What I learned from a loaf of bread…
We have all been on quite a roller coaster. Throughout this whole process, I have discovered a very important human need to help me keep my wits about me. And… believe it or not; I discovered it by making a loaf of bread.
Recently, I was desperate to find something to do with all my free time, so I decided to tackle the daunting task of making my own homemade bread! This task meant following a recipe teaspoon by teaspoon, and since my body rather dislikes gluten, it had to be a gluten-free bread recipe. I have heard these recipes are even more strict and require lots of focus. Since I have not done anything very productive in a few days, I was up for the challenge! I walked to the nearest grocery store, while practicing social distancing, of course, gathered all the necessary items, and got the recipe started in my kitchen. I followed the recipe, step-by-step, and it was really coming together! I let the dough rise, and then plopped it into the oven to bake.
And then I waited.
And I watched.
And I waited some more.
Finally, the timer went off, and my masterpiece was truly looking splendid. It was puffy, golden, and looked absolutely incredible… if I do say so myself! I nervously slid it out of the pan and onto a cooling rack, while my excitement mounted. It looked perfect!
Now for the most important part… taste-testing.
I let the loaf cool, and then I sliced off a fluffy, golden… half-cooked, sticky piece of bread?!
In that moment, I felt my excitement start to deflate; all of my hard work seemed like it was for nothing! (Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but maybe you will change your mind by the end of this post!) I quickly tried to salvage the bread by putting it back in the oven, but this did not work, because my bread was kaput and refused to bake anymore even after 25 extra minutes of baking!
I stared at the loaf feeling miserable and felt like I was going to cry. But then I thought, “Oh my goodness, Emma, this is ridiculous. Pull yourself together. It’s just bread!”
Here is the whole point of my story; it wasn’t just bread. It was so much more than just bread. As I laid on my couch that evening, I was moping around about all the stuff happening around me, while never consciously tying everything to the whole bread fiasco. I realized how incredibly purposeless I felt. After talking with my husband, I realized that I felt as though all of my normalcy and purpose as well as my goals and consistency had been stripped from me. I was forced to create a new normal. I was actually grieving.
And then it hit me… the loaf! I looked at my husband and said, “That stupid loaf of bread! I actually took the time to plan all of the details of that day and felt like I was doing something cool and creative. I was going to be rewarded with the product of all the work I put into it!” I realized that this spoke so much deeper into what it means to be human than any article I had read that week or any snippet of the book I was reading. I was desperate to find something meaningful to do with my day, and I believe many of us are facing that in one way or another during this pandemic. We are wired to make meaning out of our circumstances. We need to create beauty out of devastation. And I firmly believe that this desire to make meaning is so great that we will find it even in making something as seemingly meaningless as a loaf of gluten-free bread.
Wherever you end up finding meaning and purpose during this season, don’t judge yourself. Embrace the fact that your human ingenuity is so creative that you found a way to meet the deep need for purpose and meaning. Be proud of the small (and big) things you accomplish during this uncertain time. Give yourself space to grieve the losses you have endured and the things you will miss out on. Trust that the little things really do matter. And most importantly… trust that you really do matter right now during all of this chaos and for as long as you live.
At Mended Wing Counseling, we know that this is a stressful time for all, and we are committed to continuing to provide you with the care you need. Each of our therapists are trained to provide coaching opportunities in Emotion-Focused Family interventions and are available for one-on-one support. We are offering a sliding-fee for those who have lost income or their healthcare benefits. If you need an appointment, please connect with us on our web page mendedwingcounseling.com to schedule an appointment. We are all in this together… one day and one breath at a time.
Throughout my life, it has been interesting to explore my growth as a person. I recently saw a picture of some Tulane medical students taken in front of a former slave plantation with the quote “We are our ancestors wildest dreams.”
Something about it spoke to me in a very visceral way. What did my ancestors hope for? What were the things that they were too scared to believe in? As a human, I can’t help but think about where we have been, and what we hope to pass on to the next generation.
It’s hard to think about the future without acknowledging the past and the present. What have I learned from others? Can I acknowledge and honor the lessons from my past, even if I didn’t like how the lessons were packaged? What values do I want to keep? How can I integrate these lessons and make them my own?
The older I get the more I realize that these answers change over time, and I am ok with that. We should strive to be intentional about implementing the lessons learned from those who came before us as well as the values we hope to impart long after we are gone.
Below is the original article that I read. May it inspire you to have some sense of agency in your life. Be intentional. I hope to do the same.