Dirty Pans

I have a non-stick frying pan I bought at Wal-Mart a couple of years ago that has seen it’s fair share of olive oil, bacon grease, Italian sausage fat, and a host of other oils. Somehow, over time, the grease has migrated to the bottom of the pan where it has become welded to the surface through the heat of the stove-top burner. It had taken on that lovely amber color that only well cured pans can get. If it had been on the inside of  a cast iron pan I wouldn’t have been more pleased, but on the outside of this particular pan the buildup finally got to me and I had to clean it.

I began the cleaning process a few days ago. Oven cleaner was my weapon of choice, hoping desperately that chemical power alone could disintegrate the baked on grime. The first attempt made a noticeable dent in the glossy surface of the cured oil, but it was a far cry from that shiny silver surface it had been on the day I purchased the pan. This evening I made my second attempt with over cleaner with only minor improvements.  I briefly considered using my electric sander to grind off the impermeable layer, but I knew that would damage the pan badly. The sickening realization that manual labor was my last resort settled in on me and out came the Brillo Pads.

After considerable effort, scrubbing the outside surface of the pan with soap infused steel wool, most of the baked on grime was gone and the former luster of my pan had returned – more or less. In fact there are still several black spots that will take another grueling scrubbing session before they give way, succombing to the abrasive force of my steel wool. Victory is in my grasp.

Reflecting on the pan, I realize that had I cleaned the pan more regularly, each cleaning would have been a relatively painless and easy process, and the buildup would never have occurred. Ah, the benefits of good habits. Point taken. Well almost. The deeper realization is that I am just like that pan. Things  tend to build up in me until they reach a critical mass and then it takes extreme measures to return me to a state of luster (if there ever is such a state in a human being). If I would be more proactive, and engage in a little healthy evaluation from time to time, I could keep the buildup to a minimum and avoid Herculean tasks to address issues that have been ignored.

Do I just not see the buildup until it becomes irritating enough to address? Am I deliberately choosing not to see the trends and signs until I simply have to make changes? Perhaps I resist change until the last possible moment. How does one develop a habit of healthy self-examination?

I confess I do not have answers to all those questions. However, I do know something about myself. I need time to think, time to process. I am what I like to call a “post processor”. I rarely know what I am actually feeling until long after the situation has passed and I have time to process what has really been going on. In the moment, I just have gut feelings, instincts if you will, that, if I am wise, I take seriously. Usually those gut feelings are the way I tell myself something needs to be addressed. When that happens, I had better take time to process, or risk the unfortunate and inevitable buildup of unprocessed feelings.

Note to self: make regular time to process.

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