I’m writing this the Monday morning after the Thanksgiving holiday. And doing so feels incredibly weird.
Because I haven’t written anything for 4 days. Nothing in my journal. Certainly no articles for this blog. And no fiction words.
Oh, sure, I wrote a couple of social media statuses on my personal accounts, talking about what I cooked for Thanksgiving and what I did for leftover strategies (Thanksgiving leftover nachos and chili this year; poutine and fried rice last year).
And I posted a few memes to Poly Land’s social media — which involved writing some short captions.
But that was it. No writing that required a keyboard or a flow state or anything like that.
This is really unusual for me to take this kind of a break. I usually write something over the weekends, even holiday ones. Even when I’m away traveling (not possible in the pandemic unfortunately, without putting other people at risk in a way that makes me uncomfortable), I typically will write in a journal.
But for a stretch of 4 days, my brain was quiet and passive. My partner and I ate a lot of leftovers and played video games. We didn’t even do very many chores (only what absolutely had to be done right then).
This is not like us. We’re always doing something. Yes, even on weekends/days off. My partner always feels guilty when he’s not being productive — and so do I.
But we were lazy. We basically did a waking 4-day hibernation.
Thankfully, I don’t feel that guilty today. Now, I don’t see this becoming a habit (I was starting to get a little bored by Sunday night), but it was a good change of pace.
I Meal Planned/Prepped & Did Chores Before I Let Myself Even Start to Write
This morning was odd though. Returning to work. Returning to writing and producing instead of silently consuming was jarring.
Well, that’s not even what I did at first. I had a number of little chores that needed to be done quickly. I also had to plan meals for the week. We’ve been on a strict diet the past few months, and with Thanksgiving out of the way, it was time to return to what we’d been doing. The logistics of meal planning can get complex — as I try to balance what we need nutritionally with what’s available via delivery services at any given point in time, without wasting food in the process.
At first it was overwhelming, completely daunting… but 8 months into the pandemic, I have a good rhythm established. A core menu built around our collective food preferences and dislikes that’s healthy for us and uses the supplies we can typically get delivered via the services we have available. I know easy substitutions for about everything they’re typically randomly out of, and a lot of tricks revolving around things we keep on hand in the pantry like powdered milk. (I also have several meals that I can cook completely from the pantry now and a few that can be cooked directly from the freezer.)
So on Monday morning I figured out the week’s meals, moved the relevant freezer meats to the fridge, timing what our fridge does with each (based on thickness and how partially/fully thawed the meat needs to be for each recipe). Then I planned the weekly grocery delivery based on what we have in the pantry/fridge/freezer and what’s available at the moment — and what I’d like to be able to cook next week.
Then I set up tonight’s dinner in the slow cooker.
And I took out the trash and did the dishes.
I Took Care of the Pandemic First
And then I sat here and decided I would write something. As I did, I realized that the order I did tasks in was telling. It was interesting to me that my instinct was to make sure we had a plan to be fed all week and that the chores were under control before I got into the business of writing whatever the heck it is that I’m going to write this week.
That’s because I took care of the pandemic first. Or at least the way that it directly impacts me. Depending on your individual circumstances, your optimal tasks and the order you do them in are likely to be different.
Really, the biggest adjustment to pandemic life in my own case (beyond any subjective, emotional grumbling about being stuck at home) was having to be meticulous in my meal planning. To be precise about what we’re eating well in advance. And to know that I not only have that on hand but that I know what to do if some ingredient suddenly becomes unavailable (so it involves building flexibility into the model, a precise yet flexible planning). Because stopping by the grocery store casually isn’t something I do now, where in the past, my partner and I would hit the store without a thought if we forgot something or spontaneously wanted something else for dinner or craved a certain snack.
Now I actually order snacks ahead of time and have them organized in my office like it’s a little convenience store.
The chores also matter more than ever, too (and this is saying something because my live-in partner is a neatnik) — because we’re here all the time. If something isn’t functional or efficient in our home, we are confronted with its annoying presence all day long.
So the increased focus on meal planning and prep and chores… well, that’s my addressing our household pandemic adjustments first thing. Before I write.
A Different Form of Relaxing
And there’s a reason I do that: Because if I take care of that stuff, then I find I can relax a lot easier. Not the kind of relaxing we did over Thanksgiving weekend, mind you. It’s not nonstop video games in my PJs. I’m spending many hours writing and still doing chores all week (and cooking meals).
But it’s relaxed in that if I do the right work first thing in the right way, then it’s almost like there’s no pandemic going on at all. Yes, the news is grim and terrible. But the day to day life if you do lockdown right? It actually feels normal. A bit like what I grew up with, living in a house in the Maine woods during bleak winters that felt like they’d never end. Especially during the holiday winter vacation when you didn’t have to even report to school.
You’re shut in your house and you have to plan around that. But it’s not so bad. And if you plan it right, you can make the most of it. and work on presents for your future self.