Religious people love analogies. I remember some Mormons trying to tell me that if you nail a board to another board and only use one nail, the boards will swing round and round and won’t be stable- but if you add one more nail, the boards won’t move THEREFORE, you must have TWO religious books (the Bible and the Book of Mormon) to guide your life in order for your life to be stable or whatever. Because the logic of boards and nails is universally applicable to ALL THINGS EVER. I remember listening to a preacher saying that eating peanuts is boring but they give you protein and energy- and that READING THE BIBLE is like that sometimes too.
I was reminded recently of a warning I got from a speaker at a Christian retreat I attended during a summer off from college. “BEWARE,” he said, “Of people who eat only one thing off their plate at a time.” Like if the meal consists of pork chops, rice and broccoli, beware of the person who eats all the rice, then all the broccoli and then all the pork chops. The correct way to eat, he told us, was to vary your bites. HERE’S WHY: If you eat all of one thing at a time, you are probably a person who can only focus on one thing in your life at a time. You have to be all done with your housework before you can do your homework. You have to be all done with reading a book before you can walk your dog. You have to be done cleaning your shower before you can order a pizza. BEWARE of These People because they WILL DRAG YOU DOWN WITH THEM.
There’s a seed of truth in it though that’s true enough to make me remember it years and years later. I’ve written about this recently- I find myself just trying to get through whatever it is I’m in at the moment so I can finally do Something I Want To Do. I think everyone struggles with keeping up all the things. #worklifebalance is a buzzword (buzzphrase?). I feel like I’m particularly bad at “keeping things up” and maintenance of anything in general- housework, paperwork, car maintenance, dental maintenance, friendship maintenance, craft maintenance, houseplant maintenance, blog maintenance- and it comes down to this eating one thing on my plate at a time. I’m the person that guy was warning you about. It’s also something I kind of actually do… I actually eat all my mashed potatoes before moving on to the salmon or whatever. I’m really bad at leaving something undone and then remembering to come back to it.
I listened to this podcast of Emma Cline (author of The Girls which I’ve read and recommend) reading and then discussing “The Metal Bowl” by Miranda July (which you should stop everything and read/watch/listen to everything she’s ever done, please). And leave it to MJ to put into words exactly how it is:
“I find this whole experience—life—gratuitously slow and drawn out. See it crawl, second by fucking second. If I’m a workaholic, it’s only because I hate work so much that I’m trying to finish it, all of it, once and for all. So I can just ride out the rest of my life in some kind of internal trance state. Not a coma but, like, a step above that.”
So I felt validated by having my hero describe my condition, but I don’t think it’s a way to live. I remember being called out by this religious guy, but I don’t remember if he offered any advice to help people who are These People. He probably didn’t. He wasn’t one of These People, apparently. Or he was one of These People and he was filled with self-hate. Equally possible. Self-hatred is a common symptom of fundamentalism.
Are you particularly good at maintenance? Is this a personality trait? Is it something you’ve cultivated? Have you converted from being one of These People to being someone who can actually keep up some things (or anythings…?)? How did you do it? Or is this a universal problem? Does Everyone struggle with life maintenance? Please tell me in the comments!!
P.S. Dinner tonight is this recipe which is on our regular rotation: