Rendered Fat Content


Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878
"Some blessed shirker inside me has been complaining …"

How many times can I repeat an activity before repetition renders it banal and boring? What begins as necessary and refreshing might well become a crushing obligation over time. A perfectly timed taste of wine too easily slumps into an unmemorable second glass or a forgettable third. I've heard of activities so enjoyable that they never eventually bore anyone into a coma, but never actually experienced one. Experience seems to sum into something quite distinct from mastery, something more akin to a tragedy of over-familiarity, rendering almost alien through studied repetition, leaving the practitioner aching only for a beginner's mind again, a refreshing starting all over again from the bottom. Our Damned Pandemic has highlighted the utter banality of many of my RueTeens, activities I now rue performing and perform with all the mindful tranquility of a slighted teen. I might agree to do anything besides what I've become altogether too accustomed to doing after the umpteenth time anticipating doing it again.

Dinner, once creative opportunity, has become an utterly boring chore.
Where I once enthusiastically tore into packages containing alluring ingredients, I begrudgingly unwrap more of the same, deferring preparation until almost too tardy to even begin. Entrees once served with alluring sides more often appear piled on a single platter, pin bones intact. I lack an essential motivation for I too well understand that successful replication only encourages further obligation and even more numbing repetition. I imagine that if I managed to ruin supper service for a week or two that someone else might surprisingly discover an inner cook inside of them aching to be expressed and thereby leaving me to rest and possibly even eventually recuperate. I might specialize in cooking only those items that reliable never work out for me, like rice, which always tends to come out the rough texture of popcorn no matter how long or furiously I might boil or simmer or steam it before. Or Quinoa—yea, that could break the spell—that grain (or it a vegetable?) relative of rhubarb that reliably always tastes faintly of Hellfire or brimstone.

I can only fantasize about breaking these RueTeens, for they provide the very foundation of my sequestered life. The cats have set their internal clocks by my own repetitive behaviors, knowing just when in the morning I'll be cleaning out their litter box, a sequence of events they arrive to watch just when more direly in need of the temporarily disassembled facility. I quickly complete the chore before sitting back to watch the manic parade as each in some semblance of their turn creeps in to both check on and undo my fine work. I seriously consider posting a checklist so that they can record their timely presence. They also wait with extreme impatience for that late afternoon moment when they've learned I'm most likely to have my back turned while the slider's open, so that they can escape outside to fertilize the garden and become the butt of the magpie flock's mocking jokes. Later, Max knows precisely when it's time for him to help The Muse and I settle into bed. He hops up and plays a round or two of Hard To Pet before retiring to his own cat tower penthouse bed.

The alarm rings and I've been noticing a growing indifference. I once felt as though I'd lose the day if I stayed in bed beyond three or four in the morning. Now I'm just as likely to shockingly linger until almost five, recognizing that each day in sequestration stretches long toward an all-too determinate horizon, each looming RueTeen more threatening than welcoming. Morning just seems to mean winding up the old clockworks again. I haven't touched the old guitar in months. The lawn's far beyond needing mowing. I seem to rebel against more than I fulfill my meager responsibilities. I ache to be free of my RueTeens, which seem more self abusive than conducive to injecting any order into my life.

The Muse yesterday wisely suggested that we more actively plan for something different in our diets next week. We shopped then with a slightly different aspect in mind. Rather than fulfilling the long-accustomed usuals, we sought some novelty, imagining how it might become rather than how it seems to have become, for we'd as a family finally, apparently, achieved our Eigenvalue, an essence reliably replicating whatever we'd always done rather than what we might each day become instead. Our RueTeens, well-maintained, might make us into sorrowful characters, trapped in a sort of fluid amber, well-preserved, but for what possible reason? Our horizon might well remain unchanged and unchangeable for perhaps the next year or so, but the purpose of this exercise could not possibly be to simply survive on pure RueTeen. It seems hard and strange to deliberately change what over time became so damned sustainably unself-conscious. Some blessed shirker inside me has been complaining, which just might mean I could engage a little differently than I have been. Time to begin again again.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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