As February comes to a close and I wrap up my month-long blogging challenge, I started thinking about cake.
Goal: write a personal blog post every day for a month. Box scores: 22 out of 28 days, 79% of my goal, if I round up.
Gosh. I have a lot of goals I don’t get to the 79% point on (like “close office by 5 pm”, for which my current average score is around 40%. I’m looking to bump to that score in March)!
How about connecting with people? I can’t tell for sure, but I just took a peek at views: as of this writing, looking back on the months, while most posts got maybe a couple dozen views, more people read each day as the month went on. The two posts with a story or picture related to my wedding got over a hundred views (maybe because, well, stories?). My February 23rd post, “Caught in the Ringlight,” surprised me with over 51 views. Maybe it was the colorful backdrop, or maybe because I shared that one LinkedIn, crossing over for the first time in this series from the personal side (the way my Facebook profile leans) to the professional (the primary focus of my LinkedIn posts).
Back to connection: that was really the core motivation behind wanting to wade more deeply into expressing authenticity and risking vulnerability.
What happened? My mom said she appreciated all the time she knew went into the writing, and she really liked them. The exercise turned out to be a way for my nephew Simon, whose sports blog, “Shoots Left and Writes I’ve been editing since January, to get to know me better as I have been getting to know him. A couple of friends told me how much they appreciated my posts, including the candid sharing of raw emotions.
As far as I know, the post that I was most afraid might frost off someone — Good Grief — by leaving people I love with the impression that my historically higgledy-piggledy attempts to express condolence for their losses were insincere — seemed not to have resulted in disaster. My niece Natalie, part of Jasper Dash’s family — even posted a “like.”
As an experiment in putting my real self out there, I’d call it a success. I discovered that I can say something reasonably coherent in less than three thousand words with footnotes. I learned that while I can write a post in a single sitting, it is not realistic for me to allow less than a full hour for even a 750 word post when I have a clear idea of a short story I’ve told many times, because formatting and finding the image and all the publication stuff takes me at least 15 minutes every time.
Managing the time got stressful, and managing my own expectations of myself in ways to appreciate what I achieved rather than criticize my production, was the second biggest lesson.
Which takes me to cake.
When I worked at the Canadian Embassy, I used to bake.
I would bake when my Canada-based colleagues rotated out to new postings. I would bake thank-you cakes for my interns when they departed. I baked for team members who changed jobs and for colleagues who got engaged.
As you can see by the progression of cakes, I got better over the years. It was funny: word would get out that I was bringing in a cake, and when the little in-office party time came, people would find their way to the fifth floor from all over the building to get a piece.
It wasn’t unusual to be able to serve twenty people or more with these rich, triple-decker masterpieces!
This was also the job where I had developed my bad habit of routinely working 10- or 11-hour days. Which meant that making a cake like that took me three nights: first night, actual baking. Second night, assembly. Third night, the fun part: decorating! Fourth day, JJ would drive me in while I kept the giant Tupperware cake carrier on the level all the way down Constitution Avenue.
It was a wonderful way to celebrate life’s milestones with people I worked with.
These days, I rather miss that. I’ve worked from home since 2003, and I can’t remember the last time I made a cake to celebrate with professional colleagues. I remember thinking recently that, wait, since 2007 I’ve worked part time at an indoor climbing gym filled with hardbody humans who possess much more active metabolisms than mine; why on earth wouldn’t I bake for them? Well… it’s a different kind of relationship, for one thing… oh, yeah, and, until pandemic, there was generally no shortable of leftover sheet cake (and, rarely, really good home made masterpieces) from kids’ birthday parties. All-hands staff gatherings there were rare.
But I digress.
Will I keep writing the blog?
My thinking is yes.
Here’s the biggest lesson: Like cake-baking, vulnerability gets better with practice. There are oopses, but I learned. For example, it’s more precise to weigh ingredients than to measure them (especially cake flour).
I realized I can keep blogging regularly, but spread it out a little more, to create a regular but more sustainable practice.
And it’s okay to do a little thing, like the tiny chocolate lava cake I’ve gotten reasonably competent at making. One bowl recipe, and I can even make a very small one in under a half hour. Neat, sweet, complete.
If I inspired someone else to write, I’ll be thrilled.
Oh, and I will finish by taking a “page” from my nephew Simon’s blog:
Please comment, like, and share. Let me know what’s on your mind, in your heart, and what you might like me to write or think about. Challenge me.
And remember to be. Just be.