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.