Saturday, July 18, 2009

All or nothing

Why is it all-or-nothing for me?


I bet that it is a diagnosed disease that I could get on some meds for.


Take for instance my house. If it is going the way of filth, I will let it. Because if I am going to clean, it is going to be all-out warfare...and I must have the time for it. So for now, I am going to walk by that dust bunny, and those dishes in the sink. I am going to shut the door to Shelby's room so I don't see the sea of stuffed animals that are covering the floor. And all because if I am going to do something, like clean my house, I want to do it right.


In my head, I know that it is better to have a partially-clean house rather than a pig sty...but I want the whole enchilada. I want perfection. Why is that?


My grandpa was that way...yes, I can claim genetics!


When I was a child, my family lived in his house. He had a basement apartment that he would stay in while he was visiting. It was always covered with stuff. So much stuff. If I close my eyes right now, I can see the piles. Sitting on the table, and chairs, and the couch, and his desk, and his bed...piles and piles of stuff. And on top of the stuff, there would be lists. On his yellow steno pads, written with a certain pen that he and my grandma loved. (I can't remember the type of pen..but it was distinctive. It bled the ink so that your personality came out in your penmanship.) And the lists would be numbered...they would extend over on to the back of the paper...lists of all the mighty projects to conquer...tasks to undertake. Everything that was on his mind would be on those lists.
  1. Fix the dishwasher
  2. Prune the apricot tree
  3. Put gas in the car
  4. Get a cheeseburger for lunch
  5. Write a letter to the editor about democrats=communists

The piles corresponded to his lists.

6. Sort through pile on kitchen table

I remember as a child, cleaning up one of his piles that had made it's way on to our kitchen table. I thought that I was doing him a favor, straightening up all of his "mini-piles" in to one enormous pile, and scooting it off to the side of the table. But he nearly lost it...in fact he did. He took his arm and swiped the entire pile off the table and across the room, all over the floor. He was disgusted with me. How could I not realize that every mini-pile had a purpose?


There was a pile of receipts that needed to stay separate from all of the other receipts because they were for LAST years taxes, where the rest were for THIS year. The newspaper articles that he had clipped were divided in to categories of ones that he had already responded to, and ones that still needed addressing. Bills and letters had been sorted...there was an order to what appeared to me to be chaos.


I was sorry...deeply sorry. Sorry for the frustration that I had caused him...and sorry for him that he had lost his temper in front of me over such a trivial thing.


But now I get it. I get that he had been doing the preparatory work. Because he could not just clean up that mess on the table. First he had to know WHAT he was cleaning. It was like the foreplay to the lovemaking. You have to get warmed up.


He was preparing to do a first-rate job and I sabotaged it.


All these years later I wonder if these same characteristics that I have are directly inherited from him. I have piles all over the house. It's better now. It used to be awful. I had piles of kid clothes that were waiting to be sorted: Goodwill, Family Members, Friends, Yard Sale, Consignment, E-Bay, or Keep for Posterity. They sat there so long that the kids of the friends and family members who could have used them outgrew them before I sorted through them. It was overwhelming...the huge pile staring at me every day on my chair in my bedroom. So, I ignored it...promising myself that when I had an entire day, I would buckle down and do it...oh, but then I didn't have the Tupperware bins that they needed to go in, and what if we accidentally did have another child in the future who needed these clothes...and so on and so forth.


It was like swallowing an elephant whole. And I could not just give them all to charity, like my mom so often threatened to do. Because there was this one really valuable outfit that I know I could get some money for...and I had saved this one darling dress for my sister for when she someday has kids...and so on and so forth...again.


But, by gosh, when I did get to it in the future...it was going to be amazing! So again...all or nothing.


Why I couldn't just take a few things to the Big Brother Big Sister bin right now, or pull a few things out when I saw a friend who was having a baby, is a mystery. No...it all had to be done right. It drove Gavin nuts. Like me, with my Grandfather- he would gather all the mini-piles that had accumulated all over the kitchen counter, placing the "junk", as he saw it, on my bed. But then I would just go through the pile again...creating new mini-piles...this time all over my bed. I would sleep in Shelby's other twin bed until I got around to moving the piles over to my desk.


And lists...oh, my drug of choice!! If I am feeling anxious, all I have to do is find a scrap of paper and start numbering, and my blood pressure begins to fall...like a magic sedative.


Just seeing it on paper makes me feel that it will be addressed...that sometime in the future I have to cross it off my list...and therefore, I am on my way to accomplishment. Like my Grandfather it all gets written down:

  1. Buy new light bulb from the Home Depot for the laundry room
  2. Get crickets for the Gecko
  3. Make an appointment to get waxed
  4. Do reading with Dalton
  5. Have sex with Gavin
  6. Go through pile on counter
  7. Put away laundry
  8. Put new load of laundry in
  9. Change Winder Dairy order
  10. Write a check for the babysitter

I LOVE to cross things off. That is why a list never gets thrown away..Not until everything has been done. A year later I can find a list, and beam over the fact that I did buy that light bulb at the Home Depot, and the Gecko did get fed.


No, it can't be thrown away...only merged on to another list. And so there is always an ongoing list..It never stops.


And so, instead of typing this, I could have quickly placed up the house, and put away the laundry that is on my bed. But now it's late, and I think- I will do it tomorrow. I will have Gavin take the kids out of the house, so that I can really scrub the house...DO IT RIGHT.


And maybe we will still have sex tonight...because that was on the list yesterday and Gavin really wants to scratch that one off.

3 comments:

karen said...

Ew. And I think I speak for 90% of your readership (which is family).

see you guys at the beach! Drive safe.

zinke said...

i am seriously loving the paragraphs! :) thanks!

Elizabeth Brooks said...

Mos Def have sex with your husband... so many good things come with that... happy husband, happy wife, ticked off to do list... its all good.
Elizabeth
PS I think your posts are fab!