Surprisingly Helpful

Thanks to everyone who weighed in on yesterday’s long angsty post — it was surprisingly helpful in clarifying my thinking. (This is also why I’ve occasionally found tarot readings helpful — in the process of doing one, I figure out what I actually think. Some therapists work that way too.)

The main thing I got out of yesterday is that I’m in a pretty good place with the basic structure of my life these days, finally (!), and to make things even better and gain more socializing time with loved ones, I need to:

a) be okay with treating the domestic-focused Serendib House work as ‘work’ (and not just my hobbies); internalizing that it’s fine to expect the family to pitch in the same way they do on chores and other household work (and of course, conversely, I facilitate and pitch in on their work all the time)

b) keep working on communicating with everyone but especially the adults on when I’m doing solitary work (or just want to be on my own) and when I’d welcome company (which is actually much of the time)


Jed and I stayed up ’til 2 talking last night (not good for my sleep, but he’s finally going home today, so it seemed worth prioritizing one more long conversation; no regrets), and one interesting thing that came out of that had to do with perceived interruptibility, and how that connects to ADD.

I generally do cooking / sewing / etc. with a podcast or TV going. I am entirely uncommitted to that media — I’m happy to pause it at any point, and in fact, am only half-listening to it; its main function is not even to entertain me, but to occupy a piece of my brain enough that I can focus. This is a pretty standard ADD thing. Sometimes I’ll ‘watch’ an entire murder mystery show and at the end of it, I couldn’t really tell you what the plot or characters were, because I was really mostly thinking about a tricky recipe.

But Jed has a really hard time internalizing that I don’t care about the media, because from his point of view, if he’s watching TV or listening to music or whatever, he’s actively watching/listening, and is completely engaged in it. So he might come and interrupt me to ask a question if he needs to, but Jed feels like he should minimize the interruption because I clearly want to watch my show right now. But actually, I am very happy to stop my show and chat with him instead while continuing to work; in fact, I’d prefer it most of the time.

So I think we can do better with that.

(As a side note, I was recently hanging out and talking with a friend, and he got kind of upset when I starting doing something else while talking to him — I don’t remember what, maybe knitting, maybe something on my phone. It’s really important to him that the people he’s with are actually fully engaged with him, and if it seems like they aren’t, he feels…devalued, maybe? Like they’re saying he’s not important enough to pay attention to. So it’s a good thing we’re not dating, because I think it’d take a LOT of work to make my ‘knitting HELPS me pay attention to you’ be something he could internalize and believe.)


I’ve done a lot in the last few years to work on my workload, and I think I’m basically at a pretty good point right now. I’ve separated out the days of the week depending on what I’m primarily working on; I’m keeping my Fridays clear for writing and my weekends clear of computer work entirely.

When I was out in California, I was talking all my life organization over with my friend Alex, trying to refine and optimize (I do a lot of iteration to get to better systems, it’s my major mode for approaching life), and Alex felt strongly that I should be cooking less. That was not so appealing to me initially, because cooking often brings me joy — Roshani was there too, and both of us had an initial reaction of “You don’t understand how important cooking and food is to us!”

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that production cooking — when I’m cooking because it needs to be done, either for selling products or for weekly drudgery of feeding the family — doesn’t actually bring me joy.

So for the last month, I’ve been trying to prioritze teaching my young staffers how to cook my sweets and such (Ethan is over here right now, and is finishing cleaning up the kitchen preparatory to making a batch of tamarind-chili marshmallows for the fall Patreon treat boxes), and I’ve given two weekday night meals over to a local mom food service. It’s really helping!


This is what the week looks like now:

• Monday: Teaching day: teaching, course prep, grading, student meetings
– dinner: leftovers from the weekend

• Tuesday: Serendib day: supervising staff working at the house (mostly making sweets and baked goods), meetings, catching up on Slack thread and e-mails, manuscript work, food and textile production
– dinner: Angie’s Pantry

• Wednesday: Ditto Monday (but my morning class elected to be held remotely, so I don’t go into campus until 2, which makes it possible to fit in a little laundry and dishes and such, which is helpful)
– dinner: Angie’s Pantry

• Thursday: SLF day
– dinner: cook if I feel like it, or Kevin does, otherwise scrounge

• Friday: writing day
– dinner: order pizza generally

• Weekend: no scheduled work (unless there’s an event I’m working), household chores, relaxing, socializing with family, cooking a big Sunday dinner when we feel up to it, which is hopefully most weeks.


Now I’m often working in the evenings too, to be clear. I have school board two evenings a month (and that often goes late into the night AND I’m often somewhat buzzed afterwards so can’t get to sleep until 1 or 2, which kind of wrecks me the next day — if it were up to me, I think I’d switch school board to the weekend, but I think that would probably be really hard on most people, so I think I have to just suck it up).

I also have writing workshop two evenings a month. And I’m often sewing masks or scarves or some such in the evenings while watching TV, if the kids don’t need homework help, or I’m developing a recipe for the cookbook.

But I like that domestic-focused work, it’s usually enjoyable and relaxing, and I can do it while watching TV. I just need to integrate more family into that, at least some of the time. Example below.


Last night: We see here what happens when Jed walks over to where I’m working on a kottu roti recipe (need to cook it again and photograph for Vegan Serendib, because the previous photo of kottu roti from Feast had eggs in it).

He said, “Can I help?”

I said, “You can keep me company while I cook.”

…and then we chatted for a while as I was chopping, periodically stopping to watch a little TV (we watched The Lovebirds last night, which was really very funny — I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much watching a movie, and Jed pretty much lost it at various points; I’m really very fond of Kumail Nanjani, and he and Issa Rae were hilarious playing off each other in this)…

And then I got to a complicated point of chopping and stirring, and I asked Jed to stir for me while I chopped, so that was helpful, and we kept chatting, and it all would’ve been pretty idyllic in terms of family and work merging together productively…

…except then I got a FB comment that prompted me to go write a couple paragraphs, which took longer than I expected, and I didn’t think to have Jed turn down the burner heat before I went off, and he’s not an experienced enough cook to realize when the onions and leeks are starting to scorch, so the end result was not ideal for the cookbook photo, and I’m going to make it again today, sigh.

But Jed still ate it for dinner and said he thought it was tasty and only slightly scorched (Kevin tried to pitch it as “well-caramelized” but he was optimistic, I’m afraid). I had a few bites, but gave up after that, so it’s good that Jed is still willing to eat the burnt kottu roti, because I HATE wasting food. And regardless, we had a nice time cooking together and a nice time watching a movie.


Another example of things improving, from Sunday night, I think:

I came in from my bath and lay down in our bed, still reading a book, and Kevin paused his audiobook and asked: “You look like you’re happily reading?”

And I said, “No, I’m trudging my way through this particular book out of a sense of duty because I ought to be up on the field, but I’m actually mopey and don’t really feel like reading and don’t know what I want to do, bleh.” And then we chatted for a while, and I felt much better by the end of the chatting. Progress.

I love my people and I love my life, and at least today, I’m pretty optimistic that we can make it all work well, esp. with more communication (and fewer assumptions) all around.


(Pictured: Jed seriously cooking, Jed goofy, scorched kottu roti, alas.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *