Archives for posts with tag: life in the time of pandemic

Generally speaking, it makes a lot of sense to cook from the recipe, particularly considering I am neither a trained cook or chef, nor am I an amazing natural talent in the kitchen. I’m just a person cooking food. 🙂 The traditions of my family’s kitchens are not astonishing. They are a fairly commonplace hodge-podge of German, English, French, Slavic, and Mediterranean cuisines, with hints of flavors borrowed elsewhere. Ordinary “American food”. I was fortunate to be exposed to more foreign flavors and food experiences through my military service, and family members who traveled the world in their own endeavors. I enjoy food. I’m less of a fan of kitchen work (chopping, preparing, measuring, cleaning up, doing dishes), but… if I don’t cook, I have far fewer choices of what foods go into my mouth!

…If I want to reproduce a food, meal, or flavor I fancy, I pretty much have to follow the recipe with care, though, is my point…

“Follow the recipe” sounds rather a lot like “follow instructions”. There is, for sure, a time and place where/when not following instructions may be the wiser course, but let’s be real; those times/places are by far the exception. In general, it makes sense to follow directions, instructions, recipes, how-to guides, care manuals, safety warnings… all of that.

I had a powerful lesson in following the recipe over the holiday weekend – and it was tasty and delightful. I (re)learned how to make scrambled eggs (that are actually worth eating)! Doesn’t sound that exciting, I’m sure. It was delicious (but now I can’t say I don’t like eggs). I also (re)learned to make really good waffles. So much yum. 😀 Super delicious, and I got there by reading with care (in this instance equivalent to listening deeply), following the recipe, and practice. Totally worth it!

…Then, I ruined the wire whisk for my Kitchen Aid mixer by throwing it into the dishwasher carelessly (acting on the recollection that it is dishwasher safe – it isn’t – from a much older model that had an all-stainless whisk attachment – that still had care instructions, by the way, that said “hand wash only”). Well, shit. Harsh reminder that “rules is rules”, and in some cases (often with safety instructions or care instructions), those rules are there for a legitimately good reason. In this case, the dishwasher efficiently removed the coating from the zinc-containing base metal of the attachment’s hub (the wires themselves are still stainless), creating a safety/health concern, and also just generally an icky inky mess any time I touch that whisk.

I woke to a polite note from my Traveling Partner, who had emptied the dishwasher this morning. It included a frowny face, and a reminder that he’d specifically reminded me not to put these accessories in the dishwasher, and asking me to toss the ruined accessory and order a new one. Fuuuuuuuuuck. Damn it. Shit. I’m annoyed with myself. Learning new shit sometimes means unlearning old shit – and guess which one of those things does not come naturally to me?? (If you guessed that I may have some challenges unlearning habitual behaviors, you are correct!)

Follow the recipe. Yes, maybe you have a tweak in mind that could be really good… I’m not saying don’t explore or adventure, just noticing how much more successful I tend to be, in a great many circumstances, when I follow recipes – whether those are recipes for waffles or recipes for success is not relevant here. Recipes. Instructions. Warnings. Care guides. RTFM. Even I know that. Here’s the thing; I’m learning that there are elements of recipes one can adjust more or less to preference or with wild abandon… and others that can’t be adjusted without wrecking the result. Some substitutions work. Some don’t. Some changes affect flavor. Some changes don’t. Some changes result in the chemistry of the recipe breaking down completely (go ahead, leave out all the eggs, cheese, proteins and starches from your “casserole” – let me know how that one goes). So. There’s that. One more challenging bit of skillful adulthood to tackle. LOL

…Note: there’s really no version of “changing the recipe” that applies comfortably to actual safety instructions. Just saying, be safe.

So, this morning I’m sipping my coffee and shopping for a replacement wire whisk, and feeling grateful to have a partner who is fairly patient with me day-to-day, and feeling grateful to have reached this place where I am also patient with myself. There’s a ton of practice involved in changing old habits or frankly-less-than-ideal behavior. My results vary. I definitely have to begin again, like, a bunch. It is a process.

Heading into the new year, I’m not even upset over it, just mildly frustrated, a bit disappointed with myself, and eager to begin again. 🙂

The cycle of holidays and seasons continues. I woke hoping to catch a glimpse of the Morning Star this morning (or, perhaps, this evening)… but no, it’s the Pacific Northwest, and the morning is cloudy, wet, and gray. No stars this morning. 🙂

Winter Solstice at home, 2020, the year of pandemic.

