Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Has Anyone Seen My Head?

It’s funny, the words and phrases that stick in our heads.  Like my grandmother’s depiction of her own Irish grandfather who spent much of his last years “sarchin’” for things in various rooms and realms of the house she grew up in.  I have often thought that his preoccupation with things missing or lost is in my bones, a hereditary affliction.

I have spent way too much of my life “sarchin’” for things.  And we’re not talking some lofty spiritual quest here, as in my adopted religion’s 4th principle, which "affirm[s] and promote[s]…[a] free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”  No, my concern is rooted firmly in the mundane and worldly hunt for misplaced possessions.  I don’t want to say I’m a loser, but I have to admit that waayyyy too many of the allotted hours of my life have been taken up in tossing my environs, desperately seeking stuff

Yesterday, I listed on a post-it all the things I was currently trying to find.  The list included my iPod, needed to distract myself from the discomfort of 5K training; the tax-relevant receipt for the piano we purchased last year from a school; my warm winter hat, which matches the scarf I found a couple of weeks ago at Goodwill; my son’s wallet (perhaps he, too, has inherited the loser gene); a meditation audiobook, now overdue at the library; my poetry notebook; and our favorite Charlie Brown Christmas CD.  And those were just the things I could remember. 

Before the day was out, I had located both my iPod and the overdue audiobook.  I’m not sure if that was coincidental to having written them down earlier.  I’m thinking maybe the act of making a discrete list was in some way akin to issuing an All Points Bulletin in my consciousness.  In both cases, the articles were found in likely locations that I had neglected to check in my earlier reconnaissance efforts.  It remains to be seen whether the other items on my list will turn up.

I don’t know that this problem of misplacing things is getting worse as I age.  I remember in fifth grade being made to write an essay about what would happen to the world if everyone lost and forgot things like I did.  Library books were, even then, my bugaboo.  I recall stretching to apply the lesson to firefighters—what if they misplaced their hose?  their axes?—and doctors, like my father—what if they couldn’t find their stethoscopes?  their tongue depressors?  or, God forbid, their hypodermic needles?  I remember, too, at around that time and earlier, struggling to locate disappearing homework that I really had completed—no dogs involved.  So apparently I started down this road at a fairly young age.

Now that I think about it, though, I was never entirely sure if my grandmother was describing a disorganized man, like so many others in my family, or one who was increasingly “lost” himself.  I cling to the reality that, at this stage anyway, I am missing actual objects--as though that is any kind of distinction.   Even if my constant rummaging is focused on physical items that truly exist, rather than the arguably worse situation of mental disorientation, it is taking time and energy that could probably be better spent.  But what to do about it? 

As a student of Buddhism, I could disavow the attachment to material items and their uses, and mute at least the emotion that accompanies these dislocations.  Less stressing would be good.  

As a not-so-stellar student of organization, I could go the “everything in its place” route--if I could just figure out the places for all these things that keep finding their way into my life.  Where exactly does one keep the mounds of receipts spawned by daily transactions, mostly not needed at all—unless they are suddenly, unexpectedly and desperately necessary?  Or the ill-fitting cover to the battery compartment of the temporarily AWOL remote?  Or the business cards for the business I sort of started last year and may want to revive?

It seems at least part of my difficulty is having too much stuff.  Here, I guess, is where Throw Out 50 Things should come in.  I did learn some things from reading the book a week or so ago, but not as much as I could learn by actually trying to apply its approach.  So the thing to do, clearly, is to get cracking and start discarding.  Now if I can just find the book and see where to start.

I think I’ll try offering a bounty.  It’s worked before.

No comments:

Post a Comment