For two years now, I’ve had a heck of a time keeping the days of the week straight. Like, what do you mean it’s only Tuesday? How is this not Thursday? Even starting a new job and my favorite yoga class going back to being in-person hasn’t helped shake that Groundhog Day feeling off that I’ve had since everything shut down and all the days started running together.
As we eased into empty nesting late last summer, I found myself wondering if we should just change everything up (“Let’s move! Okay, let’s not move, let’s buy new furniture! Okay, maybe let’s just clean the house and purge some stuff and then see how we feel about things”) while also realizing we probably shouldn’t make a major decision in the midst of all the other changes happening our lives. I just sort of wandered around, aimlessly wondering about how to go about sorting out a new normal and what I wanted it to look like.
For the last twenty years, the center of everything I’ve done has been being a mom. Sure, I’ve worked, but I didn’t really build any sort of career in the process. And now that my center has shifted, I’m not exactly sure what I want to do now that I might be a grown up and probably should have some sort of career, right? It’s what I said I was going to do for twenty years and you’d think I’d have figured out while I had all that time, but turns out, I didn’t.
Recently, I was asked if I could teach a cooking class at a local private school and suddenly, a very familiar structure was back to my week for the first time in almost two years.
Teaching a cooking class means not just having a recipe selected and a plan for how you’re going to approach it, it means a grocery store run for ingredients and making sure all your equipment is good to go. The first part of my week is spent preparing for Wednesday’s class in some form or another – recently, I plotted out my approach to class on the kitchen whiteboard while I was making dinner Monday night, snapped a picture with my phone and went to the grocery store with it Tuesday afternoon, wrote it up Wednesday morning to have on paper in class that afternoon. There are a number of constraints I’m working with on this class that is making me change my style of teaching somewhat, so it’s been stretching me in ways I didn’t know I needed. It takes up a lot of head space, but to be honest, that head space had been sitting pretty vacant, so it’s good to have something to fill it.
But also? It’s the structure that helps me sort out my week. That helps me sort out me. I’ve been trying to find the words to write about empty nesting for months, but exactly how does one write about empty nesting while also navigating a pandemic and perimenopause? It’s not just that my life has changed drastically in the last two years, it’s just that the changes seemed to have ramped up in the last year with changing jobs suddenly and Edie going off to college and losing Betsy and it’s A Lot. My daily routine has gone from busy all day every day to go to work, come home, make dinner, do it all over again. We don’t even go out for beers regularly because Covid and winter. I’m not exactly sure how to cope with all this time on my hands. I keep quoting the refrain to “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” in recent months in regards to all the change here: “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it…we’ve got to go through it” to remind myself, we’ve just got to get through this.
Of course food has been what has helped me start to find my footing. Food is usually where I end up finding it. I started an Instagram account to focus solely on my cookbook collection late last fall and immediately, it inspired me to start writing again and helping me form a daily writing habit.
Being back in the classroom with kids I realized how much I missed that over the last two years. The actual being there in the moment, as I have seven tables of socially distanced kids chopping with big knives is terrifyingly chaotic. But the structure required of me to be able to pull that off is the sort of thing I had missed the most over these last two years and the structure I think I need right now. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to my old normal and absolutely one of the top things I want figure out how to carry with me into my new one. That and my daily writing habit and my afternoon walks with our new Daisy. It seems like a good start.