Today was harder than any of my hard days. I must have touched all the five stages of grief in one day. Can you believe that? I. Experienced. All. Of. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s. Stages. Of. Grief….all in one day! Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance—all these stages are tools to help us identify what we may be feeling in times of grief, learning to cope with life and loss, usually the death of a loved one. Fortunately, as emotional as it was today, it was not about losing a loved one. It was more about losing me.
When Covid19 landed in America, I was amazed at how fast it spread. I was in a state of shock and repeatedly told myself this can’t be real, it will not last. But then as
days, weeks, months went by and painfully realizing this is real and it is staying for God knows how long, I began to plot my escape. My son was accepted for a masters program in Oxford and I decided to accompany him in September. But slowly the rest of the world began to shut its door on America which complicated everything for me.
This morning I found out none of my plans were doable. Heartbroken, I decided to make my first attempt to bake pandesal, the beloved bread in the Philippines. While I was kneading my sorrows, I started thinking about all of my misfortunes. I can’t believe this is happening. There’s no way a person can experience this much adversity in life. This can’t be true. I was in denial.
A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled onto something that made my heart jump and gave me butterflies in my stomach. It’s this farm to table culinary school in Cork, Ireland. Last year, I was looking at getting a certificate in culinary at a community college close to where I live but unfortunately my son’s cancer relapsed and had put that dream on hold. Although disappointed, I wasn’t excited about the school I was going to anyway so no love loss there. At least I told myself that to feel better.
After a few minutes of kneading, I placed the dough in an oiled bowl and left it to rise. I came back to check after an hour and found that it didn’t rise. I started to feel frustrated. I didn’t understand the emotions I was going through but I knew my frustration has turned into anger. My husband came into the kitchen and I told him about the situation. He asked the mistakes I made. Maybe you should knead the dough longer. You can perhaps start all over again. None of his suggestions were helping, thank you very much! I continued on to the next step anyway. I rolled the dough into 24 balls, drenched each one in breadcrumbs and left them to rise. At this point, I was so angry that I needed to calm down and decided to take a long bath. As I sat on the tub, tears rolled down my face while listening to Taylor Swift’s new album. I hate the world today. I feel so hopeless. I hate my life. What is really my purpose in life? Nothing! I skipped bargaining and went straight to depression.
My son knocked at the door and came in. I was covered in soap bubbles so he thought it was fine to come in and talk to me. He noticed my puffy eyes and asked,”are you crying?” I couldn’t lie. He asked why. I said I don’t know why. The bread didn’t rise. The dog was mean to me this morning. He laughed and said those couldn’t be the real reasons I was crying. They’re too shallow. The truth is I don’t even know what made me cry the way I did. But I wanted to be alone so I told him to leave the bathroom. I reflected on my behavior. Maybe if I cried more I’ll feel better. Perhaps I should’ve kneaded that dough longer. Damn it. Maybe I need to have more confidence in myself. Perhaps this is the bargaining stage. Then I realized I was crying because I am afraid. Afraid that I won’t be good enough to go to the culinary school in Ireland. Afraid that this may be another one of my failures. The dough not rising reflected my fears. Yes, my biggest fear: I’m never good enough. That I will fail again. I felt worthless and scared that I would never become who I want to be.
I silently cried from the bathtub to the shower. The more tears I cried, the better I felt. Maybe because, most of the time, I like to cry. I think crying is really good for the soul and sometimes I think that when I am crying I am being kind to myself. After the shower I went to the kitchen to check on the dough balls. They all have risen! I almost forgot my grief and I was now a little excited. Well, sort of. I still have to bake them and see the outcome. I placed them into the oven at 355-degrees, and eighteen minutes later is going to be the moment of truth.
If they don’t turn out okay, I can always make them again. I’m not a baker and probably will never be good enough to become one. Stalking on the past students that came from the culinary school in Ireland, they all have become great chefs and have even authored cookbooks. I know I may never become like them, but the daily encouragements I get from people I love are more than enough to have the courage to pursue my dreams. I don’t have to completely erase my fears but perhaps I can learn to live with them. And eventually overcome those fears by slowly pushing myself out of my comfort zone. And to remind myself, I am enough, just as I am. And I am enough because I am. This part is probably called acceptance.
P.S. my pandesal didn’t turn out exactly the way I perceived it but they sure tasted awesome!