Time. There often seems to be too much and not enough, simultaneously. The pressures of what needs to be done and of what needs to be waited for, swirling around my mind, paralyzing me. The thought I don’t have time for that! crosses my mind multiple times a day, but for the most part it’s just an imagination of my anxiety. Once I realized this fantasy of helplessness, I decided to compile a list of things that I do have time for, things I can squeeze into my day pretty much no matter what, even when I feel like I can’t.
I have time to wash a dish in the sink.
I have time to make a cup of coffee in the morning.
I have time to leave my house ten minutes earlier and walk to work instead of drive.
I have time to give my partner a hug.
I have time to check the mail. (This one’s easy for me; I check it somewhat obsessively. Even on Sundays.)
I have time to be kind.
It seems crazy that I have to remind myself of such simple things. When life gets overwhelming and The List reaches a record length, it helps bring me sanity to remember that there are daily victories hiding in the chaos.
Time has been trucking on at an unbelievable pace these last seven months. Days away from my wedding now, I’m thankful for my ability to accomplish tasks that I know, though simple to me, are real challenges for many people. I can wake up every morning and go to work. I can feed and bathe myself. I can drive to the store. I can sleep seven hours.
I’ve been quite sick for over a week now. One thing that sickness always affects is my coffee consumption—it irritates my throat and tastes funny, so for the first few days of being sick I just don’t bother. This probably makes me feel even worse than I would, since I’ve been a cup-a-day-er since fifteen. Anyway, being sick had me thinking a lot about coffee (because green tea just doesn’t cut it).
I have an interesting mix of snobby and trashy coffee habits. For example, I only drink pour-over and I can’t stomach dark roast, but I’ll also leave my coffee out for hours and still drink it later. I try not to judge people too much for their own coffee habits (I’m looking at you, Pumpkin Spice), because mine have changed drastically over the years.
For a couple years we only bought expensive locally roasted beans, until we finally admitted that we weren’t quite rich enough for that lifestyle yet. From sugar and 1/2 and 1/2 to black (out of the necessities of college life at first, then out of preference); from automatic drip to manual pour-over; from the darkest I could find to medium-light at most; from pre-ground to my worst nightmare being that the power goes out and we can’t use the grinder.
Here are a few of my current feelings and practices.
How many coffee mugs do I need to be happy?
Answer: Four functional ones. Right now I have three functional and one broken, which I haven’t thrown away yet because coffee cups can be sentimental too, you know.
How much coffee should I drink before it’s safe to drive?
A: At least one-third of my cup. Before that, my brain thinks it’s too much effort to look both ways before turning. I have accidentally driven right past a stop sign, which left me wondering how it’s not illegal for a coffee drinker to drive uncaffeinated.
Have I experienced caffeine withdrawal?
A: My first thought many mornings, especially on days I get to sleep in, is that I need to make coffee. Sometimes it’s my first word of the day, croaked out in supplication to my partner. It has also occasionally been my main motivation for getting out of bed, even though I don’t feel like I actually like coffee all that much. I rarely finish a whole cup, and I often don’t enjoy it. It’s simply a fact of life. With any luck this will be the closest I ever edge toward an addiction.
I drink my coffee black, so why should I wash the mug with soap?
A: This practice is acceptable in college, but not after (although my partner would protest). But, if I’m being honest, I still think a good, hot rinse-and-rub is okay about every other time.
What is the perfect temperature for coffee consumption?
A: Right between “my mouth will never taste again!” and “why do people even drink this shit?” This window lasts roughly 45 seconds.
How many times am I going to microwave the remaining half inch of coffee in my mug before I accept that I’m never going to finish it, or decide to turn it into iced coffee instead?
A: About five.
How long is too long to have my coffee sitting out, unfinished, before I can no longer in good conscience turn it into iced coffee?
tempt the shortening days
obscure the seasons turning
over a new leaf
These past few weeks have been difficult for me, but I managed to squeeze out a haiku today after a walk in the swampy heat we’ve been having, in which I was surprised to find many gentle reminders of pending fall. Peace to you.
Pungent, dirty brass
The wholly forgotten smell
Of childhood bangles.
I cannot count the times I’ve sorted through my jewelry. When I was a kid, I kept it in a pretty glass and wooden box. Since college, my storage has devolved into a small plastic container with drawers that I now cover in a nice scarf because it’s too shameful to look upon as a twenty-five year old. I’ve purged my collection dramatically over the years, sending bags of bracelets, earrings, and necklaces to young girls from church who would appreciate them more than I, if not use them more. Beaded things, homemade things, wire and gem and silver and plastic.
I am proud to say I greatly reduced my collection during college. Every time I went home, I would discard half a dozen items or so. Every time I moved, I would go through my box again and get rid of more.
I went through it again today, but I no longer set the pieces aside to give to others, and this is why: I once saved a cheap fake gold chain for probably close to fifteen years just because some teenage girl I admired had gifted it to me, even though I broke it within days of receiving it. That’s right. I saved an irreparably broken necklace for over a decade. I decided I don’t want to subject other young minds to the difficulty of parting with my useless junk down the road. It is cruel to them and a cop-out on my part, as if I somehow delay the inevitable destruction of my possessions by giving them to new owners, rather than throwing them out myself. I have been a coward.
