Angela Huston

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, which has necessitated safety protocols that include, among other things, semi-isolation, has to be approaching at least seven years, or so it seems. Yes, I have begun to think in dog years!

These long stretches of minimal contact with the outside world, combined with Ohio's usually unpredictable, unseasonable weather, often create confusion as I try to figure out which day, month, or season, we are experiencing at any given time.

For example, as I was cutting potatoes for salad, I heard the television weather person in the background announcing that fall would officially start the following day. What? Really? How did that happen?

Suddenly, looking at the salad I was preparing, the announcement made me realize I was breaking one of my own rules about food: potato protocol governs when it is time to eat potatoes as soup and when to have them in salad. It may be viewed as a contrary way to think, but cold potato salad is for hot summer days and hot potato soup is for cold winter evenings.

Under normal circumstances, when things are not so confusing and it is not so hard to separate one day from the next, I would not consider tampering with this routine. It represents how my life is organized: everything has its own time and place. It is a rule, and I need rules. Did I mention I am a card-carrying creature of habit?

In college, I had a mandatory swimming class during one winter semester. Swimming is supposed to be done outdoors in cold water on hot summer days, not indoors in warm water on cold days. Swimming in winter just felt wrong, and running to classes every day with frozen hair pretty much reinforced that thinking.

I also have self-imposed rules about things that have nothing whatsoever to do with a calendar. For example, I occasionally leave breakfast, perhaps even lunch, dishes unwashed in the sink, but after dinner, all the dishes must be washed, dried, and put into the cupboard. The "logic" (or "angelogic" as my husband calls it) of most of my rules serves my purposes. This one protects me from facing a sink full of dirty dishes first thing in the morning, and that is important to the way a day begins for me.

Speaking of beginning the day, I will not compromise my rule for bed-making, either. I do it immediately upon arising because an unmade bed makes an entire room look messy. Also, I must be dressed and combed before breakfast. Otherwise, I feel like the unmade bed.

Conversely, I am programmed to ignore some things, like going for long stretches without giving even a swipe to the top of the 'fridge: I am conveniently short -- out of sight, out of mind.

While not everything I do is organized, I do flounder without my routine, my own system of checks and balances. I need beginnings and closures, accomplishments I can see based on reasons I understand, and satisfaction I can feel when I have kept my own rules. My value structure is in part determined by them.

Perhaps we all have our own rules --- little idiosyncrasies? -- that provide an anchor and make us feel comfortable. Since life can be so full of unpredictable turns, especially now, it is reassuring to have some reliable constants I can anticipate.

Perhaps what I am really feeling is a need for basic rules by which everyone would abide, remembering and wishing for a long-ago time when I believed, yes, naively, there were unwritten, uncomplicated rules accepted and obeyed by everyone. Back then, because of those rules, it was not, seemingly, so hard to maintain a solid reliable foundation.

The "surprising" but timely and helpful reminder alerting me to the departure of summer and arrival of fall got me back on track, at least for now. I feel better about being comfortably in transit between potato seasons.

No more potato salad until next summer, when the days encourage more casual picnic fare. Instead, I am looking forward to enjoying that first hot bowl of potato soup, knowing I will be ready for the nippy weather that almost surely will also sneak up on me unexpectedly.

I hope by next summer things will be back to a more recognizable normal, when there will be less confusion and I will not have to be reminded it is time to return to potato salad season. I really prefer to be prepared in advance whenever possible.