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The Joy of Cooking

June 29, 2014

It has been quite a while since my last post – more than a year, in fact. Much has happened in that year, including my losing a bit of myself in a position in which I was unhappy. I am not going to go into details or name names, but suffice it to say that the more a toxic environment got to me, the unhappier I became, which influenced those around me. I lost myself again, but learned some really valuable lessons in the process. I stayed because I thought I needed to put in some time to be taken more seriously when looking for something else. I stayed because I was looking but not with a great deal of earnest; I knew things were not going well but was hoping I could stick it out for a while because my professional background includes some shorter term experiences.

In the process, I lost my appetite – literally. I stopped caring about food, stopped caring about eating, I stopped writing in my blog because I did not think that people wanted to read about the negativity I was experiencing and processing. I stopped doing a lot of things I enjoyed because I was focused on getting through each day, and each week. I tried to remember that I needed to focus on life outside of work, to not allow my identity to once again become tied up in what I do. I lost a lot – of my appetite, of my motivation, of myself.

About two and a half months ago, I realized that it was time to start looking for something else. My supervisors were not subtle about how they changed in their behavior toward me – I figured it was time to start sending out emails to people. About four and a half weeks ago, I realized that I needed to kick up my search, so I reached out to people and had an interview. That same Friday, I was laid off. 

While I was angry about what had happened, I was also very relieved – I mean, I knew the day was coming; I just wanted to leave on my terms (as we all do). I was not able to do so and so I was angry about the things that had happened to me during my tenure there. At the same time there was that sense of relief; I was able to once again be the person I know I am without the toxic influence. My roommate commented on the fact that I was, within a week of my layoff, happier than she had seen me in months.

What does this have to do with cooking? Well, in the past month, I’ve been rediscovering it. I started cooking when I was seven years old – my mom was working three jobs and my siblings and I were the proverbial latch-key kids, taking care of the house and cooking for ourselves. So basically, I’ve been cooking for a long time. But when I am unhappy, I am completely unmotivated to do much of anything, least of all cook and eat. My time to recover in this past month has provided me the opportunity to remember how much I enjoy cooking – especially when it is for other people. 

Cooking is a way of showing love – you can’t cook without putting work and emotion into it. It is certainly a way that I show that I care about people. When you are more focused on surviving emotionally on a day-to-day basis, there is little emotion left for doing anything for anyone else (or, for that matter, for being there for other people when they need you. I’ve not been so good at that either for quite some time). Cooking helps me connect – to myself and to others. It provides me an opportunity to exercise a bit of creativity, to try new things in a safe environment, to show people what I am not always so good at telling them. 

So I’ve been reconnecting a lot, and cooking a lot. This afternoon, I cooked a number of things over four hours’ time, and did not even notice the time going by. In the past three weeks, I’ve rediscovered a lot about myself. Cooking is one aspect – watch out for others!

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