Forgetting the Salt: Growth is Obvious in Hindsight

an extreme closeup of salt
Image by Kevin Dooley / CC BY

I’m putting away groceries when I glance at the list I so helpfully left on the fridge.

Shit, I forgot to pick up salt.

You can’t cook anything without salt. It’s the oxygen of cooking. Or is that oxygen itself? My metaphors are a lot like my knife cuts. Passionate and quick. And never quite even.

But salt is essential. That much I know.

It’s back to the store. I bound into my car.

I’m to the grocery store before it hits me. When I realized I had forgotten the salt, I didn’t even hesitate. I went right back out.

You don’t have driving anxiety anymore.

*

When I started commuting during rush hour a few years ago, it had been sheer terror. I had nightmares. When I could sleep. Some nights it was all I could do to stop thinking about driving when I left the car. Instead, I’d replay the route, thinking about all the mistakes I had surely made. All the times I had surely risked my life.

“Leave it in the car,” Skyspook would tell me.

But telling me? Did me no good.

Traffic moved so fast. A problem I was always solving — but whose parameters were ever moving. Ever shifting. Ever changing.

And if I got the wrong answer? I could die.

The anxiety would start as I was backing out of our driveway. The houses are close together in suburbia. Driveways short enough that you can’t turn around in them, like you can in the country, where I grew up. I’d never had to do that kind of precision work in reverse.

Each departure was agony.

*

Which is why I’m so surprised when I don’t even worry about this time. And just hop back into my car and drive. Because I’ve forgotten the salt.

In the aisle, I hesitate. Did Skyspook say he wanted kosher or the iodized? I grab both. So I don’t need to go out a third time. No need to push it.

*

Growth is a funny thing. When we set a new goal, something to work on, it seems like we’re making no progress on it. And then mysteriously, it creeps in on us. We get it suddenly. Without expecting to. When we’re not paying attention.

And then that progress seems inevitable in hindsight. And the ways that we got there? Obvious. Where up until that time, we felt like that growth would never happen.

Looking back, I can see a few things that worked out well for me:

  1. Figuring out the shortest path to take to gather relevant information. Where to look to know what was going on quickly. The fewest points to yield the most data. And developing the habit of doing so intuitively, without needing to think about it.
  2. Knowing which rules were important and which rules were less so. And identifying which circumstances in which it was safer to break the rules than to follow them. Which amounts to intelligently applying the right rules at the right time. And discarding the rest.

 

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