Saturday, November 21, 2009

Learning to Collaborate

A few days before our first cooking date, I woke up feeling anxious, and some journal-writing soon helped me figure out the cause. The central issue was something that often plagues me when I entertain: I so want everything to be just so, to make it all "perfect," that I lose sight of the larger goal of making sure we all have a good time (!). Yes, it's a control issue. (Sigh.)

What I needed to do, I realized, was to get back in touch with my hopes and intentions for this event—and for the overall project. So what were these?
  • I especially wanted this first cooking day to go well, because it would set the tone for the project as a whole. And I wanted to be present and relaxed—and not to spend the day stressing over a thousand details.
  • I wanted the food to be delicious and sufficiently plentiful. (I wasn't sure I knew how to figure that out.)
  • I wanted us to be able to work together without feeling uncomfortably crowded. (I sometimes feel overwhelmed with lots of people in my kitchen.)
  • I wanted people to connect with one another, and for us all to have a good time while doing something for others.
  • And I want the overall project to create a flexible community, reaching out to other people who might want to get involved, and possibly even inspiring others to create similar projects. 
Remembering my goals helped me figure out how to realize them—or, at least, how to make a start in the right direction!

The practical matters proved fairly easy to resolve. I simply turned to you for help! (Seems obvious, doesn't it?) Cole and Michael helped me figure out how much we needed of the various curry ingredients, so I could be sure to buy enough. And they gave me great advice about planning for a crowd and packing food for transport, which I know will come in handy in the future. Sandy and Sara and Kevin took care of preparing certain dishes and ingredients, which meant I had fewer things to keep track of myself.

To make sure the kitchen wasn't too crowded, I moved most of the ferns and all of the stools into the sun room, cleared off an additional counter, and set up overflow workspace in the dining room. Much better! I also created a sort of worksheet, which listed each of the items on the menu and explained what needed to be done to each ingredient. The idea was that someone could show up, grab some cucumbers, say, and consult the worksheet to find out how to prepare them. This meant that people could easily jump in and work on something, without having to understand the whole structure of the recipe—and without having to consult me for instructions at every turn.

I wanted most, though, to find a way to let go of my need to control all the details. Again, I asked myself, what is my goal here? I wanted this to be our event, not my event. I wanted us all to be co-participants in this project, for us to share with and inspire one another. And once I remembered that—and remembered that all of you were going to be working on this project with me—it suddenly became easy to simply trust you to make it happen... which you did with bells on! (And not only that, you cleaned up after yourselves—what a blessing!)

This idea probably seems self-evident to many of you, but it was an "Aha!" moment for me. When I keep in mind what's really important, it's easy to let the other stuff go, to have a little more faith and a little less fear. Now, I just need to figure out how to carry this lesson into other areas of my life... :)  In the meantime, I'm grateful for the learning and growth this project is already offering me—and for being able to share this larger journey with you. Happy Thanksgiving!

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