It Doesn’t Matter If Your Buns Don’t Rise

Woman with question.The damn dough for the cinnamon buns didn't rise.  I followed the directions, I did everything right, and the friggin dough didn't rise.

The horror.

You see, every year since I cut my milk teeth cinnamon buns have been a part of Christmas.  I've packed those suckers in my luggage for out of town Christmases and insisted they take their rightful place next to my husband's family's coffee cake.  I would wage war if anyone suggested we remove the cinnamon buns from the Christmas breakfast menu because, dammit, it's not Christmas without the damn buns.  Plus, people LOVE those buns, look forward to them now that I've indoctrinated them into my tradition.  What will they think if I show up empty handed?

So it's 5:32 the day before Christmas Eve, the day before family begins to come into town, before they come over for drinks and appetizers to kick off the Christmas Eve festivities and all the clutter has yet to be shoved into the closets.  The carpets never did get cleaned, there's laundry to do, and the kitchen looks like the bakery gnomes had a flour orgy in there.

And the damn dough didn't rise.

Know what?  It doesn't matter if it does or not.  We will either have cinnamon buns~or we will not.  If I let some flour and yeast ruin my day, what is the point?

Is it just me?

I spent 15-minutes contemplating toilet seat covers at the store today.  What color?  What style?  Should I buy new towels to match?  I obsessed about this, thinking there was a right answer.  After all, people are coming tomorrow, and the toilet seat cover is make it or break it time with the family.

I squandered a similar amount of time at IKEA with a set of hand blown fancy glasses the other day.  How will my guests perceive these glasses?  Can I serve wine in them even though they're not wine glasses?  What other cocktails might I offer?  In the cart and out of the cart they traveled no fewer than five times.  Seriously.  Fucking glasses that cost me $2.99 apiece. 

I was stuck, and it was all because I worried about how my guests would perceive the damn glasses.

I do the same thing with almost every out of the ordinary purchase.  Sun glasses, scarves, clothing, rugs.  They all represent me, and well, gosh darn it, how will people see me?  What is the right thing to do?

I've become so lost in others' opinions and anticipated judgments that I become paralyzed by dough that doesn't rise and purchases that, quite frankly, don't mean diddly to anyone else.  And the thing is, when I do this, when I try to avoid judgment by others, I am judging myself more harshly and cruelly than anyone else ever will.

Whatever it is, let it go.  It doesn't matter in the big scheme of things.  My dough will rise~or it won't.  All the baseboards in my home will be scrubbed~or they won't.  Truth is, anyone who actually gave a shit about any of that wouldn't be high on my list to associate with, so it's just my self-judgment that's making me crazy.

Do me a favor.  Be kind to yourself.  If the potatoes aren't as creamy as you'd like, if the bow on the gift isn't just so, if something burns and you have to order Chinese takeout for dinner, be kind to yourself.  Shit happens, and it doesn't matter unless you make it matter.

Happy holidays, y'all.

4 Responses to It Doesn’t Matter If Your Buns Don’t Rise
  1. Shanna Mann
    December 27, 2011 | 5:15 am

    Ellen! You're back! Missed you — and your posts. 
    My mom instilled much the same "what will the neighbors think?" sort of horror in me. But I think she's lightening up as she gets older, which makes everything more fun. 
    The last time I was home she cooked duck, and the grease boiled over in the oven, causing a stink. So we opened a window and shoved the rhubarb crisp in to cook during dinner. 
    We were all dished up and had started to eat when my dad had gotten up to grab another tray of buns. He was standing in front of the stove when the door blew open — the oven door hit him in the thighs. My brother inlaw, who was sitting with his back to the oven, froze, and my mom started shouting at my dad to turn off the oven — the duck grease had caught fire. 
    My brother immediately got up to take the batteries out of the smoke detectors, and my sister, a chef, recommended we take the crisp (hee hee) out of the oven before we threw the baking soda in, so that at least we could eat it. 
    The smoke got so bad that we all picked up our plates and went out to the deck to eat. My brother and I had not stopped laughing the whole time. 
    "What have we learned here today?"
    "That the flashpoint of duck grease is 375?"
    And the flambed rhubarb crisp was just fine with enough ice cream. 
    I think the "tales of woe" from our family escapades just stacked up to the point where my mom calls it a win when nothing memorable happened :)
    By the way, what rich-text plug-in is this^?

    • Ellen Berg
      January 2, 2012 | 6:27 pm

      It’s nice to be out of hibernation. :) I love the story you tell, and it’s a reminder to put things in perspective when it all goes to shit. Since this post, several friends have shared their own tales, and it’s reminded me to keep a sense of humor about things. I kept noticing how much my ego and fear of judgment became entwined with the food I was preparing for people, and I felt sucked into the vortex of crazy that opens when you start believing that any of it matters.

      I’m not sure what the rich-text plug-in is; my hubby is in charge of all things technical. I’ll ask him and post it here or email you once I know.

  2. Kasey
    January 3, 2012 | 8:43 am

    Ellen:  So glad to see you're blogging again:-)  I had to laugh at this one.  This year my husband was getting me a new floor for my kitchen and dining room.  I was all distraught because it wasn't done by Christmas when everyone was coming over.  We pushed hard to have it done by New Year's Eve.  All in all, though…it really didn't matter.  Yeah, it got rave reviews but after the first initial comments the party was underway and no one even mentioned it again.  I guess I thought we'd spend the entire New year's Eve talking about my awesome new floor!

  3. Bill Mitschele
    January 5, 2012 | 10:32 am

    I did enjoy this posting but failed to respond till now. Sorry you had to fret so over everything. You are right. It either will happen, or not. Who really cares. I do care that you put out the special effort to have your home look so nice, and so warm and inviting. (We did notice.) And I do care that you put so much time and effort into all the wonderful appetizers for the party on Christmas Eve. It was all wonderful! And I do care that you worked so hard on all the great food you made for ALL our delicious meals. And your Christmas rolls were magnificent, as always. They've become as much, (or more), a family tradition as the purchased coffee cakes everyone likes to me. Bill and I both CARE and appreciate all your contributions. I know it's labor intense to pull something of that magnitude off successfully, but you did it, and did it well! You should feel proud! Thanks for all you did, and do!

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