Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Over and over again

The other side of un-done things is the do-over-and-over-again things. In fact, it’s the do-over-and-over-again things that get in the way of finishing the un-done things. And when you finally get the un-done things done, you can’t rejoice … because there are plenty of do-over-and-over-again things waiting. Always.

Some do-over-and-over-again things do not inspire resentment, but a whole lot do. Maybe frequency has to do with it. While cooking dinner may inspire resentment, cooking Thanksgiving dinner does not. I prepare the same breakfast every single morning (my pumpkin flax granola with raisins and milk), and I still enjoy it, so maybe it also has to do with the ease of doing it. I make my bed every single morning, but I read somewhere that it’s a tiny job with a big impact – making your house look put together – and that’s true, so it feels good.

I really like doing laundry. Just not mountains of it when I’m not in the mood. But mostly, I’m in the mood for laundry, for the sense of transformation it gives me: dirty things become clean (and stay that way for a while). For the sense of order I get as I separate whites from dark colors from shirts. For the sense of pride I get because I can remove any and every kind of stain. In fact, if I am in a slump, I elect to do laundry. But laundry is not an everyday thing.

Neither is cleaning the bathroom, but I never elect to clean the bathroom. I do it because people are coming over. Then, once I do it, I again marvel at how it really doesn’t take as much time as my dread expects. And then, it looks gorgeous. Until someone gets his toothpaste on the mirror and it moves into do-over-and-over-again status.

Cooking dinner is every day. You cook, you eat, you have to cook again tomorrow. Tim and I (sort of) rotate cooking responsibility, but now that he’s working on moldings and stairs – his big project – I feel like I need to do cooking. Once I concluded that household chores tended to fall along gender lines: men got the kind of projects that yielded great satisfaction in their accomplishment, and women got the do-over-and-over-again jobs. But I guess mowing the lawn isn’t a big crowd pleaser either, and choosing new window treatments or painting a room could satisfy.

The thing is, I don’t think I had a problem with do-over-and-over-again things in the workplace. Yes, I had the same monthly report every month, the same newsletter every other month. But those things had significance, some social impact. They felt larger than mere maintenance of personal survival.

Cooking dinner is mere maintenance of personal survival. I’m trying to reframe this: “Cooking dinner is my way of caring about our well-being; I’m preparing interesting and nutritious food for us.” Dream on! Cooking dinner is a schlep of choosing menus, making lists, going shopping, cooking, watching it disappear as it gets eaten, and then having to do the whole thing over again. And over again. And yet again.
Lately, I’ve been picking recipes from my collection of torn-out magazine pages so the tastes have been terrific. I’ve experimented with equipment (the spiralizer, the pressure cooker), with ingredients (bourbon, Arborio rice, shallots), and with cleverness (lining the muffin tin with sweet potato ribbons to make a crust for individual quiches). I bought new knives that I love.

No matter; cooking dinner is still a do-over-and-over-again job.

As I think about it now, when over-and-over-again becomes too dispiriting in the workplace or volunteer life – even in recreation and leisure – I can stop. I can unemploy myself, pass on the volunteer baton, take up a new pastime.

But I have to eat dinner, and yogurt won’t cut it every night. Neither will eating out, bringing in, or eating processed.

Tonight I made such a delicious meal, everyone polished it off. Licked the plates clean. And what am I thinking? “Nuts, now there aren’t even any leftovers. I’ll have to cook again.” Forever. For my whole Third Third. Over and over again.

1 comment:

  1. Probably the worst do over chore (IMO) are the dishes. Hands down, no contest.
    Love that you're making wonderful meals for your family. I'm inspired!


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