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Writing, learn-ing, jewelry, deconstructing t-shirts and reality - it's what I do. I live to be inspired, and to inspire.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kneading Dreams Part 2

Last week I posted the first of this two part list of lessons learned from making bread. (I know, that’s a bit random, but my mind wanders.) Here’s lessons 6 to 10 of that list:

6. Bonds will break. New bonds will form.
For the ingredients to become dough a chemical process takes place. Bonds are broken and formed with the mechanical energy provided by your kneading. Before you get where you need to be bonds need to be broken; new bonds need to be formed. Some of these bonds to be broken can be daily vices; your love for television or junk food, your hours spent gaming or social networking. Time-sucks, health sabotages, toxic behaviors and thoughts need to be cleaved off or at least minimized and controlled. Some of these bonds can be toxic people who are negative, who don’t like what you’re trying to do and make that a burden for you, who encourage you to do the toxic things you want to stop doing. Sometimes you may have to end the relationship. Sometimes it’s just a matter of minimizing contact: stop hanging around them, avoid talking or listening to them, become too busy to spend as much time in the toxic environment they bring. Form new bonds. Find like-minded aspirers. Find people who have achieved what you want to achieve. Find people who encourage and support you. Take up new habits. Break and form the bonds, habits, attitudes and behaviors that will take you where you want to go.

7. Give it time to grow.
You probably figured out from #6 that making bread takes time, it’s no cake-walk (though making cake has its challenges too). Reaching big goals takes time. The bigger the goal the more time. Bread can take one or two hours. Forming healthy habits can take months. Other goals – years. But the time was going to pass anyway, with you living the way you live now, accomplishing nothing new, so you might as well do something with that hour, those months or years that will result in accomplished dreams (or food for the week). But when you start toward your goals and dreams be in it for the long haul. Know that things do not happen instantly: you need to put your time in before you get something good out.

8. Be prepared to face the heat.
There’s always one last challenge. In order for the dough to become bread you have to apply heat. To make a diamond it takes high temperature and high pressure. To become more than the sum of your parts you need to face the hardships and obstacles – I prefer to call them challenges – that come your way right up to the end. There is often going to be a point when you’ve done everything, you’re almost there, destination in sight, and something will challenge you. This is when people often quit. You don’t. You never know which hurdle is the last but keep jumping them or ploughing through them until you get to that finish line. Your destination is real, keep moving towards it.

9. Pace yourself. Don’t get burned.
In addition to killing the yeast my first time I also burned the bread. Well actually the recipe I had told me to wait a length of time during which the bread burned. Needless to say I tweaked that part of the recipe as well. But it just goes to show, someone else’s timing may not be the right pace for you. Some people can make it on 4 hours sleep a night for years while others need that 7 or 8 hours to function. Work with your own needs, your own pace. Sleep, eat, take breaks, relieve stress as needed. It’s not a failure or a weakness to have to pause and catch your breath. In fact if you’re pacing yourself correctly you won’t have to stop to catch your breath because you’re working at a pace that fits your level of endurance. Indulgence, laziness, procrastination get you nowhere. But pacing yourself gets you where you need to be intact. You’re going to do a lot of growing and changing in the heat. You need to make sure the process doesn’t destroy you.

10. Enjoy the smell
There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread. It is the smell of comfort and warmth. For me it’s the smell of achievement. I will eat well this week. Enjoy the journey and the destination. The process is difficult. It’s rough. It’s stressful and tiring. But often time there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing because you’re doing the work of building your dreams. But in the heat, when you get those initial whiffs of success, you know you’ve done it, you’re doing it, and it’s worth it.

Photo by Kelene Blake: Yes it looks plain on the outside but it's filled with yummy spinach-y, tomato-y, mackerel-y goodness on the inside!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Kneading Dreams

Last Sunday, my baking day, I made my first batch of bread for 2013. When you’re making bread by hand – kneading the dough until it is ready to be put aside so it can rise – you have a lot of time to think. I’ve learned a lot from baking, and from last year when life sent me in the strange directions that led to me baking my own bread among so many other things. Here are a few life lessons I came up with while kneading dough:

1. Figure out what you need before you begin.
In making bread and plans I’ve learned to be strategic. In both cases I learn from my mother and my friends. You can learn a lot from others’ experiences. Sometimes gathering the right resources can take time. Sometimes you have to find alternatives. But it is important to understand what raw materials you need – whether it is the right groceries, the technique, the equipment, the knowledge, the mindset – and get it if you are going to start right. Without the ingredients there will be no bread.

2. Begin
Jump in. I had been saying I want to bake my own bread for an embarrassingly long time before I actually got around to it. Procrastination is a tempting beast. If it is not pressing, required for basic survival, routine or crucial for maintenance of our precarious position in life, we will likely put it off. The only way to beat procrastination is to just start. Catch it by surprise. “Do it while you’re thinking about it” as my former professor M.K. Asante used to say. It’s like when you first step into a swimming pool or the water at the beach. It feels cold on your feet, so the best thing to do is just override you hesitation and submerge yourself. Whether your intent is to start a new career, start exercising, change your diet, pluck your eyebrows… whatever it is you’re putting off, start it now. Right now. You can come back and finish read this post after you’ve started.

3. Shit will happen. Learn from it.
I scalded the yeast to death with boiling hot water the first time I tried to make bread. The dough didn’t rise and the end result was barely edible rock bread. Since then, I’ve made sure to not do that again. I made a mistake. The world didn’t end (Take that Mayan calendar folks!). It made me better at what I was doing. We are programmed to fear failure. We’re bombarded with images of success, stories about the best, pressure to learn quickly and make the grade at the appointed time. We forget one of the most basic methods of learning is through trial and error. There is nothing wrong with not getting it easily the first few times. Each mistake is shedding the skin of inexperience. Be okay with it. Be patient with yourself. You’re learning.

4. Follow the recipe the first time, then tweak it.
I combined my Mom’s and my best friend’s recipe to make my bread. Then I further tweaked it to include honey and to enhance the fatty acid profile. Eventually I developed my own style of sandwich bun which I love. Other’s paths are not necessarily your path. You can learn from them, get the lessons, but there is no need follow fashion. Infuse yourself into everything you do. You already have your own knowledge, your own wisdom, and your own preferences. If you’re doing something for yourself, find out how it’s done, then do it your way. If you live your life always following other people’s instructions you will eventually question yourself and think you cannot do anything without instructions. Who wants to be that person?

5. Give it time to come together.
At first when you start kneading things are messy. The ingredients don’t automatically turn to dough. The first couple minutes you wonder if you did something wrong, why things are not coming together like they’re supposed to. Maybe you did make a mistake. This would be the time to figure out what’s missing and put it into the mix. But if you have the right ingredients in there, all you need to do is keep pushing and eventually things will come together and make sense. In any major overhaul in life you have to make a mess before you clean up. That’s why change is so frustrating. The first few times you exercise your muscles hurt. If you continue you’ll find they got stronger and they don’t hurt any more. But you only get that if you continue. If you give up at the first sign of pain, the first sight of a mess, the first hurdle, there is no way you are going to make it to your goal. Plough through until you get to the other side.

To be continued. Check back next week for 6 to 10!

Photo by Kelene Blake: One of my early attempts at making bread.