Semi cooking my way through a bad mental health day
It had been a slow but busy workday, one that had begun with me purposefully getting drenched in the rain after a quick morning run. After all, how often do we get to soak ourselves in nature’s bounty? Pretty soon though, a negative thought latched itself onto my frame of reference, my self-worth. For the next 9 hours at work, I was fighting that thought with instant gratification that one receives from fulfilling client expectations.
As the day neared its end, I decided to seek solace in the public library. Under the pretext of dropping off a few books, I made way to the aisles, and my eyes began hovering over titles, familiar and unfamiliar. Fiction. Poetry. Cookbooks. These books cloaked my worries into energy to find something that would act as a healing balm onto this heavy mind. Somewhere buried into those titles lay my answer. Which turned out to be Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? A fun breeze, it did not, however, make me feel better.
I then stumbled upon Cheryl Strayed’s Brave Enough. A small, pocket-sized book of quotes that Cheryl wrote for anyone lost or feeling incomplete in life, and needed a bit of advice that could be summed up in a page. The book offered honest answers to all my thoughts, including the ones about self-worth, however, it was not a strong antidote to my thoughts that night.
As the library closed I found out that the tiny bugging thought of worthlessness had managed to walk out with me from the library. Food would not resolve this issue. I had had enough of quick gratifying techniques fail today, to test dinner too.
A unique part about working on your mental health is how slow and even boring the process is. One doesn’t really see how all changing patterns and habits make sense, after much later. I am not in that later yet.
I lounged around the streets for another 20 minutes before deciding to go home and make banana muffins. At 9.30 pm. On a weeknight.
I reached home. Dropped my stuff and went straight into the kitchen. I was hungry, hadn’t had food for over 4 hours, and yet the only the thought that allowed me to feel better was cooking. I mashed four bananas, cracked two eggs, yogurt, vanilla essence, honey, and baking powder, and began rigorously making the batter. Soon enough, my kitchen was aromatic with banana and vanilla flavours.
As I added the wheat flour and baking soda, the batter was turning out to be better than I had expected. Smooth, no lumps, creamy and with a few crushed almonds, the perfect healthy snack for a week. I poured the batter into the muffin tray and ramped the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, sliding in the tray and setting it for 50 minutes. Of all the thoughts I had been raging with the entire day, it was only cooking that allowed me to overcome those.
That one hour spent in the kitchen and devoted to cooking for cooking’s sake, helped me step closer to this mental health puzzle that I’ve had since forever. What things in life give me joy.
Of all the things that I’ve tried in life so far, one of the most unadulterated versions of peace comes from cooking. The sounds, the smells, the colours, the tastes, all allow me to forget most of the things in life. How does one ingredient change the composition of an entire meal, is nothing short of a magical experience.
The muffins decided not to rise beyond a certain point. Unlike my usual self, I was pretty happy with the semi baked muffins. I did not make the muffins to get to an end result, I made them because every step evoked joy in me. From adding the tiny pinch of baking soda to folding the batter with a spatula, each step was a victory. An invocation of my inner self being hugged and soothed into calmness. Into a rhythm. Into peace within itself. Into doing something, just because, not because it would lead me somewhere.
Each one of us has these underlying cravings, that offer us a peek into where our unadulterated joys lie. The point is to trace them without inhibition, and without expectation, and judgment (invoking an inner Carolyn Myss here). Learning to do something just because, is unfamiliar terrain, but the one that has offered me more peace than most other things in my twenties.
Because, deep down, I know, the secret to a magical recipe, lies in digressing from it. Just like these half baked muffins, that taste better than originals.