So today I simply tossed them. Bracelets from my travels. Beach jewelry. Gifts from sisters (sorry). Somehow a necklace that was given to me for my fifth grade graduation still made the cut, and even as I sit here writing I feel both horrified by and justified in keeping it. It’s a lovely little frame with tiny pink pressed flowers behind clear resin. I haven’t worn it in years. Many years.
I threw out several things (including the last two bottles of my high school perfume!), but still kept more than I use, or will use, probably ever. I do like jewelry. I enjoy receiving it and looking at it and coveting it. But my body tends to get uncomfortable very quickly, so in reality I only wear standard 316L stainless steel rings in my various piercings, plugs in my ears (all new since adulthood), an engagement ring (new since February) and occasionally a necklace with a single pearl. In September I will add a plain titanium band.
And yet after going through my hideous box, here I am, sitting on the couch, with not one but two old anklets around my foot, and I have no intention of throwing them out today, despite this being the last time they will likely ever be worn.
When will she learn? The truth is, she is still learning.
The house is almost out of food, but my feet hurt too much to grocery shop and it’s too hot to cook anyway, so here I am, writing, prolonging the inevitable.
I had a good week. My car, which had been making a sound that concerned me, was discharged with a clean bill of health (and a mere thirty dollar bill) by my trusted mechanic. My partner and I watched through the new Netflix original show, GLOW, which we enjoyed immensely and recommend.
I planned every morning to get up early so I could make coffee and lunches and have enough time to sit on the couch and drink my coffee instead of heading directly to work…and I made this happen one whole time! Monday morning I had enough time to do all of the above, and to finish a short story by The New Yorker author Yiyun Li, from her stories collection Gold Boy, Emerald Girl. The experience was so lovely, so the rest of the week I continued to set alarms for 5:30, 5:45, 5:55, 6:00, 6:10, and 6:15, but, alas, my half-asleep self has always been a stubborn, brutish fiend. I hope someday to replicate the experience. Maybe when I’m forty.
The heat and humidity has once again turned my kitchen into a sauna, and my plants are loving it. Candice the Caladium seems to have new leaf growth every day, and my partner won’t stop exclaiming about the success I’ve had with my avocado plant. (Yes, it does work! Expecting homemade guacamole in approximately three to fifteen years.) I keep having to incrementally raise the window blinds because I believe Candy and Avi are having a height competition. Finally, my ginger root decided to become a plant again, its only stimulus from my end being disuse.
It just started to thunder. I’m hoping the torrential rain sends a much-needed cool night our way. But right now, as the walkway floods, I’m enjoying the heavy sound of close thunder and fat rain.
I am good at following directions. This has made me a teacher’s pet, an over-critical manager, and a passable cook. But following the letter of the law sometimes fails me, as it did today when I was boiling eggs.
I decided to try a new recipe for egg salad in an attempt to cut grocery costs (E. has expensive taste in lunch meat) and because it incorporated radishes, which sounded delightful. A few months ago I finally stumbled upon the best, most hassle-free, repeatable way to boil eggs perfectly, and I was excited because it was easy enough that I could add it to my [very small] collection of “recipes” I know by heart. (Although I must admit, all I remember is that it involves a steamer insert and the number thirteen.)
Fast forward to this evening. I noticed that the new egg salad recipe seemed a bit strange in how it said to prepare the eggs. I even thought the words, “This won’t work.” But directions are directions, and I followed the steps flawlessly. When it came time to peel the eggs, I went to roll the first one along the counter to break up the shell. The entire egg smashed beneath my hand, leaving a gooey, raw mess. I felt utterly betrayed. My partner ignored me as I yelled and cursed in the other room about how it wasn’t fair. Then I did something even stupider and tried peeling a second egg.
I reboiled the remaining four and started afresh with two new ones. After recovering from my anger at the instructions, I am now only angry at myself. May this be a lesson to me, to listen to my better judgment and, for God’s sake, to memorize more basic recipes.
Occasionally, my friend and I take trips to garden centers together. Although we have yet to leave empty-handed, we mostly do it for the fun of browsing. We point out the things that move us, say why if we can, and the other joins in the movement.
During one of these trips he observed to me that the plants and flowers that catch my eye are very different from the ones that catch his. Different colors speak up, different forms stand out.
But this happens all the time. When I take a walk, as long as I’m not looking down (I’m prone to trip), certain things catch my eye that, based on my partner’s responses (or lack thereof), I know are not conspicuous or interesting to everyone.
I walked to work today and decided to remember some things I noticed on my way. Here are a few.
A squirrel eating a pinecone.
The cloudless sky.
A beautiful gate enclosing a shitty yard (a metaphor not lost on me).
Bricks and angles.
The small weeds that grow in sidewalk cracks.
An old window on a collapsing house.
I don’t know why I notice the things I do, but it’s an interesting exercise nonetheless. What do you see? Why do you see it?