My Mom always taught me that when entertaining, you should have the kitchen spotless by the time your guests arrive. No dishes in the sink, no crumbs on the counters, no stickiness on the floor. It should look effortless, not to mention the fact that you don’t want to be standing in the kitchen preparing or cleaning up when your friends and family are over—you want to be out in the dining or living room with them, enjoying yourself!
I totally agree with this “rule,” (and those that know my Mom appreciate that she can throw a party with the best of ’em) but sometimes, when it’s just me cooking or baking (or me with SHL), it’s no holds-barred. I mean, I get down and dirty in the kitchen. I spill, I splatter, I douse myself with water or oil or whatever is that I’m cooking with. I open things and then leave them unattended, I pile things into the sink, I cram things back into the fridge without much regard for organization. Sometimes (not all the time) I love to just get a little bit messy!
This is what a house should look like—at least, when nobody is coming over, anyway. Gifts on the counter, the cutting board perfectly scattered with cut-up veggies, the pots and pans on the stove… This was me recently making the mac ‘n cheese and the bakeapple pie, and it occurred to me to take a picture of it because I looked at the chaos in my kitchen and thought “this is home.” Our house was warm with the oven on, the smell of goodies like turkey bacon and melty cheese welcoming SHL home, presents and ribbons and cards from his birthday and holiday gifts from his students completely strewn across our kitchen counter. (My Mom would probably be horrified that I’m about to show you what my kitchen actually looked like on that day!). But here goes anyway:
And then it occurred to me: Organization and tidiness can be so important to feeling like you have the space to be able to stay on top of things, to not feel cluttered in your mind, to keep things sane, if you will. I love when my linen closets are organized, my bills are filed away, and my clothes are hung up neatly in my closet. Most of the time I strive towards being this person—orderly, methodical, and structured (I don’t always achieve it; I can never remember where I put the lawn care bill and every month I say that I’ll put it back in the same place, but then I never do, can you relate?), but on this day, making this special birthday meal for SHL, it felt absolutely wonderful to cook and bake with reckless abandonment.
I think that for most of us who live with cancer, we feel the need to control what we can, since so much of our lives feels so out of our control. Keeping things systemized helps. But in those little places where we can shed our protective gear, where we can, for just a moment, not think about cancer or the uncertainty of the future, it feels amazing to lose yourself in a project where your house smells like cinnamon and your cats lay at your feet. I never knew that cooking or baking could be so therapeutic, but I feel like it has been helping me on my journey towards greater health and happiness. I love cooking/baking for SHL, but I also am finding real pleasure in cooking for myself, as well. There is great power in taking care of ourselves. Whether you are living with a chronic disease or not, I encourage you to think about the ways in which you take care of yourself. Are unhealthy boundaries in your life taking up too much negative space in your brain? Do you eat sugar, feel a rush, and then crash? Are you happy with how you spend your down time? I don’t get it right every day, but when I do, I know it. When I do it, it feels like how every day should be. And I intend to work towards getting it right more often than I get it wrong. After all:
Go on, lick the bowl! xo.