Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
March 04
Rancho Laurena Rustic Arts
A wanton young lady of Wimley, Reproached for not acting more primly, Answered, "Heavens above! I know sex isn't love, But it's such an attractive facsimile."


Pretend_farmer's Links

JANUARY 16, 2009 3:02PM

Smack a Farmer

Rate: 28 Flag

In an ongoing effort to snap out of this pitiful rut into which I’ve crawled/ smack some sense on myself (and hopefully someone else in the process), I’ve decided to start a self-improvement series entitled, “Smack a Farmer”.  What follows is Part One:


Although he avoids organized religion like the plague, and was once heard describing Joseph in a neighborhood nativity scene as “the sucker who believed her”, my husband David is a devout disciple on the altar of self-help guruism.  From Tony Robbins to Earl Nightingale to Ulysses S. Grant to Sun Tzu, he has read and/or listened to them all and tried to get me to do the same.  But I’m a stubborn farmer and have always had a difficult time with people and/or books that tell me what to do or how to live my life.  I didn’t want to find myself because I didn’t think I was lost and, as much as I believe in thinking positive or dreaming big, I didn’t believe that by picturing a complete and roomy climate-controlled studio located someplace other than my freezing-or-roasting, motorcycle-sharing garage, it would magically appear.  Believe me, I've wished for it often enough.


Lately, however, I have tried to let go of those ingrained behaviors, open my mind, and take some advice because, frankly, what I’ve been doing ain’t working so well.  Strangely enough, I found it in “Cooks Illustrated”.  “The Vermont Creed”, an editorial essay written by Christopher Kimball in the January/February issue, speaks of common sense ideas, ideas that are no mystery, that have no steps to follow, and no charts to fill.  Work hard, get over yourself, mind your beeswax, be useful, simple tenets that have kept the hearty New Englander well and satisfied (if only because their expectations are within reason) for hundreds of years.


Now, if you’ve read my blather for any period of time, you know I am easily overwhelmed.  While not Rainman when this happens, my behavior is not that far from that of Dustin Hoffman’s character.  I tend to shut down.  I might cry, I might get a little catatonic.  I definitely do not accomplish anything.  This often happens in the morning when I am not at my best.  I walk into the kitchen, see a mess, look into the laundry room, see a mess, look at my desk, see a mess.  I think of the latest family dustup/personal soap opera episode that needs solving and remember the umpteen million reems of paperwork I need to complete.  Around this time, I become a cheap dinner theatre Dustin Hoffman.  I have so much to do that I cannot figure out what to do.  Panic sets in, my heart gets a horrid torqued and twisted feeling, and I begin to hyperventilate.  Enter Christopher Kimball:


When You Don’t Know What to Do, Do the Work in Front of You.


“Don’t dither.  Don’t fret.  Don’t think of the myriad possibilities when faced with a difficult situation.  Just do the work in front of you and things will always work themselves out.  (And if they don’t, at least your chores will be up-to-date.)”


Neither Christopher nor I are asking you to work your fingers to the bone because you know you’ll get, ahem, bony fingers; but do the work in front of you.  Turn a few degrees and start again.  A full day’s work offers a way better sense of contentment than a day of freaking out, especially when it is about things than cannot be changed.  And know when to stop.  We all need time to smile at our accomplishments and watch “The Daily Show”, if only to see Joe Biden doing impressions of elder statesmen gone by.


A good day to one and all.  Do the work in front of you.

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Lauren, I love this: "do the work in front of you". I know how hard you have been working on this. It WILL pay off. Remember, everything is always temporary...always...the good and the bad. Time passes...things's the natural order of things. I love that you got help from an unexpected place. I love when that happens.
Yeah, if you can see it, it won't bother you so much. So keep your eyes forward, whatever you see that needs to be doing, do it and don't for heaven's sake turn around!
DAMN! if you CAN"T see it
Thank you, Mary; I love it, too. You've been so kind to me. I appreciate all your support.
I started taking your advice last summer. Thanks, I'm better now.
thanks. right words, right time.

My father died last sunday and it has been hard staying out of my head and getting anything done. thanks for letting me know it is ok to simply do the work in front of me.
I love Cook's Illustrated! And the New England work ethic from Chris Kimball is great. Thanks!
Julie, yes, like a horror flick, whatever you do, don't turn around.

William, and I didn't even know I was giving it last summer. I'm glad I went back in time and worked for you.

