I look at the Bundt pan in my hand. I look at the already full cupboards in the tiny apartment kitchen and know it has to go.
But when I look at the pan I don’t see bulky metal. I see my spectacular chocolate zucchini cake, the one with the lemon glaze. I hear the praise it engendered, as well as the suspicious voice of a child who was pretty sure she spotted a fleck of green. I can almost taste its moist, tangy, chocolate richness.
Which is pretty surprising, because the last time I used the pan was 10, maybe 12 years ago. It was almost that long again since I was regularly baking my own breads and cakes, when I had long hair and flowing skirts, small children and big gardens. I have baked muffins, a few cookies at Christmas, the occasional birthday cake in the last decade, but that is all.
My self image is still out of date in some ways, a common situation, I think. I thought of myself as shy for 10 years after anyone would have called me that.
When I first cleared out my house, 8 months ago, I said goodbye to many aspects of my life as I got rid of their physical reminders. What stays and what goes? The items needed for large dinners, for enormous backyard barbecues, for themed parties, all went with only a few tears. But apparently I still thought of myself as a baker.
I added the Bundt pan to the give-away box, with the springform pans and other specialty bakeware. I threw out the ingredients for Nanaimo Bars– If I crave one of those sweet treats, I will buy one, not make dozens.
I threw out bulk containers of spices and cooking supplies that I would likely never finish in the years I have left. I acknowledged that I will never again grow and dry my own herbs, and that’s OK.
The images we have of ourself, and of others, save a lot of energy. We don’t have to think, wonder, or analyze. Yet when people change, even (especially) ourselves, we resist. We refuse to accept changes, or think they are aberrations and soon all will be back to “normal.”
Perhaps that was why Don would get so upset whenever I had my hair cut: in his mind, I was still the long-haired earth mother of our early years. Perhaps that’s why I never saw what should have been so obvious about his cheating: I had created an image of him years ago and that was what filtered everything I saw in the present. I see the same reaction to me in a few long time relationships: they superficially acknowledge my changes, but think, or maybe hope, that I will go back to the way I was.
Perhaps that’s why my new relationships are so precious. When new friends look at me, they do not see the long-haired, youthful, people pleaser I used to be. They see the kick-ass, unabashedly intelligent, older woman, who shares perhaps too much of her life and her mind. And anyone who wants to be involved with me needs to be fine with that.
Yesterday, I saw a young woman riding a motorcycle, with a big dog in the sidecar, standing up as she drove, dancing to whatever music was playing inside her helmet. And I thought, how free can you be when you let go of obsolete self images and other’s expectations, with all their restrictions?
Today, leaving on another trip, I let go of a few more outdated ideas about myself. And I set out lighter, freer, on my latest brave travels.