Along the way of writing A Gift of Grace, I had an idea that raised the stakes, which I approved of, and so I intended to use it. I’m finally at the point where I need to write it and it doesn’t have a secure foundation. That means I should go back and write that secure foundation in, but the very thought makes me want to stab myself. Hari-kari? Was that the ritual suicide that involved ripping open your guts? I should go look it up, but I refuse to succumb to the lure of random internet research today.
I’ve been working on this book for almost a year now — I started it as last year’s NaNoWriMo — and I am not going to start revising it until a first draft is finished, even if my draft readers are going “huh? what? where did that come from?”
I also realized yesterday that an element of the story that was always clear to me is never once explained to the reader. It is a bit much to expect the reader to read my mind, and so that also makes me want to go back and revise. But no. No, no, no.
This is the question I’ve been stewing over and this is the decision made. But the process of fretting about whether I should revise made me think about the word “stew” when it equals worry. It suggests that worry is a process of cooking, as if there’s heat to the idea of worrying. Not a lot of heat, not a boil, but a low heat.
When I was working on becoming a therapist, the kind of therapy I wanted to practice was called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. One of the things I liked about ACT is that it teaches techniques that… well, felt more in line with my experience of the world. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is probably the most commonly-used type of therapy today, teaches people to look at their thoughts, logically analyze them, and reject the bad ones. So if you’re feeling self-loathing, a CBT approach would be to look at the good that you’ve done in the world, the people that care about you, and remind yourself that you’re a good person who is loved.
It does not work for me. My thoughts are great at telling me that I’m fine, but my feelings let me know that actually, I’m just lying and not very convincingly. I can think as loudly as I like, as positively as I like, but it doesn’t change the underlying feelings. ACT instead says, yep, that’s a feeling, embrace it, this is the way you feel, and now move on, what can you DO that will help you feel better? Not what will you think, because thinking isn’t the problem, but what action will you take? And in that “embrace the feeling” stage, there are exercises to do, specific techniques to let yourself experience pain, feel it, and let it go. You don’t do the exercises to escape from the pain (known as experiential avoidance in ACT and considered not helpful) but to allow yourself to feel the pain. Anyway, after turning this into a very long story, I’ve decided to work on developing a stewing exercise, where I let myself ruminate and worry, in fact focus on my worrying instead of trying to escape from it, while I visualize my worries slowly cooking and breaking down. Worry stew. Maybe not delicious, but the imagery is so satisfying somehow.
My second reason for thinking about stew is that CostCo had fresh cranberries yesterday and so I bought meat to make stew. (This seems like a non sequiteur but cranberries are a fantastic ingredient in beef stew — they add a delicious tang and a beautiful color.) This morning I realized that for various reasons, namely a commitment to make pot roast on Sunday, I should either make my stew today or freeze the ingredients until sometime next week. But eh. I was not in the mood. So I made a lazy stew — no flouring and browning the meat, no deglazing the pan with red wine, no fancy stuff, just throwing some raw ingredients in the crockpot and hoping for the best. Ingredients: carrot, parsnip, celery, onion, three cloves of garlic (peeled, but not crushed), dried parsley, dried rosemary, fresh cilantro, salt, 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar, 2/3 cup of chicken broth, stew meat. I’ll add the cranberries about an hour before I want to eat. If it works, I’ll be pleased, because it seriously cuts stew-making time and effort down to… well, I had everything in the crockpot before 8AM, with time to eat leftover coconut curry seafood stew for breakfast and still be at my computer by 8. Fingers crossed that lazy stew tastes good, though. I will be seriously annoyed with myself if I’ve wasted my stew meat with something that I don’t like enough to eat for three days.