Oct 21, 2022 - The Kitchen Drawer as Metaphor
I moved to Paso Robles in December and January, over a 30 day span, from Keystone Colorado. As I do everything in the most complicated way possible in an attempt to make it easier on myself, I first found an apartment remotely, signed for it online, and moved most of my belongings there all in the 2nd week of December 2021. I returned several times back and forth from Keystone to quit my job in an "acceptable" way and take care of all the loose ends I needed to tie up before feeling I'd be fully moved in mid-January. The list was prodigious. I slowly sold off my furniture. I had my van with the blown engine towed to a junk yard in Denver. I sold my Infiniti QX4 4x4 to a ski kid from the east coast. I bought my co-worker's insanely dog destroyed Fiat 500c as a "California Car" for the gas mileage alone. I lived and worked out of my Colorado apartment for another month without furniture and only basic kitchenware, sleeping on a foam pad on the floor, cleaning, scrubbing, sweeping, working, and saying goodbye. This was "easier". In the last days I fell ill of course, as is customary on big moves, wracked by queasiness and exhaustion as if I had the flu, that was then compounded by 14 inched of snow. It took me three extra days to finally leave, the Fiat packed to the gills, for the 1000 mile drive west through the mountains. I drove as fast as possible, at one point seeing if the Fiat could top 120mph down the back side of the Utah mountains. Ethereally, it could.
This is but a preamble to what I really wanted to write about today though. I've been packed tidily into my studio apartment for 10 months now, continually nesting, organizing, re-arranging, and re-tooling my space, buying furniture, leaving furniture on the sidewalk, scooching the bed three inches farther this way or that, moving tables from one side of the room to the other, fixing the kitchen drawer.
Fixing the kitchen drawer.
The focus of a studio apartment seems to always be the bed and the kitchen to me. If I move the bed over three more inches will I feel like I'm not sleeping in the kitchen, I ask? Yes, yes, this is better. But one of the earliest jobs was fixing the large kitchen drawer. It holds court in the center of the kitchen arrangement, placed between the stove and the sink. It is abnormally wide and equally shallow. In the standard of all cheap apartments, it is shoddily made, and beaten by previous tenants into a state of barely functional. It opens, yes, but the front panel is poised to disengage from the assembly at any moment, due in no small part because the drawer sticks because the sliding rails are bent from abuse.
I set myself upon it with glue and screws and eventually buy a drill in hopes that the drilled hole will somehow prevent the inserted screw from flaying the 1/2 inch of cheap particle board into worthless bits of reconstituted sawdust. For months I revel in my fantasy that I have made it better.
My daughters visited a few weeks ago and I found myself warning them "it sticks, so pull hard" and other words of condolence. A week after they left I decided I could perhaps fix it "better" in some way by spraying WD-40 on the runners, or reducing some of the weight. I tried putting the silverware tray into another drawer, but of course it was too large, had I tried this before? I must have. Could I shave down the edges of the tray, cut it with a scissors? I will try. Negative. That is clearly insane. Now what.
Staring at the open drawer it dawned on my that the slider rail that was bent and sticking was only on the left side. What if I put the silverware tray (heavy with thrift store silverware) on the right side instead? Would that help? I tried it. I moved the other loose pieces to the opposite side, scissors, a whisk, a can opener. Sharp knives to the back. I opened and shit the drawer several times. That slides better, I admitted. I stared at the new arrangement. It felt backwards, out of place. The forks pointed the wrong way. My world felt upside down. Or more accurately, turned around. The idea that I had turned my life around felt over dramatic and overwrought, overstated and overblown. I was still the confused fragile bewildered old man I had been the day before, only now even more uneasy. I had changed yet another part of my life, when would I be changed completely?
I've lived this way for a week or two now. I continually pull the drawer open with too much force, I'd had so many repetitions over the previous 10 months, I've found the habit hard to let go. I feel more and more surprised by my apparent need for 100s of repetitions to master a new skill as I grow older, and the comfort I get from those repetitions. Opening a drawer with the proper force, learning a song, expanding my use of language in conversation beyond the long-lived go-to's of enthusiastic sarcasm, irony, and incredulity. Ah, there's the new rub. Moving beyond incredulousness.
My new therapist recommended a book called "Fierce Conversations". In a previous session when I asked for strategies and tactics on how to expand my language use through repetitions she suggested flash cards. I feel like my first flash card should be "open the drawer gently". A transferrable skill across situations for me, to be sure.