Coffee with Mimi: Working on our lists

Published 4:22 pm Thursday, May 7, 2020

By Mimi Becker

Community columnist

Time flies by. I never thought I would say it. Couldn’t imagine it. 

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My calendar pages became virtually empty overnight. When we entered this extraordinary time, the minutes and days dragged by. All of us were trying to figure out nearly every aspect of our lives and we had just hours to pull it all together. What was normal existed ages ago. 

With new found free time, I, along with many friends, made long lists of activities to fill the void. There were numerous creative projects which begged for attention. Clippings of adventuresome, time consuming recipes to tackle could be dug out. The early spring yard beckoned. A slightly abandoned pile of books was waiting on the nightstand.

Unappealing, nagging chores were included on the list providing a factor of guilt.  Professional responsibilities which previously consumed the better part of the day became complicated by the complete uncertainty of the world. Everyone wanted to accomplish a goal and it seemed no one had any useful, if anyone even could have had any, answers. Time spent at work, or at any activity, was quite rearranged.

Official directives unfortunately outlined a prolonged period of public inactivity and isolation. Most certainly, I would be checking off items languishing on the list after all these years.

Each day I consulted the list. The list with the possibilities, both enticing and annoying.  Of course, there were necessary tasks. A person has to eat and maintain a house, no matter what.  

It turns out that my behavior during this time is not so different from my behavior when we are running at full speed. I will admit it. I have procrastinated in tackling the less fun things on the list. While I haven’t kept a clock on it, I am willing to bet I haven’t spent one minute more on house cleaning than is absolutely necessary to keep us safe, well, and reasonably organized. The line item to deep clean the far corners of the house is not likely to get a big satisfying check. Nor is window washing. 

On the other hand, dinner preparation has become more than a chore. With a very empty social calendar and professional deadlines not so overwhelming, a predictable pattern has developed to my day.   

I actually think about dinner in advance of executing it. The fridge and freezer are well stocked. We aren’t exactly hoarding food, but navigating the grocery aisles presents a unique and unsavory challenge these days. 

Casual shopping for what might look interesting is not fun, and is not civically responsible. We stock up with plenty of basics, making fewer trips. Our goal is to follow the arrows and get out. An organized grocery list is a must. Running out to the store for that one ingredient missing for a new recipe is just not going to happen. If I don’t have it, it isn’t the end of the world.

So in the morning, rather than dashing out the door, I take a moment to peruse the freezer. While I linger over coffee, a significant part of dinner is already prepping. This is not a bad deal. It has been weeks since I came home after work and kicked myself because my planned main ingredient was solid as a rock. I am not a fan of microwaving meat, or any other item, to bring it to the cooking state. But, you do what you gotta do.

There is a popular television cook who made her mark encouraging busy people to believe anyone can put a very nice home cooked meal on the table in 30 minutes or less. I spent the better part of my adult life proving she is right. I hope to spend the rest of my life not needing to follow her advice. 

It has occurred to me over the last few weeks of this extraordinary time that I don’t want to be a 30-minute dinner cook anymore. Sure, every once in a while is fine. I wish we weren’t at this place in our history, but we are. Yet, I have come to enjoy my new routine. 

What comes after this? We could be on lockdown for a while and I will not get that list completed. It took me a bit of time to understand and accept this fact. I am one of the lucky ones. My family is safe and secure. All are healthy. Who knows what the future will bring? Our schedule changes, lost vacations and fewer social options are little inconveniences in comparison to what so many others must endure.  

At the beginning of all this, time crept along with one day nearly indistinguishable from the last and the next. I won’t finish my list, will barely scratch it.

People talk about a new normal as if it will not be as desirable as the old normal.  Maybe we are considering the wrong list. Maybe caring for individual people and things at the right time is better. At significant times in our history, our ancestors faced and examined new normals which weren’t on the old list. Looks like it is our turn.