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sourdough and other sticky things

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

"I guess there is a little bit of comfort in knowing we are all in this together. We are all stuck in it. Stuck together—stuck like sourdough."

When I was a kid, Herman lived with us. He was like part of the family. Herman lived in a pail in the fridge—he was our shapeshifting sourdough, and we turned him into all sorts of baked goods. I think it all tasted pretty much the same, but clearly, Herman was at least a little bit memorable, because he has crossed my mind all these years later.

I noticed a lot of people welcoming a ‘Herman’ into their homes last year. Sourdough starters made a real comeback, and that made me smile. It wasn’t that I was happy about the rise in bread consumption; it meant families were baking together. I could imagine them picking a recipe, laughing, waiting for the timer to buzz, then devouring their most recent creation. It is amazing how a gooey glob of dough can bring people together.

As the realities of isolation set in, people engaged in all sorts of new forms of distraction. They did puzzles, went for walks, and played board games. As the pace slowed, and external options and distractions dwindled, I think families realized things can be pretty good when you stick together.

I grew up in a family like that. We were farmers, so we spent most of our time together. My parents worked our land, and raised us, and cattle. They were never more than arms-length away. For at least the first five years of my life, I didn’t know much about the world beyond our home. Eventually, I realized we had neighbours, and learned about the importance of community. My world was always pretty compact and satisfying.

I know the pandemic has not been easy for many reasons, but there are parts of being quarantined that have been positive. Beyond the family bonding, people found new ways of doing things. As working and learning remotely became the norm, mindsets shifted. People adapted. I adapted too.

Before our collective quarantine, I already worked from home, and lived alone, but my world also changed. Now, almost a year down the road, I am reflective. There are some things in my life I can now call sticky. Things that have become permanent habits, or patterns.

Gone are the days of me feeling guilty for walking away from my computer in the afternoon to go walk my dog, or to sit outside on a beautiful day. I am far less stressed. I sleep better. I cook and eat almost all my meals at home. I used to skip meals because I wouldn’t take a break from working. I don’t do that anymore. It was so unhealthy. I‘ve gotten back to exercising every day. Sometimes twice a day, like I used to. I haven’t let closures, injury, apathy, or the challenge of accessing in-person classes stop me. Exercise is the most stabilizing force in my life, and it is non-negotiable.

In addition to the change in structure, some other things have stuck. I write more, read at night, and pick away at learning guitar. I watch less television, and rarely drink. I have also learned to trust my intuition, prioritize my needs, and set stronger personal boundaries.

My relationships have strengthened. Despite the restrictions, and living five hours apart, my parents welcomed me into their bubble. I took extra precautions to be around them throughout the summer, and during special occasions. We let ourselves rely on each other a little bit more. Maybe out of necessity, and maybe because we enjoy it. They call me “tech support” and I like it. They ask my help to figure out things like how to put Amazon Prime on their TV, how to login to Netflix, and how to put the closed captioning on. It has been good for my soul, because even if I have only helped them a little, they have helped me a lot. As a grown person, I have realized it is still okay to need my parents. It is okay for them need me too.

My other relationships have also grown, as we found new ways to stay connected. In a lot of ways my circle has expanded. I have had some great chats with old friends. I do more check-ins, and get checked in on in return. Even though many of the interactions are still virtual, I feel supported. It is difficult for a social, extroverted person like me to be away from people, and that will remain my greatest challenge, but I know who will be there for me when we come out the other side.

These sticky things will hold us together, and get us through this. They will bind us for the rest of our lives. I guess there is a little bit of comfort in knowing we are all in this together. We are all stuck in it. Stuck together—stuck like sourdough.

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