Editor’s note: Listen to the audio version of this column.
I can still see the miniature farm scene on my eighth birthday cake — the barn, the cows, the brown fence forming a border.
Problem was I didn’t like cake — any cake, let alone one donning brown icing and cows. When I turned 20, I tasted a sliver of carrot cake, and we’ve been inseparable at celebrations every since.
Forty-seven flames will be blazing on my birthday cake this Wednesday. Each one representing countless lessons I’ve learned. One of those lessons is to not allow past associations with objects or people to dictate my current attitude towards them.
Some associations are harmless like to me coffee means comfort, Hawaii means luaus, and I expect to find zebras at the zoo, but if I’d failed to let go of my preconceived notion of yoga being a bunch of old, bald guys sitting crossed-legged and chanting “Ohm,” I’d have deprived myself of the practice that’s become an integral part of my day. The strength and peace I’ve found in holding a yoga pose transcends the mat and helps me live a more focused life.
Preconceived notions can prevent us from making our own decisions. For instance, I’ve never liked peas — or so I thought. I see peas and I revert to an eight-year-old. For a split second I’m hiding my peas under the mashed potatoes on my plate and watching the kitchen doorway for Dad’s arrival back to check my progress. He will expect the peas to be gone and gone they will be — unless he goes digging in my leftovers.
Yesterday at a restaurant, the waiter brought the chicken breast I ordered, but instead of zucchini, tiny, green, dented-looking balls were rolling around on the side — peas! I looked at them and decided to give them a chance to convince my palette of their worth. I said to myself, “I’m choosing to eat these and I can stop whenever I want.”
The first spoonful I let marinade in my mouth. I wasn’t gagging so I bit down. Bland, not bad. After several scoops, I realized it wasn’t the peas I didn’t like as much as it was being told as a kid that I had to eat them.
Peas still aren’t my favorite veggie, but I’m not avoiding them just because of a memory I associate with them. Now when I look at peas, rather than thinking, “Yuck,” I think, “Remain open to the experience,” because without new experiences, we know exactly what to expect and that can be boring.
I want each candle on my birthday cake to represent a plethora of new experiences I’ve enjoyed over the year, including tasting the newest flavor of cake, even if it means I don’t like it, and I have to hide it under the mashed potatoes.
Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.
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