Let’s ignore the six-month gap since I’ve written (I’ll address it in my next post) and talk about holiday baking.
My Christmas Cookie Compulsion
Here’s what I’ve done with Christmas cookies: nothing. I haven’t made any and I don’t intend to. This might seem a little out of line with my usual baking proclivities, but this hasn’t been a usual year.
Normally I start planning the moment seasonal accoutrement goes on sale, selecting the perfect goodie boxes and scoping out impressive recipes. Cookies have always been my favorite baked goods, so the holiday baking ritual is about the most sacred event of the season.
2021 Cookie quandary
I’ve been running on fumes for the past couple of months. I’ve had just enough oomph for one hour at a time. I haven’t had any troubling external events, no real triggers to send me spiraling into a seasonal depression. Aside from the emotional merry-go-round of work, my life is stable. I’m beyond lucky. Yet I still have to drag myself through the day.
The first week of December I was already feeling internal pressure about cookies. What would I make? What ingredients did I need? Who would get them this year? What was the order I needed to make them for optimal freshness on delivery? What two days in a row could I devote entirely to the endeavor? Fudge or buckeyes? Peanut brittle or caramel corn?
Every time I sat down to make a list I panicked. I felt suffocated, as though someone dropped my Kitchen Aid on my chest. I began worrying that I’d lost my skills and that anything I attempted would taste like gravel. My hands shook as I removed my cookbooks, only to put them back on the shelves unopened. A couple of times I got so upset that I had to go lay down.
Interestingly enough, I’ve still managed to putter around the kitchen. I’ve made quick breads and yeast breads, muffins, cakes, a pie, and yes, even cookies. But those cookies weren’t stressful for me. They were just treats I made for regular life activities–peanut butter blossoms for my writing group and molded sugar cookies for my niece’s birthday party. My brain didn’t see them as anything out of the norm.
I’m not exactly sure when it happened. It wasn’t a eureka moment in therapy or a lightning bolt of self-actualization. The truth just quietly came to me. The stand mixer on my chest was my own expectations. I don’t have to make Christmas cookies. My worth as a human isn’t dependent on my baking output. Furthermore, if an activity which normally brings me happiness and relieves stress is suddenly the source of stress–it’s probably time to take a step back.
So, I’ve given myself permission not to bake. I’m also giving myself permission to not be okay right now. You don’t have to have a reason to be depressed; sometimes you just are. Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t last forever. Who knows, I might make some Christmas cookies in the spring. April Fools, anyone?
Have you made cookies this year? What is the most stressful aspect of the holidays for you? Do you struggle with seasonal depression? Questions? Comments? Let’s chat!