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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 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.

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