Well, I have finally arrived at this illustrious hour in CoronaWatch 2020: Pouring copious amounts of liquor in my plum jam and seeing what happens.
Anyone else finding that their inhibitions have been softened, their guards have been lowered, and their fucks have been flying out the window?
There’s been something about this time for me that has been wildly liberating.
It’s as if everything sort of got so bad that I became like Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and a Half when she realizes in the midst of her depression that she no longer worries about what people think of her and is thus invincible…because she used up her last feelings not being able to rent Jumanji:
(PS If you haven’t read that entire post, you need to stop right here and go do that and/or buy Allie’s book. She is a feeling person’s heart-balm and will make you LOLZ super hard and we need to protect her at all costs.)
Anyway, I don’t know if it’s my new medication (big ups to generic Zoloft), but I feel like I’ve hit this new level of Shrug Life.
It’s like I’ve seen through the matrix and I’m very aware that we’re all just complex-but-fragile fleshbags on a spinning ball of dirt and water susceptible to natural disasters while surrounded by imperfect and complicated other human fleshbags who will do both wonderful and horrible things we have no control over.
And I’m sort of...cool with it? Like, I’m made some sort of...peace? Maybe?
I’m not saying I’m perma-zen. Despite this new level of “able to deal-with-it-ness,” I’m still v v v often a major stress-bucket. Because if there’s anything I like, it’s having a sense of control.
This makes me sound like a megalomaniacal tyrant, but in essence, I’m just an anxious person whose brain is constantly seeking reassurance that everything’s going to be “OK.”
Basically, this is my brain when I ask it how it is.
Because safety-seeking anxiety brain is a real thing and can be exhausting, here is a list of some things I’ve adopted (along with generic Zoloft) to help myself cope with the occasional need to find a non-existent proof that nothing bad will ever happen.
Remembering the bad things that happened that didn’t kill me
Remembering that if a bad thing DOES kill me, I’ll be dead so I won’t have to worry about bad things killing me anymore
Remembering all the things that I thought were bad, that actually worked out ok
Taking deep breaths
Stress-Canning™ is basically just soaking up the stress-hours of your day with canning things instead.
Feeling anxious about an impending move? Jam some peaches. Read an article online about how the Coronavirus vaccine will only probably be 30% effective? Pickle those cucumbers. See a picture of yourself hugging friends and burst into sobs? Ferment some dilly beans and nosh those m-fers. Realize that summer is almost over and you still haven’t enjoyed it yet and the sunny days are filtering through the sands of an hourglass like the beauty of your youth? MAKE SOME TOMATO SAUCE AND CAN THAT SHEEEIIIIIT.
Honestly, I feel like I missed the great Sourdough-Baking Bonanza in the Year of our Lord COVID Coping, but Stress-Canning™ has filled this void for me.
Canning things is jusssssst stressful enough for a newbie, and has juuuuuuust enough complicated steps, that I simply can’t focus on whether or not society is crumbling as we know it and I’m going to die alone never feeling the tough of human contact again.
Anyway, here’s a recent Stress-Canning™ recipe I made that seemed to combine both my anxiety with my newfound Shrug-ness to create something incredible. ENJOY!
IDGAF Bourbon Brown Sugar Jam
Chop up 3 lbs golden plums (or 6 cups)
See that recipe says to mix with 11/2 cups white sugar
Google “Ok to use brown sugar in jam recipe?” on laptop
Find lots of smart chef-y people saying “No, don’t use brown sugar in jam. It takes too much from the flavor of the fruit.”
