Counting Cookies: Reflections of Life, Death, and Baking

I am an inherently emotional person. Even before the circumstances of life had molded me into who I am today, I had been living life with my heart at the steering wheel. But being a country’s length apart from my family and friends, and a brush with cancer, has further deepened my emotional well.

On most days, I consider it a blessing to feel life as strongly as I do. Moments spent on either end of the spectrum simultaneously sharpen senses and blur lines. They are moments filled with pure, raw emotion, moments where pride and insecurities are left by the wayside and vulnerability and honesty take center stage.

End of the spectrum moments also make the middle of the spectrum much more comforting. For most, the quiet moments can be mundane, but for the impassioned, the rare moments of stand still serve as a shelter. A place to breath. A place of stability.

Ragen and I recently had a quiet weekend together. We climbed at the rock gym, and rode our bikes to a local patisserie to eat some scones. At home, I baked a Shepard’s pie and some toffee peppermint bark while he played video games. He walked through the kitchen periodically, grabbing handfuls of dark chocolate chips and giving my forehead a kiss with each pass. We spent a lot of hours in bed, taking turns at being the little spoon. It was easy, uneventful, wonderful, and in the middle of this frosty December, oh so warming.

On Sunday evening, I was mulling over the Shepard’s pie. It was good, not great, and I couldn’t figure out what it was missing. In my notebook, I wrote a few ingredient suggestions for next time, but I wasn’t sure about any of them. I consoled myself, knowing that practice and time would make recipe additions and substitutions intuitive.

Looking for my next kitchen project, I closed my pie book and turned to my laptop. As I scrolled various culinary publications, Bon Appetit’s podcast, Foodcast, was playing in the background. As I multitasked away, my eyes started to ache and a mini headache ensued.

An interview on the Foodcast led me to Dorie Greenspan’s cookie book. Not only was Dorie super adorable and sweet during her interview, but her book looked amazing. With over 300 unique cookie recipes, I knew this was the book I wanted next. Despite how excited I was to find the book, I restrained myself from buying it on the spot.

I only bake on the weekends, and that’s only because it’s too cold for me to rock climb outside right now. Once the frost melts, I’ll have less opportunities to bake. I already have a pie book and a general cooking book that will take me ages to work through… and that’s not even considering the, quite literal, countless recipes I continue to save online.

My headache grew stronger and my throat became sore, so I turned off the podcast and took a minute away from the computer. I sat still, considering what this could mean. Although common symptoms of almost any illness, big and small, thoughts of cancer creeped steadily into my head and I felt relaxation shift to unease.

With the universe as ever changing as it is, I don’t believe that the average length of life is enough. There will never be enough time to climb all the classic routes of the world. There will always be another cookie to bake or a book to buy. I’ll always want another kiss, another weekend just like this one.

Life with cancer can be a scary reality, but what I fear most is no life at all. The thought that keeps me up at night is the thought that my already short time has been cut further. For now, the cancer is gone… but that’s not to say that one day it won’t come back.

My emotions slowly slipped to the low end of the spectrum, and in that moment, I felt every vulnerable piece of me. It was the heavy, solemn kind of low. The kind that slows the breathing. The kind that makes me sit so still that I swear I feel the rest of the world moving around me.

The fact of the matter is that my time is limited. It will be shorter than some, and longer than others, and all I can do is make the most of it.

I could either count my days by cookies, or enjoy them, and the cookies as they are.

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