Saturday, February 11, 2006

unfinished business

I came home a little on-edge last month after seeing "Munich" (it's enough to make anyone paranoid) and noticed a hair on the bathroom floor that looked too dark to be mine. So I did what any mildly neurotic person would do: I convinced myself someone had been in my apartment doing something disgusting while I wasn't home (I never should've let my contractor hang on to that key) and made a mental note to have my locks changed first thing in the morning.

And thus was added one more item to the list of things I will never do.

Do universities still award degrees for life experience? Yes? Then label me MP -- master of procrastination -- and sign up for my night class in the fall.

Putting things off is usually harmless, like the pink scarf I've been knitting since December 2002. It's almost long enough now to wrap twice around my neck. I think this could be my year.

In a related crime, I failed to complete the fringe on one end of my favorite green wraparound. I've been wearing it this way for three years. Now I just call it my signature style of crochet: "Soft and unbalanced, just like me!"

My swelling household to-do list is more like a catalog of long-term goals: Patch wall, change light, hang pictures, paint something fun on the kitchen door. And vacuum, for chrissakes! You know it's time to clean when your dust bunnies start splitting off into gangs.

Three boxes of broken and unused backsplash tile have been rattling around the back of my car for close to a year now. All I need to do is find a damned dumpster and heave-ho. So close to a clean backseat... and yet so far away. There are doctors to see, friends to call, chores to do... I've become a consummate listmaker, rolling undone tasks from notepad to notepad as I cross off one item and add three more. It never ends.

For every published post on my blogger account there are a dozen unfinished essays and ruminations saved as drafts and waiting to be rediscovered, like so many half-stuffed teddy bears in a hastily abandoned toy factory. The situation at work isn't much better: My office... You know, I'm not even going to go there. Last week my boss came in, stepped on a pile of annual reports and asked me, "So, um, when are you planning to 'remodel' in here?" Hopefully before she fires me for my disorganizational skills.

The social implications of this behavioral pattern cannot be ignored: For years I've been planting seeds for relationships I've never allowed to grow. My entire love life is a garden sown but not reaped. I might dig up a carrot now and then -- more out of curiosity than desire -- but the bulk of the crop is unlikely to thrive.

Meanwhile, I can't deny that I'm a little hungry. (For the record: I do date. I don't write about it. I think that's a task best left to the experts.)

According to the Tao of G.I. Joe, "Knowing is half the battle." Clearly I'm aware that this is more a problem than a quirk. And that it's really about anxiety, not laziness. And that, at least in the romantic vein, I can't get away with blaming a broken heart or my Paralyzing Fear of Commitment™ any longer. So recognizing all this I should be well on my way to a solution by now... right? But instead I've stopped trying at all.

In December I had grand plans to build a gingerbread house on the large dining room table I never use. Standing in the candy aisle at Safeway with a bag of Brach's Spearmint Leaves in my hand (they make excellent shrubs), I thought, "I'll probably lose interest in this halfway through, and then what'll I do with all that sugar going stale in my house?" Not a rhetorical question, actually; the answer was "I will eat it," and so the project was done before it started. Failure for fear of failure; talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. At least I didn't eat the candy.

My ex-boyfriend is reading this and finally understanding why I never took to golfing: I was only interested in whacking the ball; the follow-through was of little interest to me.

Until I meet a man strong enough to break down walls, and find a job that pays handsomely for inspiration and not much else, I'll simply have to work on this. My new pet project: "Stop Procrastinating in 2006!"

Now where's that pad of paper... I need to add this to my list.


Kristin said...

I can't think enough to get a comment out. I am laughing too hard.

Reya Mellicker said...

Life is chaos. Any control any of us can exert over it is fleeting and sporadic. People used to take time with projects. They didn't think of themselves so harshly, they weren't procrastinators, they were artisans. There are Japanese kimonos it took three generations to create. I think too of the great churches built over hundreds of years' time. Or even the Washington Monument with the telltale color shift 1/3 of the way up.

