Archives for posts with tag: judgment

“Get out of my kitchen!”

That is the characterization of many of us home cooks who make meals for a crowd.

It is also the way my mother is characterized by one of my in-law’s. My response? “My mother doesn’t say it LIKE THAT! It takes a lot of concentration to cook for a crowd.”

The person to whom I am speaking has never cooked for a crowd though she claims membership in the “I cooked for a crowd group.”

She has not earned that membership, I’m afraid. Yes, I know this sounds presumptuous. Just know that I know this not to be the case.

In contrast, my sister-in-law, who hosts Easter each year, has earned that membership. She never tries to get people out of her kitchen. She is laid back. She is able to cook while talking to a house full of people. I think that despite the chaos, she is not really impacted by it the way the rest of us are. Not to say that she never gets uptight or angry about anything. But those things are not things in her kitchen.

I don’t like people in my kitchen when I am trying to make a meal for a crowd. Actually, that is not entirely true. If you know how to help without being instructed or getting in the way, that’s cool with me. I have a small kitchen and a little brain when it is focused on dinner making. My mom, my brother, James and my friend, Nancy know how to slip in and so things, as if I had psychically willed them to do it. Also, if you are wanting to keep me company and don’t ask a lot of questions that require deep thinking, you are also welcome in my kitchen. Sometimes, it gets lonely in there.

Other people, they get in my way. They don’t offer to help. They are just vagrants in my kitchen. This is typically the role of some of my brothers. I tell them, “Out of my kitchen!” They scoot. They are used to our mother. Others ask to help out of politeness rather than skill. Or they have skill but are too polite to just start doing stuff.

I often think to myself, “I should do a better job at asking for and accepting help.”

“I should.”

“I really should.”

“Should” does not lead to a switch that we can turn off and on. “Oh, I should do that? Ah, here I go, I am doing it!”

Some very kind friends asked to help me cook for an upcoming dinner party. I did not say, “Get out of my kitchen!” I actually didn’t even think it. But I did think, “What is wrong with me that I can’t accept their help easily?”

I usually think, “It’s because my kitchen in small.” “It’s because I would rather do my prep ahead of time so I can visit.” These things are true, especially the latter point. I thought about it more. Really hard.

When I am driving in a car, I have a very hard time carrying on a conversation with the person who is in the passenger seat even if I like him/her very much and would like to socialize. I also don’t put the radio on when I’m driving, even when there is no one else in the car. I find both scenarios distracting. I don’t feel guilty about either situation. I accept myself for more own strengths and limitations.

I also take a lot of photos. That is, I take a lot of photos when I am alone. If I am in a social situation, I have an incredibly hard time remembering to take photos because I am distracted by visiting with people. I don’t feel guilty about this situation even when I had planned to take photos of the event. I wish I were better at doing both things but I don’t feel as thought I “should” be better or that I am letting people down.

I am a damned good home cook. But I am not an executive chef. Perhaps in time, I could train my brain to work that way, but right now and for the last few decades, it has not been that way. Most days of the year, I get no help at all. I do everything myself. I love to socialize with people. I love to cook. Both activities require a great deal of concentration on my part. I mean, yes, there are times in cooking when I am just standing around and welcome time to chat with people. But then there are the other times. And what is particularly difficult is giving other people directions when I am in the thick of things.

It is not that I am a control freak or not open to help.

I am just not that skilled. Sometimes I even write a list of things that people can do to help so that people don’t get mad at me when I can’t think of something they can do to help, when asked. This list, by the way, usually ends up being more work for me but helps assuage other people’s feelings.

As I said, I am a damned good home cook. Why should I feel less than because I have a hard time accepting help due to my difficulties with multi-tasking? Why should I feel that by taking on a lot of responsibility, I am somehow lacking in politeness or depriving others of their right to help?

Today, I am reminding myself of something. I am who I am, pluses and minuses. I may change over time but today, I know what I am able to do.

In the meantime, stay out of my kitchen unless I say, “Hey, keep me company” or “It’s time to eat. Can you help carry things out to the table?”

It’s not about you. It’s about me, doing the best I have with what I’ve got. Unless of course, you bring a bag of groceries to my house and expect to make something in my kitchen, from scratch. If you do that, you will get if not an “evil” eye, an “irritated” eye. Seriously? People, don’t do that. And if you need the oven or microwave to heat something up, it is very considerate to ask about this well ahead of time. It is even more considerate to make something that does not require use of my kitchen because people, two weeks before the event, I have already mapped out the real estate on my stove, oven, roasting oven, crock pot, microwave, and grill.

And guess what? Despite my potentially shooing you from my kitchen, we will all get a good meal out of it. It will be a win win win win win win win win win win win…

It is easy to be harshly judgmental. It makes life simpler. It places a distance between ourselves and someone else’s suffering. If I can find a way to justify someone’s suffering, it buffers me from the reality that bad things can happen to anyone.

As a child clinical psychologist, I see aspects of people’s family lives that are largely invisible to outsiders. I consider their revealing these hurts, fears, and faults, as a sacred trust. This translates into a strong sense of responsibility to respect my patients and their families. I do, however, have to make judgments and interpretations in order to make diagnoses, treatment plans, and to carry them out. Sometimes I have to share difficult views, things I consider to be hard truths.

Honestly, sometimes I get frustrated with my patients, especially their parents. Those are the times that I try to reflect and observe. Why I am so frustrated? What can I do to get back to a more balanced place, the place that is necessary for my work as well as for my personal happiness?

I’ve had a couple of conversations with a friend of mine, also in mental health, about how we just don’t know what goes on in people’s lives, even those that are close to us. We just don’t know what challenges with which a person is dealing. Some of this is due to shame and stigma. Some is to protect loved ones from harsh judgment and bad treatment. Other times, we just can’t function on a daily basis if we advertise every hurt and pain. For mental health, a balance must be attained in order to live in reality. No one’s reality is all suffering, though some people have much more than their fair share.

I have been working on my judgment of myself and others in my personal life as part of my mindfulness practices. Stress and working too hard is a trigger for me to be very sensitive and hurt easily, to which I am apt to respond with harsh judgment. I can see the changes I have made in my life to decrease this but understandably, it still occurs. Harsh judgment is not something I will likely ever eliminate from my life. It will wax an wane in my own mind. My hope is that my periods of being “stuck” in it will be less frequent and of shorter duration.

I have worked on being more compassionate and accepting of myself. I have worked on being more compassionate and accepting of my husband. Now I find myself struggling with harsh judgment of my teen daughter. If I am quite honest with myself, I am finding parenting at this time of my life, to be ungratifying, not to mention the times when it’s just scary. As a parent, I am generally much above average in acceptance and patience. I know my daughter loves me, but she mostly pays very little attention to me except to ask for things and typically responds with irritation when I talk to her, regardless of the subject. I know to a large extent that this is developmental and a common feature of mother/adolescent relationships, but it is still very painful. I love my daughter and I like her a lot. I would like to be a part of her life that is not so stressful to either of us. Right now there is no ease in our relationship.

I have also worked hard on backing off, reminding her less, and better respecting her independence. I think I have done a really good job with that. I guess I had a fantasy that if I did that, she would re-engage with me and our relationship with be not only less conflict-laden, but emotionally closer. That may still happen but it hasn’t happened yet. I know that it could be much worse but for me, thinking about how much worse things could be, typically does not work as a form of self-encouragement.

I just don’t know what all my daughter is dealing with in her life. And I really want to know but I can’t. I can work to accept this but all of the positive thinking in the world is going to get me to be happy with this. But acceptance is a peaceful place and there is healing there for both my daughter and for myself.

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George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (


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