Friday, November 16, 2007

without anchors, i float away

I was talking today about my need to break everything down into manageable portions. Or, at least, that's what I was trying to talk about but I have this endearing quirk (which I say sarcastically, the same way when, my husband sighs as he walks into the kitchen and finds most of the cupboard doors splayed widely open, I tell him, "oh, but you'll miss this when i'm dead", not that i intend to die anytime soon, and not that i'm trying to be disrespectful of the end of life, in general, just that all the goofball things about a person are all rolled into one gloppy mess and even the slightly irritating traits are related to the most beloved ones, and how can you really separate any of it?) where I lose my own train of thought and any potential reader's in terribly long asides. See, I don't even remember what I was getting at. Oh, yes, I jumble up words when I talk. I ramble on and have passionate trysts with every last punctuation mark when I write, but the general idea is usually captured, somewhat. But when I talk it's anybody's guess what I'm trying to say.

The other day I briefly mentioned the concept, as defined by me, of Ritual. All of us need to plug into something. I believe it would be easier to plug into something that already exists, the way certain families have holiday traditions that revolve around history and longstanding expectations and you do what you do because that's what you've always done. Those traditions can be suffocating, but so can clothes and that's why I don't wear turtlenecks. It has to be the right fit for any one person. But when those traditions don't exist at all, when you're responsible for creating them and carrying them onward, it can feel very overwhelming and impossible. It's a heavy load.

As long as I've had a little family of my own, we've always lived far from extended family. So as far as holidays and such are concerned, it has been on me to create a way of doing things. There have been some tough, tough years in the past during which I sure wished we had a grandma across town with cider on the stove and a decorated tree and christmas music playing. But we don't have that. I can't, in my situational entropy, coast along and let the motivation of some bigger-than-me traditions propel us ahead.

Nearly everyone can relate to finding some greater significance and existential validation from big things like holidays and special occasions and indisputable milestones. It's when I boil the concept down to the mundane details of life that it starts to sound a little wacky.

The little things I do move me forward. I'm not a naturally organized person. I lose track of time and tasks and intentions easily. And at seven in the morning, the distance to dinner, to bed, seems endless. So I break it down. Into little manageable portions.

As soon as I wake up in the morning, I fill the kettle and turn on the stove to start my first cup of tea. This is something to which I look forward to before I go to bed at night. I love my first cup of tea. I love the hot mug and the steam and the creeping warmth from mouth to belly. It's a constant and a given and it reminds me that I'm here, in my kitchen, awake and alive and able to start my day. Call me a cornball, but it's true.

As morning gives way to afternoon, I switch, sometime after lunch, to coffee. The husband makes a fresh press each morning and whatever doesn't fit into his travel mug is left behind. I take the extra and put it in a jar in the fridge. I have ready made and waiting cold coffee to pour over ice and mix with chocolate almond milk. Now, this is, admittedly, a hold over from living in the land of endless summer, and I recognize that it's a little weird to be drinking an iced beverage when it's damp and chilly outside. Whereas in the summer I might drink several glasses, these days it's probably just one. It gives me the little boost I need and tosses me ahead into the next time slot.

When five o'clock hits, I probably crack open a beer. Something to sip while I make dinner. Something to say, yes, this moment is important and I'm not going to lose myself in all the things I didn't accomplish today, I'm going to just appreciate right now. Who knew such pithiness could be inspired by a bottle opener?

After dinner, I make more tea. Maybe a couple of cups of green if it's early. Certainly something vaguely soporific the closer it gets to bedtime.

So, that's it. My day in beverages. What a dumb thing to notice, let alone write about. But, frankly, the big stuff is hard for me. I'm not great at creating and maintaining ritual and tradition. It's essential for me to inflate the importance of the little stuff so that I feel plugged into and apart of this big world at all. It makes me who I am. Every Thing becomes important.

I can tell you right now that I'll be floundering next week. We won't have a horn o'plenty with dried flowers and roasted hazelnut centerpiece at our table. Thanksgiving at our house every year is a crapshoot. A few years we've ordered take-out. Before the girl, I know at least once we went to a restaurant. We're vegetarians, so it's definitely not Turkey Day, but I have prepared a better-than-you'd-think Vegan Roast several times (no tofurkeys were harmed in the making of that dish, thanks). But there's no one thing or one set of things we do. We don't have a standing date with anyone. I don't break out my signature pie. Every year is different. But unless some compelling force butts into my schedule, we almost always have homemade pizza on Sundays. I made French Toast for breakfast - it must be Friday. Yup. And all the Sunday Night Pizzas and Friday Morning French Toasts and Five O'clock Cold Ones all added up together weigh a whole heck of a lot more than any one Thanksgiving Turkey. The little stuff matters and makes me who I am. It matters and pads the bones of my children's memories. It matters and keeps me tethered to where I'm at. It matters and helps me feel content.


Lisa said...

I hate turtlenecks and I love that you think of your day in terms of beverages. I do in a way, too.

deb said...

I think of my day in beverages as well, but I thought I was the only one. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, beer in the evening, then tea again before bed. And I hate turtlenecks.