Second Chance Strawberries

No seed ever sees the flower.

Zen saying

This morning I had a cake flop. Maybe it was the recipe, maybe it was a few harmless substitutions. I can’t say for sure. 350 degrees and 45 minutes later, I poured the batter out and tried to get on with my day, not wanting to think about the time I had spent that left me with an empty cake pan and a sink full of dishes.

Each time I returned to the kitchen though I felt a little tug, to redeem myself from the morning’s failure, to somehow make up the time I had lost measuring and mixing. I was so set on making the perfect cake with just the right flavor and consistency, that mouths would water for more after one bite. Such is my nature, and so is my reputation for turning out delectable desserts.

I still hadn’t used my strawberries, which is what had prompted the recipe hunt leading me to the perfectly imperfect. And I was determined not to let them live out the rest of their days in the carton in my refrigerator, casually plucked on cereal or popped into the mouth of a weary forager when I knew they were meant for more.

We all have flops and failures, but we don’t often share them, at least not proudly. Rarely do we see the perfectly polished final version of something and think about all the drafts, markups, and experiments gone wrong that came before.

This morning got me thinking about how often we assume that one’s successes, be they the beautiful blend of ingredients that make a meal, or handpicked items that create a welcoming home, come together as if by magic, with few previous attempts or failings.

But we are not privy to what goes on behind the scenes, and are aware of one’s hardships and struggles only once they’ve gone from rags to riches.

It’s easy to talk about our jobs, our homes, our families without talking about the many trials and errors of which they’re a result. But doing so paints a far from real picture. Sometimes we get it right the first time, sometimes the seventh, sometimes the seven-hundredth. Often it’s unclear to the casual observer, or even our closest friends whether it’s our first attempt or if we’ve lost count of how many times we’ve tried and failed.

It’s limiting to view achievements through such a narrow lens, and discounts the unique blend of satisfaction and contentment that arises when we create something thoroughly beautiful and whole, even when it wasn’t what we intended.

I recently encountered a Zen saying, “No seed ever sees the flower”. Don’t be discouraged by your mishaps, and don’t hide them either. Even if they don’t lead to what you were hoping for right away, they are laying a foundation: for more successes and accidents along the way.