Dad, Grief, Health & Fitness., Mom, On Mental Health

Diversifying Joy

NOTE: This post was migrated on 10/7/21 from my substack after getting all of my blog moved to a secure host. If you are confused about why I wrote on substack for awhile, get your primer about my site being hacked and the ensuing chaos HERE.

I really don’t like cooking. I’ve had phases where I’ve put a bit more effort into things, especially when I went through my cake popper phase (LONG BEFORE IT WAS COOL, I TELL YOU) but I’ve never actually liked cooking. I like the kind of cooking that takes less than 5 minutes of prep. I don’t mind waiting an hour for a dish to bake or standing over a skillet to keep stirring things for 20 minutes, but I want minimal prep and cleanup.

My favorite kind of meals involve only can openers and the cutting of bags of things from the freezer.

But my Mom…she loved to cook. I don’t remember much about what she cooked on the weekends we were with her other than I always asked for fried chicken for my birthday. But I remember she cooked often and she put a lot of effort into holiday meals that we would have at her house. When I lived with her off and on for 6 months after her wreck in 2018, I got very acquainted with her cooking habits. She had multiples of every appliance, including pressure cookers. She had 100s of spices (I have like, 10? And most of those should probably be thrown out.) and so many pots and pans that they didn’t all fit in her small condo kitchen and so there were dozens spread around shelves in her garage and coat closet and dining room floor. She was a sucker for all trendy cookware and appliances. She loved it ALL.

During her year here she struggled resolving the desire to cook with her constant exhaustion from her kidney failure and dialysis. She would buy cookbooks and pin recipes and order grocery delivery of all of the supplies she needed…and then it would all go bad before she had any energy to fix whatever had inspired her. Or she would run out of energy to stand in the kitchen and end up ruining the dish. I watched her get more and more frustrated during her months here as dishes didn’t turn out how she wanted because she just didn’t have the energy to monitor things, or she would have to throw out ingredients because they spoiled before she could use them.

Not to mention she was also very bitter at how little made it from her condo in Knoxville to her apartment in Huntsville. She would have never told me she was mad about all of the things I got rid of, but I could tell. I have no regrets, she was a hoarder of unhealthy proportions and so most of what I threw away was in bad shape and we were working on a timeline that didn’t allow for patience. But I know she was disappointed that she didn’t have – what she considered to be – a fully stocked kitchen.

So, in the end, I know that her health contributed to not being able to find love in cooking again…even in that small, understocked kitchen. And cooking was one of the things that gave her purpose…that brought her joy in those last several years of her life.

It reminded me of when it hit Dad that he couldn’t carry his backpack anymore because of the pain from the micro-fractures in his skeleton that his cancer had caused. Mom not being able to really enjoy cooking took away from her quality of life in the same way his inability to carry a backpack did his.

All of this has me reflecting on diversifying joy and purpose. I want to always make sure to keep a variety of activities that make me happy or give me purpose in my life. Maybe some depend on physical health, but maybe make sure I have others that don’t. Maybe it’s good to nurture friendships/relationships that can still exist without a body that can go socializing or traveling or be active. Maybe I make sure to keep hobbies that encourage physical activity so I can nurture longevity, but also have some things that bring me joy when I’m sitting quietly in my home.

I don’t know. I just can’t believe I had two parents who both decided dialysis was too much for them to keep living. I want to make sure that I have the kind of life where I could still find joy, even if I had to sit in a medical facility 12 hours a week. I want to have relationships that still hold me up, even if I can’t go to tap rooms for beers or into the woods for hikes. I want to have hobbies that bring me joy even if my body fails me.

I’m not shaming my parents for opting for death over a poor quality of life; because I saw the sadness in both of them as they faced their futures. But I’d like to use their experiences to focus on setting up a life that could be joyful even in the event of physical decline.

Not much else to say other than those are the things I’m carrying around with me lately in the form of “lessons” from my dying parents. I’m probably still hashing the ideas out, but I definitely want to make sure my portfolio of joy and purpose doesn’t rely solely on a health body.

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