Boredom to Baking. Bananas?

Never in my life have I ever been completely and utterly bored. Never have I been unable to find something to do. There were always projects to work on. Tasks to be finished. Books to read. Piano to practice. Children in need of the Mom Taxi before the empty-nest years. Household chores. Church and community activities. Idle time? Didn’t even know what it was. Not that I can recall anyway.

Until now.

A few years back, during my Fly Girl days working as a flight attendant, I was furloughed for an extended period of time. When I received the notice, along with several hundred other low-seniority flight attendants, I was excited! Yes, I was concerned about losing my paycheck but thankfully I was promised unemployment benefits to compensate for part of my income. But the overriding thought at that moment was FREE TIME!!! Time to do all those things I never had the time or energy to do while working full time.

I have to give credit to Indiana Joe. Because he was willing to support me during this time, I did not have to look for a job to fill the months before I would be called back to the airline. Without my salary things were tight, but bless him for understanding what this period of unscheduled time meant to me and allowing me the freedom to embrace it.

And so I viewed the lay-off as a blessing. And it was. I was off work for about 18 months and I can’t recall a day when I did not look forward to getting out of bed and getting on with my day. I gardened. I crafted. I read some of the books in my “I’ll get to it someday” stack. I finished some of the projects on my “I’ll get to it someday” list. I started new projects. I home-improved. I exercised. I lunched and brunched and Happy Hour-ed with friends. What a time it was, having the free time to just do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it.

But never, even on days when nothing else appealed to me, did I find myself in my kitchen doing non-essential cooking or baking. I am not a cook. I don’t like to cook. I don’t like to bake or grill or sauté or roast. I DO like to eat. But I do not like to cook. Never have. I can cook. I just choose not to as often as possible. When my kids were small, I cooked for them. But only because it’s illegal to starve your children.

Three years ago, we moved to Bahrain for Indiana Joe’s job. Dinner time in Bahrain, was glorious! Every restaurant delivered. Within 15 minutes. Hot and fresh and to your door. A wonderful variety of food from all over the globe. And it was cheap! Our biggest decision at the end of the day was Indian, or Thai, or Lebanese, or Iranian, or American, or Asian-Fusion, or Filipino, or just a schwarma from the guy on the corner.

This year we’re in the UAE. Since being here, I’ve had to cook more often. We’re not conveniently located to restaurants for delivery and eating out is expensive. And so I cook most nights. Thankfully my husband is not a “meat and potatoes” guy or a picky eater. He happily eats whatever I put in front of him most of the time.

When we moved to Bahrain, I was also hired to teach at my husband’s school and did my best to do a job for which I had no training and no formal education. I did it for two years. And it was hard! My stress level was pretty high during those two years but with Indiana Joe’s encouragement, I got through it. With Indiana Joe’s pay increase in moving to the UAE, we were in a position where I would not have to work. Yay!

I was thrilled at the thought. A whole ten months of unscheduled, unplanned, uninterrupted time to do whatever I wanted to do. Ah, what freedom! Ah, what optimism. Aaaaah…errr…ummmm…              Ooooh boy, yeah. Let’s really look at that for a moment.

Remember all those projects and tasks? Well, there were plenty of those. And I still had lots of “I’ll get to it someday” lists and stacks. Unfortunately, all those things are back in Indiana. At my house. Half a globe away. How would I occupy myself here? No garden. No yard. Books, check. No crafts. No piano. Household chores, check…for about 2 hours a week in my tiny flat. No lunching or brunching because most of the people I’ve met are teachers so they aren’t available during the day. Hmmmmm….         What to do now?

And so I took a class. I decided on an online program to get certified to teach English as a Foreign Language. It was interesting and challenging, but still it did not fill up my days. I’m glad I got the credential though – it’ll come in handy someday. I think. Continuing education is always a good thing.  So now what?

Shopping is the primary pastime in the Middle East. Families go to the malls for recreation and spend the entire day there. I’m so not a mall rat! I don’t think I even went to my hometown mall except maybe once or twice in the last five years I lived there. I get my necessities mainly at the everything-under-one-roof stores and since finding the local versions of those here, I can do my weekly shopping in about an hour. Okay, another hour filled, check. Now what?

This week happens to be Spring Break here in the UAE and all the schools are closed and many families have gone on holiday somewhere else. Indiana Joe and I had decided we would stay local and do some day trips to the other six Emirates and to Oman. We’re saving our dirhams for a big family get-together in July. Unfortunately, due to the passing of a beloved aunt back in the States, it ended up that Indiana Joe traveled back to the US for the funeral.

And so I find myself sitting in my flat. Not too different from every other day, except without the anticipation of my husband’s arrival at the end of his work day. So no outside contact. Don’t get me wrong – I have the World Wide Web at my fingertips and plenty of downloaded movies and TV shows saved up to watch. And books. But nothing interactive with human beings. I could go to the mall…see above…yuck. I could go to lunch or brunch or dinner with someone…oh wait, they’re all traveling because they’re on Spring Break. I could go to a museum or something…not much fun without Indiana Joe. And simply leaving the house means sharing the roads with UAE drivers. I don’t drive much here. Emiratis don’t play well with others on the roads. It’s seriously life-threatening to be out there with them. But more on that another time.

So yeah, enough whining. I’m alone for 10 days. I’m bored. I’m hungry…

I’m gonna bake. Yes, bake. Now that’s bored! Making a quick inventory of my kitchen, I decide to make banana bread with the remaining three sad-looking bananas from last week’s grocery trip. I have whole wheat flour. And I have Hershey’s cocoa. Chocolate banana bread? Yes! And so searching my favorite recipe book – the internet – I find a recipe for Whole Wheat Reduced-Fat Chocolate Banana Bread (thanks to Rachel of rachelcooks.com). And I actually have all of the necessary ingredients, so no substituting required for a change! It’s karma, I tell you.

picture of chocolate banana bread
My bread tastes yummy but it didn’t turn out as pretty as Rachel’s, so I’m using her picture. Thanks, Rachel!

I made the bread. The recipe says it’s the perfect way to start my morning. And that it tastes great with coffee. Turns out, it’s also the perfect way to end my evening of watching chick flicks while the hubby is away. And it does indeed taste great with coffee…and coffee with Baileys.

Moral of this story: There is no such thing as being too bored. You can always find something to do. Baking is something to do. Baking yields comfort food. Comfort food is  good when you’re bored.

Personal Ah-ha! Moment: I need some busy-ness in my life. Not to the point of over-scheduled exhaustion which I’ve been very guilty of in the past. But I am simply not “me” without meaningful, purposeful, soul-enriching activities to help fill my days…

I still don’t like to cook.

Rachel’s recipe can be found here.

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