Those are the four tools God gave me to diffuse my emotions.
The writing is a tough one because there aren't enough hours in the day; this blog spends more time gathering dust in a remote corner of cyberspace than it does being used for its original purpose. I won't sing by myself if I think someone is watching, and a cappella rehearsals only happen twice a week. As for driving, gas is expensive, and there are only so many times I can drive up and down Routes 1, 9, 109 and 95 before they get so repetitive that they stress me out.
When God caught wind of these problems more than two years ago, back when I was still thinking He didn't really give a crap about what went on down here, He took one look at the awkward, quiet, brown-haired mess of life in the glasses and said to himself,
"This kid is in big trouble."
So He stopped by the HR office one day and began sifting through files and folders, looking for a job application submitted by Jennifer A. Gallant who prefers to be called Jenn, and when He finally found it, He wrote a note at the top:
"INDICATED FRONT END--BAKERY POSSIBLE?"
And while it wasn't nearly the same as baking homemade cookies or mixing buttercream frosting from scratch, it worked.
I always tell people my dream career is pediatric NP by day, baker extraordinaire by night/weekends/holidays. I love to find recipes, try them out, modify them here and there until I come up with something uniquely mine that looks almost as sweet as it tastes. For me, baking is a de-stressor that can rival even the strongest alcoholic drink. It gives me the chance to silently reflect without having to be still, to actively create something delicious while sorting out this tangled ridiculous mess called LIFE. The way the elements of a recipe come together and fall perfectly into place parallels the way I think through and pick apart whatever problems I have while waiting for an oven to pre-heat or for dough to rise. It calms and quiets me so I can clearly hear God's voice during times when I need Him to talk to me the most. I think maybe that's what he had in mind for me when He gave me baking.
While I was cluelessly dancing around the apartment last night, He knew the Black Eyed Peas were lying to me every single time they said it was gonna be a good night.
So it came as no surprise that while I was driving down 290 W to 395 S this morning, my spirit crushed and my eyes tired and bloodshot, He was already in Webster waiting for me, this time in the form of a baking rack full of uniced 7-inch rounds and stripcakes.
"Thought you might want to talk," He said.
I stood there for a minute and looked Him over a few times while N'Sync serenaded the customers and associates from overhead.
I was angry. I was upset. I was angry because I was upset, so I took a chocolate cake off the rack and placed it on the cake stand, then slammed a spatula-full of white frosting onto it.
"I don't want to talk to You yet because I don't even know where to start," I said as I spun the cake on the stand. "So if You don't mind, I'd like to keep my unpleasant feelings between myself and this cake for the moment while I figure some stuff out. Sound good to You?"
As the cake became fully engulfed in frosting, I replayed everything in my head--every word, every expression, every action. I ran a comb along the side as I silently screamed obscenities. With each rosette, I wondered where I went wrong, and with each sprinkle, I wondered what I had missed. I began singing along to the music above me while I focused on the cake in front of me, piping all of my sadness into its borders. I drowned out everything but the cake, the music, and my fired-up thoughts. The irony was that the customers and my co-workers thought I was in a chipper mood as I sang along with John Mayer and Celine Dion and Rod Stewart.
What was really happening was that I was caught in my own world of sugary bitterness, in denial that I would at some point have to stop berating myself and start accepting that what happened happened.
Eventually God grew impatient with me and began calling me back, interrupting the music and obnoxiously yelling "BAKERY, TAKE A PHONE CALL ON LINE ONE PLEASE. BAKERY, LINE ONE."
"Nice try," I said sarcastically as I finished topping my rosettes with lemon drops while someone else picked up the phone.
"ATTENTION PLEASE SHAW'S CUSTOMERS AND ASSOCIATES, IF THERE IS A CATHERINE SMITH IN THE STORE, PLEASE COME TO THE FRONT OF AISLE 5, YOUR DAUGHTER IS WAITING FOR YOU."
"PRODUCE CALL ONE-TWELVE FOR CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE PLEASE. PRODUCE, ONE ONE TWO FOR CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE."
"CARLOS TO RECIEVING FOR A DELIVERY, CARLOS TO RECIEVING."
"BECKY, CALL ON LINE TWO."
"ROB TO THE FRONT END PLEASE. ROB, FRONT END."
Annoying. Immature. COMPLETELY unnecessary.
"Fine." I was gritting my teeth, seething on the inside but still humming to the music on the outside. "Here is my question: WHY?!" I asked as I grabbed another cake off the rack.
"Because everything happens for a reason," He answered.
Could there be a more cliche answer? Probably not, but He was right. He always is.
For four hours and eight trays of cakes, we picked it apart. I asked Him questions, He gave me answers. I cried on His shoulder, He consoled me. I told Him everything really, really sucks sometimes and He said not everything, but definitely some things, and the suckiest things are usually the ones with the best lesson attached.
What was my lesson here? There wasn't just one. I learned that it's okay to open up and let someone else see what's really inside me, hidden below the awkward quietness and the glasses. I learned not to settle for something that isn't what I deserve, that there's a lot better out there if I keep my eyes open. I learned that people are actually not going to dislike me for wanting to be friendly (wierd?) and I learned that God shows up everywhere, not just in a baking rack, but also in the actions of the people I'm close to, the people I see every day. I also learned, again, that everything happens for a reason.
I'm still working on figuring out exactly what the reasoning was behind this, but I know it's there.
As I started piping the border onto my last lemon stripcake, I took a deep breath.
"So, what do I do now?" I asked Him.
"Simple. You keep doing everything you've been doing," He replied. "I wouldn't put you through something if I thought you couldn't deal with it; you should know that by now. Have faith that it will all come together when it's supposed to, the way it's supposed to."
With that, I covered the rack and wheeled it into the cooler.
"Just remember this above everything else," He said before I closed the door. "There was always a friend there. That didn't change. That will never change."
I suppose I will be baking quite a few cookies this week.