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

Friday, May 6, 2011

Growing Up Chaotic

Looking back through the "annals" of my year old blog, I observe a certain preoccupation with the question of routine.  Alternatively, I long for routine; loathe it; seek it; undermine it; break it; escape from it; and construct and reconstruct it.  But routine is almost never a neutral force in my life.  It is not familiar enough for that.

When I was visiting with one of my sisters recently, we discussed our familial problems with routine.  Neither of us was certain why we were raised with so little of the kind of scaffolding that can support day-to-day effort.  But, for whatever reason, both of us grew into seat-of-our-pants, fly-by-night moms, and workers, and housekeepers, and friends.  We meet the most ordinary recurring tasks fresh each time, as if caught by surprise that bills need to be paid again, groceries shopped for, meals prepared, kitchens cleaned, laundry done, jobs reported to, projects accomplished, holidays celebrated, etc., etc.

Psychologists might look to circumstances of our family of origin to explain this missing limb.  Our father was a grossly overworked and overworking physician, who struggled with depression for as far back as I can remember.  Our mother's lively intelligence was subsumed in the challenge of raising five children, and pretty much single-handedly keeping the home fires smoldering.  There is an abundant literature about what kinds of adults emerge from parenting by alcoholics, depressives, and others whose painful realities limit their availability for functional parenting. 

My siblings and I could certainly have turned out worse.  We are more or less "intact" and relatively "normal," whatever that means.  We have our parents' love and hard work to thank for that, at least partially, if not their happy natures.

But none of us has a particularly easy time organizing our days, or our lives.  We do have a whole identity as creative free spirits, a point of pride that may compensate somewhat for the energy we waste in reinventing "solutions" to commonplace problems.

Some days, though, I'd trade this sense of ersatz superiority for a mindless trance that would lead me through my to-do list, and a certainty born of "the way we've always done it."

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