Here's proof that we invest more thought in things than those things rationally merit. When a cake falling brings down your day. When that meeting with someone you respect is awkward, rather than whatever you expected it to be, and you question all that you are. When that one gesture would have made things all better. Sure. We know that cakes often fall, and assuming guilt because of it isn't rational. And we know that there are several things that can make a meeting awkward, least of all your entire life plan. And no gesture is ever the thing you really want, it is all those things that it might symbolize. All those things that you packed into the insignificant act of saying “thank you.”
Despite the obviousness of our irrationality when it comes to expecting too much out of something or seeing greater things than can really fit in such a tiny, tiny package, we still do it. We know it is silly. We know it was only a means to an end and what we are most upset about is that we never got that end.
What do we do to get it? If that one thing that we packed into a smaller thing is so clearly just a symbol, why do we not move past it and get to what we really want? Say if baking that perfect cake represented your competence in the kitchen, plus the ability to make a dessert both your boyfriend and his mother would like, plus silencing his dad's grumbles about “coulda helped out more in the kitchen,” plus the salvation of a bad day, why not see the cake for what it is-- a trickly little pastry, and actually get to those things you actually wanted. Get those kitchen skills, delight your boy, prove your helpfulness, find peace at the end of the day, but store it not all in a cake.
If I were to take my advice, I would stop over-analyzing situations so much. I would be more honest with myself about what I expect from people. I would feel less guilty about things I can't control, like cakes, and perhaps more guilty about the things that are in my power, like keeping my cool and communicating my thoughts and feelings.