Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Foreword to "It's 1988!"

Every morning I would wake at dawn. The coffeemaker had been set up with a timer the night before, so that coffee would be waiting for me as I sat down to a breakfast of a hard-boiled egg and a whole grain muffin, a new batch made once a week, different recipes as I worked my way through the muffin and then the quick bread (adapted to muffin) section of The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. If I'd forgotten to do so the night before, I'd have to charge my phone, and the breakfast would then become a little more leisurely, but the time would be spent productively reading and writing. I would drink a pint glass of water before changing into my running clothes and leaving.

While running, I listened to news podcasts (downloaded during breakfast) in German or French to help my language skills. I remember thinking this gave my morning routine the appearance of sickening virtue--exercising and learning a foreign language at the same time. Actually many of the mornings I would listen to How Was Your Week? instead, and always when the foreign language news podcast ended I would switch to something fun and in English. Spilled Milk appeared regularly in the rotation, although on a run or long walk this just made me ravenously hungry. Maybe it pushed me to go a little faster toward home, toward the refrigerator.

I wrote often. I wrote drafts I planned to edit and post. But as tends to happen when I become too set in a routine, when I figure out how to get organized in the space and time that I have, sudden upheaval overturns my carefully manufactured systems. Learning how to adapt, to function efficiently and effectively without my systems, is a constant process.

I have written extensively on this blog about the carefully constructed system of grocery shopping and cleaning tasks assigned to specific days and spreadsheets telling me what to buy where, which governed my last year in New Jersey before suddenly, that system didn't work anymore, as I prepared to move to Oregon. I did not write (but the late fall of 2011 when I wrote very often and suddenly around the new year of 2012 quit writing--that's when this happened) about the car break-in of Christmas 2011, in which a suitcase containing nearly all of my work clothes was stolen. While not exactly a schedule or system, I had selected wardrobe pieces to match and coordinate and construct many work-appropriate outfits from a few pieces, to maximize what I had without buying too much. Do you see a common thread within these two systems? Saving money. I treated myself as though one misstep, one foolish purchase of socks or the wrong brand of flour, was almost a moral error. Like it was irresponsible and careless, as though the decrease of money I was able to put into my savings account that month was an actual numerical measurement of my own virtue. Not my value as a human being, but my ability to make wise, responsible decisions.

When these upheavals of my carefully-designed organizational systems occurred, when forces beyond my control upset them, I always told myself, "See? This is a lesson. You can't control everything!" A large withdrawal from my savings account to replace my stolen wardrobe did not equal a withdrawal from my moral worth; I needed to wear clothes to work, and it wasn't my fault that someone broke into Handsome Man's car. Furthermore, the construction of these systems presumes an ability to control everything. I always say that my systems help me function better in the case that everything doesn't go according to plan, so that instead of chaos, I have something slightly less organized than my system but organized nonetheless. Yet in fact these systems sometimes prove to not be adaptable enough; they don't survive big changes (what I call an "upheaval"), and they don't transition well into a system that does work in an unstable period.

A new personal goal is to adjust this, to establish systems tat are adaptable and flexible. I may have, in the past several months, come up with a good system for living out of suitcases.

It wasn't just my clothes that got me worrying and kept me from writing at the turn of 2012. It was that I was thinking of leaving my graduate program. The idea of law school kept appearing, but at that time, I saw more risks than benefits into which I could put faith. I wrote on paper then, too, but none of it appeared here.

This is not the post I planned to write this morning. I planned to write something inane, something that might frustrate readers who observed a long absence of writing followed by my reappearance newly married and living in Georgia, not Oregon. I planned to dodge any serious issues completely, not to answer the question, "What happened?"

What I planned to write was simply the following: that I had a too-carefully-planned routine in place, of eating the same breakfast every day, drinking two glasses of water, going for a run and long walk while listening to foreign language news, followed by another two glasses of water and arm exercises with weights while listening to or watching something on a "to do" list; that this was interrupted by a need to go back to New Jersey on a one-way ticket; that I told Handsome Man that I would be gone probably a week, maybe two (prompting him to exclaim, "TWO weeks!?"), but I returned to Portland only to move; that some sad things happened in the first third of 2013, and that is all I will say for now; that Handsome Man and I are married now; and that Handsome Man and I now live outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in a very tiny, very cute house with a huge yard.

After this, I planned to write a little about our new location, our new home (with pictures), some non-serious things floating around my head (I'm trying to think of ways to adapt salad rolls to cuisines other than Vietnamese, so they will appeal to a wider array of palates aka my parents), and a silly memory conjured by a podcast listened to on the drive from New Jersey to Georgia. However, this post has become lengthy already, and I have postponed going running (attempting to establish routine yet again) long enough for this morning. A post inspired by the podcast Good Job, Brain! will be up later this week. To any of my former readers who have stuck around after a many month absence, thank you for reading!

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