everything else, to acknowledge it is a first step to then address it. How is the next question but Keiko’s program seems to be a start and maybe the key for further progress.

  11. I could have written this.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy has been my lifeline. I’m a completely different person from two and three years ago.

    Also, getting Keiko’s book when I finish this comment.

  12. I think it’s totally okay to hide the phone under the pillow. Who else is going to hide the phone for you? Take care of you, you.

  13. Those negative thoughts do have a way of becoming your reality. Interesting how challenging it can be to change to a more positive, intuitive way of thinking. It is a daily practise to master one’s mind.

  14. How did the phone call go? I hope she was understanding.

    And there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself what you need when you need it.

    I screwed up yesterday. My lapse inconvenienced two of my friends, one who had the kids (I was late picking them up) and the other who was to then take Son to a distant football game.

    I could not forgive myself, even though both friends assured me it was no big deal.

    I wanted to model self-forgiveness for my daughter, so I thought out loud about how bad I felt for letting my friends down. Daughter then comforted me and told me about good things I sometimes do, like how I was about to mow the lawn for Daddy. See, Mama, you’re good! Get over yourself!

    So, we got a little lemonade out of my sour mistake.

    I hope you are feeling all better.

  15. justinelevine

    You’ll notice that I hardly ever post cake recipes, and when I do, there’s a disclaimer. 😉 I have negative self-thoughts ALL. THE. TIME. What do I do? I go to yoga, listen to my teacher’s voice, and believe her when she tells me to be gentle with myself, to search for balance, to be OK with being wobbly, and to recognize the teacher within. Then I forget, and go back.

    xo … You are RAD.

  16. Oh my gosh, yes. And I don’t ignore them. Not well, anyway. Also, I don’t bake cakes. Pies, maybe, but I haven’t made a cake since my last one fell when I was 15. 🙂

    PS I do *eat* cakes, but I find that it’s best to buy them.
    PPS I do bake brownies from scratch occassionally. They’re a pretty good substitute, and much easier.

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