Yesterday’s flood waters have already receded. The morning is balmy and feels strangely mild after a day of chill winds and pounding rain. It’s the Winter Solstice (and, I hope, a merry one for you). I am smiling and eager, sipping my second coffee. I’ve planned a day’s painting, a way of celebrating, of meditating, of committing this day to memory. It’s special; I’m here, at home. 🙂

My Traveling Partner gave me some amazing gifts for Yule, and I opened them yesterday evening at his request; new paint, new brushes – and my lasting joy in this partnership reinforced, yet again, by his consideration. 🙂 I’m feeling very loved. I’m eager to get to work on new canvases, in this new studio.

I think a point I am making is that dates on calendars come and go. What lingers is the joy we take from the precious moments we share – when we allow those to be the details central to our thinking, and our recollections. (I mean… there are other choices.) What we commit to memory, and those details we regularly revisit, become the defining details of who we find ourselves to be, and how we see life, generally. Joy is not exclusive to any particular holiday – or any particular moment. I try to find my joy everywhere I can.

…This morning I am spectacularly joyful, on the order of an excited child…

I smile and sip my coffee. The euphoria of this one moment will fade. Perhaps even the rich cherished memory of it will also fade, with time. Hell, with the passage of time I may forget which particular gifting holiday resulted in my having these exquisite brushes. I have this moment, here, now, though, and I have this joy to cherish. It’s enough. 🙂

The morning sunshine breaks through the clouds. Perhaps a sunny day ahead? This studio has very good light on sunny days… I think it’s already time to begin again. 🙂

Merry Solstice, Humans. Here’s hoping we each find such joy as will sustain us through our darkest times, and my best and fondest wishes that we don’t need to use it that way, at all. 🙂

Sipping coffee and counting down the days to Giftmas. 🙂 I remind myself that the holiday season, and this life with my Traveling Partner, are by far more significant, more meaningful, and more valued than this physical pain I am in. My partner called me on it before I was half finished with my coffee. First thing on a Saturday morning, and I am so visibly obviously uncomfortable that I am uncomfortable to be around. Well, shit. I take my coffee with me on my way to my studio, consider my pain management choices on the way, and get to work on managing what I can manage, and letting go of what I can’t. My results may vary; I know to expect that, too.

…Good cup of coffee, though, and a pleasant Saturday morning on which to enjoy it. 🙂

I think about the upcoming holidays, and smile to myself. Winter Solstice, then Giftmas, then New Year’s Eve and day… then, it’s a whole new year unfolding ahead, and back to the grind. 🙂 No idea what the new year may hold. I didn’t expect this one, just now ending, held a pandemic – or a home purchase. Life is filled with surprises, unexpected turns, and assorted fortune (good and less so). Some eventualities will be very directly tied to my own choices and actions, others less obviously so. Sitting and waiting around for change is one possible choice… still a choice, and potentially less effective than grabbing life with both hands and making of it what we can. I suppose there is also some “personal style” involved in all that, as well. 🙂

…Mmm…Yeah. Great cup of coffee this morning, well-suited to reflecting on life. lol

I did scroll through the news earlier – fairly pointless on the average Saturday, unless there is some sort of major event some where in the world. All of the news seems to repeat yesterday’s talking points, retread and regurgitated, linked and quoted, by various other news services that perhaps now wish they’d thought of it first. Uninteresting. I’ve been making a practice of willfully rejecting headlines that seem crafted to stoke an emotional reaction prior to reading the article; it’s a clickbait practice, and I just don’t appreciate having my time wasted, or my emotions manipulated. I definitely read fewer news articles as a result. lol My time is better spent reflecting on my own life and choices. 🙂

I think over the day ahead. I’ve got one errand to run, a bit later, maybe I’ll also stop by the grocery store? I’ll tackle aquarium maintenance a little later, too. Tomorrow? Housekeeping. I know, it’s all very routine, simple, ordinary stuff. That’s what most lives are crafted of; ordinary moments, commonplace tasks, simple everyday acts and efforts. It took me too long to understand how very few individual lives are truly, spectacularly, exceptional or extraordinary in such a notable way that one would expect to read about it in the news. Most of us live very unexceptional lives – and that’s entirely okay. More important that we also live well, show kindness, consider others, care for the world and our community – and take care of ourselves and each other. Isn’t that enough? 🙂 Are any of us really so good at even that, that we ought be discontent and seeking more? I suspect I’m not alone in my awareness I could do more/better, often, even in these ordinary circumstances, within this ordinary life. It’s about the verbs. Our choices.

