On Cake and Having it All

Delia Ephron wrote an essay about cake and having it all in the New York Times. It’s stuck with me since I read it a day ago and I really wanted to share the link here.

Having it all seems to breed wanting more. And since we can’t have it all because it is statistically impossible, and since there is no such thing as more than all, the whole notion seems, I’m sorry to say, depressingly American.

– Delia Ephron

It’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to have it all.

Even me, trying to live the quiet life with less stuff, I sometimes get focused on having it all.

Sure, my having it all doesn’t include a lot of material things but it does include a few things that are often just out of my grasp. More sleep, perfectly productive writing hours, going to bed with no dishes drying in the drying rack and making some effort with my appearance beyond just wearing clothes. I’m often thinking about and wanting that one magical day when it all comes together: the workout, the work, the meal, the kids, the kitchen floor with no bits of breakfast stuck to it. That’s the short term day to day wanting it all.

In the big picture I already feel like I have it all. I’m pretty content with my marriage, home and work life at the moment and I think/hope I am laying the foundation for future contentment in these areas. I hope that doesn’t sound trite or too simplistic. Having it all for me doesn’t mean everything in my life is Pinterest worthy – because almost none of it is! – but it does mean I’m engaged in big and small things that feed my soul.

To me, having it all — if one wants to define it at all — is the magical time when what you want and what you have match up.

– Delia Ephron

We can have it all but there is a catch. Delia writes about having it all in moments, some small and some big, and that we have to be content with these moments. Content with those moments and accept that although we can’t have it all, we can always have cake.

Go read You Can’t Have it All, but You Can Have Cake now!

P.S. Delia’s essay is adapted from her forthcoming book Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc). I’ve pre-ordered a copy!

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  • Living a more minimalist life has helped me immensely when it comes to appreciating the little things. I used to shop to make myself feel better and now I do get more satisfaction knowing that I have a flush bank account, sustainable lifestyle – and most importantly – a relatively well functioning family :) – than those days where I’d be looking at the clearance racks to find something that would give me a one-time boost that was later dissipated because I needed to pay for gas or groceries with a credit card.

    But I hear you … there are days where the food on the floor, the 5 AM wakeups (preceded by 10 PM and 3 AM wakeups), the ill-fitting clothes, and the thoughts of “when did I last shower?” make me want something a little different. But there’s always cake!

    • Shelley – that was me too! Clearance racks and bad buys to give myself a boost. Gah. So glad those days are behind me.
      I made cake tonight in celebration of Delia Ephron’s essay. Healthy cake but cake. While it didn’t make me feel like I have it all, it sure was tasty :)

  • Thank you for another lovely post. You brighten my day with your sensible thoughts on how to be who you choose to be rather than being what the media tell us we should be. Choosing to be happy makes a positive difference, and a little bit of cake might help 😉

  • Thank you TMM for sharing Delia’s article. It was a fun read and insightful as well.

    To be honest, I may not have it all but I have all that I need or want at this point in my life. And while it has not always been this way, the journey has been mine and mine alone! Mind you, there is a bakery right behind my place if I ever feel the need for cake :)

    Take care and all the best. I have been enjoying your writing a lot and I thank you for your work.

    All the best.


  • Right now, my “all” is a clean dining room table- and I have it! And it happens to have a chocolate cake on it (three year old’s birthday)!! The rest of my house may be a disaster, but where I am sitting and listening to two happy children, I have it all, for now anyway.

  • Thank you for writing about this. I needed a boost today. Our recent move has made me wonder if I even want to ” have it all” in my life, not that I have it all now, but moving here, was in search of having it all. Most often what we think is having it all, is just a big ole headache. Cake IS better!!!

  • I read somewhere you can have it all, just not all at once. I love this. I personally see having it all as having the ability to choose what you want in your life. To be deliberate, not just caught up in what everyone else is doing.
    I have it all…spread out over about a week or so. We need to define what it is we truly want first. Before I did that I was never really committed to anything and so having it all meant so. much. more. It was so unachievable. I would see what someone else has and want that too because at that moment it looks great. Until the next person walks by and that looks good too. So we sit there, confused and conflicted and miserable.
    Learning what it actually is that you want, in your heart of hearts, at the core of you can be sometimes the biggest part of the journey…

  • One of the top lessons I’ve learned during my year long break from work is I hold the power to redefine my “all”. Previously I was stuck in the proverbial hamster wheel trying to have it “all” – which to me was being a powerful executive, magically producing a gourmet mea every night, hand crafting my children’s halloween costumes and maintaining a house so clean you needed sunglasses to dull the shine. I’m still trying to determine my new “all”, but I can say with much gusto – it’s imperfect and beautifully simple.

  • I have never wanted to have it all. For years I felt completely out of sync with my contemporaries. Living in London in the eighties was bizarre, I began to wonder if I was the only person on the earth who didn’t want to have a glittering career whilst adding the final touch to my perfect House & Garden home.
    But actually I did want to have it all, it was just that my all was completely different from everybody else’s. Now my all is the trendy and popular thing. But for years I was ostracised for my aspirations. I wanted to be a housewife, to grow my own fruit and vegetables, to keep animals, to cook, to bottle, to preserve, to forage to make, to mend. I am about to turn 50 and suddenly my way of life is acceptable. It has taken 30 years, some of which were hard and there were times when I felt small, tiny and worthless but I kept telling myself it was my life and only my life nobody else’s.

    Only you know what having it all means to you. If it’s what you want and if you can do it then don’t listen to anyone else. If you want to be a master of the universe or pickle onions then go for it. But do it with conviction and ignore anyone who tells you it’s not the “true” or “right” way for a woman today. We don’t all have the luxury of fulfilling our dreams so if you do please don’t waste them.

  • I really enjoyed reading this post. It reminded me that I shouldn’t focus on what I am not doing or not accomplishing at the moment but instead remember that I don’t need to “have it all” at the same time. I should focus on what is going on in my life today and enjoy the moment. I definitely needed this reminder….lately, I have been creating a “to do” list for all the the things I need to add to my life and things that I think I need to accomplish. Instead I should just focus on one thing at a time.

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