Every time I’m in a bookstore, I always try to find a minute to peruse the self-help selection, specifically for the titles. Rows and rows of clever little quips about how to not “sweat the small stuff,” promising a more happy, healthy lifestyle, one that is devoid of stress and anger. What a happy little bubble of hope.
I’m not knocking self-help books. I think they’re great. I’ve just learned, over my many years on this earth (hah), that a stress-free life is as elusive as a laser pointer light is to a cat. Chase it for as long as you want, you’re never gonna catch it. So, while I’ve certainly tried my fair share of deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, and happiness journals, I have found two things that work exceptionally well when life becomes an overwhelming, suffocating mess: watching epic movies and baking cupcakes.
This is where I found myself yesterday. After the past week of job hunting, last minute wedding details for my sister’s upcoming nuptials (still haven’t written that maid of honor speech. Two weeks. No worries.), re-acclimating to home, and talking to my ex for the first time since the break up ( maybe more on that at a later date), I fell back on that tried and true ritual.
Let me explain. First, why epic movies? And what exactly do I mean when I say “epic movies?” I’m talking specifically about any movie where the protagonist is dealing with larger than life situations- superhero movies tend to work really well. As do fantasy adventure films. This time, it was Lord of the Rings. For some reason, watching Frodo Baggins deal with the fact that he has to find a way to destroy the ring of power, all while fighting off pretty much every other creature in Middle Earth AND his own desire for the ring makes my little issues seem entirely manageable. Pleasant, even.
As for baking cupcakes, I discovered this trick senior year of high school. I remember specifically the day it clicked for me. I was waiting for my honors trigonometry study group to come over, and decided to pass the time by making snacks for what promised to be a thoroughly miserable evening. I had never made a cake from scratch before, so I thought, “Why not?” It was not the best thing I’ve ever tasted, but it lit a fire. After that, I turned to baking whenever everything else seemed like too much to handle. Something about following the instructions, deviating a little when inspiration kicks in, and having something perfectly delicious and sinful come out of it all is incredibly appealing. Especially with cupcakes, where you get 12 chances to make them look amazing (I love decorating. That whole saying about eating with your eyes before you eat with your mouth? Totally true). Yesterday, it was homemade chocolate cupcakes with mint marshmallow frosting.
After all was said and done, the combination did the trick. I felt perfectly at peace with the universe, ready to deal with everything it put in my path, AND I got to eat these incredibly tasty cupcakes while finishing the movie. Self-help books ain’t got nothin’ on that.