homemade pumpkin coconut bread (gluten-free)

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You’re tired of telling people, I’m fine because it’s what you know they want to hear. Everyone wants the triumph story, the happily ever after, the girl did good, but what if the girl did okay and life is a little bit better than what it was and the sun shines bright on your face but sometimes you go through days where the idea of getting out of bed is inconceivable and the only thing that makes you laugh is seeing a coffin emoji on your phone. You start to think about what it would be like if you weren’t here. You start to feel calm on a plane because maybe the drugs you took kicked in or maybe who cares. But you have to be okay because you have this blog and these social channels and people read them and then some take joy in your sadness, others call or text some perfunctory notes of concern of which they hope are solved by a string of random words on a screen, but most stop calling, and then you realize that sadness doesn’t get you project work or emails returned. Sadness is the ultimate repellent–it’s the one thing no one wants to be tethered to. What happens when the girl who solves all your problems has problems of her own? What if you know you’re privileged to have this life and some days are extraordinary, but then other days are so fucking dark that your fall feels bottomless, unrelenting and unending.

You write dark stories so easily because you know what it feels like to choke above water. You literally do not know how to write a happy ending because you can’t imagine what that must feel like.

An acquaintance writes you and tells you that she can tell from your pictures that you’re happy. I just wanted to say… she writes, and you don’t want to break her heart, you don’t want to ruin the image she has of your perfect life, so you reply while you’re boarding a plane. You say you’re so! happy! and then you cry in the bathroom. Through your tears you see that The Honest Company is providing all of the cleansing products on today’s flight!, and for some reason this makes you want to cry some more. A man sits two seats away from you and you both share an empty aisle seat. Win! At one point, he removes his headphones and you can feel him studying you, and he taps you on the arm, leans back, and asks if you’re okay. You don’t notice that you’ve been typing and crying at the same time and you wipe away a tear and say, yeah, I just can’t seem to get this story right. He looks uncomfortable and the only thing you know to do is laugh and say, No, really. I’m okay.

Felicia, how are you an introvert? You’re so chatty! This makes you want to break things.

When you are small, really small, a teacher pulls you aside because sometimes your eyes frighten her. You’re too young to know this kind of sadness, she says. You shrug your shoulders. Years later, you talk about your childhood in a way that makes one think you’ve flatlined and your voice is a kind of rigor mortis, and then your therapist cries and you ask her, laughing, why are you crying? Because this is all too much, this is all so sad, and you don’t look as if you can feel anything. Again, your shrug, because what is crying going to accomplish when you’ve got a job to go back to, $100K+ in student loans to pay off, a reading series to book, and everyone, everyone wants you achieved and happy.

You look up the symptoms of depression because you’re prone to self-diagnosis (how many times did you think you had cancer?) and you say that’s me to every question. But then you remember all those years with doctors, therapists and psychologists and no, you’re not depressed. You just have this problem with drinking. You just like it a little too much.

If we isolate the problem. If the problem were to be contained. If you were to abstain. If you were to take it one day at a time. If you were to say, today, I will not drink. If you were to create diversions. Happy! Things! Things that occupy your time and replace the hours that alcohol took away. You start to think you’re a walking epidemic.

This year your mother dies and it’s complicated (complicated), everyone loves your writing but they don’t want to publish it, you date but no one holds your interest and you don’t even tell your friends you went on dates because why bother? One of your closest friends, a woman who you’ve known for ten years, a woman you love and leaned on during those two months you relapsed, the first time you drank in nine years (she drove you to the animal shelter and helped you find Felix!), and she disappears when she learns you’re moving to California. She doesn’t respond to your emails, your calls, your voice messages, your texts. She doesn’t respond when you tell her that she is killing you, that her absence is breaking your heart.

You write: you are breaking my fucking heart. You thought she was the one person who wouldn’t pull this shit, but she does, and then you start to view your friendships through the lens of limited time only.

You have a friend and you like her, you’ve known her for years, but she sucks the air right out of you. You move to another state, across the country, and there is so much you’re dealing with, alone, and this friend sends you text messages using your grief, the grief with which you refuse to burden people, as a vehicle to talk about her life. You think, are you fucking kidding me? You are alone to deal with your sadness and then you have to shoulder the burden of others? Please stop. Please stop speaking.

You re-read the stories you just wrote and you hate them because you feel as if you’re holding something back from your writing, the that being this, what you write here now, and you know how to write around it, above and below it, but you’re not at the place where you can write through it because you’re in it and sometimes you feel you’re treading water in the middle of the ocean.

