Not long ago, on an ordinary Tuesday, I was fluttering around my house, aimlessly. Oh, I was getting-‘er-done (sort of), but I was bouncing from thing to thing to thing, like a pinball: throwing in some laundry (ping!), checking emails (ping!), scheduling summer camps (ping!), answering texts (ping!), straightening the house (ping! ping! ping!). But I wasn’t focused. Couldn’t complete a task to save my life.
It was a weird, disconnected, pinball-ish feeling. Like I was on a treadmill. Yes, exactly like a mixed metaphor of a pinball rolling and bouncing on a treadmill! I’d been running at such a fast pace for the last year, my days and nights consumed with designing, building and moving into a new home. Then, it was over.
Except it wasn’t.
The people kept coming. The contractors, they’d start calling first thing each morning, and show up soon afterward. I was tethered to my phone and to my house while All The People finished up the details and connected phones lines and ran irrigation pipes and installed a satellite dish and hung blinds. For weeks, there were strange men coming and going, all day, every day. I never knew when or who—but, they were always there. Lurking beyond my uncovered windows…
For a girl who finds comfort in routines, and who (very much) needs her privacy, this was all quite unnerving.
Finally, the day arrived where I had complete control of my schedule. A day where no one needed access to me or to my house. A day to reorient to my new surroundings, alone. A day to catch up on daily tasks and tackle piles of laundry and unpaid bills and unanswered emails.
But, oddly, I couldn’t find center.
Even though I had an entire day to slow down and focus, I was still running at that familiar, frantic pace. I was behaving as if my schedule was packed, even though it wasn’t. I was literally jogging from the laundry room to the kitchen and up the stairs. My mind was racing. Since no one was calling my phone, I had fake arguments in my head with every person who irritated me. I started hyper-analyzing my flaws and questioning my worth. My brain was like a run-away train. A runaway pinball train on a treadmill.
It was bizarre.
Since I was racing against the fake clock, I decided to get a jump on dinner (ping!) before I picked up the kids from school (ping!). I grabbed my laptop, pulled up my recipe, and gathered the ingredients to set out on the island. I turned on the flame and drizzled oil. I lifted the raw meat from the package, seasoned it, and tossed it in the pan.
And from the second the chicken hit that sizzling hot oil, something in me shifted.
The aroma started to rise, and I felt immediate calm. I selected fresh basil leaves from the plant on my window sill and inhaled deeply. Gosh, I love the smell of fresh basil. I chopped, and stirred and poured. I diced and sautéed and deglazed. As the dish came together, my kitchen filled with sounds and scents and sights. I tested it, and added more salt and pepper, until it was perfect.
The kids are going to love this, I thought. I smiled.
Surprisingly, this single cooking incident set the tone for the rest of the evening. When I picked up the kids from school, I was joyful and relaxed. As I served the dinner, I was confident and excited for them to try it. Instead of questioning my worth, I felt good about myself for having dinner completed by 3 pm and for making something homemade and nutritious.
And weirdly, it triggered a creativity (cooking is an art!) that released me to hang a few things on the empty walls around my new home–a task that earlier that day felt daunting, overwhelming.
Cooking centered me that day in a way that truly surprised me. I was neither expecting it, nor seeking it. Honestly, I was just trying to catch up on one more thing I had to accomplish before the day got away from me.
I’ve always loved cooking. But that day, I paid special attention and discovered how it grounds me. There’s something about performing this ritual—the same ritual women and men have been performing since the beginning of time—that connects me to every other woman who ever lived. It connects me with every other mom today who feeds her family. It feels sacred.
It’s settled: Cooking centers me.
Therefore, I shall henceforth make cooking a priority.
I don’t have time to cook from scratch every day. But on those days when I feel disconnected, disjointed, like I’m racing against the clock, but making no progress, I will take the time to look up a good recipe, chop an onion, warm up some oil in a pan and see what happens.
Maybe for you it’s not cooking. Maybe for you, it’s exercise (that centers me, too). Or reading historical fiction. Or having a heart-felt conversation with your best friend. Or sketching a picture. Or listening to 70s rock and roll. Or pouring a cup of hot tea and sipping it on the front porch. Or soaking in a hot bath. Or sitting in a salon while someone does your hair and nails. Or painting old furniture. Or tending your garden. Or prayer.
Do you know what centers you? Have you ever paid attention to what brings you down from Crazy Brain to Creativity? If not, it’s worth your time to discover it. And when you discover it, carve out regular time in your week to do it. It will change your entire day. And the fake people you’ve been arguing with in your head will thank you.