With many of you, I woke up on Nov 13 with news of a third act of cowardice that brought terror to brothers and sisters in not-so-distant lands. When the shock wore off, I found myself overwhelmed by an ache in my heart that I hadn’t felt so deeply since 9/11. I recalled the doom, gloom, and dread that bombarded our lives as our country coped with the magnitude of what it meant to be “attacked,” followed by months (years) of after effects from communal trauma, unfamiliar territory given the comforts and privilege many of us enjoy.
Now, over a decade later, the smell of terror rises again, threatening to permeate the scars we have been trying to heal after wars, natural disasters, local gun violence, etc. But this time, the trauma is global. “Game Changing” as they say. And I am left with the feeling that so many of us share: “What do I do now?”
In that moment I wanted desperately to “do something”! To act! Revolt! But deep in my heart I knew—there was nothing I could possibly do or say to make it all go away. Knowing I had reached my peak of feeling overwhelmed, I made the bold decision to turn the news off and ... make banana bread.
Its something I’ve been putting off for months and regretting every time I see the banana’s starting to rot. It’s something I have made excuses for: “today’s not a good day,” “too busy,” “maybe next time” ... you get the picture. You do it too. It might not be banana bread, but it's something.
My daughter and I got all the necessary tools together in the kitchen, carefully peeled the bananas, grated the apples and carrots, smelled the delicious spices and vanilla, mixed in the flour, watched the loaf rise and the sweet smell permeate the house. It was the perfect, simple, mundane, but deeply profound moment for me.
So why does this matter?
When we feel out of control, it is important to engage in activities in our lives where we DO have control. This was not just a loaf of banana bread, it’s my form of coping with the gravity of the situation and the possibility of what that means for me and my family's future. I might be unable to control the decisions of our world leaders, or stop the grief so many share, or put an end to the violence. But I CAN control how I mash my bananas, how much flour to put in my batter, and how many slices my daughter is allowed to eat in one sitting.
Will the simple act of making bread change the uncertainty? No. It’s not a replacement for social action and therapy. Together we should let our voices unite in solidarity against brutality. If anxiety peaks, we should seek help (call me!). But today, in this moment, when you just read that FB post about the horrors or just watched the news and your having a moment of being overwhelmed, turn it all off and tune into the tangible. This will help you cope. Feeling in control of certain things in your every day life will help when the much larger state of global affairs seems so far out of your personal control. So, bake! Fold that laundry! Clean your dishes or your house or your dog. Read your child a book. Do some Vinyasas or pushups. Close your eyes and meditate. These may have been annoying chores or just part of the daily routine before, but now they are transformed into mindfully enacted coping skills. Acknowledge that the choice to engage in this activity at this very moment IS being in control of your life right now. Set an intention—even when baking banana bread.
“I don’t know what the future will bring for the planet, but I DO know that I can make a pretty darn good loaf of banana bread right now.”
“I don’t know when the violence abroad will stop, but I DO know that I will fold this shirt really well right now.”
“I don’t know what our leaders will do to stop the war, but I DO know that I will clean this kitchen right now and make it clean and safe for my family.”
(Get the picture?)
It will help take the edge off.