Precious Things

When I bake, I think of my mother.

My mother is not necessarily a baker, but her love and persistence with cooking in general instilled in me at a very young age a deep need to create and connect with people through food. I also think of my father’s mother Emma, who was indeed a prolific baker, but whom I did not get to see very regularly while I was growing up. We lived…everywhere, and my extended family lived in Southern California. It was usually a trip around this time of year that I would get to see my father’s huge family and share in the magic that was my grandmother’s kitchen in sunny Torrance, even in December. I loved those visits. I live near there, now, in San Diego. I never dreamed I would wind up in the state my mother was born in, and in which my father’s parents died. I love it here – it reminds me of those visits. Of family I only tentatively knew. Of joyous get-togethers. Of the reminiscent smells of bougainvillea, of ocean breeze.

My hands shape pie dough, fold bread dough, cut scones and biscuits as if this was their sole purpose. My hands have always known when to stop kneading, stop rolling. My hands show time now. My hands are attached to this body that has lovingly seen me through 50 years on this planet, revolving around this sun. My hands are busy but weary today.

It is sometimes not enough for me that my baking is only shared with my family and friends. I have bread, and I have writing. And while I’m aware that my worth is not tied to what I do, I still want to share these gifts – these precious talents that, knowingly or not, I have cultivated for this long. I am not out to change lives. I’m not out for recognition. I just want to give you a piece of my heart. The reward for giving these gifts away is immeasurable. Sometimes my effort varies. Sometimes I only have so much in the tank to give, like today.

But I heard a phrase when reading and learning about the making of sourdough bread: Even when your loaves don’t turn out exactly perfect, “send them out anyway.” Let the world see your imperfections, let the world taste them. Bread is a living thing. Life is a living thing. You grow it, feed it, tend to it the best you can. Let it be seen.

And ya know, there’s an end. A transition. The bread gets consumed. Our bodies are finite. Taking that in is hard, sometimes impossible to grasp. Difficult to welcome. How do you just accept the not knowing? How do we trust?

I don’t have the answers. I won’t have the answers. I want to keep connecting. I want to keep trying to trust. I want to keep baking and writing. And I want to live as wholly as I can for as long as I’ve got. For me, what that looks like is what you are reading right now – more this. More bread, pies, biscotti gifted to as many people as I can. More hard conversations. More laughing until I cry. More singing at the top of my lungs. More phone or video calls with family and friends. More quiet Saturday mornings with cats nestled on both sides of me. More noticing of the small moments. More space for the big ones.

Life is so bold, gigantic, and momentous when you let it happen. My holiday and New Year wish is that you find ways in which to accept that expanse. Whatever you’re going through – and I know you are going through something, because we all are – know that there is another person out there that sees you and your vulnerability and humanity.

It shines.

Six

I had my last drink six years ago yesterday.  What a weird feeling, weird thing to say.  It feels weird.  I wonder if that’s how it just…feels.  Like the further you get away from feeling like you need that drink, the more foreign even saying “I don’t drink” feels.  It’s not like it feels wrong to say, it is just a part of me, a habit/non-habit that I don’t really think about that much.  Which seems ungrateful to say.  Like I should be getting down on my alcoholic knees and praising the day I found whatever led me to that 5 seconds of clarity that said, “you are kind of done doing this.”

And I am.  I do.  I am grateful.  There were a lot of hands that helped me through whatever was my initial fog.  My initial inability to feel feelings; to name them.  One in particular – my first and only sponsor, who now has 12 years.  I remember when she had 6 years and I was brand new, and six years felt like…forever.  I don’t take any of the help I received then for granted, even if I haven’t kept in touch with all the people who helped me.  I know a common refrain is that I did not come to this decision on my own – that there was a force that guided me.  That is true in my case.  My god is not your god, which is also a common refrain, and I used to not feel ok saying that out loud.  I don’t even like to say “god” – even now.  I will say force.  I will say universal power.  I will say unnamed source.  Whatever it is, it was the voice that said, “You don’t need this.  It is just a story you tell yourself.”

There are times when I drive down a street with a bunch of bars on it – cool bars, hip places that advertise fun, old-fashioned drinks and craft cocktails.  For a second, my brain will whisper, “oh shit girl that sounds nice, sipping a fancy drank in this beautiful scenery that is San Diego, feeling the cool breeze and looking at a sunset.”  Except.  Except except except.

That is not how I drink.

I drink Target box wine.  I drink Cutty Sark scotch because that’s what’s around.  You can even read posts here on this very site that will tell you exactly the ways in which I drink.  I drink to not think about why life is hard.

I now don’t drink in order to make sure I think about exactly why life is hard.

What a difference six years makes.  The ways – all the ways – have been opened for me.  And I keep trying to live like I really believe that.
20200126_130638