Today is a Thursday. I finished work early, and I have some real time on my hands. Our apartment is bathed in hard yellow light, everything is in order, clean and silent, with only my dog Elmo sitting with me in the living room. I could actually feel the stretch of time surround me. It feels good to be still. Or does it?
The past few weeks have left me feeling aimless. It doesn’t help that the weather has turned a page lately. It’s almost always raining and gloomy. Our backyard has become a swamp filled with a mush of dried leaves and rainwater. The empty patches aren’t spared as green moss have slowly found its new home. My herbs feel damp I could tell. There’s not much sunlight these days. The marble table sits in the kitchen unused, dreary and empty. Just like me.
I usually have a lot of words to describe my emotions, but this time they’re unreachable. I have reached peak cooking and taking photos. It’s like I dove straight ahead, not coming up for air, and now I’m wide at sea. I did nothing but cook for over a year. Now here I am void of inspiration and I wonder what it was all for.
Cooking, baking, and photography have been my saving grace during the pandemic. They became the lifelines to my loss. It’s like searching for meaning but instead I inundated myself with all-consuming hobbies. For the past 33 years, I have not learned how to cook properly, much less bake, nor use my Nikon DSLR as it should be—in manual mode. Learning to do all three things felt triumphant. The hours pass by and I am sweaty and exhausted after each day. The dishes pile up on the sink as the sun set. I clean up the mess—the flour, the egg shells, the multiple pans and bowls scattered all over the kitchen. As soon as I finish, I giddily pick and choose and edit the hundreds of images from my camera, all the while stuffing my face with the decadent slice of cake I just baked. I couldn’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow.
To immerse myself in new hobbies felt like the best way to manage all appropriate emotions. I wouldn’t say I forgot because there were countless of times I cried ugly tears, standing in our kitchen sifting flour, missing my father still, wishing I could pick up the phone and tell him about what I ate for breakfast. I still think about a lot about him. I became mindful after each trigger, I purposefully let the tears flow and let my mind fill with memories of him. Sometimes it’s an old song, sometimes it’s this photo of him taken three years ago that now sits so prominently in our living room shelf. I wipe my tears then and continue sifting flour as I read cautiously over one of the many many cookbooks I’ve hoarded this past year. These everyday scenes all mesh together now, stringing the days like nothing life-changing was happening outside the four corners of our apartment. I created this bubble of cookery and I made myself as comfortable as I need it to be.
Now it’s July, a little over a year and a half since the pandemic. The world is slowly going back to normal, if there was anything left to go back to. The dark veil has lifted. For some reason it’s equally as unsettling as the time we were unceremoniously shut down by this virus. It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop, at the same time I feel ill-prepared to re-join the outside world. My bubble has been good to me. I’m not yet ready to say goodbye to this bubble, even though I thought I was. Did I really think I’d lull all my days stuck in the kitchen with my ingredients and my camera?
So I took a break. I stopped cooking and taking photos. I allowed myself to not do anything productive these past two weeks. I woke up, ate mostly takeout, took care of Elmo, danced and did yoga, and read very slowly, revisiting my neglected books, and drinking lots of coffee. I forced myself to stop any agenda and just meld with my sofa. I’ve cooked just one pasta dish this week. My camera sits still on the shelf, and I’m pretty sure some leftover cherries are rotting in the fridge. Still I look forward to what good things August may bring.