Last week I experienced a flurry of activity: I sewed a dozen masks and a huge window covering for a sliding glass door. I baked bread and a lemon meringue pie. I swept and mopped. I listened to four podcasts in one day while hoeing a flowerbed and spreading mulch. While taking a break from gardening, I talked a friend through the app SignUpGenius so she could set up phone calls with students who needed help with their thesis sentences. I participated in a training call for my media assessment job and ultimately analyzed 28 articles for slant. I watched an entire season of The Lost Room during one night—a long, mostly sleepless night. I wrote one sentence of a short story someone requested. Those were the things I reported because they were done within 24 hours.
Thinking I’d be clever, I posted this information on FaceBook because I had to speak to the Amazon guy when he delivered a large package that had been compromised. I was in painting pants (which is a genre I hope you’re familiar with), an old T-shirt with minimal underpinning (use less imagination or forget I mentioned it), no make-up (which also means no eyebrows), with my hair in a small bun on top (and the stragglers at 90 degrees out from my ears). I don’t think I actually smelled bad, but the front door was mostly closed anyway.
Obviously, there were many more activities in the week, from winding clocks to feeding animals, from cooking and eating to listening to a book on Audible and reading and praying and talking and sleeping extra. Texting, checking FB, watching news, doing laundry, and yes, cleaning my person including daily hair cuttings. The things we all do, every day, so regularly we call them the everyday chores. Maybe not the hair cutting. That’s never going to be okay until this is over.
I caught some flak. (Sorry, brief but necessary diversion: “flak” is the correct spelling. It comes from a word first used in 1940 when anti-aircraft fire was used, per OneLook, my favorite online dictionary which includes this condensation from the German Fliegerabwehrkanone literally “pilot warding-off cannon.” If you add the “c” it means something else entirely, a press agent. Don’t even think about taking the second “n” out of cannon.) Comments were many but fell into several categories. People with real jobs said they were doing real work. I know one person who has a truly international job and must be on the phone at all hours, for example. People who hadn’t done as much said I made them tired. People (a few) admired my energy.
The standout, however, was the person who commented she was also trying to get some writing done—a novel several decades in the making. My inclusion of that one sentence in the otherwise busy list meant something: of all the workaday report, just one sentence? And that was a hurdle. I thought of all the other unfinished or unbegun projects that bother me more than anything.
Luckily, one friend picked up the phone to tease me for making everyone feel guilty. I explained my intent. He reminded me he was teasing. When I shared the story of the fellow writer and lamented my things-undone-ness, he said he had gone through the same thing and came up with a term: Sez who? (Note the spelling.) He explained: We are too quick to say what we think we ought to be doing. It’s not helpful. It probably even holds us back. Do what you can, when you can. I felt encouraged. I agreed to work on the undone project I’d promised to do for him.
To polish what was concerned me: Ask enough of yourself to be happy with yourself. Don’t should on yourself (or others). So far, I have the first three sentences for my friend, and I hope to finish the short story today. Once I get out of my pajamas.