Friday, December 07, 2012

i am an egg...?

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How do you respond to adversity?

I have to admit when the going gets tough, I don’t so much “respond” as “react”. My fight-or-flight urge kicks into high gear, and tends to be at one extreme or the other.

Sometimes my innards scream “Run away!” (a favorite quote from Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”) and I take off for parts unknown, because anywhere must be better than here, right?

Sometimes I put up my dukes (and my hackles) without so much as a brain cell kicking in.

And sometimes I do both simultaneously, limbs and attitude flailing vigorously as I run. Usually in a circle.

These kind of extreme reactions are ok if someone is chasing you with a knife or someone you love is being threatened. You should let the adrenaline kick in if it’s a matter of saving life and limb. It’s ok to run screaming like a maniac, punch the villain in the mouth, or pick up the car if you’re trying to avoid death or dismemberment.

However, except in cases of extreme danger, none of these reactions are very effective.  I usually end up causing some kind of damage, real or perceived, which then is added to the pile of stuff to be dealt with. Yippee.

We’ve all seen the little ditty that compares how we deal with adversity to eggs, carrots and coffee. If you haven’t, here you go:
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.
Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see."
"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.
Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently.
  • The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.
  • The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened.
  • The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.
"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?"
(I don't know where this story came from. Maybe some mother was just using a situation to teach her daughter how to cook and it got turned into a psychology lesson. Sneaky moms…sometimes you use what you’re given.)

If I took this story at face value, I’d say I am an egg – the fragile thin-skinned individual who tends to get hard and unyielding when placed into hot water.

And not just a regular egg, but one that already had some kind of flaw before going into the water (so human of me). The kind of egg that leaks air bubbles when the water is heating, develops cracks, and leaks its egginess into the water. It’s ugly and gross – useless as an Easter egg, not even that great for egg salad. And it coats the rest of the eggs with a really nasty scum.


If you’ve boiled eggs before you know what I mean. It isn’t a pretty picture.

Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself (no pun intended).  How about you – how did you fare?

Ok, now forget all that.

The more I think about the device used in this little story, the more its reasoning starts to fall apart.

(Especially since everybody knows you start eggs and carrots in cold water...)

First of all, unless you’re a bodybuilder, who wants a raw egg, or one that doesn’t firm up when it’s cooked? I like mine fried in butter, over easy so the yolk is just runny enough to sop with my toast. Even better, I like to cut up my runny eggs and my bacon and then mix them up in my grits, just like my daddy taught me. But I digress....

Secondly, while I like raw carrots on occasion, they work much better in soup and other dishes when they’ve softened a bit. Boiling carrots works ok, but I prefer sautéing mine in a little butter. (Butter is wonderful, BTW) Either way, you really need to peel those carrots first to take off the bitter skin. Don’t know about you, but skinning seems way worse than boiling. Using both is positively medieval. 

Finally – and this is a BIG one - you don’t boil coffee. Ever. Unless you know nothing about coffee, or just like really bitter, nasty coffee.  If that’s the case, please let me know when you invite me over.  I’ll pick up a Traveler from Starbucks before I come.

So, what is the point of this story anyway? 

If it’s helpful or gets you thinking, great. We could all be healthier if we monitor our reactions, consider the clean up involved with radical responses, learn more effective ways of dealing with everyday stress and strife.

But truthfully, none of us react the same way every time something bad happens. And what we perceive as “bad” changes from day to day, hour to hour, based on our environment, our hormones, our outlook, the traffic, whether we’ve had our (unboiled) name it.  

If you think you could handle stress a little better, find a way to do it. We can change the way we think, the way we react, even whether we “react” or “respond” to a situation. They aren’t the same thing.

So, as for this little fable, I’m going to take my little lesson and pitch the rest. Because I’m not that simple. You aren’t that simple. Life isn’t that simple.

And, girlfriend, the cooking advise is atrocious!

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