You Only Bomb If You're Trying

Last night, my friend Mary Laura Philpott gave me a pep talk. We had both had relatively crappy days. You know the kind. When you realize that you’ve made a mistake, hurt someone’s feelings, or in general, act like a jerk to the people you love most. Needless to say, I’d swung and I missed biggest time. And the ball I hit ended up being a boomerang that came back to hit me in the chest. Shocking? Yes. Surprising? No. I’m a human. I make mistakes all the time. But somehow it still hurts to bear witness to my own weakness.

Mary Laura knows about those kinds of days. In fact, her new book, “I Miss You When I Blink” is a compilation of essays on what it means to learn to love yourself, even when things aren’t perfect. It comes out the same day as Beyond the Point —and you should most definitely get yourself a copy. Hearing my cry for help, Mary Laura pointed me to a recent exchange between comedian Tiffany Haddish and Chrissy Teigen. (*Warning: R-rated language alert.)

 
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Tiffany Haddish bombed at a New Year’s Eve show in Miami. She was performing stand up comedy in front of a packed house. She’d spent the night before drinking. She wasn’t prepared. She couldn’t remember her jokes or the transitions between jokes. The crowd turned on her. One even got up, began filming himself with her in the background, laughing and saying what a bad night she was having.

Chrissy Teigen’s response to Haddish’s honest admission is kindness at its best.

We all bomb.

It makes me cringe, but the truth is, at one point or another, we’ve all been Tiffany Haddish. I have been radically unprepared, standing on the stage of my life, bombing. I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’d wished I’d been better. My very first novel comes out in four months — there’s a chance that it will hit the shelves, sell a few hundred copies, and then wither and die. That is entirely possible. There is a chance that tomorrow, I will run into a hurting friend, and say the exact wrong thing. And when I do, it will feel terrible.

But you only bomb if you’re trying. I would rather be bombing then not trying. I would rather write the book and see the world hate it than never write the book. I would rather say the wrong thing than say nothing. I would rather eat my words than never speak in the first place. I would rather be the man in the arena than the critic who writes take-down pieces after the fact.

i’m going to keep trying. So the chances are, I’m going to keep bombing. That’s the way it works. Life conspires to make me more acutely aware of my weakness. Thankfully, I serve a God of second, thirteenth, and hundredth chances. I serve a God who does not rate my performance. I serve a God who is madly in love with me, and frees me from the evaluation of the world and liberates me to the lightness of his affection for me. I can bring him my humiliation and shame. He gives me laughter and kindness in its place. He convinces me to try again.

The Sweet Potato Cake

When I was in college, I used to love going to a restaurant called Brickstreet Cafe on Augusta Street in Greenville, SC. The food was great, but the cakes and pastries they served were divine.

Enter: my obsession with sweet potato cake. It may sound crazy — but you have to trust me. This is the best thing you’ll ever eat. It took me several years to perfect this recipe, but I have to say — I think I’ve got it down.

THE BEST SWEET POTATO CAKE EVER

INGREDIENTS

for the cake:

2 boxes yellow cake mix

6 eggs

water

butter

2 sweet potatoes

cinnamon

nutmeg

3 9-inch round pans (greased)

plastic wrap

for the icing

2 8-oz packages cream cheese

1 stick butter

2 lbs. powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1.5 cups toasted pecans

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350. Poke sweet potatoes with fork to create vents in the skin. On foil-lined cookie sheets, bake both sweet potatoes until the flesh is soft, about 1- 2 hours. When they’re done, pull them out of the oven and let them cool for at least 10 minutes.

  2. Follow the cake mix instructions on the boxes, using a hand-mixer to create a massive bowl of cake batter (Normally, that means mixing in 6 eggs, 2 cups of water, and some butter, but just follow the directions.)

  3. Add 1.5 cups of the sweet potato flesh into the cake batter, mixing gently with the hand mixer.

  4. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter to taste — normally I add about 2 teaspoons of each.

  5. Fill the batter into three greased round cake pans, and bake for 20-25 minutes (follow instructions on box) When the cake is lightly browned on top, pull out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. (Cooling is essential so you don’t break the cake when you flip it out of the pan.)

  6. Set three separate sheets of plastic wrap on your counter. Using a paring knife, carefully slide it around the edges of the cake pan to help loosen the layer of cake. In one swift motion, turn the pan over onto the plastic wrap. Wrap each layer in a separate plastic wrap, and freeze ( at least 1 hr, overnight if possible.)

  7. Mix the first four ingredients of the icing together with a hand-mixer. Fold in the pecans.

  8. Spoon a small bit of icing into the center of a cake stand. Unwrap the first frozen layer of cake and put it on the dollop of icing, securing it onto the cake stand. Smooth a layer of icing over the first layer of cake. Repeat with the next two layers.

  9. To ice the sides of the cake, work from the top down. If any drips of the cake stand, use a damp paper towel to wipe it up.

  10. Voila! Wait 30 minutes for the cake to continue to defrost, then enjoy!