The Art of Procrastination: My Writer’s Block – Part Two

The Art of Procrastination – Part Two

A big part of my life and by default, procrastination, is baking and cooking. Cakes, cookies, banoffee cheesecake, roasts, lasagne, the list goes on – I love taking a recipe and attempting my own version. It was the perfect activity for procrastination, and it seems I have learnt some self-truths along the way…

Baking and Cooking:

I love baking and cooking, but most of what I produce is a bit of a train wreck. I should mention straight off the bat that, when it comes to cooking and baking, I’m a perfectionist. I want it to look the way I imagine, which is essentially how it is in the picture, just better. It never goes to plan. Ever. My boyfriend has pointed out that I am a bit of a drama diva about it:

“I’m so sorry, it’s all gone wrong, I failed, it’s a disaster, it’s going to taste like shit, x,y, and z died in the middle” etcetera etcetera.

I’ve only just been made aware of this annoying flaw of mine. Unfortunately, much like my inability to stop apologising for myself every five words, I think it’s heavily ingrained in my baking/cooking process and personality.

Anyway, my creations generally taste ok, but presentation and the debacle to get there is pretty much chaos. Too much oil, not enough oil, the cake is dry, the icing has melted (happened more than once, I clearly don’t learn), the filling hasn’t set, there’s icing sugar, flour, butter EVERYWHERE, my flour ‘well’ leaks pouring water & yeast ALL over the floor (thank you Jamie Oliver for the worst dough making instructions in the world). The list goes on. And on. From my burnt parsnips to my badly covered toffee apples.

The recipes and instructions make it sound so easy:

“Heat the sugar mixture until cracking point”

When will that be?? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Half an hour? I tested the toffee every few minutes to check cracking point. I was left with a bowl full of sticky sugar. In cold water.

“Dip and cover apples in toffee.”

Sounds simple enough right? Wrong. The toffee doesn’t stick to the apple and no matter how many angles I try, pretty much only ONE side of the apple is covered.

I could go on, but I wont. I think you get the idea. I think these recipe writers don’t consider that their recipes may need a tad more detail.

“This is a tricky aspect”, “This takes ‘x’ time”, “This may involve two hands”

Geez, it’s almost as if they haven’t written it with one-handed impaired bakers in mind. Bloody outrageous. ;-).

I think, as much as I don’t want to admit it, my struggles in the kitchen and the chaos that ensues, is probably about 80% due to doing everything one handed. I didn’t think about it before, it only occurred to me recently really but there would be far less mess, take me much less time, and probably look a hell of a lot better if I was a two-handed wonder woman.

Just for the record, if I had two hands, I would actually be wonder woman, my mad skills unleashed. I could rule the world. Mwhahaha.

I digress. I think my problem, and this comes from growing up with a disability rather than having it thrust upon you later in life, is that you think you are two handed. You don’t think about the one handedness, you do everything automatically, on auto-pilot, as if the way that you are doing something is exactly how everyone else is doing it.

It can be quite jarring when you’re pulled into reality. This doesn’t happen occasionally, this can happen various times a day. It’s more jarring when you realise the differences about something bigger, you haven’t thought about it before, then boom, it hits you in the face and it all makes sense as to why X wasn’t working, or why Y was so tough or why Z makes me so freaking anxious.

Some days stuff I’m doing is just an endless struggle, the onion won’t stay still, that bowl keeps swimming round the sink, I keep dropping shit, I can’t zip my coat up. Being on auto-pilot and the fact I feel like I have two hands, doesn’t make it true – just because I can do it, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a laborious and frustrating process to get there. I can’t resent others for not appreciating that because I myself don’t realise how hard I’m working to get something done. It’s only when I step back and look at it, I understand my struggles.

Realising that cooking and baking is probably 3 or 4 times easier and quicker for you two-handed bakers, I think ‘pfft that sucks’. How many more hours will I have to spend of my life doing general shit that takes everyone else half the time? I like baking, so I guess it’s a bit of a moot point really, what does it matter if it takes me longer? At least I’m having fun. Ultimately it’s not something I can really change, and I refuse to do anything less just because it’s hard and time-consuming, I’m nothing if not determined.

Although, honestly, I wouldn’t mind things being a bit easier. It’s tiresome, sometimes stressful, and on occasion there are moments when I want to sit on the floor and just flat out refuse to go on with life, fists pounding on the floor at how unfair life is. Luckily, I have more self-respect than that and usually just take a deep breath and continue.

