• Dr. Beulah van der Westhuizen

How do you eat your cake?

Updated: Apr 8

I know, talking about cakes and celebrations at a time like this might just seem inappropriate and just not right, but bare with me.


You see, I think the analogy of a 4 layered cake is in fact very appropriate. We build a cake from the bottom, and add layer upon layer, and then we eat it from the top.


I am hearing heart breaking stories of the police picking up people in the street because they have left their home and isolation because it became unbearable in the house. I had a call this morning from a police reservist telling me how the people are fighting, driving off and even opting to stay on the streets rather than go home, the place that should be their safe space right now. Domestic violence, fear, anxiety, desperation, economic concerns, fake news, our future and mortality are all ingredients in our life at the moment.


The internet is flooded with tips and tricks and things to keep yourself busy with. Big organisations are making books available for free download, universities are publishing free courses, schools are going online, online music stores are providing entertainment, government is rolling out financial and tax breaks.


I am asking myself, why, with all these measurements, are we still seeing people reacting in irrational and irresponsible ways?


Which brings me back to my cake analogy.


You see, the bottom layer of the cake can be seen as your personal circumstance before this pandemic outbreak; the state of your marriage, your financial position, your home circumstances, the quality of your relationships, the unpaid bills, unresolved arguments, the things left unsaid, who you are as a person.


The second layer can be seen as Covid-19, the corona virus. In other words, this traumatic experience that we are all living now, sits squarely on top of what has been before. Covid-19 can also be seen as the baking powder, the rising agent in this, our cake. It amplified that which has been, may it be ill health, a low immune system, low resources, whatever were there before. Here we come to a core fundamental human aspect, our mortality. We have been brought to our knees.


Any baker would tell you that once you start piling on the 3rd level, the chances are that this thing might start to topple over if the foundation layer was not set right. This is were the "heat is applied" - the isolation. Now you have the circumstances of the 1st layer, the trauma of a seriously life threatening event on the 2nd layer and you put this all in the confines of four walls and ask everybody to play nicely. Not going to happen, unless the 1st layer was secure and happily in place. This is the place where you find that you have lost control. The loss of choices and freedom of movement has been added to the mix and has a compounding effect. Whatever has been present will now be magnified.


The fourth level is potentially the scariest, both from a bakers point of view and from where we all find ourselves. This is where the financial impact of this global event starts to hit home (literally). This is past the point of panic shopping. This is the place you find yourself without an income or very close to. Where you start to calculate how many months, weeks or days you have. This is the place where the cold sweat starts to form little peals on your upper lip. You are almost more afraid of this layer than layer two, the virus itself.


And then there is the frosting. You see, every time you add a layer, you have to "glue" the layers together with a tick layer of frosting. The sweet stuff. The dangerous stuff that sits on your hips far longer than you want it to. If the layers of the cake are the circumstances, then the frosting is the emotions we use to keep this thing together. Is it potentially fear? Usually you scrape the frosting sideways when you eat cake, knowing that "that stuff is bad for you" but come back time and time again because it is just so nice. Well fear is like this as well. The brain likes the adrenalin pump it is getting from going into fear and it becomes a monster eating it's own tail.


I ask you, which part of this cake is the best part? Which part do you want to eat first?


Hopefully, you will start by admiring the cake. A cake is after all a thing of beauty (spoken like a true lover of all things cake).


The last part that the baker of this cake will do, is to lovingly decorate the cake with a candle. The sparkly bit. The so-called "cherry on the cake". The part that brings light. The part that makes a child's eyes sparkle and that announces that the party has began. It is, after all, the time for "cutting the cake." The time when we will see what this cake is made of.


The time when the birthday boy or girls will take a deep breath in - - -


Yes dear ones, this is the time where there is a moment of silence, a time of going deep within and a time where all eyes are focused, not on the cake, not on the frosting but on the light of the candle, the sparkly bit. Psalm 46:10 - tells us "Be still, and know that I am God." This is thát time.


I urge you to eat your cake from the top. Step away for a moment and observe from a distance for a moment. Choose how you want to be nourished. Choose where you want to focus and whatever you do, do not eat the frosting, it's not good for you, unless that frosting is hope, gratitude, love. Then by all means, go for it!


Steps to eating this cake:

1) Keep your eyes on the Light. You might feel that you have lost control, but the situation is not "out of control." It is just not in YOUR control. Have faith. Take deep breaths. Staying calm in these times are of utmost importance. It is easy to get involved in mud slinging (read cake slinging). Go within. We are called to do so, not only for the sake of isolation to avoid the spread, but for self growth, deepening of the self, mending of the self.

3) Stay away from the frosting, unless it's healthy. What are you feeding your mind? Stay clear of social media, fake news and too much news. Protect your mind with your life because it can cost you your life (literally). Feed yourself with positivity, self care and self-love. Get in your garden as much as possible. If you don't have a garden, nourish a pot plant, dote on a pet, get connected to nature in any way possible.

4) Clear our all financial aspects that is not necessary. Now is the time to stop those habits that cost a lot of money. Be pro-active and work on your resilience* (the ability to bounce back). Be responsible and make the calls you need to make. Do not wait for the bank or your landlord to contact you. Show up fully. This will not only show that you are responsible, but will also create in you a sense of control. You are controlling and managing the situation as best you can, even if it is not that way you would have wanted to handle the situation.

5) Observe healthy habits. Boost your immune system. Wash your hands. If you want to spend time thinking about the corona virus, spend it wisely. Hold space for the frontline health workers, the skeleton staff keeping this country together with little sleep or security that they themselves will not be infected. Take a time out in your day and think of them. Pray for those fighting the virus personally, family and friends who can not be with loved ones.

6) Start doing the things that is important. Mend relationships. Connect to love lost. Bring your paper work in order. Be nice. Smile. Find yourself in this, then you will find the purpose of this.


Then, you can have your cake and eat it ...


* See Blog on Resilience


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© 2017 by Dr. Beulah.

Dr. Beulah

Educational Psychologist

|  Tel: +27 (21) 785 2994

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