The Therapy of Baking and Why It Can Be Helpful to Not Be a Minimalist

 

Sometimes bad things happen. Things that you think only happen to other people. When you hear the stories you gasp and say ‘how awful, how terrible for them’. And then you move on. Until one day it is you being told the terrible news that something bad has happened.

Your brain goes in to a dream like trance – I think the official term is shock. I remember when I got the call from my sister to say that my Mum may not survive and if I wanted to see her one last time I would need to come to the hospital immediately. In the time between leaving for the hospital and trying to contact my husband I took to sweeping the floor.

There is comfort to be found in the domestic, in the mundane, when big bad things happen that your brain can’t quite process.  Busying one’s hands while one’s mind tries to swim through the reality of shock is oddly soothing.

Today I made one of my favourite cakes – the Bill Granger vanilla buttermilk cake. I made it to take away for the weekend to share with our extended family. I mixed up the ingredients in my Mum’s metal mixing bowl – it would be called vintage now. I sifted the flour using my Gran’s sifter. I remember using it as a child at her place in the country. There was always a cake at Gran’s house.

As my mind was reeling over the bad news we received the night before, I found solace in holding the bowl that my Mum had held and mixed, just as I was. And holding the strong metal handle on the sifter I thought of my Gran, and I thought of all the bad news they would have heard over the years; the deaths, the sicknesses, the losses… the sorrow, the sadness.

 

And now it was me. Holding their things. Being propped up by both of them. The scrape of the sifting handle being turned to sprinkle flour into the creamed butter and sugar. The clink of of the wooden spoon on the metal bowl as I stirred the in eggs, and I thought about both of them and their strength of character and their will to keep going, their mettle. To keep going, to not drown in the shock of bad news or from the sorrow of loss, or the fear of what will come next.

Often I curse myself for holding on to things, to stuff; for being so sentimental. Cursing the clutter and often wishing I could be as clinical as Marie Kondo. If it doesn’t spark joy – it goes.

But today I was thinking ‘thank goodness for my sentimentality’. Whatever those mundane domestic objects were imbued with over the years served as a crutch for me today. Their stoic utilitarianism brought the strength of my Mum and my Gran to life. The act of beating, stirring, and mixing was a salve to my troubled thoughts. To the chaos of shock, to that feeling of not being able to catch my breath.

Who knew baking a cake could be so therapeutic?

The Hardness: It’s Just That Sometimes Life Is Hard

I have an amazing life, I am the first to recognise this. I know it. I have three beautiful healthy children. A gorgeous, generous, thoughtful and hilariously funny husband, a comfortable home. I am healthy (mostly). But sometimes the hardness comes and sits on my chest. For no reason at all.

When I say hardness, I mean the hardness of life. When easy things become hard. Life is ticking over, the world is turning as it does, but suddenly life is like swimming against a tide.

I go into a zone where I am critical of myself. I convince myself of all sorts of not good things. The world beneath me is shaky and uncertain.

This partly why I decided to have a break from Facebook, as I think if your armour is fragile social media (but particularly Facebook) can easily crack through it.

My husband has had surgery recently so my workload on the home front significantly increased for a time (testament to how much he does at home). I also have a dodgy hip and because of this I can’t sleep properly. I get sciatica at night and it continuously wakes me up. I feel like I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. Sleep deprivation alters your world view. I know this from experience.

And Christmas… And I miss my Mum.

I got a text message from my daughter’s ballet school to say that I should make sure that I am at their Christmas party because she is getting an award. So proud and happy. But sad too, because Mum is the first person I would call to tell.

But, no one to call.

Everyone is busy, and frazzled, and tired.

I think there are more people than we know who feel like I do. Particularly at this time of year.

Why do we hide vulnerability? Is it so bad to be human? Struggle is a deeply human experience so I am perplexed about why we try to pretend that life is peachy all of the time.

Social media certainly perpetuates this. But I think it’s ok for life not to be peachy all the time. And it’s ok not to pretend that it is.

But I know that tomorrow is a new day.

There is sunshine ahead. 

How are you feeling at this jolly time of year?

 

Self-Actualisation: Pushing Through the Hard to Find the Sweet

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I’ve never been interested in self-actualisation through my career. Business is too cut throat for my liking. I’ve seen people whose entire identity is invested in their job suffer enormously because of it.

It can never end happily. Indeed, a woman I knew was so invested in her work that a shock redundancy left her so blind-sided she had a breakdown and then joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed, simply because she couldn’t find the strength to put herself back together and get on with things. It stripped her of her confidence, her sense of self, and her self-worth. She became a shell of herself. [Read more…]

Womenfolk Series: Julie Hassard – Doing Dying Better

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Julie Hassard is the Founder and Principal of Doing Dying Better, a holistic consultancy specialising in the end-of-life experience. Julie is helping to demystify death and dying, in a way that makes living better. She is on a quest to help improve the profile of dying. “I want to make change. I want to change the way people think about, and do dying.”

When we caught up we spoke about life, death, family and creativity. Before we begin it’s important to make clear that Julie’s business, Doing Dying Better, is not morbid, sad or negative, it is life. And it’s the pointy end of life – where what you do and what you say really do matter.  [Read more…]

Our History, Our Mother’s History and the Family Dance: How It Impacts Us Now

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Last week I watched In Utero, a fascinating documentary screened by Suburban Sandcastles. The documentary was based on how trauma experienced by the mother whilst pregnant or prior to pregnancy can inform the foetus’ experience of life, their development and their behaviour.

I found it amazing and I have written about this before, for Sunday Life. I specifically wrote about how my experience of recurrent miscarriage prior to my oldest daughter’s birth has affected her, and her world view. If you’re interested, you can read that article here.

So this is something that I’ve had first hand experience with, so for me it was amazing to hear of the scientific research that backs this up. It was no longer just a personal experience, it is something that has been backed up by research.

[Read more…]