Loyalty. We use this word in terms of friends, family, country, even jobs but rarely do we use it in terms of self. It goes along with duty and honour, respect and love. As a girl guide I remember promising to do “my duty to God, the Queen and my country”. Our Southern neighbours pledge allegiance to a flag while we, as Canadians, stand on guard for our "home and native land". But who stands for us? To whom, if not ourselves, should we be most loyal?
I just finished Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. It is an excellent read and, as most good books do, got me reflecting upon different aspects of my life. Although this is not a new hobby, I am nothing if not a belly button gazer, Mercier’s words brought this question of loyalty to light.
[Loyalty is] not a feeling… but a will, a decision, a partisanship of the soul. … The duty not to run away from yourself. Neither in idea nor in fact. The willingness to stand for yourself even if you do not like yourself.
But this thought will have to wait, time to start the bread process. I want to add sprouted Kamut kernels to this new batch so I start the process today for bread that I will make in two days.
Day One: Soak a cup of kernels in water for 8 hours or so. After soaking, rinse and spread onto a damp dishtowel. Do not layer the kernels too thick, maybe four at the most. Cover with the second half of the towel, sprinkle with water and let sit at room temperature for a day and a half. The important thing is to keep the kernels moist but not too moist in that they mold. On that note, do not put them in too warm of a place, but not too cold either. In other words, a place where Goldilocks would be most content. Eight hours before I estimate my sprouts to be ready, I will replenish my starter.
Okay, back to loyalty: A few days ago I met up with an old acquaintance. I hadn’t seen this person in several years. Back then the relationship had been unequal and my decision to split a reflection of a fierce need for self care. I planned this meeting for several reasons but underlying each was an agenda: I wanted to show how much I had grown; that my need for this person’s approval had diminished and that I was thoroughly my own person. It almost panned out.
I won’t go into detail but the meeting ended just in time for my self-recriminations to begin. My centred state of being; my “matured” self and sense of containment couldn’t last the full encounter. The old way of being leaked through the last half of our time together and my inner critic stepped in to strip me bare. On the way home I flayed myself with alternating lashes of self pitying regret and piercing anger then tried to self soothe by imagining another meeting where I would do it right. The reprove lasted twenty-four hours before the truth rang out and the warmth of my humanity returned.
Speaking of truth, something screwed up with the bread starter I replenished this morning. With good plans to make bread now, this evening as I write this mini melodrama, I find she hasn’t risen. At best she looks like a barely fluffed pillow. Not enough. So, I push my bread making plans forward, re-knead and set the starter aside overnight. Meanwhile, I check in on my kamut kernels. I guess starter and kernels signed a non-growth pact: they both needed more time to show their stuff. Hmmm, I guess that could also be said for me.
During that long day after my waylaid visit one could say that I abandoned myself. And, while I am certainly well aware of how that feels this time was different. I was keenly aware through most of it that I was doing myself a disservice; that my self-loyalty had faltered. It was like this calm voice wafting over waves of disillusionment inviting me to slow down, take it easy; be kind to myself. I pendulumed between the salve of this truth and floundering around in cold black waters but finally the swinging stopped. I gathered myself onto dry land, stood by my side, and took solace.
In respect for my process I reflected on what happened and why. I figured out what needed changing and what called for compassionate understanding; gave space for the sadness but also the joy in recovering so fast, and then finished up with a metaphoric hug. In short, I made the decision to get back into partnership with the person I should be most loyal to—me.
Day Three: My kamut kernels have sprouted a ¼” tail. I rinse and set aside. The starter has also grown to double its size with the re-knead and extra leavening time. I mix these ingredients with my usual pumpkin, sesame and flax seeds; millet; corn meal; oil and molasses, knead and set aside for the first rise (3 hours). The only problem is, due to last night’s delay, I won’t have time to bake today. Instead, about 90 minutes into the second rise, I’ll cover with plastic wrap and pop into the fridge for a slow, cold finish. Tomorrow, I bake.
Personal growth, the long journey back home as it were, takes times. And, like my starter and nascent sprouts, sometimes that timing doesn’t follow a preset schedule. We get stymied in our progress and frustrated at seemingly child-like regressions; we find ourselves embarrassed and even in pain. What alleviates these deviations—these detours along the road—is a loyalty to self. As Mercier writes, self loyalty is “the willingness to stand for yourself even if you do not like yourself.”
And that, I believe, is how we know we have come home.
And that, I believe, is how we know we have come home.
For previous Bread Chronicles, scroll down to the introduction on October 5, The Ferment.