Somewhere between North Korea threatening to nuke Guam and claiming to have a missile that could hit Los Angeles and San Francisco and Congress's 357th attempt to put a bullet in Obamacare leaving 32 million Americans without health insurance, I shut down.
My husband and I had just spent the summer binge-watching crime TV—every show, an extravaganza of ugliness. A cartel thug has his eye gouged out and plopped into a whiskey glass; a brilliant young scientist dies from asphyxiation after being stuffed into a suitcase; a kidnapping victim slowly freezes to death in a chest freezer; a young mom has a fireplace poker shoved up her vagina. People were blown up, bludgeoned, garroted and disemboweled in new and improved ways.
Then nature revolted and sent in rapid succession four hurricanes and several earthquakes breaking all world records. Sometime between ordering new earthquake supplies and potassium iodide tablets in case of a nuclear war, I crashed. I couldn't even open Facebook, my only connection to friends. If I had to look at one more disaster pic—especially ones of animals and children—I would run screaming into the night.
I needed an antidote to civilization.
I scoured Netflix and Amazon to find something to watch that wasn't a blood fest and found nothing. I tried to re-watch "Mad Men," one of my all-time faves, but stopped after three episodes. I hated everyone—they were mean—the lack of blood splatter now replaced by intense shittiness. If I wanted to experience that all I had to do was go grocery shopping. Battered and exhausted by the negativity that engulfed me, I couldn't even stomach a period drama with superb writing, gorgeous clothes and a gazillion Emmy Awards.
I needed to retreat, to be soothed and comforted. I needed to surround myself with peace and harmony or I'd lose my freaking mind.
One afternoon, during a meditation, "The Great British Baking Show" floated into my consciousness. I love to bake and a few years ago I'd found a way to watch all seven seasons on the BBC. You'd think watching bread rise would match watching paint dry in entertainment value yet the show was off the charts in Britain.
I needed to see it again.
Curled up in bed, I binge-watched the first season—now on Netflix—the first day of what I now call my recovery. The gleaming white tent where the bakers competed was nestled into the rolling green hills of a Queen Anne hotel in Berkshire. It looked like something out of the English fairytales and nursery rhymes I loved as a kid. Black lambs frolicked in the sun on daffodil-dotted fields. Inside the tent, a group of ordinary people with extraordinary baking skills whipped together Swiss rolls, petit fours, three-tier meat pies, frangipane tarts, extravagant bread sculptures and exotic European delicacies I had no idea existed. These people were in competition with one another, yet had no problem stepping in to help prop up a competitor's drooping sponge cake or lopsided meringue.
At the end of every episode, someone had to leave, and when that person was announced, he or she was engulfed in a love cocoon so genuine it made me cry. These nurses, builders, doctors, teachers, students, plumbers, moms and engineers weren't there to kick ass, annihilate the competition or to kill it. They weren't there for the money either—because there was none. The grand prize was an engraved glass cake stand, a bouquet of wildflowers and bragging rights as the best amateur baker in the kingdom.
I'm still watching "The Great British Baking Show," only more slowly now because I want to make it last. I feel better—happier, lighter. There is so much in life we can't control, but there is goodness in the world. And you'll find it in the most surprising places. All you have to do is stop and smell the baguettes.