So you haven't put fringe on the end of that scarf? And you can't get your house repairs done? No one can, not ever.

I'd have my locks changed, though.

Velvet said...

So I see that little square of men with their eyes blacked out and I think this:


Here's the story, of a lovely lady, who's working on a bunch of different things. Each of them is still unfinished, like the other, the ADD button rings!

Here's the story, of some guys in shadies, who were busy with dates of their own. There are 8 men, in the box together, yet each are still alone.

Till the one day when Always Write met this fellow, getting her third helping of pudding at a brunch. These two would somehow fall in love, and breed an ADD Bunch.

The ADD Bunch...the ADD bunch.

OMG. That was hard. I need a nap now.

Barbara said...

I have finally come to peace with unfinished projects. I have even lapsed on my obsession with having a clean kitchen after a dinner party before my head could touch the pillow. There are too many things in life to worry about without needing to have a blank "To Do" list. It would only prompt you to fill it up again. Consider yourself healthy!

Merujo said...

My entire life is an uncompleted project. I am the poster child for procrastination and short attention spans everywhere.

I'm glad I'm not alone. Solidarity, mah sistah!

Andy Hunter said...

My struggle with this has gotten to the point where birthdays and christmas are easy for everyone because they just have to do for me something simple which takes an hour but which I drag out for years. Speaking of which my old cannondale is being fixed by a friend for a recent birthday. I should thank him. Maybe tomorrow.

Washington Cube said...

Well. We all go through this. The carry-over lists, the unfinished projects. Now you've planted the seed in me that I could have multiple blog articles hanging in draft--something I haven't done yet. Don't laugh, but just this morning I was getting ready to create a three-ringed notebook specifically geared to hold the information and progress on the things I want to change in my life: my goals, and "to do's" as it were. But first..a really good cup of coffee.

Today is the perfect day to stay inside and finish that pretty pink scarf.

Yeah. Push lock change up to the top of the list.

And that guy in the far right corner at the bottom? Cute. :x

I-66 said...

My view on procrastination:

Why put off today what you can put off doing tomorrow? yeah, I'm working on reducing/eliminating the procrastinating thing too.

Rhinestone Cowgirl said...

My problem is the opposite -- I get seized by sudden fixations and MUST ADDRESS THEM NOW. A year ago I decided it was time for a new look to my apartment. I immediately went out shopping and bought a new coverlet, a new throw, eight new pillows, a tin elephant, a tin camel, and a huge candle-holder. Now, I hate everything I bought.

There's something to be said for hesitation, sometimes.

Kayla said...

Being a coworker of yours, I just assumed that your neighbor Sally's* office had just expanded into yours (i mean, her office is soo full of crap, even the crap is trying to escape the crap).. When you think of procrastinating on cleaning that office - look at Sally's office and think "I could become Sally". That will provide any and all motivation that you could possibly need. Baby steps.. Baby steps...

Gordon said...

Soft and unbalanced

You're a walking T-shirt slogan. Wear it and be proud.

ejtakeslife said...

If you figure out the secret to this "not procrastinating" business, would you be so kind as to clue us all in? I thought I had it figured out a few years bac but there was a really excellent rerun of Buffy on and I forgot to write it down.

East-West Girl said...

This entry reminded me of one time you said something about keeping a notebook on your nightstand for those moments in the middle of the night when you think of 'one more thing to do'... i think perhaps you're more organized than you think. i think perhaps you should just stop making lists for a while and see where it takes you. It could be good, and oh so liberating!

and btw, re your boss, i can almost guarantee you that her office was never spotless without the help of a few extra hands, either ;)

playfulinnc said...

I am much more like Rhinestone CG, and it can get exhausting to have to put a button of finality on everything.

Were you raised in the south? You have a very strong sense of *SHOULD*. That is something we share.

*Should* is so hard.