A fellow I know was grousing about the past year.
His birthday was coming up and he felt, once again, that this year failed to meet his expectations. He was unhappy with the year, unhappy with himself, unhappy with the fact that he’d even allowed himself to hope that 2020, of all years, was going to be better than the previous ones.
“My caring isn’t going to make any difference in how things work out,” he told me. “When I step back to accept that reality, maybe I’ll stop thinking any of it matters.”
He was unhappy with the idea that he’d gotten his hopes up at all. He seemed to feel that expecting something better in the coming year was a sucker’s game and he was not going to fall for it again.
I didn’t say anything to him. I didn’t make any chipper remarks because I knew he wasn’t looking for advice. He was looking for commiseration for what he saw as a lost and wasted year. But I did spend some time thinking about his complaints and I decided that – if I had offered my advice – I’d have told him to go clean out his refrigerator.
I know I’m not the only one who lets the refrigerator fill up with plans that didn’t work out, ideas I lost interest in, unfinished meals I always thought I’d get back to. The New Year is an excellent time to take a peek at what’s lurking in the corners and drag it all out and look at it under a good strong light.
Throw out the sweet and sour sauce of frustrated expectations. Pitch that packet of expired yeast for the hopes that will never rise and, instead, take out the sourdough starter and get something new going, something you can pass on to your friends.
Quit saving the fancy mustard for a special occasion. Today is special. Put that mustard on a hotdog tonight and call it a party – even if you are all by yourself.
Take out those empty containers that used to be full of the things you liked. You’re not going to enjoy those things anymore. Get rid of the reminders. Throw out the empties.
At least once a year, I have to take a good hard look at all the stuff that has accumulated on my shelves and ask myself, “Does this make me happy? Or is it just a leftover idea of a meal I am never going to eat?”
If I can still imagine the person who might eat it, then I’ll clean up the bottle, wipe down the shelf and place it front and center where I won’t forget it. But if I can’t imagine ever wanting that bottle of whatever it is again—I’m not thinking twice. I’m going to throw it away and get on with my cleaning.
But, most importantly, I’m leaving room in my refrigerator for new stuff.
I can’t get excited about cooking something new if my refrigerator is piled high with junk I no longer need or want or care about. The New Year is a good time to be honest about this. I used to be a grape jelly kind of person. I’m not anymore – and that’s OK. It’s no crime to admit things have changed.
I’m going to clean those shelves until they shine and leave a little room for all the meals I cannot yet imagine, for all the tasty treats I’ve been promising myself one day. The day has come. I’m going to need some shelf space.
Carrie Classon’s memoir is called, “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.