Wednesday, March 24, 2010


At the end of this, the first day since my last post on which I have not been grading, I am reminded of this essay by David Sedaris in The New Yorker last year. He meets a woman who suggests to him that each person's life is a stove:

This was not a real stove but a symbolic one, used to prove a point at a management seminar she’d once attended. “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

So, I think tonight, before my next batch of papers comes in tomorrow, which burners do I crank down?

Duh. Obviously, not the work or the family burners.

I don't think I entirely shut off the other two, but they're certainly at a lower flame. I talk with friends on the phone (and a husband, too!), and hang out with them once every couple of weeks (or, with said husband, every couple of months). So that burner's not entirely cut off. And the health...well, I don't sleep much, but I do run every night, and I do not compromise on the food. There is simply no reason to eat crap food. So I guess that burner's still on, too, if at diminished capacity.

But that counts, right? A small fire can still boil a pot of beans, as they say. And so, in lieu of real blogging, I'll celebrate my reduced but valiant little imaginary health burner by nodding for a few days to what's happening on my real burner. Because I'm feeling the need to celebrate those bits of my life that aren't on full rolling boil every day.


Last night: celery root and spring onion vindaloo
Tonight: Braised escarole with roasted red peppers, capers, and almonds


And for those who like to play along: which imaginary burners have you turned down or off?


squadratomagico said...

I've been switching my burners around lately. For me, I think "friends" translates to "circus," and when I had that burner on high, I also had the family burner on. Work was at a slow simmer, and health was stone cold.

Lately, I've switched work to high and circus/friends to simmer. And I managed to turn health back on to medium: being away from the circus means less drinking, more sleep, and a return to workouts (for which I previously had *no* time). Feeling thinner and fitter and well-slept makes everything else easier.

But the nice thing is, one can always switch up the burners again. I think life works best when you always keep in mind that you can rescramble priorities again and again, depending on where you are at any given moment.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Health always suffers for me. Thank god I'm breastfeeding to keep my weight in check. Geez. And work? What work. One must be employed to do work. And since I'm on maternity leave this semester, there's not much work going on for me. (Although, I did make note last night that I had read 15 books -- for fun -- since baby was born three months ago.)

Family and friends are on high right now. It feels pretty great. But eventually I know I will be itching to work again. I can't keep my brain permanently shut off. (Reading helps keep me alive on that front, but it's not the same when I don't HAVE to remember what I just read.)

As time goes by, priorities shift and change. Keeping a balance is important. One of these days I'll get back to the gym. I just want my life to settle into a halfway reliable routine first.

Flavia said...

In our profession, the "work" burner is really two burners, no?

At least during the school year, I feel the teaching burner is always in competition with the writing/research burner. They can inform & influence each other, to be sure--but for me, when the pedagogical burner needs to be turned on high, it's a good bet the writing burner is turned down low. And vice versa.

Blue Cheese said...

I feel like I am one of those big Viking ranges with six burners, three of which are work, one health, one friends, one family. Unfortunately, because family is far away, I let that one go during the school year. I have tried to be better, but immediacy always wins out.

Renaissance Girl said...

Cheese: I thought you hated the Vikings.