Mental Health & Chicken Pot Pie

One of the handful of meals I make is chicken pot pie. On Wednesdays. Always. So, thus it was, on December 12th, 2018 I was making just such a pie, pulling it out of the oven to feed my children — when this happened.

In a move I’ve executed countless times (because for real, always chicken pot pie on Wednesdays) I grabbed that dish with its bubbling golden crust — and missed. Or more accurately, hit. I caught the edge of the dish on the edge of the stove top causing the entire thing to flip violently out of my hand where it came to rest upside down, half on the inside of the oven, half on the open door.

Anne Rulo Mental Health & Chicken Pot Pie

It was AWFUL. Chicken pot pie goo went everywhere. Inside the (still 400° oven), on the door seeping into the viewing window, dripping through the crack into the broiler drawer and onto the floor below. I stared at the decimated pie, my children stared at me. Now what?

The only option I had was to clean, obviously. But this was such a complicated and invasive mess that I had to disassemble the oven. It’s amazing how many pieces, crevices and screws there are to an oven, particularly an oven as old as this one. It took a long time, a lot of elbow grease, a few tears and a LOT of patience but eventually, it all finally got clean and reassembled.

I’ve thought a lot about that experience since 2018. At least once a week on Wednesdays for sure. In fact, it has become somewhat of a parable in my life for what to do when things get messy or need some attention. And, it is a beautiful analogy for mental wellness practices or even attending therapy. So, to that end (and because I love to make meaning out of disasters) here is how chicken pot pie and therapy go together. Enjoy.

  • If there is a mess in your life you can ignore it, but it will not clean itself. Fair warning, if left for too long, it may start to stink up the place.
  • It doesn’t matter if you do the work yourself, YouTube some help or hire a professional. Just start the work.
  • Attending to messes is hard. Often harder than we think. It usually requires more strength and time than we anticipate. You may need chemicals.
  • You are welcome to just clean up the obvious surface issues. That will help. However, you will ultimately feel better if you are willing to take a few things apart and see how far the mess really goes.
  • If you do take things apart, you will probably find more goo than you thought was there. This is okay. It doesn’t mean you are extra messed up. It means you are brave. Be willing to clean that stuff up too.
  • When you are disassembling, you will probably reach a point where things feel so torn up that you don’t know how they will ever come back together again. Stay the course. They will come back together. It just takes time.
  • Once you have done the hard work, reassembled and recovered, you will probably find yourself plus or minus a screw or two. No one knows why or where these go. It will make you realize that everyone is a few screws off. Realizing this will let you love yourself and others better, and with more grace.
  • Facing the challenge of working through one mess does not exempt you from future messes. The next one might be a pizza or a casserole, but rest assured, as long as we keep living messes will happen. The point is to keep cooking, enjoy the dishes that come out well and clean up the ones that don’t.

Be brave fellow soldiers. This life is a messy, delicious, crazy experiment and occasionally we are going to have some spills. Remember, no oven is too old or too messy to work on as long as it still functions. You’re so, so worth it.

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