“I am overwhelmed.” It’s a sentence that’s been floating in and out of my consciousness a lot lately. I hear it, clearly, in my own voice, echoing in the windy rush of everything going on in my head. Scrambling at work to hold on to every last balloon string; churning at home to keep up with chores and groceries; bouncing through weekends from parties to game nights to family gatherings to dinners out. “I am overwhelmed.”
I’m not a high-energy person. I’m a deliberate thinker, a night owl, a long sleeper. So I don’t feed off of this kind of stuff. It grinds me down. I’m not really sure what to do about it, since I can’t give in to the urge to lock the door, turn off my phone, and hibernate for a week. So I’m trying to find and open my release valves, and manufacture projects for myself that will let out some of the steam. More and more, I’m realizing that jam-making is one of those valves for me.
A few weeks ago, my neighbor Jess and I got together after work for a Monday night canning session. I had a big haul of apricots from a friend’s tree, so ripe and ready that they were disintegrating in the bag. We threw them in a pot with a whole lotta sugar and some lemon juice, and cooked them down into a chunky, spreadable goo. Then we threw some jars in the oven, boiled some lids and rings, and processed everything a jar or two at a time in my little mini-canning pot. No flash, no fuss, no extra herbs or spices or tea leaves or booze; apricot jam doesn’t need any of that. It’s absolutely incredible when it’s simple like this, treacle-sweet and fragrant, cheerful and familiar. It’s an old-fashioned food, apricot jam, and that stodginess seems to suit me right now.
At one point while transferring jars in and out of the hot water, I snapped my tongs closed on my finger. The next day I had an irregular reddish bruise that engulfed most of my fingertip. It was tender but not painful, and I could look at it for several days as a reminder that “I am overwhelmed” doesn’t need to be my default state. There are still a lot of balloon strings to hold onto, a lot of chores, a lot of social obligations, but sometimes it’s necessary to shut all that out and just make something good to eat.