Finding Normal in Chaos

My life has always been chaos.  I seem to do best in chaos.  In the last 2 years it has been more chaotic than ever.  Maybe the fact that the kids moved out and I gave up stability for adventure is the root cause.   Whatever the cause is not significant, how I function is. I am currently waiting to ship out again.  I now know how military couples feel when they are sent on missions.   Not that my life will be in the same amount of danger, but that separation anxiety and feeling of loss, I now understand it.

I always wanted to have a routine.  You know a schedule you can count on, but for some reason as much as I think I want it, I cannot function this way.  I need the crazy and unpredictable.  I thrive not so much in conflict, but in the moments leading up to conflict resolution.  In a routine, I feel lazy and uninspired.

Yesterday we picked up a cute little vintage table for the dining area.  Even though it is old and needs work, I love it.  It represents a time in my life when I was first faced with chaos.  My first apartment was a cute little studio that was furnished.  I hated it.  What I had not learned at that time was how to let things go.  I had boxes of old school work.  I kept every trinket ever given to me.  I had a collection of Breyer plastic horse models.  I toted those things around in 9 moves.  I finally put them in storage at my mom’s house.  My intention was to sell them, but my mom gave them away.  At first I was upset, but then I realized by being upset I was still a slave to things.  I had to learn to let it go.

Anyway, back to the table.  My studio had this old formica table with two vinyl chairs.  I had never seen anything so ugly in all my life.  When I moved into my first home, I was given a nice big oak table with 8 chairs.  I never really thought about that formica table again, until a few months ago.  When Richard and I moved in together it was like that first apartment all over again.  You see that apartment represented change and chaos and not knowing but still trying.  I moved to California with Richard and I had all those feelings again.  Not knowing, living in chaos, change and still trying were all seeping back into my life.  And I thought about that silly little table.  The one that I hated, and though it was not that I hated it, it was that it made me feel poor.  It was not my choice to have it in the apartment.  It was not my choice to live in such a small place with so much stuff.  Ok the so much stuff, that was my choice.

As I look back at my life, I realize that little ugly table meant I was on my own now.  The things in my world were now my very own.  The choices I made were made by me and not for me.  That little ugly table represented the freedom you feel when you move out of your parents home for the very first time.  And although I moved in with a bully of a boyfriend, we worked different shifts, so I was home alone much of the time and the place was truly mine.

So when we moved into our new place, I thought a nice table was needed.  But a wood table represented to me, stability and being trapped.  I wanted for the first time ever a chrome and formica table with vinyl chairs that rock and squeak.  I went online looking for such a table.  I found two.  One had 8 chairs and they wanted $400 for it.  What the crap am I going to do with 8 chairs?  The second one I found was perfect.  It is a grey and white marbled look.  It has 4 chairs, one with a rip and one with the handle on the back missing.  It also has a leaf to enlarge the table.  It fits perfect and she only wanted $200.  I offered her $175 and she took it, she probably would have taken $150.  I am not so great at bargaining.  I pulled the money from my account and we went to pick it up yesterday.

In the past two weeks, I have been really trying to focus on real food and cooking at home.  I have been menu planning and focusing on food portions.  Richard thinks this is silly, but in reality I have been wasting so much less food.  This is something I used to do when I was so broke I had to go to the food bank to feed my family. I am actually quite good at figuring out what to do with things to create a decent well-balanced meal on a shoestring budget.  As the holidays approach, I know we will not be entertaining, but having a table to eat upon is really nice.  It helps keep you focused on eating and not on the television.


Last night we ate our first meal on our new table.  I found a recipe for scalloped potatoes and halved the recipe.  I also had shiitake mushrooms, leeks and green beans that needed to be used.  I sautéed those all together and set up a couple of plates at the table.  It was nice and very little left overs.  Ah, leftovers a blessing and a curse.  I have actually found a new art form in creating a new dish from leftovers.  I really would love to see restaurants be as creative with food waste as I have become.  If I cannot freeze something, I try to reincorporate it into a new dish.  Old rice mix becomes a soup base, along with pasta sauces and left over veggies.  Not all combinations are great, but all are edible. Last week I had this deliciously spicy tomato based soup for a couple of days at lunch.  I was sad when I finished it.

I guess in all my chaos, I have found a norm.  I love to be in a kitchen, but not a production kitchen.  I love to create dishes, modify recipes and I really miss throwing a dinner party.  I am hoping that the new neighborhood that can happen again.  I do thrive in chaos, but I need some things that feel normal.  Sitting and watching TV all day is not a norm I wish to thrive upon.  I need to buy some new paints and an easel and start painting and drawing again.  I need to figure out how to keep a budget in a kitchen again.  I used to feed myself and 3 teens for around $120 a month.  I could do so much better now.


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