I have written, during this pandemic, about the gift of time that staying at home has given us. I have also noted that, with the changes in our schedules and use of time, the days tend to blur. But I am finding that my own adjustment to these shifts has been slow.

Most of the time, I am still trying to hurry up.

I haven’t flung myself into cooking during this period, but I have appreciated feeling awake as I make supper, rather than exhausted after a long day of work and meetings.

At the same time, though, I’ve still been acting like I was on the clock. Rushing. Sighing with impatience. Let’s get this done!

The other day I stopped and thought, “What am I doing?” It was lunchtime, on a weekend. I had no place to go. The afternoon, in fact, was going to stretch out in front of me in a not entirely comfortable way. Yet, I was storming around the kitchen as if it was — well, February, and my husband Paul and I were having a quick bite before heading out to a matinee.

I thought this was interesting, because when we spend a week on the coast each summer, I am able to slow down. I sit down on the deck late in the afternoon and read, and then rather lazily notice that it’s time to start cooking. Padding into the kitchen, I turn on Maine Public radio and get out the pans I need. Dinner will be ready when it is ready.

Of course, I’m not on vacation now. I am working from home. We are in a time of major anxiety and uncertainty. Our country is in pain. I’m an educator; that great, reassuring constant, the return to school in the fall, is as elusive as a desert mirage right now.

Though Maine is slowly opening up again, Paul and I are not ready to do any more than we have been doing. He is over 65 and has asthma. It’s just not worth the risk.

I do all the grocery shopping, and most of the errands, which are limited to essential shopping. Paul does the recycling and bottle redemption, and picks up a takeout pizza once a week. We walk every day. Sometimes we take a drive to a nearby town.

That’s it. Our lives outside the house. No reason to hurry. For the first time in years, I am managing to get all my plants into pots or the ground without losing any. Because I have the time to do this before they wilt and die on me.

It occurs to me that maybe I want to “hurry up” because I want to get through this thing. I want to come out on the other side. I want this to be over.

That is certainly the way I feel in the grocery store. Paul drives me and waits in the car. One day he said he didn’t recognize me coming toward the car at first because of my mask, but I was walking so fast he knew it had to be me.

I used to enjoy grocery shopping. Now I run from the store.

The antidote to “hurry up” is slow down. And there is no better time than now to practice “being in the moment.” My life may have slowed down, but my thoughts haven’t. I need to keep them where my body is at any given moment, instead of galloping ahead to the unpredictable future.

In the supermarket, I try to focus on my list. The list itself has become essential, because it’s difficult (and socially unacceptable, to my way of thinking) to go the wrong way in the one-way aisles. In other words, there’s no backtracking. Frankly, I don’t even want to go back for anything because I want to get out of the store as soon as possible. We’re in a pandemic. I can live without whatever it is I forgot to get in aisle 5.

Focusing on my list is the equivalent of putting one foot in front of the other. Pasta. Check. Cat food. Check. Milk. Check.

Before I know it, I’m out the door.

In the kitchen, I have adopted a practice long overdue. The French call it “mise en place.” That is, having all your ingredients and utensils ready to go before you start cooking. This makes perfect sense but does not come naturally to me. I want to start opening the fridge and the cabinets, grabbing things, cracking eggs. Oops! Need the frying pan. Now I need to put the eggshells in the compost bin. But darn it! I didn’t peel the mandarins …

Instead, I am getting out the oranges, the bread, the eggs, the milk. The bowl and the frying pan. I am peeling the oranges and setting them aside as the pan heats on the range.

Soon there will be French toast. But not too soon. Because, what’s the hurry?

 

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected].


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