Friday, 8 November 2019

I used to be good at things...

I used to keep a detailed journal, faithfully, every day since I was age seven. Now I post infrequent blog posts and rarely get to writing down the important stuff. I forget it before I can get it on paper.

I used to bake homemade bread weekly and would never consider using prepared foods or ordering take-out. I used the best fresh ingredients and carefully plotted my menu plan every week to inform my grocery shopping. Now I dash home from work, whip out whatever's quickest, and am reduced to making pancakes on nights when there just isn't anything to cook. And I sometimes secretly sneak Kraft Dinner when no one else is at home (Gasp!) or have a strawberry milkshake for supper.

I used to sew my own clothing, my kids' t-shirts, quilts, tablecloths, curtains, etc. Now, if I can't possibly avoid having to get new clothes, I buy used clothing from Valu Village. If I absolutely can't find what I need there, I buy things from Walmart that inevitably pill up or fall apart the first time I wash them. I have boxes of fabric waiting in the basement, though!

I used to carefully plan all my gardening a season in advance. I had charts showing where to plant, what to plant, how to care for it, and a space for noting down the yield obtained. I kept the seed packets neatly labeled in a drawer so I could track what was successful and what wasn't, and I experimented with crop rotation and companion planting. I noted the phases of the moon and tracked weather patterns in a notebook. Now I fling whatever leftover seeds I have on hand into the soil, vaguely remembering where things were planted last year and some sort of injunction against planting certain things after tomatoes and potatoes. Things seem to flourish anyway, though sometimes I get weird hybrid combinations of squashes.

I used to be conscientious about visiting teaching and keeping tabs on the women I was responsible for and keeping close touch with friends. Now I shoot off occasional emails or wave at church and dream about moving far away to a deserted island where I am unreachable.

I used to be able to churn out a book a year. All it took was setting aside time to sit down in front of the laptop, and words would just magically flow. A clean-up revision or two and it was ready to send to the publisher. Now I stare at the blank laptop for half an hour and then check on Facebook messages, go walk the dog, read a while, forage for a snack...anything to put off writing. It's like all the words are building up behind a dam and trying to squeeze through a hole the size of a toothpaste tube.

I used to care about what people thought and tried to put my best foot forward. I wouldn't dream of wearing pajama pants to Home Depot or going out without combing my hair or brushing my teeth. Now I wear what's comfortable, never wear make-up on Saturdays, go barefoot as much as possible, and have a hard time trying to drum up any embarrassment or humiliation if I'm caught in a mistake. It's not that I don't care what people think. It's that people seem to have fallen off my radar in general.

I used to be able to memorize swathes of Shakespeare, lists of verb conjugations, and the telephone numbers of all my friends. Now I'm lucky if I can remember my own birthdate. I haven't read Shakespeare in years. I've forgotten all the languages I used to know except English, and even that is iffy on some days. I don't do nouns before noon. I want to get a t-shirt that says, "I used to be intelligent." I think I lost twenty IQ points with each kid.

I used to be a stickler when it came to kids' bedtimes, homework, music lessons, practicing, and room organization. I had job charts and reward systems and individual time with each child every day. I restricted video games and pushed healthy outdoor activity. Now my one remaining child at home comes and goes without my seeing him. I can't tell you the last time we played a game or ate together. (Maybe Thanksgiving.) I don't require him to do any daily household jobs, though he is happy to help if I ask. He spends all of his time (when not at school or work) playing video games. I still make his bed sometimes to keep his father from getting upset. But he's turned out to be a terrific, polite, intelligent, and capable young man. So maybe the hands-off approach worked in his case.

I don't know if all of this is an indication of a general decline, or laziness, or exhaustion, or maybe cognitive failure. Or maybe I'm just finally learning to relax and breathe a little. To allow myself some human frailty. To separate out the important from the not, the visible from the invisible. To be comfortable in my own pajama-pant-clad self.

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