I sip my coffee, hearing the video my Traveling Partner is watching, in the background. The sound of it, the sound of his presence, brings me a sense of comfort… and joy…

And now I am hearing holiday carols in my head, too… LOL

What is “enough”? Do you have that? Have you defined it so that you can more easily make your way to that goal? Have you been so fortunate as to overshoot that mark, and find yourself living in some comfort? From where you are, right now, what can you do to help heal the world? What about your community? Are there simple things you can easily do, without undermining your own necessary resources, to lift someone else up? To ease suffering in the world? To give something back? ‘Tis the season… what will you do about that?

I finish my first coffee. I think about a second cup. I smile for a moment, feeling pretty okay generally. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

Living in the Pacific Northwest, at least currently, results in a lot of gray, rainy, autumn and winter days. I love the rain. My arthritis doesn’t respond to it as pleasantly. I’m in pain. It’s just physical pain. I think over past winter holiday seasons, and try to recall the last one that was not characterized, in some way, by the amount of pain I’m in. It’s been a long time. I give up on that, take a breath, exhale, and let it go. I think about Giftmas, instead.

The tree glows merrily. The mantlepiece, too. The gifts under the tree are a dazzling display of festive wrappings. I am eager to open them, and to enjoy the holiday with my Traveling Partner, here at home, us two, together. A simple holiday at home seems more than sufficient; I’m delighted with the planning, and the decor, and the company. I think about far away friends and family, and wonder about their plans, and wish them well from afar.

…I am reminded to do the holiday cards, like… tonight. lol It’s almost too late…

I sit with the last dregs of my morning coffee, and a gray rather dismal view through a rain spattered window. There is plenty of work in front of me. I took this break to write hoping to return to work feeling refreshed. 🙂

What is “enough”? I’m sure a lot of folks out and about without a mask on, possibly without practicing social distancing, maybe even without giving a care to people who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 than they themselves feel, are struggling to feel a sense of sufficiency faced with limitations on their movement, their social activities, and all the details of life in the time of pandemic. I don’t really understand the feeling of invulnerability. I definitely don’t get making it a political matter. I breathe through that, too. I let it go, with a reminder to myself to wash hands often (and with care), and mask up before going out, and maintain social distance. Sure, it’s taken getting used to for me, too. I gotta admit though; I do like how much cleaner stores seem to be. I like how much less often people seem to go out into the world when they are obviously unwell, and how few coworkers attempt to work when they are sick, compared to last year. These seem to be improvements worth hanging on to… I hope we do.

In the meantime, Giftmas draws ever nearer… and I’m excited. 😀

I’m quiet happy this morning. Quite. Quite quiet. No spelling error, there. I’m feeling contented, relaxed, and coasting gently on an easy morning. The one thing I thought I needed to do today (and wasn’t really looking forward to it) stopped being a thing that needs to be done. I don’t have a clear “plan B”, presently, but I do have a hot cup of coffee to enjoy, and a quiet morning on which to enjoy it. 🙂

One moment. It’s enough.

The work week was…busier than busy. Frustratingly rich in the arbitrary “urgency” of others, disconnected from any legitimate quantifiable reason to become emotionally invested, amounting to an increase in perceived external pressure, met with an increase in internal resistance. Feels like “defiance”, sometimes, which is telling. Boundary and expectation-setting are useful self-care (and time management) tools. It’s not about “defiance” to set boundaries, to express limitations, to provide clear expectation-setting – or to refuse to become a victim of other people’s emotional lives. 🙂

…Funny thing… at the peak of my fairly shitty-feeling work week, at that moment I could have been facing a massive tantrum wholly inappropriate to my age or profession, my Traveling Partner demonstrated the value of a healthy partnership by “being there” for me. Answers to questions. Perspective. Someone I could “talk it over with” who is reliably “in my corner” – and also simply a good listener, generally. My recollection of the week that is now behind me morphs in my living memory and becomes a more positive experience, pleasantly colored by my partner’s love. 🙂

We read the news together, separately, in the same room, over our morning coffee. It was a pleasant start to this very relaxed day. We each shared a thing or two that caught our attention. We discussed one or two current culture events of interest. I feel fortunate to be spending the pandemic with this particular human being. As much as the times may wear on me, I’m safe and contented at home, with someone who loves me. I’m aware that many people are not as fortunate. I sip my coffee and contemplate what this might have been like in other relationships, and at one point an icy shiver overcomes me when the merest hint of old terror surfaces in my recollection. I let it go. Breathe. Exhale. Relax.

I’m okay right now.

I think about the day ahead. A good one for doing holiday cards. Maybe some baking? Video games! Maybe a walk when the day warms up a bit. I’ve got options. The choice is my own.

It’s time to begin again.