Finding Happy: On A Frustrating Day

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Pexels

A few hours after my epic, and misguided, hike last weekend, the provincial government put parts of my province on lockdown. Confirmed cases are going up, and my region is topping the list. We’re number! Where’s my foam finger? Too bad it’s not the middle finger because that would perfectly express my feelings right now.

Not toward the government! I don’t think The Man is out to get me and that this is one long con or some kind of conspiracy. If I’ve ever used the term New World Order, it’s been with copious amounts of irony, sarcasm, and my tongue has been firmly placed in my cheeks. 

Do I fully trust the government and believe everything they say? I would, except the government is full of politicians. They use a lot of shiny objects and fancy words to distract us from what they’re really saying. They’re crafting an angle, and if we give them our blind faith we might end up trapped in a sharp corner. But I don’t think they’re out to get me, or anything of that nature.

Does that clear it up?

Well, that’s cheerful! Aren’t you supposed to talk about finding happiness? Yes, this is the “happy” post but… Then why are we talking politics, pandemics, and politicians propensities for professional inexactitudes? Wow, that’s quite the sentence and your right. These subjects don’t typically inspire feelings of euphoria or joy. 

Don’t fret, I will find happiness in all good time. Hopefully? No, I’ll be damned if I let my frustration derail my experiment in reckless optimism. I hate to do this, but I must or face the consequences. Stand back. Go, go gadget stubbornness! Like Inspector Gadget, minus the gadgets and double down on the clumsiness. 

No? Okay, but hold on because this is going to be a bumpy ride. Apparently.

The giant foam finger is not aimed at the people giving the public health orders. Given the spike, I think it’s a good move, and we need to do more if we’re going to get the numbers down. The virus is spreading too fast. We have to protect our most vulnerable citizens and the people working on the frontlines. 

If that means staying home? Okay, I’ll do my part. I won’t like it, but here I sit and I shall go no further.

My frustration, aggravation, and feelings of grr are aimed at the people who can’t or won’t, follow simple instructions. Even if it means their own survival and the health of their loved ones? Yeah, people are funny creatures.

They think, in the middle of a deadly pandemic, it’s okay to go downtown and join a party that’s wall to wall humanity. Hundreds of people crammed onto a street in my city for a Halloween boozer. A lot of people, no way to distance themselves, and very few of them were wearing masks. They drank themselves so stupid, they forget that they were walking through a petri dish, getting infected, infecting others, and taking a deadly virus back to their loved ones. 

I’m so sorry! That was a really long sentence. Geez, you’ve got me so worked up, I’m running sentences together and using horrific grammar.

Why are so many people getting sick? Why are we going to back on lockdown? Will we get to have Christmas this year? Is it normal for my right eye to twitch violently and that vein in my forehead to pulse wildly?

So many unanswerable questions! (Sarcasm)

Finding Happy on a peaceful day is fairly easy. Walking through the woods, along a lonely trail, provides numerous opportunities to find something that will make me smile. Pouring boiling water into a teacup, watching the tea leaves release their delicious treasure, and listening for my Gran’s voice. Ah, taking that first sip. Yes, finding happiness in those moments is guaranteed.

Well, for me anyway.

Finding it on a day like this, when we have to pay a high price for other people’s actions, is so much harder. I’m struggling to find a reason to be happy right now. Sitting down to write this feels a little disingenuous, and I’ve been dreading it. I’ve checked my email a dozen times, and I even cleared out my junk mail. When was the last time anyone cleaned out their junk mail?

Then I went on to Facebook, which is still a thing, apparently. I played games on my phone and put five thousand steps on my pedometer before 9 AM. Oh, and I spent forty minutes watching cute dog videos on TikTok.

How do I find happy on a frustrating day?

I’m overthinking it and looking for a complicated answer to a question that sounds so simple. Is it simple? Don’t worry; be happy. Big yellow smiley face. What makes me happy? What can I do in my apartment that’s not complicated and doesn’t require supplies from the outside world?

Hmm, is it too soon to take a break? How long have I been writing? Is that all? Okay, think, think, think. Nope, I’m taking a break to figure this out. There has to be something that will make me happy and take my mind off the overwhelming sense of frustration. Hold on, I’ll be right back. Assuming, of course, I figure this out.

*Musical interlude*

Okay, I’m back. That took an embarrassingly long time to figure out, but I think I pulled it together. It’s simple, and it’s not really all that dramatic. I didn’t get lost in the forest or travel to a foreign country. How cool would that be? Get the urge for adventure, and suddenly you’ve manifested yourself onto an ancient Incan trail. Cool, yes, but it’s not scientifically possible yet. So, I made do with a dream and a documentary on the Incan civilization.

