Weekend Meditation: Persnickety

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We all have at least one thing we’re fussy about when it comes to cooking and the food we eat. It could be at that we never eat runny egg yolks, or that a certain sponge is only used for the counters and another sponge is only used for the dishes. Maybe we always roast our chicken in a particular way, or we cannot abide mushrooms in any way, shape or form. Perhaps we never cook (really cook) because we can’t tolerate a messy kitchen, or we have to pull out our measuring stick every time we dice a carrot. Finicky, fastidious, punctilious. Persnickety. Is this you?

Often our fussiness has its roots in something legitimate, some sense of taking care of ourselves or preventing harm. We’re being careful and cautious because we want to feel safe and happy. At the very least our fussiness allows us to avoid a slightly unpleasant experience, such as a taste or texture we find icky, or a certain amount of disorder that is unsettling.

But the true motivator of persnicketiness is fear. Fear of an unpleasant experience, maybe, or the fear that comes when things are unpredictable or out of our control. Or the bigger fear that whatever we are about to do may harm or even kill us. Which is very helpful, if there really is something to watch out for. But is that always the case?

Fears have their place (they can keep us safe) but often we just take them for granted, whether they are helpful or not. We fall into a pattern of accepting that what we are afraid of is actually dangerous and we never question it. And by doing that, we are potentially living a life that is unnecessarily limited.

I think its an interesting and possibly life changing experiment to challenge our inert fussiness once and a while. The first step is to notice when we’re having a fear-based reaction or decision. We do this by paying attention to what fear feels like when it arises (occupy the present moment!) and allowing ourselves a choice in that moment. Sometimes we’re so bought into our belief that something is bad or unpleasant that we’ve forgotten that it’s possible we could be wrong. We can say ‘Ew, I hate coconut’ and pass on that amazing looking dessert. Or we can think ‘That looks really good, despite the fact that it is covered in coconut. I wonder if maybe I should try a little bite.’

The kitchen is a perfect place to experiment with this, as it is so central to both our capacity for pleasure and our capacity for fear. Take a taste that food that you are convinced you hate or are fearful of (go on, just a tiny bite!) Let your kitchen get completely trashed in the process of making a complicated but deeply satisfying meal. Try a new method, a new cuisine. Leave the ruler in the drawer and put your spices back out of order. Do something you never do because you were convinced you would not like it!

I think you’ll be surprised and maybe even delighted by this experiment. Maybe you’ll discover a whole new cuisine that you absolutely love or that a little messiness or unevenness or newness won’t kill you. Maybe you’ll discover that being wound tightly around something is in itself an unpleasant experience, perhaps even more unpleasant than whatever it is you’re avoiding.

Of course there are commonsense things we don’t do because they are indeed harmful or disruptive, and understanding the difference between that kind of practicality and a fear-based limitation is an important thing to know. Which is what this experiment is all about. Teaching yourself about yourself. Teaching yourself the wisdom and sensitivity (and trust) to make wholesome choices, choices that will help you to fully participate in this brief, bright spark called your precious human life.

Have you ever allowed yourself to break free of your persnickety ways? Was it worth it? What fear is holding you back?