“There has been much tragedy in my life; at least half of it actually happened.” Mark Twain
My feelings recently took a tumble from a relatively new person in my life, who I thought was becoming a friend. They weren’t responding to texts and our earlier agreement to meet up had come and gone with a lonely whimper.
My self esteem promptly gives me a hard time
you’re such a loser
you were a total idiot that time over coffee
you pushed too hard
My ego jumps into resentment
they should have texted, even to decline
how dare they not realise I’m lovely
I would never do that
Except I do. I do it all the time to people I like. I get caught up in my life, my cares and concerns and I let people down regularly. Most of the time I don’t even realise I’ve done it until I get a vague sense of guilt when I scroll past their name on my phone. It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s that I have so little time to do all the things in my life, I forget that others are looking forward to seeing me. That I matter to more than the necessary activities of my day.
This realisation wasn’t enough to move through the uncomfortable feelings though, so I spent some contemplation time on where my thinking had fallen in a ditch.
My first thought was that I don’t know them well. I don’t know if they’re struggling with too many things on their plate, have a vague sense of depression, they’ve needed a new pair of shoes for months and really hate shopping, or that they have a ferocious amount of people in their life already and I’m just one of a thousand new acquaintances clamouring for their affection.
The second thought (which really could have been my first, if my thinking wasn’t so self absorbed) and most likely, is that they’re not thinking about me at all. I’m sitting here wondering if them not responding to texts means something, and the whole time they’re thinking, “I’d bloody love England to win the World Cup this year”.
But there is another awful possibility…
I may be a slight stalker of someone who doesn’t really like me.
My entire torso curls in on itself as I type those words. There’s a muttering at the edge of my consciousness, like my ego’s about to rebel and my esteem’s ready to throw in the towel. But it’s the possibility that’s been playing over and over in the back of my mind, a phrase on repeat and I can’t find the off-switch. I’ve written before that I have a lot of people in my life and I’m lucky that I generally like people; but it’s incredibly rare I meet someone and can feel the click through my subconscious as it rears up to say, “Well, don’t you just rock enormously?”
On the few times it’s happened before, the other person seems to have felt the same click and are now lifelong friends, so it didn’t occur to me that this time I may have been the only one to feel it. I merrily swanned into this person’s life, planning our future awesomeness together, and the whole time they may have been increasingly thinking, “Umm. No, scary weird person. Just no.”
There’s no verbal way to explain how this feels. It sits somewhere between ick and gibbering humiliation. My subconscious offers up all the ways they’re clearly cooler, smarter and just better than me and then my conscious mind takes over and asks me what the hell I thought I was doing? A simpler way of describing my response to this line of thinking is a fervently whispered, “Run. Run now. Run fast and far. Set up a new life deep in the woods where you never have to see them ever again.”
Once upon a time I would’ve done just that. Not literally, however tempting, but I would’ve immediately cut them from my life as the instinct for self-preservation became greater than my instinct to live lightly in the world. I may even have tried to show them how little they meant to me, in a misguided attempt to reassert my bruised ego. Which would, of course, merely add guilt to the hurt.
Today, I try to do things differently. I acknowledge the hurt and the particularly obsessive nature of my thinking, then I speak with someone I trust who can help me to laugh. I finally take some time to be still and focus my consciousness on the place I hurt, to allow the feelings without gripping onto them as reality. I treat the hurt as I would treat my child’s, as real but transitory. The feelings are not the story, they’re just the feelings.
Finally, I ask my better self to help me be kind, patient and tolerant of their humanity and of mine. That whatever the truth turns out to be, I can put my ego to one side and remain right sized. And finally, I back off from the friendship (quite quickly because, let’s be honest: ouch) and trust that more will be revealed in time.
Then I eat donuts. And maybe chocolate. But mostly donuts.
This ‘fix feelings with food’ recipe is a homage to an excellent local bakery, Candied, who offer this donut combination on a regular basis. For those not lucky enough to have their own Candied around the corner, the recipe is as close as I can get to their version.
Donuts (adapted from www.taste.com.au) – makes 12
- 250ml milk
- 500g plain (all purpose) flour
- 60g caster (superfine) sugar
- 3 teaspoons dried yeast
- ¼ tsp salt
- 100g shortening, softened (known as Crisco in USA, Trex in UK and Copha in Australia. Failing those, replace with unsalted butter)
- 3 egg yolks
- Canola oil, for frying
Nutella & Pretzel Glaze
- 80g Nutella
- 30g thick (heavy) cream
- 25g pretzels, roughly crushed + 12 for decoration
Heat the milk until it starts to boil, then switch off the heat and leave it to cool
Combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a bowl
Make a well in the mix and stir in the cooled milk, shortening and egg until a sticky dough starts to come together
Knead on a well-floured surface until smooth
Place in a greased bowl, cover and leave to rise for about 90 minutes (the dough needs to at least double in size)
Punch down the dough to take out the air
Knead on a lightly floured surface again until smooth
Roll out dough until 1cm thick (flour your rolling pin, much easier!)
Either use a donut cutter or an 8cm round cutter to cut out discs and a 3.5cm round cutter to cut out the centres. Re-roll the dough to be able to make all 12 donuts
Place the donuts on a lined tray and set aside for another 30 minutes to rise again
Heat your oil to 180°C/350˚F (use a thermometer, the temperature matters) in a large, deep frying pan – I test the oil temperature using scraps left over from the dough
Fry each doughnut for 30-40 seconds each side or until puffed and golden and leave on a wire rack to cool
Very gently heat the Nutella and cream in a small pan, stirring constantly, until combined
Take off the heat and carefully stir in the crushed pretzels
Dip each donut in the Nutella glaze and place back on the wire rack
Complete your Nutella and Pretzel Donut look by adding a single, whole pretzel to each one
Eat all twelve. Go on. I dare you.