That’s not what made me happy enough to sit down and carry on writing. It was enjoyable, but no, I went to something more practical and applicable to you. If, of course, it’s your sort of thing.

This experiment in happiness has taken me two days to complete. I sat down to write yesterday and gave up when I realized my frustration was clouding my vision. The writing stopped, but I was determined to continue probing the depths and limits of this thing we call happy.

Can it still exist on a dark and dreary day? Is it something that can coexist with contrary emotions? Can I be happy and feel frustration, annoyance, anger? Even if it’s for a moment. Even if it’s fleeting. Even if it’s a temporary reprieve from the troubles of the day. Can I still find a way to be happy?

The answer came in:

 – 2 cups of white flour

             – 1 cup of whole wheat flour.  

– 1 1/4 cup of water

        – 2 tablespoons of honey

     – 1/2 teaspoon of yeast

         – 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. 

Simple ingredients that shouldn’t amount to much if you look at them separately. But that’s the beauty of baking! Apart, they mean nothing. Together, they create magic

I think bread is one of the easiest things to make at home, but given the reaction I get, I could be wrong. Whenever I give someone a loaf the response is a resounding wow. You made that, yourself? Like, it wasn’t from a box or anything? That’s impressive!

Either my culinary skills are woefully underestimated, or the idea of making bread at home is incredibly intimidating. I’m going to go with the latter because the first option is a downer, and the second one makes me happy. Which, yep, is kind of the point of this post.

There aren’t a lot of recipes I won’t try at least once. I’m not easily deterred by a complicated recipe or one that seems daunting. A long list of expensive ingredients? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I’m not spending thirty-five dollars on salt. If it doesn’t come with a no-name label, I’m out. 

Your girl is frugal and unashamed.

I like to find recipes that seem overwhelming, or a type of food that I can’t imagine making, and then make it. It’s thrilling, and I feel a tickle of excitement in the back of my throat. Would I call it giddiness? I’ve never seen myself as the giddy type because, in my mind, it’s akin to perky. I’m definitely not perky! But, I do feel bouncy, sparkly, and an overwhelming amount of pleasure when I pull a successful dish out of the oven.

Does that sound perky to you?

Bread is one of those things that, at first glance, seems like something only a master wizard can pull off. And, yes, the first few loaves almost proved that point. They had the weight and structural integrity of a brick. Drop them on the floor, and they would’ve shattered. I’m not an expert, but bread shouldn’t do that.

When in doubt, blame the recipe and go looking for another one. Or, watch a Youtube video, and figure out what went wrong. Either way, don’t give up because when you get it right, the reward is tasty, and the sense of accomplishment is divine.

That’s especially true on a day like today and yesterday. My frustrations have clouded my vision, and it feels like nothing will ever work out again. I need something to work, so I went into my kitchen and put a few ingredients in a bowl. I kneaded it gently, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit on my kitchen counter for twelve hours. A little more kneading, one more rise, and then it went into the oven. 400 degrees Fahrenheit (220 Celsius) for roughly 50-60 minutes.

When it comes out of the oven, all golden brown, I’ll place it on a wire rack to cool. I’ll stand there for several minutes and wonder if I really have to wait. Is it cool enough yet? It smells so good. Surely one slice won’t burn my fingertips or my mouth. Patience! Who’s that?

Happiness is found in the measuring of ingredients and adding them to the bowl at the right time. It’s in the stickiness of the wet dough clinging to my fingers. It’s there when I gently lay the dough to rest. When I sneak a peak, six hours into the rise, and see the dough is climbing the walls of the bowl. It’s working! The gluten and the yeast are building flavour. Time is working in my favour, and all I have to do is wait a little longer.

Baking bread requires my complete focus. All of my attention is dedicated to the details and the process. I’m not worrying about what other people are doing or getting frustrated at their lack of care. I’m not thinking about a virus and the effects it’s having on the lives of my loved ones. My frustrations and anger are channelled into something productive and nourishing.

I’m not very good at letting go of the things I can’t change or control, but when I’m baking, I find a moment of serenity. My mind is clear, I’m focused on the moment, and when it’s all done, I have something I can hold, taste, and smell. It’s an accomplishment that’s tangible when so many things in my life feel up in the air. 

That’s my moment of happiness this week. A loaf of bread, a moment of serenity, and letting go of the things I can’t control. The fact that my apartment smells so good right now is a lovely bonus.

Credit where credit is due! If you want to try the recipe I use, here’s the link: https://www.biggerbolderbaking.com/whole-wheat-bread-recipe-no-knead/

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