Lessons from the Universe, Cooked Up in the Kitchen

I awoke yesterday morning with extremely dry, cracked skin on my fingers. This was unusual for me, as the skin on my hands is normally very soft and smooth, so I noticed the difference right away when my fingers caught on the sheets and duvet cover as I made my way out of bed. Later, rolling my thumb over my index, middle, and ring fingers on my right hand accentuated their roughness in contrast to their normally smooth surface. I got lost for a moment in the motion of rubbing my fingers together, as I pondered what may have caused them to become so rough over night. And then I remembered how the glass baking pan shattered into countless shards as I opened the over door to remove dinner the night before.

The moment the pan was met with a blast of cooler air from the outside, the glass cracked and popped and shattered. I was a bit stunned trying to make sense out of what had just happened. My first reaction was to rescue dinner from the wreckage. With extreme heat blasting me in the face, I fumbled to fish the Basa filets from the shards of broken glass on the solid rack that divides my oven into two separate heating compartments.

The next most pressing issue became addressing the piles of broken glass that were strewn across my kitchen floor. I called out to my daughter, asking her to bring me the vacuum, which despite hooking up normally did not work—no power, no suction, no nothin’. This moment of frustration added insult to injury, because the dog was now nosing around through the debris, as I am sure he could smell the juices from the fish mixed in with the glass. My daughter came to my aid once again, taking the dog outside while I resorted to using a broom and dustpan to clean up the mess.

By this point, I was tired, frustrated, and hungry. With the remainder of the glass contained to the oven’s main compartment and warming drawer, I decided to leave the rest of the cleanup until after dinner, which would allow time for the oven to cool and then I could also figure out what was wrong with the vacuum. Sensing my exasperation, after dinner my husband kindly asked what he could do to help with the clean up—bless his heart and bonus points for him! So together we removed all the interior racks from the oven to clean out the broken glass, picking up the larger pieces by hand and scooping up the smaller pieces with a hand broom and dustpan.

Upon reflecting on the many challenges I encountered while trying to get dinner on the table the other night (in a week I am PMS-ing, no less), I believe I handled the situation much differently than I would have only a few short years ago, when I most likely would have yelled wildly, cursed profusely, possibly lashed out in anger, and ultimately broken down in a heap of sweat and tears. Instead, I believe I handled these challenges with a good measure of maturity and grace. At the very least, I did the best I could with what I had and let go of what was beyond my control. And for someone who has a strong history of reacting in situations such as this, I’d definitely call that progress.

As I sit here now, intermittently rubbing my fingers together feeling the friction as the rough skin catches, I continue to rehash the experience in my mind, knowing there’s a lesson in everything we are presented with in life. It’s all part of the grand design, after all. I honestly believe recognizing and learning from these lessons is where true growth takes place, which is why I bother to continue thinking about it at all. And while I’m still decoding the deeper meaning behind the events that went down in my kitchen the other night, I do have a couple of thoughts I’d like to share…

The first thought is how the first thing that comes to mind is not always the cause, the reason, or the lesson. Rather, it’s sometimes necessary to dig a little deeper and question the validity of your initial assumptions, such as I should have done when I first attributed the cracked skin on my fingers to picking up the pieces of broken glass. This is because I later remembered that, while everything was taken apart to remove the bits of broken glass, my husband and I took the opportunity to thoroughly clean the inside of the oven. So the more likely cause of my excessively dry skin was the heavy-duty highly corrosive chemical cleaner we used to clean the greasy food residue out of the oven. Doh!

I chose to share this little story because I think it’s a great example of how, as humans, we are prone to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. This is an actual psychological phenomenon referred to as confirmation bias, which basically means we are more likely to see what we want or choose to see. From this simple understanding of how our minds are naturally hardwired, I strongly believe we should always be willing to question our initial assumptions and remain open to other possibilities that don’t necessarily align with our beliefs. If you are someone who is at all interested in thinking about, learning, and understanding our world and the people in it, or even from the standpoint of advancing your own personal growth, it’s helpful to know that real and meaningful change takes place when we are willing to challenge ourselves to consider differing points of view.

The second thought I had is how the glass baking dish I used to cook the fish had been subjected to opposite extremes of a high heat followed by a sudden blast of much colder air. Therefore, although I was shocked and stunned in the moment, it isn’t all that surprising that it literally cracked under the pressure. This reminded me again of human nature, and how we often subject ourselves to extremes when trying to handle the stress, pressure, and expectations of our everyday, modern lives. Likely from the fear of appearing to be weak, we compromise our own health and wellbeing by taking on too much—until we reach the point of not being able to take any more and then we crack. Oh, by the way, I am speaking from the direct experience of having been there and done that. But if we choose to see my glass baking dish as a reminder about the danger of trying to remain strong under pressure for too long, we understand the importance of learning to recognize the warning signs and taking action before things get too hot and completely out of control. This begins with throwing the “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen” mindset right out the window.

Taking time for yourself, reaching out to ask for help when you need it, maintaining strong personal boundaries, and ensuring you’re getting enough rest should no longer be regarded as forms of weakness. Rather, these are the marks of a strong person who understands the importance of self-care and their own self-worth. So what I’m really trying to say here is that you are important and worthy of your own attention. We all are. And paying attention to your own needs along the way is certainly preferable to cracking under the pressure of exceedingly high expectations and trying to do too much and then falling apart into a million irreparable pieces.

In the end, I realize the lesson I was supposed to learn in the kitchen the other night could have been one of the above examples, a combination of them, or it could have been something else entirely. In fact, it could have been something as simple as a test of my patience and resolve on that particular day. Heck, if you ask my kids they would probably tell you the lesson was that we should never have fish for dinner again.

But even if I’ve missed the boat entirely and if I glean nothing else from my reflections on the situation, hopefully this will serve as a reminder for me to at least remember to put on a pair of rubber gloves the next time I clean the oven.

Do you have something to add here, perhaps something to refute or challenge around the idea of confirmation bias, or an experience you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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