Last night I was chatting with a friend about the fact that I build time for procrastination into my schedule. I know that I’m going to do it, so rather than worry about not accomplishing everything, I just plan to procrastinate.
I am creative, but at the same time, I’m actually quite organized. I drive my husband nuts with a new computer. The first thing I have to do is organize everything so that it works just the way I want it to work.
Back in the days when I lived my life as a church choir director, the first thing I did was dig into choral music files after moving into a new church position. Oh my goodness – had no one ever heard of alphabetizing and categorizing? Apparently not. There wasn’t a single music library that I didn’t purge, clean up and organize within the first few months of arriving.
When I had my first apartment – in Spencer – I had that placed so stinking organized, there was literally a stapler-sized space in the junk drawer in the kitchen. There was a place for everything and everything was in its place. Oh, that was a wonderful little apartment. Problem was, as soon as I moved in with my sister … and then with my husband, I had to just give up. It wasn’t worth being annoyed or upset every time someone decided that more things needed to go into the junk drawer (they were wrong, but I wasn’t fighting with them). Books were jammed into bookshelves haphazardly and … ack, there was just too much stuff … everywhere. I decided that relationships were more important than my insane behavior, so I let most of it go.
As I was chatting last night, though, I thought about where this strange compound of organization and creativity came from.
It’s obvious, I know, but I’d never really thought about it.
Dad epitomized organization. If you ever took a trip with him, you knew about lists. He created the very best lists for youth group trips and fully expected that parents and students follow those lists. If you did, you had exactly what you needed, no more – no less. If you didn’t, you were a fool. Those lists were part of our family trips and for most of my life I prepared a list of things I needed, no matter how short a trip I was taking. After he died, I got into his home office and opened his file cabinets. Holy moley, I knew he was OCD about that stuff, but whoa … talk about a file folder extravaganza! It was awesome. I found everything his wife needed for their finances and then some. I pulled out files of letters he’d saved from when we kids were in college, there were things from all of his churches, newsletters and bulletins. Files filled with manuals of long lost appliances and others with notes he’d taken on various topics that fascinated him. All of it was alphabetized and organized.
Then there was Mom. Oh, she wanted nothing more than to be organized, but it was nearly impossible for her. Life was too important. She tried over and over again to bring her life under control. It shamed her to be such a mess when Dad kept uncovering her piles. I wish I had known enough to tell her that it was okay and done more to help her. Chaos described her, but my goodness, when she put a brush to canvas or words on paper or her hands on clay on the potter’s wheel, beauty exploded. There was nothing she couldn’t do. She made our clothes, including beautiful dresses for dances, costumes for singing groups, play clothes. She made my favorite maxi coat … and she learned how to be a wonderful cook. She created haunted houses with sheer curtain panels, fluorescent paints and black lights. Now when she finished a project, there was a huge mess everywhere, but she’d created beauty – no one could dispute that.
Rather than clean the house, Mom would more than likely be found painting something crazy. I wish we had never let the back door at the old house in Sigourney go. She’d painted a quick little scene on it one day – I barely remember it, but every day when I came home from school, I walked past it. There was a bear and some other animals there. Just a random day for her. She saw an open space on an old door and rather than sand it down and make it perfect, it became a canvas for something fun.
How those two managed to raise three relatively sane children, I don’t know. It probably had something to do with respect and love. There was a lot of that, even in the midst of the chaos and wild & crazy fights they had. As much trouble as they had fully understanding the other one, they never lost sight of the fact that they balanced each other. Even after Mom died, Dad still tried to figure out why she had been so chaotic in her life – why she never did things his way. They’d been together for nearly 30 years and she was still a mystery to him.
Mom didn’t worry quite so much about Dad’s differences. They frustrated her and she’d just laugh and blow him off. I don’t think he was quite a mystery, she knew exactly what he was. The mystery was why he kept trying to get her to straighten up!
It took Carol longer than either me or Jim to figure out how important organization was in her life. But as much chaos as comes at her every day, she finally figured out that the things she could organize needed to happen right away so sshe’d quit thinking about them. We’re each an amalgamation of Mom’s and Dad’s qualities and it’s fun to be old enough to recognize it and enjoy it.
Now, speaking of procrastination, I will be honest with you about last week’s work. Don’t fret – I’m not too terribly concerned. I have set deadlines for myself and when I push up against those, I really kick in and churn work out. The thing is, a lot of the things that I do as part of the writing process don’t show up in these charts. No, this isn’t an excuse … just my reality. But, to keep me on track and accountable (because I said I would), even though the numbers haven’t jumped much from last week, a little progress is just fine. I know where I am in the process and it’s just about right.