One year, you swam to one edge of a sixteen-foot pool to the other. You rose, triumphant. Now, you don’t swim at all. The ocean is inside you and on the plane, when they talk about life vests, you’re the only one in the aisle who burst out laughing. It takes you until today to realize that a piece of plastic won’t save you from the ocean.

And yes, for everyone who wants their discomfort assuaged after reading this, don’t worry, you’re going to “take care” of this. Never fear, Humpty Dumpty will be put back together again.

So you bake and keep nodding because people tell you that you need to occupy your hands, your head.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen
1 cup gluten-free flour
1 cup brown rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups pumpkin or squash puree (1 15oz can/package)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp almond or soy milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup large, unsweetened coconut flakes

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350′ and lightly oil a loaf pan, lining it with parchment for a cleaner removal.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flours, salt, cinnamon, baking powder. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: pumpkin/squash puree, olive oil, almond milk, vanilla, egg and maple syrup. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold until just combined. Fold in the coconut flakes. Spread the batter evenly into the pan (it’ll be thick, so use a spatula to get it nice and even). Bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes before removing the loaf and allow to cool for another 15 minutes. Note that the loaf has less of a crumb (because of the lack of gluten), but it’s still delicious.

This is extraordinary served with warm butter or fresh preserves (I love preserves since the bread is not as sweet as what I might be used to and I’m cool with that).

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8 thoughts on “homemade pumpkin coconut bread (gluten-free)

  1. This is so beautiful and real. You put into words so poignantly everything that I have once felt. I thank you so much for sharing. Moving across the country in and of itself is a huge shift and probably a time of major self-reflection. You’re a rockstar- keep writing!

    Ps- Going to make this yummy bread!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re right. Many people are uncomfortable with the opposite of “fine”.

    They are also uncomfortable if you say you’re lonely despite having a ton of friends/people around you.

    I don’t know why this is. We’re adults. Life is complicated.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I get this. Very well.

    I started seeing a therapist last year (first time – what took me so long?) to find out/explore why I was so sad/unhappy. I told her of my rare eye disease and how it makes me feel lonely; how people ask me how I am, then change the subject when I start to use the words vision-loss or eye-surgery (“You’re not better yeeeeet,” one person said to me today. Anyway, the therapist told me: “People don’t care. You are lucky to have two people who really care about you and the rest just don’t.” Harsh words but I understood what she meant.

    Felicia, it seems that you are one of the people in life who care about other people and so it really stings when those people in your life 1) don’t see you as the help-me person anymore and 2) when they really kinda don’t care about you with the same intensity that you do.

    So what’s the choice? Become hardened/disassociated/selfish like them or just be you, a thinking/caring person? I’d still rather be the thinking/caring person who sad, because I FEEL. I’d rather feel than not. You’re feeling big time now. It will pass (corny cliches sometimes are true). Keep letting it out. As someone who used to cry on the subway from time to time, I GET IT. XX

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I relate to this post so so much, more than I can put into words. Besides depression I’ve sadly experienced first hand, with a couple of friendships I cherished (and had to end), what happens when I take off the “I’m fine’ mask and allow myself to be vulnerable, to let them know of my pain, even that I need them. It’s unfortunate that others’ pain makes people so uneasy, that people you love can disappoint without warning. It leaves you feeling so raw. And you’re left with trying to salvage what remains of your heart – while living, climbing, crying, cursing your way through the ‘everydayness’ of life without self destructing – as it heals (whenever, if ever, that happens).

    I won’t tell you things will get better, to cheer up, to just think on positive things – though I wish you nothing but the best of course. It crushes me when people tell me those things when I’m in the midst of feeling down or having my heart broken regardless of how well meaning their intentions.

    I will say what I wish someone would tell me: I may not understand everything you’re going through but I hear you. It sucks, and I’m sorry you’re having to go through it.

    Thank you so much for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Courtney,

      Thank you for laying yourself so bare in this space. thank you, so much, for your kindness.

      My friend Amber and I were talking about this today–how we feel as if we have to package our sadness, contain it, because people can’t manage beyond the extract. They want to deliver the bare minimum so they can cash out on your kindness later. It’s as if many have a certain amount of reserves and they’ve saved them for few people and invariably, we end up not being those people. It’s this weird conundrum where people tell you they care and want to genuinely help but can’t handle what they hear.

      And I know the limitations of friendship. I would never expect the people in my life to serve as trained professionals. I’m actually looking for nothing other for people to listen without wincing. Listening without changing the subject. People who can stay the course.

      find those people, sadly, is hard.

      Warmly, f.

      Like

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