Mashed Potatoes and Trust

“Mom! You agreed to let us make the mashed potatoes, and we’re doing it. You don’t need to micro-manage the whole process!” The words my daughter spoke stung, but they were true. I had allowed her to be in charge of creating the decadent, buttery-smooth potatoes that were her favorite part of our traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Why did I have such a hard time trusting that she was capable? It had nothing to do with Katie; it had everything to do with my own lack of trust.

My family could tell you many stories like this – what begins with a simple desire to extend hospitality ends up with me rushing around, stressed out and critical of their efforts to comply with my requests for help. In these moments, I often feel like I am standing outside myself, watching a train derail, feeling powerless to prevent it from happening.

I’ve been backing the train up in my mind this week, wondering if I can pinpoint the moment I leave the tracks. It always happens at the last minute, when the goodness I have been anticipating is so close I can almost taste it. In that “almost” space, fear creeps in and tells me I am foolish to trust and something will derail the goodness. Haven’t I already learned that lesson? The only wise response is to frantically busy myself, believing the responsibility to ensure goodness rests on me and I can’t rely on anyone else to make it happen.

I remembered something significant about this idea of goodness and trust, which I’d learned at The Allender Center’s Recovery Week several years ago. I pulled out my journal from that week and read what I had written about trust—another word for faith—I saw myself clearly once again:

Trust is developed through pain being comforted. What if no one attended to your pain, or attached shame for needing comfort? There will be an absence of trust, which looks like: responsible, busy, frantic, having to be in control, a hatred of rest, trust, and desire…

Trust is believing that there is goodness for me in the world, and I don’t have to make it happen.

If there is any lesson I learned well growing up, it was that my need for comfort and reassurance was somehow abnormal, and therefore shameful. Not only was my pain not comforted, it was dismissed as invalid. I learned that if there was goodness to be had, I was on my own to make it happen. The words in my journal stood in stark contrast to the behaviors my younger self had adopted in order to survive.

I had been beating myself up for all the times when “busy, frantic, having to be in control” showed up in my desire to be hospitable. I had determined their presence was an indictment against me, evidence of my failure.

What I am realizing now is that their presence is simply an indicator that I have allowed myself to actively long for and anticipate goodness. The franticness I feel in that “almost” space has nothing to do with creating a Pinterest-perfect experience; it has everything to do with creating space where the goodness my heart longs for meets the goodness of those gathered around my table, the fullness of our connection bringing a taste of heaven on earth.

I am grateful for Katie’s words Thanksgiving morning. They caught me right as I was about to jump the track. Instead, I got to sit back and enjoy watching her experience the goodness of collaboration with her boyfriend, their playful banter over who got to wield the potato masher bringing a smile to my face. I am grateful for all the moments with family and friends who filled the space of our home this Thanksgiving, expanding my ability to rest and trust, strengthening my faith.

Janet Stark is a woman learning to bless her depth and sensitivity. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband, Chris, and their kids and grandkids. Janet loves curling up with a good book, trying new recipes on her friends and family, and enjoying long conversations with friends over a cup of really good coffee. She is a life-long lover of words and writes about her experiences here.