My daughter came home from school the other day with tears in her eyes. The sting of not being included in a much anticipated play-date with a good friend was almost more than she could bear and she flopped on the sofa and covered her head with her hands. I’ll admit that I was tempted to ply her with reassurances like “you can invite someone else over to our house” or “I’m sure you’ll be invited next time” or “you’ll be fine” but instead I just gave her a moment to wallow in her sadness.
I am following the author Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook (Eat, Pray, Love & The Signature of All Things) and she recently posted a wonderful article about accepting negative feelings. She was specifically focusing on betrayal but her thoughts are relevant to any difficult emotions. She discusses her initial desire to convince herself to simply buck up and LET GO of negativity but then she offers a different approach:
“But what I’ve been trying to do lately — whenever I experience feelings of sadness, anger, resentment — is to just say to myself this word: “Freedom.” I will say to myself, “Freedom to feel anger,” and just let it be anger. I will say, “Freedom to feel sorrow,” and just let the sorrow be. “I will say, “Freedom to regret,” and let the regret run its course. And ultimately, I will say, “FREEDOM TO PROCESS,” and just accept that all these difficult feelings are part of the natural human process for handling complicated emotional encounters.
When I allow myself that freedom to just feel whatever I am feeling, the walls of the cage seem to fall away. I still experience the anger, the sadness, the regret — but if I keep repeating, “Freedom to feel…Freedom to process…” it all seems to pass more quickly, and Judging Liz doesn’t escalate the whole situation into something worse, which is World War III inside my brain.
In other words, I am learning to let things go by just letting myself be a normal human being — not by beating myself over the head anymore with the message that YOU HAVE TO LET IT GO, DAMNIT!!!!! And somehow, curiously, that lets it go…” Elizabeth Gilbert
So what was a mom to do? After giving her a respectful amount of time to deal with her feelings I asked my daughter if she’d like to join me in the kitchen for some cupcake making. And no I don’t believe in soothing every wound with sweets but on this particular day I thought the time spent in the kitchen would remind her of how much fun she could occasionally have with her boring old mother.
And you know what? I no time at all we were giggling and stirring and commiserating about how annoying it is to bake when a 3-year-old pulls his chair up to the island and offers to “help” out. I stepped out of the way and let her do all of the work (including making a giant mess filling the cupcake tray) and I could see how proud she was of herself when I pulled the finished cakes out of the oven.
I guess my point in sharing this with you is twofold: first of all – remember to allow yourself and your children the time and space to feel and accept a whole range of emotions without always stepping in to rescue or reassure. And second – never underestimate the power of a good cupcake!
Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
2 cups flour (regular or gluten-free)* if using GF flour – add 1 tsp xanthum gum
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup of organic sugar
1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup safflower oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
Icing and sprinkles of choice (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add wet ingredients and stir to combine. Blend with a stand mixer or hand mixer on low until combined and then on medium for 1-2 minutes until lumps disappear – scraping sides often with a spatula.
Line 12 muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. Fill liners with batter until 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the pan and then remove and top with icing of choice. (Easy icing recipe: 1/3 cup organic butter or vegan margarine melted combined with 3 cups powdered sugar and 4-5 tbsp. water).