Letting Go of Prefection

By Sarah Petty L. Ac., Dipl. Ac. on September 5th, 2012

Hello Everyone!

I have returned from California, fully embracing the Fall energy and am here to offer my experience and insights from a rather challenging trip! I hope this finds you all well, every day another opportunity to grow and expand your higher selves.

Some of you know, I went to California with a very special job. My best friend,Tyler, of 23 years was getting married and asked me to decorate his wedding cake! I said, “Of course!” with no hesitation. Really, the only red flag that I ignored was that of my unlimited ambition. The theme of the wedding was ‘Magical Forest’. All summer I sketched out ideas, practiced meringue mushrooms, sugar ferns, edible moss etc. I also sculpted their toppers out of clay. The topper was made of two pieces; a tree stump with their names carved in a heart one the front and the date of their wedding on the back, and a sculpture of their beloved shih tzu, Annie. A lot of care and planning had gone into this project before I even made it to California. I am a creature who tends to cling to the illusion of control with big projects like this. I am a perfectionist and I have a clear vision of what the finished work looks like in my mind. I rehearsed it over and over again, thinking of every possible catastrophe and solution. Or so I thought…

I arrive at my destination, brimming with excitement to start this project of a lifetime. The first day, I went shopping for all my supplies and got straight to work on the meringue mushrooms and gum paste leaves. I was right on schedule. The cake was baked and assembled by a professional bakery in town, which was to be delivered the next day, so I was very much relieved that, that part of the project was not my responsibility.

The next morning, I woke up with the aim to complete the assembly of the mushrooms. They were oddly a little tacky, so I popped them in the oven for another hour-no big deal. Well, I found out that morning that meringue is extremely delicate. If you want to know how humid or dry your place is, whip up some meringue and see how it responds. Back home, I was working in an air-conditioned, closed environment. In California, I was working with open windows and no AC. Ok… not the ideal environment. In fact, I found that this did not just apply to the mushrooms, but also to the sugar ferns, that are delicately piped sugar creations that ideally harden to stand up on their own. I found that most everything I had easily accomplished at home, somehow took at least twice as long over there in sunny California.

With every snafu, I was increasingly getting more frustrated, discouraged and more exhausted. Time was ticking away as I wasted day 2 and day 3, getting closer and closer to the Big Day! It was right around day 4, the Thursday before the Saturday wedding, when I broke down into tears. And this is where I tie this all into the season: These were not tears of frustration, but tears of grief. My perfectionist was forced to recognize that my vision could not be realized exactly as I played it out in my mind. I had to let go of my original vision. I had to let go.

It was painful. I took some deep breaths, until I felt an empty calm move through me. I acknowledged the beauty of my original vision, and kissed it goodbye, knowing that clinging to it would only stagnate my process and bring me more misery.

Once I let go of ‘my perfect vision’, I was empty again, which freed me up for the cake to come together and unfold as it would.

So, the cake came together, and with much ingenuity, I was able to get the sugar ferns on there in one piece after all. The groom never wanted mushrooms on his cake, so it all was for the best. The cake made it to the venue with very little damage. I repaired and restored it to a state of completion and polish and walked away from if for most of the evening. Again, breathing a sigh of relief and detaching myself from my project to ensure I did not obsess over it.

My parents also came to the event. Shortly after dinner was served, I came over to their table to check in with them. My dad teased me by saying, “the right side of the cake seems to be drooping a little.” I smiled and nodded and generally dismissed the comment along with his pessimism. We continued chatting and maybe a few minutes later, I look over and a young man from the catering staff is nervously holding the top two tiers of the cake at about a thirty degree angle! I freeze, and my mother tells me I need to get over there to help with the cake. (Seriously?)

By the time I made it there, more of the catering staff swarmed over the cake like frantic bees defending their queen. Trays and spatulas in hand, trying desperately to salvage my masterpiece. They made a valiant effort. In the end, the top tier made it unscathed. I looked down at my cake-coverd hands-at the carnage I could see just past them. All I could do was crack up. The moment was ludicrous to me! I stepped out to have a moment to myself. I was met by a few friends who comforted me. Again, the best thing I could do for myself and everyone around was to let go. Let go of the humiliation I was feeling. Let go of the shock and disappointment of the cake not making it to the cutting for pictures. Let go of any ideal I had for how things were going to go and turn out.

As I’ve said before, there is a poignancy in the Fall. The experience is appreciating the beauty while holding the impermanence of the moment. Admiring the golds, red, oranges of the leaves and at the same time knowing that they will soon dry up and loose their color to a muddy brown as they die and return to the Earth. The external beauty of the material, when held too tightly will ultimately cause one grief, pain and disappointment. The truth of the matter is, that which is truly of value is immaterial. The cake in the end, didn’t matter. What mattered was the love I have for my friend, Tyler. The cake was an expression of that love and was destined to be a success no matter how it turned out. It was also destined to be destroyed from the beginning, where it could then be enjoyed by 167 people. Rather than being attached to my work, I immerse myself in the process.

Ultimately what I want for all of you is to make choices that create expansion in your being. Think how small and sad I would feel if I decided to stay in upset over the cake debacle. Instead, I fed my more expanded self, reflecting on what is essential and worth holding onto. What are we holding onto that has us flourish and grow? There is a great Cherokee legend I’d like to end with:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I hope this all finds you well. Keep practicing. Practice makes permanent.

Till next time, Be Well.

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