Two Lists

The past two years have been very stress-filled for me, and I have often felt “not myself.” I have lost track of the number of times I have said, “I am just not myself.” Sometimes it is connected to daily activities, like being almost incapable of parallel parking (something I used to do so well I often thought it could be my “talent” in a contest). Other times it is the absence that I notice.

For example, I have long been faithful at sending cards to family and friends for birthdays and other occasions. I love the whole experience of browsing the racks of cards, sometimes laughing out loud and ultimately finding the perfect card. But, over the past two years, I have rarely entered a card store or even remembered many of the occasions that once filled my calendar. When I realize I have missed someone’s birthday, I think, “That is not like me”—and then I forgive myself. I have had other things on my mind.

Baking is another thing I love to do, and I would usually have chocolate-chip cookies on hand at all times. I would bake banana muffins year-round, zucchini bread in summer and my Christmas baking would begin on Thanksgiving weekend. But my cookie sheets, muffin tins and bread pans have not seen the inside of the oven for a very long time. I have settled for store-bought cookies for the past two years, which is definitely not like me.

At some point recently, I realized that I have been keeping two lists in my head: One was titled “like me” and the other, “not like me.”

For the better part of the last two years, the scales have tipped in favor of “not like me.” Every missed birthday and store-bought cookie reminded me that I was not myself. The list also includes my lack of exercise, knitting, gardening—all those hobbies and habits that shape my daily life and give expression to who I am. I don’t even take my daily vitamins any more.
I have not been myself.

So, when I not only remembered three birthdays in July, but actually bought cards and sent them (and on time), I noted how “like me” that felt. Two of the birthday people even received gifts (ok, so they were gift cards I bought on-line, but still…).

I moved into my new house a few days ago and went shopping to stock my pantry. I walked down the baking aisle and optimistically picked up basic supplies, thinking of the day when the aroma of fresh-baked cookies fills my new home. On that day I will know that the scales are tipping and I am becoming myself again.

11 thoughts on “Two Lists

  1. Anne Marie Lom

    Sounds like you are “coming home” to yourself once more… delightful. When I move and enter a new bedroom or office or (fill in the blank) I say to myself, “Someday, this will feel like home, it will be familiar.” Then I watch and wait for the feeling to emerge. May your journey “home” be gentle and full of joy and peace.

  2. Jan Deswik

    Madeline another wonderfully worded thoughtful note. Feels like you write them just for me. thanks


    1. Madeline Bialecki Post author

      Thanks Jan. It is good to hear from you. I often think of you when I sit down to write. My “book” has been through one edit and I hope to have the changes done by the end of August. Still plugging away. How is your writing?

  3. Maria Strauman

    Madeline, With all of the changes that Fran has gone through this year, I too feel that I have lost touch with myself. It’s good to hear that, after a time, things will return to normal. I wish you much comfort and joy in your new home. Maria

    1. Madeline Bialecki

      Maria, My heart goes out to you and to Fran. I hope you can reconnect with your old normal. For me, I am moving into a new normal and it is interesting to watch it grow. Almost nothing in my life is as it once was, and I am able to decide what I want to reclaim from my old life and what I might want to let lie. It is a bit scary, too, not knowing how this will all turn out.

  4. Karen

    Madeline – I miss your baked goods, especially around the holiday season. Your baked breads were awesome! I hope you get back to baking because your family and friends in Detroit are in for a real treat. Miss you!

  5. John

    Just baked a bunch of corn muffins, Madeline. I like the gritty meal. Funny thing how aromas connect us to our past. Maybe getting back to baking will help you feel like your old self.

  6. Natalie

    Obviously coming late to the discussion, but so glad to read this. It did wrench my heart when I stood in the kitchen in Eddystone with a container of flour in my hands and you said to just toss it. I knew they must have flour in Michigan, but still…it didn’t seem like you. Post some pictures when you bake your first cookies or that first loaf of banana bread.

  7. Madeline Bialecki Post author

    Someone gave me apples last week and today I bought the rest of the ingredients to make Jewish Apple cake. I will take pictures if it actually happens. I have been cooking, though–pasta, veggie stir fry, and chicken.


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