Four opened containers of capers. Two jars of sauerkraut, each with 1/2 a serving left swirling around the bottom of the clear brine. Three opened bags of shredded cheese, by some small miracle there was no mold. What is in that stuff anyway? Two jars of lemon juice, the plain kind used for cooking, not the "let's share a lemonade on the porch" kind; one of them was almost full, the other had about 1/3 left.
That was the easy stuff to find. In the recesses of my fridge I discovered cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving, two months ago, and homemade icing from... sometime in the last 12 months?
I was starting to understand why my grocery bill's been on the rise and how the fridge was full but no one could find anything to eat. Normally, my kitchen is a pretty streamlined affair. All the shelves and drawers are labeled, and have been for 17 years; each item has a home and there's a system for replacing what's used up.
The part I'd taken for granted was that I hadn't taught anyone how to steward this effort. I've always been the captain and the deckhand. As I'm away from home working more and more, I've noticed the faults in my systems and how much time I'd spent managing all of it.
Last week I got a bee in my bonnet to put an end to the kitchen waste and inefficiencies. It's pretty much all I've been thinking about for the past 7 days and I've been using every spare minute to imagine, create, and implement a new plan.
So, did I get it figure out? I think so! But, we'll see. I'll be gone for almost the entire month of February. It's the longest I've been away alone and I have just 10 days left to prepare my husband and kids for it. Here's what my fridge and freezer look like now after my organizing marathon. I'll let you know later how it all turns out!
Now, on to real point of why I'm writing you today: it's not to talk about kitchen organization, that was just a simple example of wanting something and making it happen in a short period of time — that's what I call rodeo-style productivity.
There are cultural myths like "slow and steady wins the race;" or "early to bed, early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise." I used to buy into these cliche bits of apparently sage advice. I cannot tell you how many books I've read on creating successful habits, or how many times I've tried to implement morning or evening routines, thinking I would be a better person if I pulled it off.
In the "consistent effort" paradigm I would have tried to work on my kitchen bit-by-bit. Maybe starting with the cheese drawer on day one, then off to the tray of nuts on day two, and then, in my world, I would have been derailed by an urgent matter and never returned to finish.
In the past five years I've become comfortable with the fact that I like to work like a bull rider. I go all in, with everything I've got, until the 8 second buzzer rings. Sometimes, I get thrown and trampled in the first few seconds and have to limp away; sometimes I fall off, but grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground to get back on; and sometimes, I get in my full, satisfying ride, then nimbly jump off and throw my hat in the air. Yeehaw!!
But no matter the outcome, I never lose the experience I gained in the attempt. So many people just look at a failure and all they takeaway is, "I failed again."
It's mid-January, I can hear it already, "I only stuck with my New Year's exercise plan for one week," you say. "So what!" I reply. "Did you learn something?"
Maybe you learned that there's a new exercise you like. Maybe you learned that the gym isn't for you. Maybe you learned that you bit off more than you can chew.
"Maybe," you say, "but you can't do exercise rodeo-style. You have to be consistent." I would beg to differ. While consistency might be key for achieving outstanding athletic performance, you doing something, anything, will get you closer than if you do nothing at all.
A short bull ride is still a bull ride. Take credit for it! So you want to write a book, create an app, climb a mountain. Start with what makes sense to you!
If you didn't have your own ideas about how you can't, how hard it will be, and how you're going to fail; if there weren't "experts" whispering in your ear about building habits, creating routines, consistent effort and discipline, where would you start?
Get quiet and listen to the whispers in your heart. They'll lead you to your next experience, to your next level, to your next rodeo.
*Bull photo by Larry Costales