06 March 2011

Thanks, you blockhead

Good ol' Charlie Brown has clarified something for me.

Yesterday in writing about what a nice Saturday I'd had, I mentioned that rarely did I have such days.  I have looked at people playing Frisbee in a park or spending a morning shopping together or engaged in conversation and sipping coffee in a cafe and have wondered what it would be like.  I have wondered what it would be like to be like that.  My standard inner conversation included that one day, when I had the time, I'd do those things.  That's what made yesterday so pleasant.  I did have the time.

This morning Charlie Brown -- in "Classic Peanuts" -- gave me another insight.  He's standing in line to buy a ticket for the movies.  In each frame he is one spot closer to the box office.  "I feel guilty," he's saying.  And, all the reasons for that guilt follow, frame-by-frame.  He should be at home helping his mother; he should be working on his schoolwork -- the book report, the ten pages of arithmetic.  He should just go home.  In the end he buys the ticket, even though he knows his guilt is going to keep him from enjoying the show.

That's it!  I have sipped coffee and sat on a park bench with a magazine and watched old movies.  I have bought that ticket just like Charlie Brown did.  But, the list of stuff I had to do and my guilt at not working on it overshadowed -- even ruined -- the time not devoted to work.  Somehow in my life I have managed to adopt the idea that one simply cannot play until all the work is done.  When I dared decide to break that rule I didn't enjoy myself and the work didn't get done either.  The thing that always seemed to go unacknowledged is that the work will never all be done. 

In my advancing years I have come to another and perhaps more important conclusion about the work.  True, it'll never all be done.  But, just as true is the fact that not all work is created equal.  Just because I -- or someone else -- put it on my list, doesn't mean it's actually worthy of being done.  On time.  Or before some play.  Or at all.  Ever.  As a means to get people to do things, guilt is a powerful weapon and an overused (abused?) one.

I need to filter that "to do" list.  There are lots of items on it.  Some of them are vital -- like getting the tax backup and workbook to the accountant or getting in a walk and a photograph every day; some of them are nice -- like writing letters and keeping the house presentable; some of them are nothing more than busy work, activities that will make me feel obnoxiously virtuous -- like sweeping under the shelves in the garage or making sure the blinds are at precisely the same angle at each window in a room. 

I am doing better.  Really, I am.  Yesterday is a testament to that.  But, not continuing to monitor and to sort and to purge the list could be dangerous, both to health and to happiness. 

I want to enjoy the work I take on.  And, I want just as much to be able to enjoy the show.

No comments: