Aug 16, 2013

New Shades of the Same Old Things...

Remember a while back, when I said there was so much I wanted to do? This is still true. And new opportunities open up every day, and I still have a tendency to take on too much, because I have a Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, which I just found out is a Real and Actual Thing (RaAT). And now I'm beginning to think that in our information age we are so excited about discovering RaAT's, that we don't realize that a lot of the time these RaAT's are "just" real life, so to speak, and we should probably all calm down a few notches and go with it.

Or maybe that's just me.

All to say I'm still here, working hard at all the things and thinking way too much about a lot of the things. So I present you with the thought I had this morning:

They say that real life is what happens in all the in-betweens. True, we each have several moments throughout that we would call defining, but in between the biggies there is a lot of ordinary and/or mundane, and if we are smart we recognize that a whole bunch of our growth and development happens in the spaces of tending to those weeds.

My favorite job to date was my co-op job back at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.  I basically got paid to learn how to build stuff and work power tools (and also do research, and math, and technical writing), and there was a group of us college students who had a blast doing our nerd work together. (And we also got to fly on the NASA KC-135 Vomit Comet as part of our research, and if I were offered a job doing that today it would seriously challenge my commitment to my family because it. was. awesome. But again--moments of glory amid lots of days of difficult, weedy work.)

We worked in a couple different buildings on base. Our office space was in a corner of a big hangar-looking building called H-Bay. There was a bunch of equipment out there, but we also had lab space in the basement of a nearby building, and there was a technician there named John who did a lot of the fabricating for our branch. And we spent a lot of time learning stuff from John, so therefore we spent a lot of time in the basement lab.

One of the things I first noticed about John was that he would quit working 20 minutes or so before the end of the day.  To certain smart-but-not-wise grad school students this might first appear as slacking off (ahem!), but certain students quickly learned that John used this time to clean up. He secured whatever project he was working on, in whatever way it needed to be secured. He put tools back in their boxes, parts and pieces back in their cabinets, and washed up, wiped down, and swept wherever needed. John kept everything, but he also kept a tight & tidy lab, and I learned that the reason he was able to keep a tidy lab was that he built the time in for keeping it that way.

It's not rocket science, but it really made an impression on me. It has been said that I despise chores, which is mostly true. I like the results of having done the chores, but I really don't like the chores themselves. I'm not sure I would use the word "despise" every time, but when I would use other words they would be along the lines of "hate," "abhor," or at best "am annoyed by." So, you know, they really aren't my favorite.  Consequently, I tend to think of my daily tasks and to-do's in terms of "anything but chores," with chores sprinkled in between, when I have a moment.  Amid the weeds, if you will.

Well guess what. That method doesn't work so well for me. In this season of young childhood, along with my FOMO, I have to be deliberate about the things that are important to me. And it turns out I'm better and more efficient when I make plans for even the weedy tasks. As much as it pains me to put them on my to-do list and count them as equal with fun stuff like errands and running and writing, that's the only way that I get them done on a consistent basis. And the reality is that even though I don't like them and consider them to be mere punctuation to my day, they are more like a predicate, or at least a prepositional phrase, because they take up actual time.

Also, I just want to point out that the curiouser my kids get, the more time I seem to spend finding random objects and returning them to their homes.

So, if you want to clean up, it's OK that it takes a little time. And if you decide to leave it and do something else you enjoy more, I understand completely.  We all have weeds to be managed, and some of us hear crashes and need to go see what broke...

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