LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — I don’t know about you, but for me there is something about Back to School that makes me feel especially industrious. This is always surprising to me, as I would normally define myself as someone who likes to buck, rather than embrace, routine. But this time of year is different. The house is quiet, the season is on the brink of changing and, far in the distance, there is the delicious promise of Thanksgiving and Christmas. What better time to put your nose to the grindstone and re-establish habits that had been whimsically dropped during the luscious summer?
Yesterday, this involved re-committing to using reusable bags at the grocery store. Again and again over the summer, I’d get to the cashier, realize I forgot my bags, and plead with the bag boy to fill up the plastic bags as full as he could to try to compensate for my forgetfulness. But bag boys at Kroger, I’ve found, are somewhat reluctant to do this. They don’t like the soap touching the produce, the meat touching anything else. So inevitably I’d end up with several bags every trip, which I’d stuff into another bag. Eventually, by the end of the summer, that mother bag had become a big, springy puff that hung in our pantry and was exactly in the way of me getting to my aprons.
I didn’t even realize the bag was slightly stressing me out until yesterday when I finally pulled it down and took it to the recycling center. I also filled my car with all of my re-usable bags that were hanging beside the puff, also preventing me from having easy apron access. Now the pantry is wonderfully clear of the clutter and I feel like I’ve gotten an important part of my life in order.
Back to school has also prompted me to resume my goal of flossing every single morning. My husband is great at this, but in the summer, with my stepdaughter sleeping in late, sometimes I’d just give a quick brush and then head to the garden. But now, no more.
Tonight, I also plan on recommitting myself to pump class at the gym. I’m not sure if it’s back to school that’s motivating this or just the fact that I found my triceps wagging like turkey wattles in an especially gusty wind the other day. Either way, it’s something that clearly needs to be done. Do I like pump class? Not very much, no. I mean, it’s OK once I get there, but, oh, the things I’d rather do instead of going are endless: watch Real Housewives. Bake bread. Eat bread. Eat cheese with bread. Play solitaire. Weed the garden. Water the plants. Sometimes even mopping the floor seems like more fun (not a lot more, mind you).
But then I get there and the teacher is always in a good mood and I’m surrounded by women whose triceps don’t flap and I think, “This isn’t so bad.” So that’s my goal tonight. To be able to tell myself that while my thighs are screaming from 10,000 squats.
Spice drawer, another area that will be tackled in my life. This morning I found myself trying to stuff the cinnamon back into its space with such effort the jar of coriander blew out the other end like 10 little monkeys rolling over in the bed. I have a bit of a fear of getting to the end of a recipe and realizing I’m out of chili powder or red pepper flakes so I often buy more than I need — especially when I have a juicy coupon to use. But then when I can’t find the jar I was using, I open up another and, well obviously, chaos ensues. But this afternoon, I’m going to get to those spices, amalgamate and alphabetize and make things as orderly as they can get.
For years after I graduated from school, I felt empty in the fall with no classes to go to. It’s not so much that I liked school — in fact, I definitely did not like it — but the pull of the routine was powerful. Fall was as much associated with the gentle fall of leaves as with the smell of schools supplies; rubbery erasers, fresh sheets of paper. As much as that first day back was stressful, it was always accompanied with that feeling of giving in to what needed to get done and there was a blossom of satisfaction that stemmed from that. Maybe that’s what I still feel: that acceptance that it’s time to get back to reality. The margarita time of year is over, but there is now this time where things get done and the cupboards get cleaned and life gets lived responsibly and purposefully.
As for how long this diligence will last, who knows? I’m thinking two weeks tops in my world. Sometimes I think I establish little practices and policies just so I can have the pleasure of throwing caution to the wind and breaking them. But for now, it feels good to be industrious, like Aesop’s ant rather than the grasshopper, and I’ll try to roll with it — at least until Labor Day.