I’m managing myself and my household, just trying to stay well and keep the ones I love safe. In these uncertain times daily routines give my life a rhythm and create the illusion of predictability. I may be folding socks on a falling airplane, but I need to be busy and I find comfort in the ordinary, the repetition of tasks in a pantomime of normalcy. Up before the sun, make coffee and write in the dark quiet. Darkness gives me focus. Silence expands my thinking. Then pop! The sun is up, the day opens, light becomes noise, the dog stands smiling at the front door. Outside I inhale the cool damp air. Then I feed the dog. Feed the birds. Then more coffee, more writing. Crack eggs into a pan, drop slices of bread in the toaster. Eat my breakfast, drink more coffee, clean up the kitchen. Then back on the computer. Every day. Day after day for the past 100 days, mundane habits like links in a chain that hold me in place here. I am moored. The mirage of safe harbor is soothing.
In my younger days this life would have been my worst nightmare. As a budding adult I feared disappearing into domesticity, losing my independence, going beige. In the 1960s, my formative years, I watched the half-hour housewives on TV with their theme music, tidy homes, happy families and perfect hair. June Cleaver, Donna Reed, Laura Petrie and Samantha Stephens in cautionary tales of staying home, self-sacrifice as a calling, the undervalued righteousness of caregiving. I was determined to shun that life.
Now I’m full on Donna Reed living in service to my household, offering kind encouragement, making sandwiches and packing lunch in a lunch pail, cleaning up after meals, addressing issues demurely, without so much as a slightly snarky tone of voice to indicate my superiority, looking straight at the camera with an arched eyebrow and a steady gaze, undaunted, queen of solutions to other people’s problems, doer of good. Boring, boring good. Steely Donna Reed. Unflappable bed maker, kitchen wiper, food wrangler, stalwart helpmate nurturing others through the day. Pushing a vacuum cleaner in kitten heels, pearls and petticoats. Yep, that’s me, just another housewife laying pipe for Western Civilization.
My sanity depends on a visual sense of order. I chop vegetables into neat mounds of color. Wash, wipe and put away dishes. Sort dirty clothes into piles, launder and fold them into stacks, stow them into drawers, hang them on hangers. These acts of homemaking are done without fanfare, without accreditation, without academic degree or professional certification, and yet entirely necessary to the continuity of our lives. My loved ones depend on me to provide stability, a framework of interlocking routines that knit food and shelter into home, a place for rest and renewal. I am a homemaker. My inner feminist gives a deep cringe, but right now, I find this work to be essential. It’s not about my gender, or the traditions of womanhood. These routines are about survival, keeping my head screwed on straight as the Earth trembles beneath my feet and chronic uncertainty screws with my brain chemistry. The pantomime of normalcy dilutes my anxiety and improves my balance. I like it. Peace of mind. Fake it ‘til you make it.