After tweaking my wrist pretty badly a week ago, I’ve done a big fat donut in terms of any cooking whatsoever. I have a big pierogi order that I haven’t been able to finish as of yet, and I’ve been hitting up the Uber Eats and Food Panda like crazy. I have a gallon of pungent hot sauce fermenting patiently that needs bottling. Sounds pretty grim, but in fact there are some shimmers of silver poking through my grey Taichung sky. Namely this; when you can’t do what you normally like doing, you start to miss it. Not in the sometimes exasperating way you can miss another human, but more like the excitement of hearing the bell at the end of class, or boarding an airplane destined for some incredible land. It’s more immediate and close, not something far away. Not the beginning of a countdown timer that beats out its time like a slow motion drip from the faucet of see you next time.
Sure there is patience involved with any degree of waiting. But there are moments away from things that can help refresh and reset the mind, which can be a good thing. Sometimes we get caught up in the slog, the job, and the repetition of something to the point of it becoming annoying. Making hundreds of dumplings can cause this feeling. So can jogging, for that matter. We start to see only the desired distance, the numbers, and a labor of love can soon be transformed into a monotonous task.
Injury can play the redeemer in this respect. It can shift the perspective from just seeing the distance marker and the unit counter back to the main objectives in the first place…fun. Because you can’t do it. Even if you wanted to. And that makes you want to. Really badly. Funny what we miss sometimes.
I guess when things start to feel monotonous, you have to flip your headspace. And immediately just imagine how you’d feel if you couldn’t do any of it at all. That can certainly help with any feelings of taking something for granted. Or help clear the air of a long and complex relationship with something. Taking off the goggles and seeing. But what about the other part? The bean counting, the calories burned, the steps taken, the words written. All the markers we use when we are geeking out on personal progress, that can often become daunting, even as our numbers increase. For that, I think, we need to switch to slow time thinking and not even pay any attention to the work getting done. We need to shift the focus to something else that’s going on.
For this, I use podcasts. It actually started with running. I would always listen to music when jogging. But it was an anxious game for me. Each song would come to an end and a little voice in my head would say, “ok, you can stop now.” It was especially bad when I knew the song because I could gaze up the road and choose when to end my run based on the song’s ending. Guitar solo fades at the next lamp post, and I’m out. It was maddening. Like the cycle of waking up in the morning and considering calling in sick to work. The mental exercise alone is exhausting. So anyways, podcasts fixed this problem for me. Instead of incremental metered music, I was listening to entire stories. I would get sucked into them, and it helped me forget about how far I would run that night. It also helps me make dumplings. It shifts the spotlight away from my task, turns off the lazy voice in my head, and by the time I get through one or two news stories, my job is done.
So hopefully, in a couple days time I’ll be back on that dumpling train. Zenning out to Radiolab, The American Life, Freakonomics and a few others. Not counting beans or hours, just using all my senses, and doing. Nothing is done, just the doing it as it does.