Have you ever been driving eastward in the morning and found yourself blinded by the rising sun? Or by the setting sun going westward in the late afternoon or early evening? You put down the visor, you wear sunglasses, you extend your neck this way and that or hold your hand up flat against the piercing light to try to shield yourself from its powerful interference in your field of vision. I’ve done these things a thousand times myself, looking like a chicken that can’t figure out which way her neck should be angled off her body, but it never occurred to me to do what Carolyn did.
She cut out the side of a cereal box, glued it to a paint stirring stick and put it in her car, readily accessible, for those moments when the sun is right in her eyes and too strong. Her no-cost, highly effective solution does the trick every time.
I watched her do this as we drove from Underhill to Cambridge (Vermont) one bright morning when I was there. I was struck by the crazy simplicity of it.
It made me think about the mountains we make out of molehills sometimes, the money we spend, the time we take, the ways we fret – when the situation has an easy fix. And I don’t mean just sun-shields. Not everything is complicated, expensive and difficult. Oh, if only I’d thought of that! My own clunky, roundabout process (if I even have one, to say nothing of looking like a chicken) seems so un-brilliant in contrast.
If we can manage to get smarter over time (study, read, watch, learn and do the thing that’s helpful/expedient/sensible), we can uncomplicate and unclutter our lives a little. From working in hotel kitchens I learned about CAYGO – Clean As You GO – so I don’t end up with a gigantic mess of dirty dishes and pots and utensils at the end (important especially in my tiny kitchen). If something I use can be just rinsed, say, the knife I just cut up the cabbage with, I rinse it and stand it up to dry. If the spoons, beaters and measuring cups are all over the counter, they are going to get in my way. Instead, I put them in the mixing bowl, in the sink, with water and a little detergent, and when I pop the cake in the oven, I do these up quickly instead of waiting till, say, after dinner. Well, most of the time – no one wants to be obsessive, right?
Why do some things seem like nothing and others overwhelm us?
The old saying is Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. A mole, the size of a mouse, tunnels in the ground right under the surface, loosening the dirt, creating a slight ridge as it pushes along that might (might!) be half an inch high. Hardly a mountain.
All well and good. All easy to say. All sensible until we encounter something we somehow can’t fix or keep up with so easily.
Like the inside of my fridge. I open it numerous times a day and recently realized there were things in there that 1. Had been in there quite some time and/or 2. I didn’t know what they were. I am not in college. I don’t share a fridge with random people who were assigned to live with me. It’s my fridge. But okay, this is a portion of what I took out (and I’m glad the photo is dark!).
I don’t remember the occasion I bought Reddi-wip for. I do remember buying/opening horseradish spread for roast beef sandwiches for a neighborhood event maybe four years ago and that’s still here. And that white wine, oh dear. It says 2017. Is it still good? There’s an open can of coconut milk we used for something a month or so ago (or was that right after Christmas?), a re-zipped bag of shredded coconut of a kind I never buy (who bought that? when?), the little lemon juice squeezie-bottle (or is that lime because it’s green, and why do I have it?), small unlabeled mason jars with vaguely sweet substances of unknown origin…
Here I am, Miss CAYGO-CAYGO (and proud of it, thank you very much!), able to keep up with and tout the virtues of washing up the dishes as you go along so you don’t have a big mess at the end, clearly unable to avoid old items, mystery items, no-longer-fresh items in my fridge.
We are so very inconsistent, we humans. Just this week I was thinking about how being organized and efficient in one arena should mean we are organized and efficient in another arena. More broadly speaking, if we exert control over one area of our lives (and most of us can manage this), why can’t we exert it over another? Shouldn’t the same principles apply? Pick a system, adapt it for whatever situation, practice until it’s habit, and voila(!) one less thing to be mucking about in, one less thing to struggle with all the time. Right? Shouldn’t we see the parallels and be able to say A is just like B, so I’ll just do for A as I do for B? Is it that hard? Yup! It is that hard, we are that complicated, situations do vary, personality does plays in, life is complex. We are not little robots that can just see the thing, do the thing and carry on.
And I might need the Reddi-wip!
…All right, fine, I’ll buy more next time…