An odd thought occurred to me as I submerged a bowl in the soapy water at the washing station this evening. I was midway through the weekly baking class I’ve been taking for the past month or so, and I thought, nearly aloud, about how much I hated washing dishes. In quick succession I considered my dislike for piping cookie dough, my disdain for piping icing, and my frustration with the way shortening sticks to the spoon when scaled. On each of the past eight Mondays, I have silently cursed the weight of my bag of knives and steel toed boots while forcing my way onto the subway. Still, something was bringing me back to those dishes each week. Something was gently slowing the pulse of constant worry as I struggled to shape cookies into hearts that looked more like puddles.
Baking, like writing, calms me as much as it invigorates me. I knead dough, scrub dirty pots, or play with a turn of phrase, and the minutes that pass are consumed by the task at hand. Generally distracted by attempts to edit a past I can’t change and shape a future I’ve already imagined, these moments of presence are rare. Baking, like writing, requires a focus that pulls me back from the stories I tell myself about my life to the life I am actually living.
Sometimes I feel uneasy in this body. Sometimes I feel unsteadied by the accumulation of years and the growing list of unknowns. I know that I have no business complaining, but I won’t deny that there are days when it’s difficult to sit with it.
Let me start over. Scraping the chocolate off of a measuring spoon, I was struck by a simple truth; I am, in fact, existing and breathing and loving at this very second. I paused, soapy water up to my elbows, and wondered what life might be like if I allowed myself to sink into more moments as deeply, to let the mess gather, to stop drifting backwards and forwards to anywhere but the space I occupy. Back home fighting sleep I will my body to make room for this lesson. It is as true now as it was when I stood there by the kitchen sink. There is nowhere to be but here.