Eric, I am so sorry about your dad. I lost mine 16 years ago and I still feel it greatly. It will help, however little, do to the everyday mundane tasks until you can let yourself think about him fully.
Great advice and I'm glad that you have found it through something you love. I am going to put this on my desk - I am so unfocused, distracted and overwhelmed by the amount of things I have to do that I, too, don't want to do anything.

I often get overwhelmed and frozen in my tracks with panic, but after a bit, I remember a line I heard in a movie. (I am totally paraphrasing) the wife was freaking out and the husband says, you are looking at this as though this is where you have ended up. Turn around. This is where you are starting out from...

I don't know why it helps, but it helps...
Singpretty, yes, I love the no-nonsense approach. It sits wit me better than platitudes.
First of all, I cannot type, "to do" and "with". Aargh.

marcelleqb, it's nice to know I am not alone though I am sorry you go through similar episodes. "this is where you are starting from", I'll add that to my calming lingo. Thanks!
I can't - I'm hiding in here. ;-D

Seriously, that is the best advice anyone who feels overwhelmed can have, the same sage wisdom I've tried to impart on several people time and again. Take control of the things you HAVE control over. Eventually everything will get done.

You're a gem, Lauren. But you keep giving me more stuff to read so that I can't do the work in front of me.

OK, it's not JUST you. :-D

I love that! Do the work in front of you.

But I'm with Julie: I worry about that work sneaking up behind me. ;)
Ah yes. The work in front of me. That's the only way I get by. One little step at a time.
Good advice for all of us L!
I love this post. I love your attempts, your guts, your gumption. So of course I love that a good old New England common sense "bible" found its way to you. And I love that you've embraced and shared its wisdom. Because I do NOT love when you are in pain.

Eric, if you're listening, I am so sorry for your loss. If Lauren's advice helps you, no surprise, even in pain she's a healer. But still, you can also give yourself time to grieve.
Hey Bill, I'm with you! I thought I'd be done with these closeout manuals by noon. it's two hours past that and I'm still doing excel spreadsheets. I guess I shouldn't have blogged on my lunchbreak! BTW, it doesn't surprise me that you are the imparter of great wisdom.

HL, Thanks! I'm with Julie, too, but at least we'll be good in one direction.

Gracie, I had a feeling you had it down already!

Dear friend sally, back atcha babe. You have gumption to spare. I think you've leant some to me. Thank you very, very much.

I think we should all say a prayer for Eric and his dad. It's a challenging time and he could use our support.

Thanks again to everyone!
Why is it that OSer's like you, Lauren, who seem to experience the most pain are the same ones that seem the most willing and able to give something of value to others?

rated for strength and caring
Love this advice PF. My only problem is this darned OS. I can't seem to walk away. Somebody help!
Aw, John, that's one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me. You made me blush and stick my lower lip out. I look real sexy ;-)

Michael, I'm with you. I sat in front of the computer all day yesterday trying to finish this $%*^%^&+ closeout manual and then took the laptop to bed at night and tried to catch up on OS. And I'm supposed to have my nose in excel right now. But OS is much more fun than which roofs got new foam and where. I think it's a healthy addiction. I hope. Please.
DAMN IT JOHN WALKER ... that's what I was going to say!!! You blew it for me!!!

So, just do your work, girl ... and then have a few beers on me!!!
Ah crap, I'm reading this on my laptop, right next to the room that holds the dirty laundry when it falls down the chute (yes, we have an old-fashioned laundry shoot -- it's cool). Sooooooo, now I have to go do the work that is in front of me (well actually about 12 feet behind me). Gee thanks. Laundry time.
Great post! I just had a non-productive day fretting about something I have no control over. "Do the work in front of you" is great great advice!
I can't imagine you looking any sexier than your avatar, Pretend.
Lauren, my self help guru is flylady online. I used to make fun of that sort of thing until I found one that worked for me. Her motto is “I can do anything for 15 minutes.” You are supposed to set a timer for 15 minutes and do whatever you are supposed to be doing until the timer beeps. Then stop. Really. If you really need to keep working on it the same day, take a break then do another 15 minutes. If not, wait until the next day to do 15 more minutes.
That’s her best advice, I think.

I hope you are feeling well, physically… and hopefully mentally, too.
Thanks, Mom! I will!

Damn, Steve, sorry about that. Do you ever slide down the chute? I've always wanted to do that.

Rapier, see? I'm a big fretter but am trin ghard to turn over a new leaf.

John, that's twice now! Stop it! :-)

Denise, I have heard about flylady and that is good advice. Perhaps when I run out of good New England wisdom, if that's possible, I will turn there. Thanks for your good thoughts. I am as good as I can be at this moment.
Just what's in front of me. Imagine.

