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If The Jam Sets, I Dance! A Fruity Reflection on Taking Risks

by Jennifer Barzey, LCSW

Every year around this time I find myself struggling to answer a specific question…. should I make jam?

Each summer, the dwarf peach tree in my yard, although small, produces a huge bounty of fruit. What begins as excitement watching the fruit forming and anticipating the harvest, can quickly turn to feeling overwhelmed at what to do with it all. I share with neighbors, family and friends but the peaches keep coming. I freeze them for smoothies, but then my freezer quickly gets too full. If you know me, you know I love produce and throwing it away results in a feeling akin to guilt. So as my counters are overtaken with beautiful red and golden peaches, I begin pondering the question…. should I make jam?

I have been trying to make jam for the last several years with varying success. The first year was a complete experiment. Hours were spent peeling and simmering only to end up with a gooey mess. The second year I was determined. After three unsuccessful attempts, the fourth try turned out good! But alas, I forgot to write down the ratio of fruit, sugar and pectin that finally made it work. When I tried to replicate it the following year I ended up with a reasonably good syrup, but nothing resembling jam.

This year I reflected back on those attempts and thought….is it worth it? Remembering the hours in the hot kitchen with sticky peach goo getting everywhere. Perhaps I will accept defeat and give up on jam.

But then, while discussing self-care and healthy hobbies, a client who gardens and cans shared some tips I had never tried. My interest was sparked, maybe I could do it!

“But wait don’t you remember the disappointment and frustration?” (says the part afraid of failing)

I waffled about the decision for a couple days before deciding to listen to the creative motivated part and step up to the jam making plate. Armed with the new information and a willingness to try, I set about the fruity business and …. lo and behold, the jam set! The jam was good! I found myself smiling and dancing around the kitchen.

We are often faced with situations that bring up self-doubt and leave us asking “Is it worth it?” We can come up with endless logistical and practical reasons not to do something, but it’s important to also take time to look at the internal struggle.

The question of “Is it worth it?” is really about risk. In the case of my jam making, it boiled down to this; can I tolerate the disappointment if it doesn’t go the way I want?

At a training recently, I was listening to a speaker discuss the difference between being risk averse vs. risk aware. Risk averse is a term frequently used by financial advisors to describe an investment that plays it safe. By making conservative investments there is less risk but also less return on the investment. Without risk, there will be less gain.

This doesn’t mean to throw all caution to the wind. The point here is the value in being risk aware rather than risk averse. It is worthwhile to consider the risks involved in a situation in order to make an informed decision about how to move forward. Sometimes the safe choice is the right one. However, other times taking a chance might be the way to go and bring a bigger payoff.

Sometimes the risks are not as great as we make them out to be. In those situations, being risk averse might mean missing out on opportunities and added benefit to your life.

With all this in mind, I ask myself……. will I make jam again? Yes. I will go into it knowing that there are parts of the process I can control, and parts that I can’t. I will accept that it may result in a gooey mess or a delicious treat. If it doesn’t go the way I want, I will acknowledge the disappointment while also reminding myself that I did my best and made a good effort. I am deciding the risk is worth it and I will accept the consequences.

If things don’t work out, I will know that disappointment does not equal failure.

I will know that I tried.

And if all goes well and if the jam sets………. I dance!

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