The Pressure You’re Feeling to Exercise and Make Bread is Real — And It’s Hereby Cancelled

Apr 9, 2020

Your feelings are valid.

Say what you will about "cancel culture" but bread is now cancelled — specifically the pressure you may be feeling to make sourdough.

I'm writing this for you if you need a nudge. Or if you're also buckling under the pressure that is our pandemic culture of "keeping busy" and proving it online. 

If you're making bread right now, keep going. And if you genuinely love making it, then by all means, keep going. Keep nurturing that starter, Canada's Peeta Mellark.  

Otherwise, stop. No one needs that much bread. Even if you are making it to learn a life skill, there is a bread ceiling. And this is coming from a guy who loves bread. 

You Don't Need to Make Bread

We've been seriously locked down for almost a month, and with that sudden shift in reality comes a state of panic. And a lot of questions, like:

  • Will the kids have enough activities?
  • Do I have enough supplies to sustain all the craft suggestions I'm getting?
  • Will I be able to help the kids excel at math outside of the classroom?
  • When will I work when everyone is at home and looking to me? 
  • I don't even like bananas — why am I making so much banana bread?

Many in your own life — perhaps even you — have gone from having somewhat of a control of their chill to not having any chill at all. Because this is new. We are unlearning a little. In many cases, a lot. I am not ashamed to admit that I've had my share of no-chill moments. 

Perception vs Reality 

So maybe you've seen all the people posting on social media, a place that already has a thick lens on it. A space that has such a shiny veneer it's impossible to know what life is like when the phone gets put down. 

A space that is now full of sourdough bread recipes. Easy chocolate chip cookie recipes. Whipped coffee. Lemon tarts. People in their kitchens stressing how simple it is to make banana bread as if you don't know that already. It's turned kitchens into full-blown patisseries. It's turned every day into a 10-for-10 pushup challenge. Somehow, during a pandemic, we're overachieving because there are no clear lines being drawn. Every day, every moment, feels like work. 

And yes, we all need to eat. But I personally don't want an entire tray of lemon tarts in my house, because I will eat them all. 

And yes, exercise when we can get it does make us feel good. I certainly need to move. 

But unless you're extremely wealthy and have a lot of help, your life isn't going to look like a well-produced recipe video. Or a vignetted snapshot on TikTok exploring "quarantine living," complete with tight shots of fresh strawberry water, with ice that comes from a $10,000 fridge. You may not even have the time — or the urge — to do an online workout. 

You're less likely to cheesecloth-strain your own dairy-free milks. 

Your life is going to be messy and annoying and loud and scary and joyful and hilarious. One day you're cleaning s—t off the walls after a tense work video chat, the next you're playing a dice game with the kids before their bath. Life was always unpredictable, and you know that no matter how much you plan, something always derails everything. And the best thing you can do for yourself is take the imperfections in stride as best you can. Cry if you need to. Consider COVID-19 just another thing getting in the way of your perfect plans. You're already used to failure because we all are. But failure isn't bad, and having it all was never a reasonable goal for anyone. 

If there's any time to embrace the mess and give yourself a break it's now. Seriously, you're working like four jobs under one roof with many people asking a lot of questions. They don't need artisanal bread, or a never-ending arrangement of baked goods. Unless, of course, you want those, and your kids are old enough and willing to make them. Then, by all means, get yours, girl. (Or guy! Hi, dads.) 

How to Limit the Pressure

The next time you see a recipe post that encourages you to take the limited time you have in your day to make bread, laugh about it. Think about a home so overrun with bread. A home so stuffed with bread that no one in the house will ever want to enjoy a delicious piece of hot bread with melted butter ever again. A home with so much hard bread, an arts and craft opportunity emerges where kids are at a table cutting bread into croutons.  

Then mark it as content you don't want to see. Because ultimately, you need to take care of yourself. And if you can't mark it, then just scroll fast until you see the comments by celebrities account you love so much. 

And sure, you're going to backburner self-care a little, because you're a parent and your kids come first. But while you are always going to be available to walk them through this mess called life, this time — like any other — is a great opportunity to teach resiliency, and allow them to fend for themselves a bit. A cardboard box can cure boredom. Learning a dance challenge can cure boredom. A pen and paper can cure boredom. Screen time can cure boredom. Our minds and our imaginations are our best survival tool. 

You don't need to plan every hour of every day if you don't want to. 

And you are not alone in this. Everyone — including non-parents — are still trying to figure this all out. 

But the one thing that isn't going to change your life, is a three-ingredient bread you can make in a cast-iron skillet. No matter how easy or how few ingredients. So, use the time you were going to make it to lock yourself in a room, put a towel or eye mask over your face, and rest. Or scream f—k into a pillow at the top of your lungs, also in a locked room. 

Whatever you need. Unless you want a house of bread, then carry on.

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