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At ten in the morning, our kitchen was still dark. The sun wouldn’t wind its way around to this side of the house until mid-afternoon. Built in the 1800s when a servant was relegated to cook unseen and unheard, our kitchen was neither bright nor cheerful at this time of day. But it was where the coffee was located.

I sat at our island, sipping my second cup of coffee, trying to get my act together. There was a mountain of laundry to do, Christmas gifts to order, pork to defrost, tumbleweeds of dog hair to sweep up and computer work waiting in my cramped, chilly home office. I needed motivation, energy, positivity. But all I felt was a vague sense of apathy, boredom and guilt.

I wondered why I often found myself stagnating in this dreary mindset. The pandemic had done a doozy on my daily routine. Before “stay at home” became a virtue, I got up and out of the house most days, doing computer work at coffee shops, going to the base gym, meeting military spouse friends. I’d come home from my outings, feeling like our house was a cozy refuge to enjoy.

But now, after two years of staying home, our house felt like a trap. I was the servant, imprisoned in the dark kitchen, with nothing to look forward to but a day of drudgery. I shook my head, trying to reorder my irrational thoughts.

The logical side of me knew that we had a wonderful life. I was proud of my husband’s 28 years of service in the Navy. After retirement, we’d found a historic house in a charming New England village, close enough to the Navy base that we could hear the national anthem most mornings. We were building a nice group of local friends. My husband and I had good jobs, both of us working remotely. Our three children, in their twenties and doing well, live near enough to drop in to entertain us often.

While the chores waited, I racked my brain to understand why I regularly descended into melancholy, when life was so obviously good. I suspected that the problem was my warped way of thinking. To me, I was either succeeding or failing, winning or losing, starving or feasting, full or empty, all or nothing.

When our family had hard times — deployments, health issues, disappointments, stress — I rose to the occasion, proud of my ability to hit serious challenges head on. When we experienced good times — births, milestones, graduations, promotions, travel, holidays — I embraced those moments with a happy heart.

Perhaps, I struggled with the periods in between extremes. The days when time stretches out before me, with nothing particularly exciting or challenging on the horizon. When I go through the motions, thinking all I have to show for myself is an empty dishwasher and a lousy pork roast. My mind plays tricks, telling me I’m wasting my life.

I looked down at my half empty cup of lukewarm coffee and realized that I needed to change my attitude. I noticed our yellow lab dozing on his dog bed beside the refrigerator. “Time to wag the dog,” I thought.

I clicked the button on our kitchen radio, humming along with Bing Crosby’s “A Marshmallow World” while I flicked on lights to brighten our kitchen. After stuffing wet laundry into the dryer and sweeping up dog hair, I cranked the portable radiator in my chilly home office and lit a scented candle to make it cozy for my afternoon computer work. I smiled at my luck at finding a jar of applesauce to go with the defrosting pork for dinner.

The microwave emitted its melody, indicating that my lukewarm coffee was piping hot again. While waiting for it to cool, I marked items off my to do list, recognizing that each seemingly mundane daily task is equivalent to laying a brick on the path of life’s journey. Every matched pair of socks, vacuumed rug, day of work, errand run, litter box scooped, and sidewalk shoveled is progress. Each day we move forward, step by step.

I sipped, with newfound awareness. My cup was not only half full, it actually runneth over.

Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com.


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