Wednesday, May 13, 2009

after writing this blog post, i think i should have taken my 15-minute reading break instead

Or, what my life experience has taught me about living life, and how I don't actually do it very well.

For the 2 weeks, I've been reading the latest Amelia Peabody book (by latest I mean the one the library happened to have stocked when I rampaged through their shelves searching for my favorite Egyptological detectival series). From the first chapter, I knew this book was below par for the series, but I'd enjoy it anyway.

Then a strange thing happened.

Every day, when thinking through my list of things to do (yoga, study scriptures, go to work, make dinner, play Ultimate, clean the house, etc, etc), I would identify every possible downtime or in-between time I could use for reading. And every day, when that time came, I thought of something else on my to-do list other than read Amelia Peabody. And I would do it. Even though it wasn't absolutely necessary. And even though I most obviously wanted, above all else, to settle into the sofa for a 10-page stint.

I think this is how I got through high school, college, and most of a master's program before I finally got my first grade below A-.

For the moment, let's set aside the psychological analysis of my masochistic behavior. The reason I got to thinking about this is because of a blog post from my friend. She was talking about how she gets stuck thinking about how much she dislikes where she is now and how much she wishes she were somewhere else.

I see 2 worlds in which this thinking exists.

In the first world, I have my Amelia Peabody book. I know what I want, I know it's on my bookshelf for the taking. But I find consistently find reason for delay. Some of those reasons are legitimate. Exercise and religious worship are both high priorities for me - that's why I do them when I first wake up. I like my job, and I want to keep it, so going to work is also important. But some reasons are more habit than personal preference. For example, making dinner as soon as I get home from work. I definitely need to make dinner. But does it have to be as soon as I get home? If I'm not too hungry, and if there's no where pressing to go in the evening, couldn't I take 15 minutes to relax with my novel. Where did I get the idea that for me to be the best Erin I can be, I have to make dinner right away?

I'm not sure, but I know a lot of these "necessities" float around in my head. Folding dish towels is another good example. Why do I fold my dish towels? Do they work better when folded? Do they really fit better in the drawer? Is there something inherently satisfying about neat, cornered stacks?

For me, the answer to dish towels is no for the first and last question, and yes for the middle question. So I keep folding my dish towels. But dish cloths are a totally different story. Trying to fold a dish cloth is like trying to pick up the last grains of rice in your teriyaki bowl with chopsticks. Slim pickings for the amount of physical dexterity it requires.

So in the first world, where there's a will there's a way, as long as the unnecessaries don't get in the way.

In the second world, Amelia Peabody isn't stocked at the library when I went to check it out to begin with. In this world, the things we want the most are the things we can't control. This is a harder world to deal with, because it often requires us changing the goal. Or at least coming up with a "meantime" goal. Sticking with the library analogy, I could check out the DVD options or maybe a nonfiction read to keep my mind sharp.

Unfortunately, on most days, I would probably search through the mystery section for a third or fourth time, hoping the book was mis-shelved.


Maren Hansen said...

I'm with you. I think my problem is OCD though... Sometimes for a good laugh, Derek will ask me something else that I do (that I won't tell him because I know it's stupid) for a good laugh. Of course, living life and my ever-filling social calendar (i.e. kids) has worn some of these down. I am proud of myself for no longer neatly folding my silky g's. Why did I ever do that? They only stay folded till I shut the drawer and they slide all over... :)

Merrill and Mary said...

I just love how you think Erin... It is almost a compliement to me that my blog could inspire such thought... thanks for sharing... We humans sure are funny

Mamacita said...

Oh Erin, just blame it all on your parents! Last night, I read a book; Dad unloaded the dishwasher. No wonder you are troubled! I make the lists; Dad does what's on the list. I find this works very well for me. :)

Erin said...

I like your method, Mom. Although I think I'd have to come up with a very clever carrot-on-stick method to get Abe to tackle my list...

Jen said...

Just so you know, I always opt for reading over any household task. That's probably why we started dinner last night at 8.

You could go back to Amelia Peabody on CD (although I heard they changed narrators part way through the series and the second one wasn't as good) and make dinner/fold dishcloths while enjoying your Egyptian mystery free of any mental anguish.

Dawn said...

Just schedule that reading in, the same as you schedule worship and work. I agree with one of your friends, reading trumps cooking dinner!