Loving What Is

This is a story about my love affair with the most perfect form of baked good: the cookie.

That’s right. I’m talking about the world’s foremost manifestation of flour, butter, and sugar combined. You don’t have to agree with me to get this story. I give you permission to replace ‘cookie’ with whatever delectable treat it is that most captures your attention.

I love cookies. I think you get that by now.

I love cookies so much that I would eat them for breakfast every day if I didn’t have an ounce of “knowing better” though my love for cookies, especially in breakfast form, has lead me to design some masterful recipes that give the cookie a solid argument for being a staple breakfast food.

I have always loved cookies, with a fervor, but recently I had the pleasure of upgrading my passion for cookies when these perfect treats became one of my spiritual teachers.

Yes, you read that right. Cookie = Sara Eden’s spiritual teacher. This is serious.

It happened like this:

I’m sitting in my room wearing one of my favorite feel-good outfits, feeling sad, scared, and reluctant to leave. It is one hour before my new friend’s 30th birthday party, a gathering that I had been looking forward to attending for weeks. In my lap sits the handmade gift I crafted just for her, with a handmade card to match.

I recently moved to a new city, in winter, because the love of my life with whom I was engaged to decided that I wasn’t capable of fully meeting him in his full power.

The words “depressed” and “defeated” just barely began to capture my state of being.

I knew that I needed to connect with people in this new city. I needed to make friends to cultivate a web of social nourishment and a sense of belonging.

In this moment, waiting for the party to start, I knew that I had no choice but to go out and be social. To do anything else was unacceptable, even shameful.

I felt paralyzed.

I found myself looping through argument and counter argument in my head about why I should and shouldn’t go. I was fighting with myself: a losing battle. The inner dialogue would only give way to seemingly endless  moments of numbness.

The prevailing voice, the one that wanted to stay home, had one primary point, suggestion, and action plan: cookies.

Okay, so maybe it was a little more elaborate. Something like, I want to stay home in my pajamas with fresh baked cookies, a glass of Old Zin, and the next three episodes of Altered Carbon.

It sounds like a pretty solid plan to me in this moment, but at the time the rest of me was disgusted with the thought. Stay home? Eat cookies? Drink wine? Watch TV?! How crude, unevolved, disgusting, depressing, gross, shameful, and just outright wrong! How could I even think about doing such a horrible thing to myself. I shouldknow better’!

The argument in my mind continued to play out: me in a state of inertia, glued to my chair, well after the party had already started. At this point, my phone began to ring.

To my surprise, I picked it up. It was a dear friend, someone who knew what I was going through.

“Help me,” I said.

“How?” he asked.

I related to him the saga of my predicament. My conviction about what I should do, my deep reluctance to do it, and my persistent and despicable longing for a date night at home with cookie.

“I’m worthless. I haven’t even done anything today. Not a single thing. Not even self care.” I confessed to him.

“Well,” he replied, “wouldn’t self care be allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling?”

Bingo. As much as I wanted and probably tried, I couldn’t argue with that.

I was feeling scared, tired, quiet, and sad. I allowed myself to feel that. Without resisting, just fully being with myself, alone in my room, all ready to leave the house but not wanting to. I felt it without pressuring myself to feel anything else. I felt it without guilt, or judgement of what was true in that moment. I leaned in.

After sitting with myself for a few minutes, I got up. For the first time in about two hours. I got up. I left my bedroom, crossed through the house, and went out the front door. I walked down the street, through my neighborhood at twilight. I walked feeling sad, scared, and lonely.

I walked past the bars down the street and the people smoking out on the sidewalk. I walked past the late night restaurants, and I walked into New Seasons. I found myself in the baking aisle, in front of the display of chocolate chips.

I walked back home, turned the oven on, slid my headphones over my ears and listened to some gloomy music while I baked a batch of cookies. Gluten free oatmeal chocolate chip with pecans, a little orange zest, and a generous dose of coarse sea salt.

While the cookies baked, I poured myself a glass of wine, enjoyed a sip, and rolled around on my living room floor, stretching and enjoying my mellow, sad-day music playlist.

When they were ready, I curled up on the couch with a glass of wine, a plate of warm cookies, and the next episode of Altered Carbon.

I ate as many cookies as I wanted, and watched TV for two hours. And for the first time, I indulged in this activity without feeling guilty about it. I didn’t judge myself for wanting what I wanted. I enjoyed every bite and every no-pressure, no-guilt, binge watching moment. I felt happy.

This was a revelation for me. I had never allowed myself to lean into the simple desires of my body unless they were something I had categorized as ‘healthy’ or ‘productive’.

I don’t mean to say that I never stayed home with a plate of cookies before. But every time I had taken that path before this night I had done so with a heaping dose of shame about choosing it. I would eat more cookies than I wanted to without noticing the pleasure of a single bite, loathing and scolding myself for each cookie as it went down. I would get a belly ache, stay up too late, and wake up in the morning feeling depleted and worn out.

I recognized this flavor of guilt and shame in more than just my stay at home cookie nights. I suddenly saw that I did this to myself all the time; whenever I wanted to sleep in, wear the same thing I wore yesterday, or daydream instead of working on organizational projects. Each of these examples are pointing to some underlying feeling or desire – the desire to slow down, to simplify, to be instead of do.

Of course, I did do all of these things: sleep in, wear yesterday’s outfit, and day dream, but there was always a film over the experience. A sense of removal from the actual pleasure of each simple choice. I would go about the act reluctantly, running a track of judgment in my mind the whole time, never really enjoying myself. I was living in constant judgment.

But that night, with the cookies and the sadness and the all of the allowing, I discovered a sense of freedom in being myself. It might sound overly radical, but it was just that – simply allowing myself to feel and do want just what I wanted changed the fundamental nature of how I experienced myself. I could suddenly just do what I wanted, feeling all of the feelings that arose in the process. I could just be me. The sometimes dreamy, unproductive, messy me. I could just love what is.

This new awareness of reality has stuck with me. I joyfully choose to lean into whatever it is that I am doing or wanting in the moment. I can be really vulnerable with strangers if I want to, I can say no to hanging out if I don’t want to, I can play music instead of marketing my business. I am allowing myself to fully express myself, whatever comes, and in this place, everything feels easy. Judgement is sliding away. I feel freed from self criticism and doubt.

When I woke-up the next morning, I found the rest of the cookies still on the cooling rack from the night before.

So I had one for breakfast.

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