Farmers know best.
Ah, Pretend, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that...; }
Great rule to live by Lauren. I never stop from morning til night. I don't believe in "self-help" books per se', but Sun Tzu wrote "The Art of War" which is one of my favorite books, and it's not so much a "self-help" book as it is a way of life. Defeat your enemies with minimal or no casualties and before the war even begins if possible. It should be required reading for anyone named Bush.

I'm not saying "self-help" books aren't helpful, they just don't help me. I have read a lot of great books on quasi-self-help books such as Yoga and Meditation, Philosophy. They don't require me to send any money to them. So that's a bonus.

I'm sending out positive vibes to you and the family as my favorite Pretend Farmer on earth. :-)

Love and Hugs
This one is so hard for me, too! I get so overwhelmed. I finally got the house clean today by doing it, but it was hard not to look up, groan and say, "Fuck it." Great post.
Wow what a great quote, "When You Don’t Know What to Do, Do the Work in Front of You"
I was just looking at Cooks Illustrated to see if they had any special hints to offer on the whole chicken I'm cooking tonight. I love that site. That and the Old Farmer's Almanac.

As for the "do the work in front of you" thing; that only works for me to an extent. I'll start the work in front of me but sometimes that means taking the napkins and towel from the kitchen in to the bathroom to put them in the hamper. On the way, I have to go through the bedroom and the mess that is there suddenly becomes "what is in front of me". So the kitchen doesn't get done again until I have to take the glasses from the bedroom out to the sink.
SeattleK8, yes we do!

Joh, promises promises.

Aw, Greg, do you know any other pretend farmers? :-)

I'm with you on the self-help books not my cup o' tea, but as I said, what I have been doing needs improvement and I found this good advice from a cooking magazine. Who knew? And yes, the Art of War, I think david's read it at least three times, maybe more. You guys should compare notes.

I know, Odette, and thank you.

Thanks, JR.

Katina, I love the farmer's almanac, too. I guess the tried and true is more my style. And yes, it is very easy to get distracted. I find myself inner directing to prevent this or I'll never get anything done.

Thanks again everyone!
Nope, you know you're the one and only!
Do the work in front of you and then turn a few degrees. Simple and elegant. Exactly what I'd expect of Cooks Illustrated. Now for applications...thanks for writing!
Cooks Illustrated is the best. And I like the mantra....when it all gets to be too much, the best thing to do is put one foot in front of the other, only worrying about the next step.
I thank you and Christopher for the wise advice. getting overwhelmed is huge for me too; thank you for sharing your self with us. this gave me big comfort. what works for me since i have trouble focusing on anything, never mind what is in front of me, are some parts of anne lamott's bird by bird. one inch picture frames -- baby steps, same as taking things bird by bird, buddy, bird by bird. shitty first drafts, perfectionish, procrastination, but mostly, for me, breaking things down into 15 tasks. can go longer but don't have too. Do the Work in front of you is so wise. maybe i will try doing that in 15 minute increments. i love you for your honesty.
Some of my happiest most contented days are when I am simply doing laundry. All day. especially when I can hand them out.
I suppose this applies to homework as well...
I loved this post. Uncertainty is how we scratch and claw our way through this life and from what I've found that same uncertainty is responsible for everything I've learned about life.
When you busy your self with intense busy work, sometimes the ideas come. When you sit down to relax after intense work, the ideas come.
I believe in the advice.........It has always worked for me. Intense chores.....then the subconscious comes to your rescue......always!
Lovely philosophy: " the work in front of you. Turn a few degrees and start again.' I bet it works, too. If only I hadn't developed the ability to, er, put things aside.... and then they are no longer in front of me.

Perhaps I just need a wider-angled vision. Eyes in the sides and back of my head?

great writing, Pretend. Rated.
I am so grateful to you and to christopher. i realized that i was standing in front of my filthy disgusting full of dishes sink and counters in my tiny kitchen, from which i usually run. well, i thought, what about do what's in front of you!! for 15 minutes!!! I felt so brilliant. So while i was waiting for something to microwave -- i eat like shit but whatever -- i started in on the dishes. 15-20 minutes later, the some dishes were in the tiny dishwasher, others were soaking in the now wiped down sink and the counters were wiped down. i even tackled the hideous space between small fridge and counter.

i am so incredibly grateful. as my back east relatives you'd to say, you just nevah know. you gave me a lifeline, friend.