Mentally give those Chef snobs the finger and decide to use brown sugar anyway
Add 2 more cups of chopped golden plums because you have extra and YOU DO WHAT YOU WANT
Take markedly too long to figure out how much more sugar you need to add for those extra two cups of plums
Just dump in a bunch of sugar, call it good
Bring pot of golden plums and non-chef-approved brown sugar to simmering
Stir the shit out of that mixture, constantly, till your arm muscles twitch, because your pot sucks and those little sticky plum bastards constantly want to burn to the bottom of it
Have a long in-depth conversation with your High School English Teacher about the merits of Ball pectin vs. other brands
Go to use the organic “dextrose-free” pectin you got earlier that day, unfold the directions
Find out that there are literally MORE STEPS THAT APPLYING FOR A GRADUATE DEGREE to get this organic pectin to work
Say “FUCK THIS SHIT” out loud and turn off your pot in disgust
Go to the store to get good ol’ easy dextrose Pectin, ask a store clerk to help you find it
Say “NO I DON’T WANT THAT ONE!” at too-loud a volume when the store clerk tries to give you the Homer’s Odyssey version of a Pectin that you bought earlier
Buy a Chipotle burrito on the way home
Watch an episode of Bones while eating your burrito, because even though there’s lots of murder and gore it’s very formulaic at its core and thus very soothing
Return with resolve to your languishing stew of golden plums and shunned brown sugar
Turn on the heat too high and scald it on the bottom of the pot many times
Swear prodigiously about how this pot sucks
Add 1 Tbsp of pectin so it thickens up
Add another T of pectin
Ask out loud: Does pectin even WORK?
Add 3 more T of pectin
Rejoice when jam seems to thicken
Attempt to assure yourself that jam is set by doing this complicated process where you put plates in the freezer and then put drops of jam on the cold plate and give it a second and then push it with your finger and the jam is supposed to do some elusive thing where it wrinkles I guess? But it never seems to do this even though the jam is visibly gelling so you’re like WTF is there another method that involves knowing FOR SURE that the jam is set without literally putting ALL YOUR PLATES in the freezer over the span of 30 minutes and then sticking your finger in it? I mean JESUS this shouldn’t be so hard.
Decide that, set or no set, you are done with this jam
Pour about 2 cups of Bourbon whiskey into the jam
Stir it around a bit
Take a tiny sip of Whiskey, visibly blanch and think “I can’t believe I used to drink this stuff”
Turn off heat, pour jam into a blender, blend a bit to make smooth
Pour jam into waiting mason jars that you’ve sanitized in the dishwasher, that are now colder than they should be because the jam-making took too long and the steam all escaped from the dishwasher
Put on lids, rings, whatever, then put in a water bath, blah blah blah when it boils, set a timer for 15 minutes, ugh, you are so over this
Take ‘em out after 15 minutes and put them on a cooling rack
With the rage-power of your eyeballs, will the cans to make that “popping” sound to ensure that this devil’s jam has effectively been preserved in its new can-homes
As you’re cleaning up a kitchen where it looks like a murder has taken place, take a taste of the jam that’s left in the blender and go HOLY SHIT WHAT??? THAT’S GREAT! HOW!??
Believe in miracles again and go to bed happy
Still have stress-dreams where you’re substitute teaching again to kids who won’t listen to you. Wake up tired. But at least you have jam.
In conclusion, if there’s a universal symbol for 2020, I think it might be the shrug. We’re doing everything we can to cope, but at the end of the day the most helpful thing is to just exercise what agency we have and stare blandly and unbothered-ly at the dumpster fires we can’t control.
Or, like the wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert wisely said:
So let go of that anxiety, my friends. And get Stress-Canning™.
Love you more than booze-jam,
P.S. I want to hear: what are YOUR versions of Stress-Canning™ that are helping you decompress and cope? Sometimes even saying these things out loud can give us a sense of agency and peace!
P.P.S Friendly reminder that Friday’s ANNIEGRAM is absolutely free, but you DO have the option to subscribe to support my writing! (Annnnnd I have a super special ANNIEGRAM coming for paid subscribers SOON! So get on that list, y’all.)
THREE GOOD THINGS
Sufjan Stevens has a new song and music video and it’ll make you want to do the robot.
Here is the actual (pretty simple) golden plum jam recipe I used (with, uh, many many many modifications, obviously) for the base of all my many wild golden plum jam experiments.
I’ve been re-reading and loving Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances this summer. This one is one of my faves. They are set in the mid 1700s-to early 1800s of high society England, the writing is witty and the characters are so fun, it’s juuuuuust light enough to feel enjoyable but not frippery, and Georgette was a verifiable bad-ass who didn’t take her husband’s last name, refused to grant interviews, and was basically a non-greedy businesswoman who didn’t give AF about playing the publishing game.