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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Too Fast, Too Furious

It is early evening, and I am just getting to this morning's blog post.  At the conclusion of this busy day "filled with surprises," a couple of the tectonic plates that make up my brain slide into contact.   Two recent occurrences work on each other and force a realization.  Like this.

Yesterday morning, I played host to the man who had put in my new furnace two or three years ago.  That young, and much-vaunted heating system had not been keeping up with the single digit temperatures of the last several days.  As it turned out, the problem was caused by my husband's having dislodged a brace which supported a section of PVC pipe attached to the furnace.  With the brace gone, the pipe's "pitch" was off, which caused water to accumulate in the pipe.  This led to the gurgling I had been hearing in the basement for months, and to the diminished heating capacity of the furnace.  It was not caused by the fact that I had failed to change the furnace filter even once in the two or three years since it was installed.  But it could have been.  This brings to mind a dire warning I had recently run across:  "Homeowner procrastination can ruin a house."

This morning, following an early meeting I had travelled to in a preconscious state, a colleague shared her astonishment at how slowly our collaborative was moving on elements of our overall strategy that had been decided upon months ago.  What was causing people not to follow through, not to produce?  I was not one of the people she was talking about.  Not this time.  I surmised that at least part of the regrettable delay had to do with the overload that collaborative involvement represented for all members.  

What do these two experiences have to do with each other?

The too much phenomenon.   Just as there is no room on the to-do lists of my collaborators in the transitional jobs undertaking, there is no room in my head for furnace filters.  Or for the amount of time and brain-power it would take to untangle the health bills morass created by our byzantine coverage, and compounded by the broke back financial condition of the state government that employs my professor husband.  

None of these cases, nor several others, involve procrastination, in the sense that I--or my colleagues--remember the responsibility in question, and have time to take care of it, but decide not to.  As our lives become more and more complicated, and more is expected of us, we are going to be dropping more and more balls.  I am reminded of the scenes of Charlie Chaplin's character in Modern Times as he struggled to keep up with a constantly speeded up assembly line, eventually falling behind and being sucked into the gears of the machine operating the conveyer belt.  

My realization:  I will never get "caught up."  It is not possible to do everything I have to do, much less all the things I want to do.  Something has to give.  It probably shouldn't be the furnace, or my children, or my health.  I hope it isn't my writing.  And at least the minimum must continue to be done to satisfy my employers.  But I will fail at something.  Maybe I should be deciding at what.  

And now I have run out of energy and day, but not out of things I should have done.  The backlog will be waiting for me in the morning.  And I fear the line will be going faster still.

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