Rendered Fat Content


Anonymous: from New Impression: Children at Play, woodblock print book (ca. 1875)
" … maybe it's just me who's overseeing …"

Repeat any activity an uncertain number of times and besides acquiring a habit, you might discover boredom. We work hard to develop routines before setting out to revile them. Vacations have long been held as an antidote to too much sameness, though through This Damned Pandemic, vacations have proven chancy and easily foregone. We've escaped a few times in recent months to see my sons and grandkids, observing strict guidelines: wearing masks, waiting forever for the hotel elevator so only us two would be on it, eating take-out, avoiding crowds. The protocols seem just as tedious when away from home as they've become at home, and there's really no escaping them as another unsurprising surge overtakes us, this one apparently more virulent than any previous. Only one of my face masks remain intact after a year and a half of continual use. The other two have started splitting, an Oftening effect, no doubt, suffering from too much of what they were designed to do. There are apparently limits.

My weekend routine has been changing since we started remodeling in earnest.
Unused to physical laboring five day work weeks, I find myself ready for nothing so much as a nap on weekends. It had been decades since I expected myself to be actively performing physical labor, and at first the experience seemed comforting. I found a certain satisfaction that a man my age could manage that work without apparent ill effects, still able to stand each following morning, still light-hearted. I know people my age who can barely stand after sitting, let alone expend such effort. I felt myself fortunate, but then the Oftening started settling in. The first time might seem charming, the second a little less, the third time might start to feel a little alarming, especially if weeks of the same stretch out before one. Now it seems as though I'm held prisoner, to Covid, to remodeling, to my own desire to make home here, an effort that involves narrow variety with little novelty. I've got doors stacked up forever and baseboards to refinish, not to mention seemingly acres of carpet still left to pull up. I ache for vacation, a little difference. I promise I'll be good after we return. I need to be good without.

The questions resonate down through the ages. What constitutes difference? Which differences might translate into significant changes? Both questions seem worth pondering though they might prove imponderable in any specific instance. They might prove fundamentally unanswerable, but might remain worth asking, for as with many things, it's in the wrestling, often with one's self, where insights emerge. What might constitute a vacation in a context where vacation can't be taken? I could get all fatalistic and sullen and goad myself into the sort of petulance that drives an otherwise sane man to do something stupid, like go to a movie or take himself out to breakfast. I drive by that breakfast joint with the now distant memory of a plate of smothered hash browns, like a recollection from childhood, from another, long-lost world. I feel excluded from ordinary now, poised here, living in extraordinary times, I start to understand why the Chinese considered extraordinary times such a curse. This continuing heat dome just makes the same old sequestration and my own inflated personal expectations seem worse, like an ever-escalating Groundhog's Day where each day promises the same and also a little worse.

So I'm trolling for difference. Not much, just enough. Heck, I'd accept a bit too little difference if it busted this cadence some. I'm feeling cruelly indentured, in not for a penny or for a pound, but in for a million dollars, maybe more, and it seems I must repay the whole outstanding sum before I can take more than a weekend away as vacation, and even then, I chide myself for all I don't get done when resting. Weeks looming rather than promising, I cannot even imagine the end of this chapter, let along the book. The weeks threaten not with terror but with near absolute certainty. I know my schedule a month from now. The tasks might shift a little, but come seven-thirty AM, I'll be tying my Handyman Dave shoes and finding my gloves, having already been up since the middle of the night before writing this chronicle. Supper might, if we're fortunate, be served before nine pm this evening, and then we'll re-enter the hamster wheel all over again. It makes it worse that I wanted this. I ordered it up with considerable flourish. After years in exile, after such a long separation, I set to return to a fresh world order which, inevitably, I guess, quickly turned into a new numbing sameness, Oftening.

How often I complain about what shortly thereafter resolves itself. It might be that the complaint upsets the balance so some difference can emerge. Perhaps just the clearer declaration transforms what previously had been mere sensation into something fairly easily addressed. How often I become a slave to unconsidered feelings when considering might create a context within which resolution might appear. I cannot know, but by this time tomorrow, my complaint might have been rendered moot, but probably not by any way I'd expected. It might be that this universe is listening and poised to help, but needs some definite statement before coming to rescue. Or maybe it's just me who's overseeing, overlooking obvious choices until I finally hear myself in echo, Oftening.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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