Let’s begin with The Ass Cake Incident of 2006.
It was the graduation party for the 6th graders at a small church school where I had been substituting. I was waiting my turn for cake (obviously) and enjoying the festive atmosphere. The school year was all but over, we were about to move to Germany, I had been writing furiously and copiously–and now I was going to eat cake. Life was good. It was (finally) my turn and the teacher cutting the cake handed me mine without a glance as she talked happily with the teacher beside her. I took my plate gleefully and looked down at my piece. It was a middle piece, which I was surprisingly ok with, but it was quite small and taken from its place in the congratulatory message. I couldn’t help myself. It just happened. I looked from my cake to the oblivious teacher in her demure cardigan set (May in Arizona, no less.) “Thanks for the Ass cake,” I joked. Then froze. She looked at me in confused horror. A nearby child or two covered their mouth. “No, no, look!” I gestured at the piece of cake cut from the word “Class.” “This! I didn’t mean–” Just walk away Just walk away Just walk away…
If I’m going to be ignorant, fearful, or embarrassed, I might as well be amusing. This entire project is based on that premise. But sometimes it’s a tough crowd. I am often ignorant, fearful, and embarrassed. Trying to make the best of a potentially bad situation by being funny also contains an element of risk. Just because it’s funny and makes one feel better or provides diversion from the disaster one sees up ahead, doesn’t mean one should necessarily give in to said impulse. One could give the wrong impression of one’s self. One hates being misunderstood.
Pearl Harbor spreads out before me every day from the top of my neighborhood’s hill as I drive home. It’s very surreal. Battleships, the Arizona memorial, the water, the mountains in the distance, the huge palms and exotic trees, the blue, blue water. Almost every time I hit that certain point in the drive I think, would I have been able to see the planes coming from here? Would I have had any clue whatsoever about what was coming? Random terror. Worse than the regular kind of terror. My parents’ beloved dog passed away unexpectedly a little while ago. Random grief. I can’t be amusing about terror and grief. They just sit there being terrible and sad. There’s no way to prepare for the unexpected, and the aftermath, the clean up, is just as awful as the thing itself.
I never understood the concept of “being zen.” Serenity in the face of crisis. In the face of crisis I am Anti-Zen. Anti-Serenity. I am Serenity infested with Reevers hidden in the smuggler compartments. Calm on the outside, silent, and on course. But inside? Jack-in-the-box horror clowns. Random Terror. Most of the Reevers are memories or mistakes. A great deal of them are scenarios I’ve crafted my own self. All of them are capable of ruining my day.
I’m currently failing in my quest for contentment. I have found contentment to be like cooking. I like cooking. I like shopping for all the pretty ingredients and pushing a cart that looks like it belongs to some kind of fresh-faced farm-raised girl. I like the tools of cooking. I like the preparation. I like the smells and the calculations. I like the consumption of something delicious that I made all by myself. What I do not like is the clean up. The discarded meat parts, the vegetable shavings, the pots and pans and bowls and utensils and, oh freakish misery, the kitchen floor. But it’s a process, right? You can’t really have one part of it without the other and experience the same significance. I will go for long periods of time feeding my family frozen breaded chicken from Costco, pancakes, spaghetti, or pizza simply because they are meals that require little work to prepare and even less work afterwards. I suspect this shocks exactly no one. I forget, on purpose, how much I love to cook due to the all-to-vivid remembrance of how much I hate to clean up.
In my favorite K-dramas (HA! You thought I was going to make it through a post without mentioning them!), food and cooking are practically characters in themselves. And I think it’s because of the process. Choosing, crafting, putting through heat, testing, taking and putting inside yourself, feeling the effects, and cleaning up what isn’t needed anymore. But more often than not, the things that aren’t needed anymore are things that I still want. Sometimes they’re still good! There’s nothing wrong with them! They might actually be good for me! Even if I say to myself, Ok, I’m content, I’ll be walking along and get body-tackled by a freakin Reever.
I’d rather just not think about the things I fear.
My shows: I’m watching Coffee Prince now. I didn’t love it at first. Usually I start off feeling a bit bland in the first episode (frankly, still getting over how much I loved the previous show and unwilling to let it go and start over), but by the second I am interested, and by the third I am hooked. I acknowledged that this was a good story and I cared about the characters, but I didn’t love it as wildly as I did most of the others I’ve seen recently. But somewhere–I can’t even say when–I realized that I was about to explode with the intensity of the story. What the frak. When did that happen? I was sure I had the jist figured out and it was going to be filled with angst and tension and would be a great escape from my own angst and tension reality. But I misunderstood. The characters were misunderstanding each other in another way that I completely misunderstood.
I’m afraid. But I don’t want to lose hope and trust. In fact, having hope and trust as I do makes the fear brighter. I can see it much better as it stands next to the hope. The fear is taller. It has a distinctive hairstyle. The fear is easier to reach for. It seems so much more likely. So much more logical. The hope is a dull comfort, but a comfort nonetheless. The trust that God knows what He’s doing is a constant, but having trust also means that I know I have zero control. I’ve been sailing along with my hope and trust and feeling pretty good about my spiritual growth, but about the time I realized how surprisingly invested I was in my show I began to realize how surprisingly terrified I still am. Did I misunderstand distraction for contentment? Is it ok to do that? Does it still count? Did I just get “ass-caked?”