Photo from Unsplash by Nicholas Peloso.

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” — Seneca

When your house is on fire, cook!

Practical ideas to find amusement in hard times, or food.

It is 2 AM and unlike every other day, you are asleep. In your dream, you smell burning, probably wood or plastic or your clothes, you are not sure. You can’t figure where this is coming from. You can’t see. But the dream isn’t frightening at all.

And all of a sudden you feel the heat, a literal one. As if the fire is not in your dream but on the right side of your bed. You gasp. You jump off the bed and run towards the kitchen. You grab a pan, two eggs, saucer, salt, oil, and a wooden spatula. Not water. Not a fire extinguisher (who keeps that in a real home).

Then you jump across the bed to reach the table that is aflame and you place the pan on top of it, just at the right spot and prepare your 2 AM snack. You won’t have your table, the cloth on top of it, and also your books by the next morning in an identifiable state. But on the upside, the omelet tastes good.

You don’t know what caused the fire in the first place, you may set on a quest to find that later. But the upside in a moment of crisis makes it less of a story about fire and more about the 2 AM snack.

A fire in your bedroom at 2 AM is uncommon. And then finding exactly everything required to make an omelet within minutes has a low probability, however, a crisis like “I‘ve lost my appetite”, “I can’t sleep”, “I don’t know where I’m heading in my life”, and “I feel a literal pain in my chest”, aka hard times in life are not uncommon.

They may seem less frightening than the actual fire, but they won’t come to us in a dream first. They come to us in the daylight when we are wide awake. I’m no expert on emotional imbalance, depression, mood swings, mental health or any other term as such with broader meaning and even broader implications. I just happen to have experienced a thing or two about it at times. And in most cases, found a fix. Sleep, dream, fire, omelet, I like them all, not in that particular order though.

In the case of X do Y

The candid thing about tough times, every single time, is the advice that you get. This too shall pass, drink water, take a deep breath, count down from 10 to 1, uncertainty is okay, we know prescriptions when we see them coming from our friends and family.

Prescriptions do not work. They come from a place called generalization of the problem or I didn’t listen to what you were saying.

At every chance, you must dodge these prescriptions and sit back and take an overview of how huge the fire is. Once you make sure the fire will stay for a while, grab your cooking stuff and do what people usually do with food and fire.

Tough times in life keep showing up every once in a while. Often the remedies are overlooked because they seem surprisingly simple, obvious, and even funny. Before we get lost in the fire and food, let’s bring ourselves back to the idea. The idea of finding amusement in hard times, the idea of finding an upside when the entire building is turned upside down.

Finding hope in tough times, or maybe humor…

Well, for the starters, cooking always helps. The chopping, boiling, measuring the ingredients, and in the efforts to remember all the steps missing the most crucial one. It is almost like meditation. The process is tedious and long but the end result is worth it.

Writing is good too. And it is best when you write ’bout yourself. Putting the word out on paper or in your digital notes helps you absorb the snafu. Not promising that writing will declutter all your mess entirely but to some extent. William Zinsser in his book On Writing Well said that clear thinking leads to clear writing. I see a feedback loop there, clear writing leads to clear thinking too.

Sleeping it off sounds cool, effective, and easy and it works for some people. But for many, the sleep always ends with a stark realization that the only thing that changed is the date. I’m not a big fan of sleep it off, it is almost a prescription. But it works in case of a spark, may not serve the purpose in case of a fire.

Housekeeping, well this one feels like it came straight from your mom. And the time is so tough already that you don’t want to care if your room looks like a cemetery. All you want to do is run amok. And that is exactly when the cleaning and organizing help you. Obviously, it is not as fancy as writing but the end result is always fancier.

The simplicity of everyday mundane activities, the realization of mortality and boredom is good for us. Living like a sane human being at present is not as tough as it sounds.

As the last piece of a practical idea, keep looking for offbeat ways to handle your emotionally daunting days and make people around you wonder why the hell is (s)he going on a walk when the life is turbulent. The fire seems temporary when you do something offbeat, and it always is.