07 January 2012

What a vegetarian frittata taught me about myself

My first week being vegetarian went really well, but started out with a bang on Monday, when I tried to make myself an Autumn / Winter Frittata to have for my breakfasts.

How the Plan Went Awry
I had the day off from work, so I planned to go to a yoga class taught by one of my favorite instructors at 9:30 am. I was excited to make and have a slice of the frittata before I left and since I get up at 5, I figured I had plenty of time. In the pre-sunrise peace and quiet of the kitchen, I prepared the chard and the onions; reading step 3, I went to find the potatoes to chop, only to find there were none.

The Berating Began Ever So Slowly
Initially in disbelief, I thought back to the grocery store. My husband and I had gone to Whole Foods, and divvied up getting the items on our list as we often do. I remembered asking him to get the potatoes, but not actually verifying that they were in the shopping cart. I also remembered that since the store was a bit crazy, I read up and down the list (what seemed like 100 times) to make sure we had everything. And yet somehow there I was, without potatoes.

"OK," I said to myself. "You have two choices. You can get angry at him for not getting the potatoes (or yourself for not really checking that he did), or you can put on a coat and run to the store quick." Temporarily proud of myself, I decided on the latter. And even though my tendencies toward overthinking kept me replaying the store scenes in my mind while driving, I also reminded myself to breathe, and it helped. OK, kudos to me, it's all under control.

But Then it Picked Up Steam
Back at the house, I resumed cooking, now 20 minutes behind the time I'd originally planned. I worried about finishing the frittata and then about having enough time for my stomach to settle a slice before putting myself into a downward dog. Did the bottom of the eggs really firm before I put it into the oven? Was the frittata firm in the center when I pulled it out? I think I thought so. As I flipped the frittata out of the pan and onto a plate, I vowed to bite my tongue and not tell my husband (who was now awake and in the kitchen) about the potato oversight.

That was, until I started cutting the frittata. As the plate filled with liquid, all my negativity poured out as well. "Why didn't you get the potatoes?!" "It's not supposed to be like that." "Don't try and hug me; can't you see I'm pissed!?" "See, I totally can't cook, why do I try?!!" Ah, and then for good measure, the magnifications about getting angry and blowing up over a frittata: "It's the second flipping day of the New Year and I screwed up already. So much for my yoga practice off the mat!"  Crying to the point of making myself nauseous, I wondered aloud WTF was wrong with me, and considered abandoning my yoga class to curl up on the sofa in my room and just disappearing for the day. A few minutes later, after I allowed myself to release the most extreme part of my rant, I felt strangely better.

It's Never About the Frittata
Realizing I really needed my yoga class, I dragged myself there. But I didn't need to get down on my mat to figure things out; the drive was all it took. Here's what I came up with:
  • If I'm not perfect (cooking frittatas, being mindful of my thoughts and words all the time, etc.), people won't like or love me.
  • I'd rather blame someone else for being imperfect than not be perfect myself.
  • I'd rather voluntarily create distance between myself and other people than risk feeling unliked or unloved.
  • I can't fathom being liked or loved if I'm not perfect.
Of course, all this goes back to my childhood, where I'd come home with straight A's on my report card and be asked why they weren't A+'s. Where I would move a coffee table book a half centimeter and be yelled at for it. Where a scratch on a newly painted wall would negatively impact my life for weeks. Where being a minute late (because the time on my watch was slightly different from the kitchen clock) would deny me the privilege of going out to play again that day. Growing up, I tried so hard to be perfect so my parents would love me, and despite all my efforts, I never felt like I succeeded. And there I had been, in my kitchen, reinforcing this lack of love and compassion all by myself.

Quotes to Live By
Once I made these connections, I recalled two quotes I'd copied down in my journal recently:
  • "Aspire to be present, not perfect." (Kripalu Yoga, Faulds, p73)
  • "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time." (Mark Train, Pudd'nhead Wilson, quoted in Real Simple January 2012, p2)
Yes, I need to let go of trying to be perfect, putting more of my energy into being present; to trust that the people in my life will love and like me for who I am, not how well or poorly I do something; and to be compassionate and patient with myself, because I can choose how to parent myself now. I will most likely have moments where I forget and start aspiring to be perfect again. But that's OK. I can still like and love myself for trying to be a better person each and every day.

Thought Experiments
  • What was your latest frittata? What lessons did it teach you about yourself? 
  • How can you be more patient with yourself as you try and make changes in this New Year? 
  • Do you celebrate the small choices you've made to slowly coax your habit down the stairs?
Any tricks or tips you want to share are also welcome!


  1. Ah Jen, "I'd rather voluntarily create distance between myself and other people than risk feeling unliked or unloved." You and I both hon!

  2. I like to make frittatas with spinach, onions & dried herbs! You don't have to stress about lacking potatoes. ;)