Spring Break seemed like a time to do a few projects around the house. It went okay. I cleaned off a few shelves, gave the tea kettle and water pitcher a vinegar soak, scrubbed baseboards, did tasks like that, but I couldn’t seem to pull off a project. I lacked vision. I looked at the cleared off shelves in the corner of the kitchen, and they looked like no one really lived there.

Then I got the pressure cooker. It’s too heavy to pull out of the big corner cabinet. And, now that I thought about it, those food processor attachments are hard to get to in that big cabinet, too. This isn’t trivial, I really use that stuff, almost daily, and cooking needs to be as stress-free as possible. There was a drawer for ready access, but the towels and cookie sheets are there. I’ve never liked that arangement. So, out with the towels and the cookie sheets. In with the food processor blades and the pressure cooker, oh! and that Le Creuset pan is so heavy, that should go in there, too. Thus began the Great Migration of kitchen appliances.

That big cutting board that’s always a pain to slide out from underneath the pile of trays? Liberate it! and use it. Conceding that I’m not going to have a dinner party anytime soon, I cleared out the serving platters–many of them wedding gifts–to make room for stuff I use every day. I think that one cabinet used to be our “dinner party” cabinet. Now it’s for my daily food storage containers. Where to put the platters? Oh! Those empty shelves I cleared off over Spring Break. The platters will gather dust there, but now it looks like someone lives here.

There’s a cabinet that would be perfect for the cookie sheets and trays, but the kids have been using it for their glasses. They don’t need that cabinet, now that they’re bigger. But I don’t want them to feel like their childhood is over or anything. So I won’t claim that cabinet, yet. I’ve got my eye on it, though.

Today, I eyed a bag full of bags that has been lingering around since my spring break tasks. It needed a home. It occurred to me that the pantry has always been poorly used space. That tall cabinet? Get the other bags out of there and just use it as a broom closet. That meant I had to make room for the bags that had been awkwardly stored in the tall cabinet. How about that other set of shelves, also poorly used? I cleared a load of Mason jars off those shelves, more than I need. Some I’ll keep, others I’ll give away or recycle. Time to take some shelves out to make room for the bags. I squeezed the pins on one side of a shelf. I’d turn to the other side and the first set of pins would pop back into place. I did this over and over and over. I felt frustration rise in my chest. I took a minute. I’m frustrated because this shelf-on-a-pin system is ridiculous, I thought. Who would design a system this ridiculous? Wait, maybe this is not how the system is designed. I considered that I was doing it wrong. I fetched my mallet (not to smash the shelf to bits–I wasn’t frustrated anymore). Once I got one side of the shelf off the pins, I banged the shelf up with the mallet so that it couldn’t pop into place. Once I did that–POP!–the shelf came loose on the other side. Right on. That’s how to do it.

Golly, this all sounds so mundane. But this is the stuff of remaking our lives, isn’t it? When you’ve been so broken down, you don’t know what to do. When your world has been shattered, you don’t want to do anything. But one day you know you have to. So you do one thing, and that leads to another thing. Some of the old gets disposed of, some of the old stays. New things make their way in. One step at a time, there’s clearing, layering, shifting, and–then you see it–settling. It still doesn’t feel right, but it doesn’t feel as wrong anymore, either. It’s all about starting that one thing.

It’s big, but I do wonder if these discrete tasks are significant in themselves, because they involve choice. Widows are wont to say, “I didn’t choose this life.” No doubt I uttered that once or twice in the past week. When everything we worked for has slipped away, when our hopes and dreams have sailed off into the mist, we’re left with nothing, and we just go through the motions. But then we realize, the cookie sheets don’t have to go in that drawer, I would prefer they go over there. Simply having a mundane desire about the cookie sheets is notable because of wanting anything at all or, at least, not liking things as they are, and this is one undesirable thing that we can change.


2 thoughts on “Tasks

  1. I’ve heard it said that our surroundings—whether neat or messy or whatever—is a reflection of what is going on inside our heads. It makes sense that you’re rearranging and tailoring your living space to be more practical for your life. You’re getting a better handle on the internal storm you’ve been struggling with since your husband died…at least this is my impression from reading your blog.

  2. Makes sense, Jean. My friend came over during spring break and I showed her where I’d cleaned, but nothing seemed done. Of course, that was a week I spent doing difficult internal work. No wonder I wasn’t decoratively placing platters on shelves! Just a few weeks later, and here I am, rearranging kitchen appliances. I wondered if it was like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but no, you’re right, it’s a good sign.

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