January 22, 2007, Category: Musings

Part of the cooking process

Getting our first microwave oven was a big deal for me. I remember being completely amazed that I could melt some cheese on a piece of bread in seconds. It changed my life! I also remember my dad stepping in with some fatherly advice, once, when I pushed the button to open the door while it was still cooking.
“Don’t open it until it shuts down. It’s part of the cooking process.”
What he really said or really meant I can’t be sure of. It was a long time ago. I know I love my dad and he gave me a ton of good advice. But I also know some of the advice probably wasn’t meant to stick with me throughout my entire life. Like the voice I hear in my head nearly every time I use a microwave, especially if I go to stop it before the counter has reached zero and the beep has sounded.

“Don’t open it until it shuts down. It’s part of the cooking process.”

I wonder what voices my own kids will hear as they grow older. I wonder what voices will speak to them so deeply they won’t even consciously hear them. It’s crazy to think that such an obscure indirect remark would remain with me throughout my entire life and forever impact my interaction with microwave ovens. Yet sentences that constantly replay all our heads, whether hidden beneath layers of unconscious fear or sitting at the surface, shape and define us.

My family, religion, the media, friends, movies, books…they have all had a part in creating these sentences. Some roll off my tongue daily.

“It’s part of the cooking process.”

Some, although simple, took introspection and even therapy to discover.

“Anything I do must be done perfect.”

Some are destructive and prejudiced. Others may have saved my life. And a great many would be constructive if framed correctly. And still, some are all of these.

“Don’t talk to strangers.”

Albert Einstien once said, “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” I believe he was talking about these sentences. The sentences that make us feel safe in the world. The sentences that help us cope and explain every event we encounter. The sentences that drive both good and bad people to extremes. Sentences that we all have and that define every belief, desire, fear, and feeling we experience. We are what we feel yet on a deeper level, we feel what we believe we should feel. Therefore, we are whatever we believe we should be…for any given moment.

Rewriting these sentences, although difficult, is possible. I’ve been working on mine for a good fifteen years now. There are many traits I’d like to change about myself. To change, I have to rewrite the underlying belief that locks me into a behavior or mindset. Some are easier to change than others. But at least I know that with effort, my world can be whatever I want it to be. I can change my common sense when it seems to conflict with what I learn and see in the world around me.

“Don’t open it until it shuts down. It’s part of the cooking process.”

“No, actually I think this burrito is done, thanks.”

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