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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Over the Line and Back

Sometimes, you just gotta break the rules.  But only sometimes.  

My husband and I are not on the same page on this one.  Him, he never met a rule he had much use for.  Me, having now spent 33+ years as the mother of minor children, I'm too often making the rules to be comfortable habitually coloring outside the lines.

Most of the rules that govern my present-day life are ones I've developed to try to create a structure that supports the work, the play and the relaxation I want to get done.  Self-discipline.  So presuming this foundation to be well-constructed, it just doesn't make a lot of sense to undermine it. 

One of my cardinal rules is "Never work on web sites after 9 at night."  But last night I did just that.  And I didn't just violate this stricture.  I totally obliterated it.  

When I went to bed, I had just figured out that the addition I planned to make to one of the websites I designed and maintain was beyond my ken.  I had promised my organizational colleagues that it would be up ASAP.  But it was going to require some tricks I had not yet mastered. 

The reason for my "no web work after 9" rule is the vortex of absorption that experience has taught me to respect.  Something about the kinds of technical challenges that computer-usage and citizenship in the world wide web have brought us, can rob the most sensible among us (which I am not, by a long shot!) of perspective.  Tackle some little cyber situation after dark, and you are in peril of losing a night's sleep, your good humor, and the equanimity required to problem solve successfully.  As the hours slide by, becoming wee-er and wee-er, we become less and less capable of, and more and more committed to making some blasted program or hardware do our bidding.  And we condemn ourselves to a day-after state that will continue to hamper our productivity in all other areas, as well.

Knowing all this, still I stepped over the line when I inserted the DVD that led to my discovery of the roadblocks ahead.  It was already past 9 when I transgressed.  But I managed to avoid the snares at that point.  I closed the computer, drank a small glass of wine, unwound with some reading, and went to sleep.  So far so good.

But then it was time for Round 2.  And I succumbed.  Something (probably wakeful teenagers) woke me at around 2 a.m.  I followed my usual soothing routines for middle of the night wakefulness.  But the DVD was calling to me.  At 2:30, still up, I strayed further.  I started googling solutions to the problem.  I found a software fix.  And then I got out of bed to get my credit card.  From there on, return to sleep was a lost cause.  I wouldn't lie down again until I had waited through the purchase snafus; marked time until the download was complete; stuck around through the install; used the new software to convert the DVD to the format I needed; sucked the converted material through another processing software; loaded the result onto the organization's YouTube channel; created the necessary links on the web page; and put the page up and checked it.  

Despite the trepidation which shadowed my pre-dawn efforts, my little sortie into the land of taboo turned out well.  Unlike some previous late-night digital battles, this one ended in success.  And with that success came the thrill of triumph, and pride in what my bleary brain had wrought.

I was back to sleep by 4:45, until the alarm summoned me at 6.  I was tired, with some of that scraped-out feeling that I associate with college all-nighters and their aftermath.  But I woke up having already achieved something significant for the day.  What a rush!  I suppose it could be some demon causing me to consider my night well spent, contravention notwithstanding.  But I don't think so.  Maybe I'm supposed to be learning to loosen up.  Just a little.

For now, though, the rule is back in place.  It's certainly courting disaster to imagine that I could escape with any frequency being sucked under by the fiends of cyber hell.  I don't plan to test my luck again any time soon.

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