31 March 2008

On Lessons Learned

Lessons we learned as a child stay with us for years. Sometimes we learn them so well they affect our lives forever. This is a good thing with some lessons. My life is a lot safer because I know to look both ways before I cross the street. But some lessons hold us back without our even realizing it.

For example, here's "The Case of the Uncooked Bean." My husband and I love beans and eat them often. Part of my mindful living has been to cook with food as close to its natural state as possible. For beans, that means discarding canned beans and learning to cook dried beans. Google taught me that pressure cookers are the most efficient way of cooking them up.

We purchased a pressure cooker. I already had a bag of black beans in the pantry, so you would think it would be an easy thing to just cook them up one day. But I didn't. The pressure cooker sat in the pantry. And the beans sat in the pantry. And they never came together.

Several months passed and I began to wonder if I would ever use my pressure cooker. So, to force myself to do so, I did something sneaky. I waited until we ran out of canned beans and then planned a meal that required them. Last night, I was faced with having to use it. I took the shiny pan out of it's box and realized that I was horribly nervous. And that was the moment that I remembered the lesson I learned as a child.

My mother used a pressure cooker all the time to cook vegetables and potatoes. The one thing she impressed upon us kids was that pressure cookers were highly dangerous cooking implements likely to result in our disfigurement or even death were we to touch them. Now my mother is a sensible woman and this was good advice: kids should not use pressure cookers. I learned that lesson very well and never used the pressure cooker.

Fast-forward twenty-some odd years. I am thirty-six years old. I own a small business and a house. And I am standing in my kitchen, suspiciously looking at my pressure cooker as though it were a plutonium bomb. I remember my mother's admonitions and began to laugh.

Without my even knowing it, that little lesson I learned as a child held me back. It makes me wonder what other lessons learned are affecting my life even now.

And for the record, while the beans were overdone, no one was disfigured or killed during their cooking. I consider that an unqualified success.

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