Personal Writing

When in doubt, embrace the stuck bits

We hosted a dinner party recently, and I made this pound cake for dessert. As a side note, I love pound cake. I mean, what’s not to love? Dense, buttery cake that’s essentially a base for toppings like whipped cream or homemade ice cream, berries, chocolate and more.

On first glance, this cake was pretty close to perfect (minus the slump in the middle. Good thing that’s the bottom!). I pulled it out of the oven, and the warm, buttery smell filled the kitchen. I was already anticipating its beauty when I tipped the pan over and it effortlessly slid out onto the cooling rack.

Except that’s not at all what happened.

About every 6th or 7th time I use this copper bundt pan, it fails me. Rather than the cake gently releasing from the pan, it holds tight.

You know the drill: use a small knife or spatula to slide around the various edges, hoping the hold is just in a place or two and that the up and down motion will release the stuck bits without causing any visible damage to the final presentation.

Flip the pan over.

Nothing.

Give it a gentle shake up and down, side to side.

Nothing.

Start the process of wedging the instrument between the cake and pan over again, plunging even lower down the sides, hoping to reach the stuckest bits.

Flip the pan over again.

Nothing.

Give it a gentle shake up and down, side to side.

Decide that perhaps it needs to cool a bit more. Leave it for a few minutes.

Repeat.

After about four attempts at this scrape and release dance, I felt the cake start to wiggle in the pan as I gently shook it over the cooling rack.

Cue the immense tension.

Will the cake release in its full, elegant form, or will some at the bottom of the pan, soon to be the top of the cake, stay decidedly stuck while the rest of the cake breaks away and lands with a gentle thud on the cooling rack?

I present to you Exhibit A:

This cake was ruined. It was ugly and has lost all of its elegance and much of its integrity. It was unserveable as is. At best, I could transform into a trifle where it was cubed and layered with fruit and whipped cream so that nobody would notice the missing edges and angles.

So disappointing.

But wait a minute. Was it actually ruined?

One fun perk to the “stuck bits” syndrome is that you get to sample the cake without having to slice into it.

This cake tasted fantastic.

It wasn’t as if I forgot to add sugar or left out some of the butter. The crumb was beautiful, the flavor subtle; it was a rich, dense, sweet delight.

But I only know that because it was visibly ruined. If it had slid effortlessly out of the pan, I would’ve anxiously waited to taste it when I served it for dessert.

After getting over my disappointment, I decided to serve the cake as I had planned it, and it was imperfectly perfect. Nobody complained that parts of the top were missing because the central point of the cake was in tact—the taste was glorious, and the ice cream and berries covered a lot of the missing sections. Its imperfections and ugly edges were irrelevant in the final presentation.

How many times in your life have you been this pound cake?

Recall the moments, experiences and/or opportunities you expected to be perfect only to have the reality fall far short of your dreams.

Think of the times you’ve looked at (some aspect of) the state of your life with dismay.

How often have you looked at yourself and thought, “I’m ruined”?

Let me let you in on a little secret:

You’re not ruined.

Your exterior might be dinged up; maybe you’ve made some choices or had experiences in life that have left you feeling less than.

That’s ok.

You’re ok.

You’re actually way more than ok.

None of us gets through life without some damage to our bodies, minds and/or spirits. In fact, it’s those experiences that create the complexity that make us fully human.

Just to keep the metaphor going, there is ice cream and berries to help hide and heal the damaged bits: leaving a bad marriage or job, standing up for yourself in a relationship, going to therapy, starting a gratitude journal, planning a trip with a friend, getting a massage, going back to school, saying yes to what brings you joy and so much more.

Trust that the stuck or missing bits of life haven’t ruined you. Serve up your life with pride at what you’ve been through and get back on the path to pursuing your dreams, not just in spite of the broken bits but because of them. They’ve changed you, perhaps they took you off the path you dreamed of taking, but I promise you they haven’t irreparably ruined you.

Looking for inspiration to figure out how to reignite your dreams despite the stuck bits in your life? Download my free (re)Discover Your Spark guide to get started.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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