Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I Don't Like Cupcakes

Holidailies is over! It's the last day. I wrote an entry for thirty-three days! (When I get this published, but actually I started before that.) Does this feel like an accomplishment? No. I have, some time in the past, written an entry for every day of the year. I did enjoy the structure, the occasional push that a writing prompt gave me and, of course, the gift of other people's writing and ideas. So thanks Jette, thanks Chip. Let's hope we find ourselves doing this again when holidays 2009 roll around.

I'll keep writing, of course. Perhaps with less frequency. I hope to find time to read a bunch of the contributions to Holidailies and give my few readers a few links to interesting things in other peoples' heads. I haven't found enough time to do this reading. And now it's, ugh, tax time and other obligations loom.

[Ed. Note: So what's with the title. And the picture. Cupcakes??? LB: I'm getting to that.]

Today's Holidailies writing prompt is 'Epiphany.' It is Epiphany, a Christian holiday having something to do with the manifestation of Christ in the person of the Magi. Since all the Holidailies writing prompts begin with an initial cap (the site is run by a writer and such things are not sloppily done) it is hard to say if the Christian meaning was intended. In fact, did Holidailies run to Jan. 6 just for this happy coincidence of this writing prompt? Anyway, the word epiphany, initial letter lower case, is where we are going today. To me it's a sudden feeling that makes something (or everything) clear.

I've had a few of these flashes. Hundreds. They are identifiable to me because from that moment forward these realizations changed my perceptions. They didn't necessarily change my behavior, they just provided a lens or filter through which certain things in the future would always be processed.

Cupcakes are all the rage. This happened outside Austin first. I read about cupcake shops in New York City. Then Austin got a cupcake trailer on South Congress and now there is a cupcake shop on Burnet Road. (Its giant cupcake is pictured above. The shop will probably be the Austin, Texas Daily Photo tomorrow.) I did not have an epiphany about cupcakes. Rather it was about a larger class of iced cakes. I don't really like cake. I don't care for a lot of desserts, really. One day I was at one of those office parties and there were some fine cakes, not just sheet cake with sugary icing, but Italian Cream Cake maybe. And as the pieces got passed around I just skipped it. Because I love dip, chips, cheese and a good cobbler. I like pure sugar candy like those little hearts you get at Valentine's with messages on them (like I DIG U). I like coffee ice cream although I don't usually want other flavors. Gelato with a shot of espresso? Yeah!! But one day I realized I didn't care for every dessert. So why eat them? I mean sometimes you are hungry and the only choice is a hamburger or something. But you never have to eat dessert becuase there isn't anything else. After that I usually passed up the cake at office birthday parties. Sometimes I went to the office kitchen and made nachos afterwards. So this isn't a story about beating calories or losing weight. It's a story of learning to embrace and trust what you like.

I've had other epiphanies, too. Most of my life I was trying to get things into this wonderful, impossible static state of neat organization and correctness. This goal did drive me to do things that were good, I suppose. I kept books for FFP's business by hand in ledger books for five years, balancing everything to the penny, for example, and I think that it did help us through those years. We knew what money we had. Back in those days, vendors would give you a discount to pay ten days from billing instead of thirty. We made our margins on these 2% discounts, but you had to keep a tight rein on all the money coming and going. But I digress. I agonized over every decision about how to account for something, every line on a tax return. One day I was working on something and I thought "Well, this could be the way it should be accounted for according to the IRS, I'm not really sure. It isn't a very material amount. Why don't I go with my best guess and, if they want to audit me, they can change it." This was very freeing. And, no, this isn't a story about how I went from there down a slippery slope to running a Ponzi scheme like Madoff. Nope, I just finally gained the perspective to understand that there was black and white but also gray areas. I would just do my best to do things correctly and follow rules. And understand that I might do it wrong. Similarly, I try to keep track of everything, but I realize that things will get lost and misplaced. So be it. I think I just realized that the world is messier and moving faster than I could control. Balancing a set of books to the penny, by hand, month after month, gives you the feeling that you could do everything just right. But it's a false notion.

My last epiphany was much more recent. It concerns my responses to certain people in my life. Not those closest to me, good friends, FFP, parental units. But some people outside that circle. People I'd felt obligations to that were silly. People who were more than capable of taking care of themselves (particularly financially) who imposed these obligations in my head. They weren't trying to control me or ask anything of me. Not really. But I had a flash one day, talking to one of them on the phone that I didn't have to really worry about them, that I was on my own and they would never be there for me in any non-trivial way but on the flip side, they could probably get along fine without my help and I should be worrying more about me and those close to me who did need and deserve my help. It was complicated but very freeing. It didn't really change anything I did. It just changed my feeling about it.

I guess I have these all the time. Flashes of perception that add another nuance to my approach to life. I think today's is this: things get done when the time is right. It was too wet to play tennis today and my plan was to go after tennis to my dad's to take care of some things. So I've blogged, drunk coffee and discussed some financial decisions and movies with FFP. Now it's time to move forward. Do things, however imperfectly, the best I can, when I can, concentrating on the people I should. And not eating cupcakes.

And I leave Holidailies with that, um, wisdom. Thanks for following along.


Sarah said...

I certainly agree with you about cake in general, and cupcakes in particular. Haven't eaten cake in years, not since I looked at what was on the end of my fork one day and said to myself, "You know, I really don't like this. So why am I eating it?"

It was definitely an epiphany, the kind that changes your perception of a thing, a person, an event forever. Does it change anything? Not at first--life goes on as before. But over the course of months and years, different choices are made, and yes, major changes follow.

Some I can remember exactly when the epiphany happened and everything flipped. Others were more gradual, and seen only in the looking backwards through the lens of time.

Chip said...

I'm not sure I trust people who don't like cake. I did marry one, though.