Onions are my constant arch nemesis. If I had less self-control and didn’t have a deep destain for cleaning, there would be onion smeared all over the wall where I got fed up and threw the blasted thing across the kitchen.

You may be thinking “just ask for help”. Well I could, and I do, more than I like really. I’ve come to accept that asking for help is going to be a constant feature in my life. But I don’t like asking for help. I don’t like putting people out of their way to do something they wouldn’t normally do, just because I need help. Even if they’re ‘happy to do it’ because I’m their friend, girlfriend, sister etc. I’m still asking them to do something for me, which means I am pretty much permanently indebted to everyone who helps me. Even if it’s a small thing, I always have to try and find a way to help them back or say thank you in more than just words.

The other day I made a Lemon Cake, which I coined ‘Lemon delight’, and I was sieving icing sugar into the bowl. I was struggling with the sieve in my right elbow, icing sugar in my good hand, while trying to sieve and watch the scales to the right amount without letting sieve touch the bowl. Describing that scenario to you makes me cringe inside.

I know I looked pathetic, all one-handed and struggling, puffing in frustration and determination. My boyfriend was in the kitchen with me chatting and watching, and clearly seeing that I was struggling, he offered to help. It was very sweet of him and I don’t blame him for offering, in his position I would have done the same. But in that moment, I realised how I must of looked to him for him to offer because generally I ask for help when I need it; and because when I looked at what I was doing, I realised that I must have looked like a full on cripple trying to sieve icing sugar into a bowl. Weirdly, I felt exposed.

I’m generally quite comfortable with my disability around people I know and love, but I hate the thought of how I look to them, especially when I’m doing tricky tasks. It’s like my disability has a whole light and dance show “roll up roll up, look how pathetic I am as I try and attempt this task awkwardly and clumsily until ultimately it all ends up on the floor, roll up, roll up”.

I know the pity looks, I know the pity offers, usually when people decide they don’t want to watch me struggle any longer and I clearly need help, regardless of whether I want it. I don’t think his offer to help me was a pity one, just a want to make it a bit easier due to my intense struggle with a sieve (yes, I have intense struggles with inanimate objects). It was simply the question that jarred me out of my perspective and what I was looking at and into his view, and it was horrible. I don’t want to be seen that way, not by him, and the worst part is that I am probably viewed that way everyday by multiple people, I’m just unaware of it.

But as always, it’s just another thing to stow away in the ‘don’t think about it too hard and ignore’ box so I can get on with my crippled life with some sense of sanity and little self-loathing. This realisation happened in a fleeting moment, I hopefully didn’t show it on my face and happily declined his offer – why should he help me with a task that he definitely dislikes because I spend my time doing things that are quite often borderline too difficult/impossible for me?

The kicker is that I usually don’t realise that fact until it’s too late:

“I’ll make homemade pizzas for our housewarming” Time to roll out the dough:  “oh crap, this requires two hands”.That was a fun afternoon. My arms were bruised for a week.

“Yeah I can put a nail in the wall”- on a ladder, picked my spot, nail in place – “something’s missing here…oh, yeah, a second hand to hammer with”.

Just a couple examples. Living with it for 25 years can make you less able to spot certain struggles, you just go in thinking it’ll be fine and then suddenly remember, oh yeah not fine, you get to miss out on this fun activity. I’ll give myself some kudos points, I’m pretty determined and stubborn. I wont give up easily on a difficult task, I’ll keep trying until I can do it, no matter how hard, especially as I love doing crafts and baking etc. I won’t be deprived of these things, I’ll apparently just look quite pathetic doing them.

So yeah, back to my kitchen and away from my disabled chef tangent, I have basically spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen the last few months, procrastinating from writing. And in the process of sharing my procrastination activity, I obviously had some stuff to get off my chest about one-handed baking and cooking. So apologies for the epic tangent post but, despite all my difficulties, only one point goes in the ‘bad procrastination’ column, and another in the ‘making life more enjoyable, semi-bearable, and less anxiety ridden’ column because, well, some damn good cakes and roast dinners have come from my chaotic and messy kitchen time, despite my shortfalls on my right side….

I will be posting my ‘Lemon Delight’ recipe soon if you’re interested in attempting it. Part Three of the art of procrastination will be on knitting.