Never Be A Fish Out of Water Again with the Art of Adaptation
How changing my way of thinking gave me the courage to take the next step.
I am crying in a tiny bathroom in the back of a bakery, asking myself how the hell I will do this business owner thing. Burnt cakes clutter the prep table in the kitchen, deflated choux pastry and the soggy remnants of what should have been a loaf of sun-dried tomato bread sully every available space in that tiny work area.
I don’t know if I can do this. A large section of my chest feels as though it may collapse at any moment because something is pumping wildly inside of it. I could walk out the back door right now. Skip the country. Leave my ineptitude behind me and live a nomad life while writing my memoirs all across this vast expanse of land.
But, now that I come to think of it, I’d probably get frazzled by that lifestyle too. I’ve come to enjoy the kinship of my husband and two children, so I guess I will try to make this business owner/baker thing work.
I take a deep breath, wipe the tears away from my now mascara lined cheeks and resolve to be the best damn business owner I can — for today at least.
Four years later, my kitchen at home is filled to the brim with cream puffs, chocolate eclairs and French macarons because I’m incredibly stressed out and need to take my mind off life with some easy baking activities. I don’t own a bakery/sandwich shop anymore (but that’s another story); however, I still take comfort in getting into the kitchen and losing myself in a sea of flour, sugar and my trusty recipe books. I think about those years long ago when the idea of baking for people was the most stressful thing in the world to me, and now I do that shit for fun.
I don’t know when the change happened. Maybe it took months after opening the bakery up. Perhaps it was only days. It seems to me, after that first breakdown in the bathroom the night before we opened, I realized I just needed to get on with it. And I’ve been “getting on with things” ever since.
At the time, we were 60 thousand dollars in — there was no turning back.
The financial stakes were too high. Sometimes we cannot allow our anxieties to get the better of us because that would mean total and utter devastation.
The one constant in my life has always been writing. In recent years I have been fortunate enough to make a side hustle out of my passion. However, when it comes to jobs, what some might call “real jobs,” I’ve always been a bit flighty. From customer service representative for a large American cell phone company to housekeeper to childcare worker to a camp cook on a Northern Albertan oil rig. I like to keep my options open.
I work odd jobs to support my writing habit. Writing is always the end goal, so the jobs that must be done to maintain that dream are inconsequential, although still nerve-wracking at times.
Social anxiety is a tricky thing. Especially when all you want to do is sit at home with your computer and write about your social anxiety. The thing is, I’ve never allowed my fear or sometimes crippling insecurities to stop me from doing something important. Sure I’ve skipped out on many social gatherings because I was too scared I’d get lost driving to the event, but everyone does that. Right?
I am scared of many things. Like scheduling a nail trimming appointment for my dog, for example. What if I say something weird on the phone when I book her in? What if I do something uncanny in person when I drop her off at the groomers? These are the obsessions that plague my mind leading up to any event in my life.
However, I’ve found that the only way to get through this kind of stress is to get the hell on with it.
These past few months have been challenging. Hence the stress-baking. My husband and I have been going through a tough time in our marriage with the added challenge of having the kids home on and off doing their online schooling whenever their classes get quarantined due to a COVID close contact case.
This type of stress, the kind that is uncontrollable and therefore completely uncertain, makes me itchy. Itchy in my brain and my body, right down to the core of me. It’s the kind of itch that one can’t scratch, which brings me back to the feeling of just wanting to up and run away to escape it all.
So that’s what I do. I allow myself to escape for just a little bit. I’ve been going on these long aimless walks with my dog lately. We find a nice open field and explore the trees and long-dead grass within. I talk to friends and family on the phone while still obeying all of the social distancing laws. I’m literally in the middle of nowhere but always can stay connected. Thank god we live during the best optimal time to have a global pandemic hammer down on us.
Recently I was on one of these walks and talking with my friend Janelle. She is by far the smartest and kindest human being I know, and she’s been looking after me for basically our entire lives. I hate to describe her as my carer, but honestly, without either of us trying to make this happen, these seem to be the roles we fall into.
I was complaining that it felt as though my life was going nowhere. What was I doing? I have hundreds of unfinished projects on my computer waiting for a spit-shine, and here I am, wasting time in the kitchen baking all of the food that is just going to cause me to gain yet another quarantine 15. I need to get serious about the writing. I want to learn how to write screenplays, take an online course, push myself harder than I ever have in the past. But then the fear kicks in and tells me if I make an effort to take this next integral step in my writing career and end up failing, I will have nowhere to go from there. I’ll have to give it all up completely.
Janelle was quiet for a little while after I finally stopped complaining and then, as she always does, said something so insightful, I wondered why this insanely intelligent person is friends with me. “Lindsay, if there is one thing I’ve learned about you over our years of friendship, it’s that you will never be a fish out of water. You have done so many different things in your life and you always just…seem to get on with it. You have this ability to throw yourself into the strangest situations and act like you’re right at home. Do what you need to do right now because you will make it your own.”
These words hit me with the same heaviness I feel when my 80-pound German Shepherd jumps up on the couch and sits directly on my chest.
I was unable to speak. I had never thought of it that way. To me, getting on with the tough stuff was always the only option in life. It was that, or curl into the fetal position and rock on the floor in front of whatever company was unfortunate enough to witness such a spectacle. To be clear, I’ve also done this last thing too, but I try to refrain when in strange company.
By Janelle telling me this simple thing that I already knew, I started looking back over my life. I realized that new situations make anyone feel uncomfortable. Taking a chance and putting your vulnerabilities on the line is a terrifying prospect. Any rational person does not want to get hurt, emotionally or otherwise — so why take the risk?
Because without taking the risk or venturing into unknown territory, we will never truly grow as individuals. It’s really about whether or not you’re going to allow the anxiety to rule the event in your life, or instead take that moment as it genuinely comes (one millisecond at a time) and do what you have to then move on to the next thing.