When Self-Care Looks Like Work

I have to can those peaches tonight, I tell my husband at 8:30 pm.

Can it wait until tomorrow? he asks.

No, I think they’ll be past the canning stage by then. 

And so I begin. This involves a multitude of steps that start with cleaning up the dinner dishes and then establishing a canning production line that would make Henry Ford proud. By 9:30 pm I’ve got water boiling, ice water waiting, jars sanitizing, peaches skinned and deskinned and juice dripping down my elbows. It’s a hot, sticky, expensive mess and I don’t care. 

As an adoptive mom to two teenage girls, my life is rich with blessings and complications as we help them work through their adolescence and trauma histories. Why would I add more work to my plate?

It’s my self-care.  No, seriously.

The mental work of canning, all the planning, the collecting of ingredients and supplies, the closely following all the steps, keeps me focused.

The physical work, the lifting heavy pots, the standing over a hot stove, the cleaning and cutting of fruit, releases endorphins.

The sensory work, the smell of the food, the feel of it in my hands, the jingle of the lid and the spit of the boiling water calm me.

But more significantly, canning grounds me. It connects me to previous generations who had to can to provide for their families through the winter months. I don’t have to can food, but I, too, am responsible for providing my family’s nourishment. 

Canning is also forward looking. Knowing I have some food prepared and ready for my family in the coming months, is a sense of satisfaction and comfort. 

Canning gives me an escape from our technological world. It’s comforting knowing that the steps I’m taking to can peaches are the same steps that have been followed for generations, and don’t require an internet connection.

Because we had enjoyed a fair share of the peaches before I started canning, I only had enough left over to fill 4 quarts. When the processing time was over, I lifted the lid to see one of the quarts mysteriously bobbing on the top of the water like a buoy. The bottom of the jar had cracked during the processing, the liquid spilled out into the canning water, and was replaced by air.

Two and a half hours of work for 3 quarts of peaches. Yep, worth every minute.