You don’t have to do everything yourself

Somewhere in the first years of this space, I read some thoughts by a person I admired. Five years on, I don't remember her name, but her words have stayed with me all this time. She wrote that when she wanted to eat something she would always make it from scratch. No matter how much time it would take. Even if it meant days or weeks because she needed a sourdough starter or had to ferment something. I loved this idea so much that I started to implement it in my own life. And it wasn't too far from the path I was on anyway since I had to make a lot of things myself to accommodate my food intolerances.

Fast forward five years, and you'll see that I completely let go of this notion of making everything myself from scratch. But when I roam through my pantry I'm still confronted with all the ingredients I bought for all the things I never made. And then I hear her words in my head again. But instead of admiring her, now I wonder why she did it. Because when I look back to the moment I decided I wanted to not eat packaged food ever again, I see a young woman whose life slowly fell apart. My calendar was too full with a full-time master, traveling across the country for classes two times a week, I probably had a job (or two, but I can't remember), I was active in my church community, tried to have a social life, traveled a lot, and lived together with my boyfriend and our bunnies. And while this might not sound ridiculous for a twenty-something, try adding in unmanaged ADhD and food intolerances. It was too much. And I only noticed that when my university counselor asked how I was doing, and a truly didn't know. So looking back, wanting to make all my food from scratch was a way for me to keep control over my life.

And through everything that happened in the following years, making my own food did help me feel in control. At least for a little part of my life. But then I had to let go. Because I became so ill that I was no longer able to take care of myself. For the past year or so, Matthijs has cooked most of our meals. And saying that cooking is not his favourite hobby is an understatement. But he manages, and slowly I'm getting to a place where I can help him again, and even cook by myself sometimes. And when I roam through our pantry and come across some ingredient that once had a special purpose, I remember my old self and smile. Because what a tough broad she was. Trying to keep herself together amidst everything that was going on in her life.

And then I'm also a little sad for her. Because she created impossible standards to live by. Because honestly, why would you force yourself to make sourdough bread, when you hate - yes genuinely hate - the feeling of dough on your skin, and keeping a sourdough starter alive brings you close to a nervous breakdown? And that's what I made myself do. I felt like a failure when I used storebought tortilla wraps, tomato salsa, and even mayonnaise. And I don't even like homemade mayonnaise. So what was I doing to myself?

I was trying to keep control. But I think it's a good thing I had to let go. Because this was not a life. So this time around, while I'm learning how to take care of myself again, I do buy the store-bought tortilla wraps and spice pastes. Because it takes a lot of stress out of my daily life. And when your body is failing you on a regular basis, you learn that living a low-stress life is the best thing you can give yourself. That means you can't do everything yourself. And you don't have to. You just have to learn to accept a little help. Even if that help arrives in the form of store-bought convenience foods. There's truly nothing wrong with it. So give yourself a break and let go of things and thoughts that no longer serve you.

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