love, light and gratitude.
Nice thoughts. You and I are alike in some ways. Sometimes, I have anxiety attacks, too. My shrink always says "do the next right thing" and "right action, non-attachment". Another mentor from state government, Ed White, once said "You have to get on top if you want to fuck fancy" by which I believe he meant you can't really be very effective if you're constantly in crisis mode. This may have nothing to do with your point, but it seemed apropos enough to include it all the same.
Yes! The flylady! I have her book Sink Reflections. The first step is polish your kitchen sink. That takes more than 15 minutes if you follow all the steps. By the time the sink is done, I'm spent and just want a Popsicle. I indulge. I'm done for the day. When I'm down and overwhelmed, I write. I journal until I figure out what the heck is wrong with me and when I think I've reached a conclusion I go back and read what I've just written. I then wonder when they will install spell check in blank books. Then I'm down in the dumps again. So, I go and clean the kitchen sink.
Here's another one: OHIO. Only Handle It Once. My husband feels so neglected...
Hi Lauren,

Bill S already posted my mantra - which is the same as his -when I feel overwhelmed- I take control of that which I am in control of.

Then, Theodora expressed my new-found wisdom: It only takes a few minutes -

EXACTLY like her, I started breaking tasks down - clean the sink and load the diswasher really IS only 10-15 minutes. Emptying it really IS only 10 minutes. Waiting for coffee to brew, I do half. The other half later. Domestic partner helps, but I time my parts now and it is amazing to see how quickly things really go.

Eat the elephant one bite at a time, AND the next time you tackle a task, just look at the clock. It was a REVELATION to me when I found out so many things take so little time.

But I never do the work in front of me, OS is so much more fun ;-)
Happy Born.
March Forth.
BIO's are fun.
Nice rainstorm.
Open Salon Folk?
Folk here are making me stunned as a imbecile plumber who wipes tears, nose, and toes with my toupee. huh? I mean:`To be too
honest one is liable to get smacked.
There are wonderful imbeciles here.
Imbecile is Not a bad word. I love 'um.
Imbeciles farm because they love plumbs.
Plumbers walk into a Ladies locker rooms.
With No announcing:`A Farmer in the Dell,
Farmers are Pretend _ Plumbers? e.i.e.i.o.!
My problem is I wish to sing close to otters.
But, possums haul-off. I love mule's heehaw.
Hoss stays nice. Human honeymoon? overs?
Humans lose the Merry? all ends? carnivals?
Stunned? Stuck on merry-go-round & round.
Suddenly, aware this gets goofy and goofiest,
I'll go see if I can find my brain. It is a toupee?
Pretend_Farmer. This makes no sense, Sane?
O normal @ OP IMHO. Say`Oh, succotash,Ya.
So, I am just saying:`Thanks for real humanity.
This is a farmers Thank You Good Goofs Note.
I'm new here, yet, so far, no mules kicked at me.
It's fun. No waring. So, wears a prom gown. Be.
Be who we were born to Be and climb a palm tree.
Wear underpants? No, scratchy. Wear dirt ditties?
BIO's are great. Wear thee dirtiest tutu or britches?
Ignore this 3rd- grade gibber-banter. No be a judge.
Play cello's in blueberry fields with plumbers wrench.
Or, put law degrees in a kleenex-box and no comment.
Be a little leaguer and bunt and hop the bases for H.R.
Home runs are when imbeciles become Happy Farmers.
Hesiod:`O Happy, happy farmers, Oh, if they only knew.
Pretend_Farmer. We are all guardians. Ya happy happy.
harpie. Farmer intelligence? Farms spelled:`E.I.E.I.O. O.
Last night we cooked sweet potato soup. onion? Ya cooks.
apologies. People are more fun if they makes onion soups.
It's Sunday. Willie Nelson's Honeysuckles Rose? No biers.
Willie got up on Sunday, drank a bier. So smooth, he had 2.
He sang that, but it's best to sit on a cactus plant? Scratches.
Scratch each others back with a barn pitch fork? Be happier.
Oh, shush-up, okay. Scratch peoples toupee. Take pea break.
You nailed that one. Don't forget to set aside some time for You during the day. A good 20 minute power nap; reading a book; or blogging. I heard it's good therapy. Keep on keeping on...
What everyone said,especially Mary, "things shift". I hate ruts,but always seem to find myself in one. At times it can be overwhelming,at others numbing. You are one of the sweetest women here , I love reading your stuff
I just wanted you to know that I've been reading and re-reading my old CI's since reading this post ... that magazine is a piece of art!!!

Hope you are fantastic!!!